This story started as a random challenge. The three of us in a flat in Durham overlooking the river, me talking about my writing and saying… ‘all you have to do is put a pencil on the paper and start writing…’ Explaining that you do not necessarily have to have a fab idea to write. Just let it happen. The first page came from that moment on that evening, the rest… and yes, you can imagine… came six years later.
Finished and included in ‘Seven Pillows’ 2017
Hazy smoke hung heavily around the dingy night club. Knots of people around poorly lit tables talking seriously. The music played in the background – nobody listened. The club was quiet for a Saturday, too quiet. There was an atmosphere. Something was wrong, but Leonid could not quite put his finger on it. Anastasia was behind the bar as usual, far too much make up, chewing gum and manicuring her nails with a cardboard nail file. Suddenly the phone behind the bar rang. Everybody looked up. Anastasia tutted loudly, sighed her most oh-how-tedious sigh, slapped the nail file onto the bar and answered the phone.
“It’s for you”
Leonid reached over and picked up the old-fashioned black receiver but said just “yes” then another “yes” then another. He hung up the phone. Still everyone in the bar looked over expectantly.
“What?” Leonid spat to the faces looking up.. “ain’t you’s guys not seen a phone before?” He continued to drink his watered-down Budweiser and stared into the distance at nothing. The muted conversation around him continued.
The door opened. She was tall and strikingly gorgeous; blond curls bouncing around her naked shoulders, she was wearing beautifully coutured clothing. She went straight to the bar, sat on the stool next to Leonid and engaged him in conversation. Anastasia carried on polishing her nails, the rest of the people in the bar took no notice of the girl, she was probably just another call girl – they were a common sight around here.
There was a quietly animated conversation between them, with the harshness of the Russian accent coming through. Suddenly Leonid stood up, the stool falling behind him with a crash.
“You did what?”
“Well, it’s not my fault that he had a dicky heart. How was I to know?”
“You call the police?”
“No. I just left him tied up”
“Was he dead?”
“Well, honey, I ain’t seen a lot of dead people but he sure looked like a stiff to me."
“You get the money?”
“Of course I did you crazy dope. Business is business. He got what he wanted and boy! did he want it... Then, hey, how was I to know he couldn’t take it. So’s now it’s your problem. I’m going home. I need a hot tub and a bottle of gin.”
There was a swirling and an eddying in the lingering blue smoke as she strode out of the room, her silk scarf trailing behind her.
One glance at the crime scene, if it was a crime scene, and Banner ruled out suicide. The guy’s fingers were taped together with cheap sellotape. Wrapped round and round meticulously and carefully. His wrists were strapped securely to the back wall and spread wide apart. He was, or had been, standing back-to-the-wall with his feet slightly apart and he was butt naked, his clothing gently and carefully folded and placed in a neat pile on the armchair. The room was very minimalistic, functional – bed, chair, large mirror. There was a musty, foetid odour, combined with the stale smell of cigars. There was a spray of semen on the lino floor. Well, spray was a neat word. It was not neat.. copious but not neat.
Banner grimaced in disgust and it was so easy to imagine how the guy had been teased to what presumably was one hell of a climax. Now he was flopped forward, his knees buckled, his arms limp but still firmly fixed to the straps in the wall. He looked crucified. There was a dried trickle of blood coming out of his nose, his big and floppy dick hanging.
Banner went about his business, searching for clues, for anything really that might add to the story. But the room was so empty, so stark that it was hardly worth it. He looked under the bed, examined the guy’s clothes, looking in the pockets of the worsted pants.
There was not a lot for Banner to do. He knew. He’d call for a few pictures to be taken and they would then cut the guy down, bag him up and send for the doc. It was cut and dry. He’d not try very hard to look for the call girl, it wasn’t his fault that the guy couldn’t take the sordid sex he obviously wanted. The chinaman that sat at the desk who looked after the apartment would know nothing, they’d just close ranks and keep shtumm.
Banner did not like his job particularly, at best it was merely unpleasant, most of the time it was depressing, at worst it was downright dangerous. How he had ended up working mostly in the seedier side of the city he didn’t know. He had in his fourteen years as a cop upset a lot of people, superiors who he should have been more respectful to, even it they were jerks; he should have pushed himself more, tried to make something of his career, but, well, the spark in his life had gone out. She had done that. With her at his side he had had a touch of enthusiasm, a reason to believe in the future. Without her, life was shit. He had never really come to terms with what had happened, he had just become accustomed to the situation. Now he just went through the process.
He stood surveying the room, standing there just taking it in. He had already reached a conclusion, it was a bit unusual, but he’d seen it all before. This part of town was full of bars populated by the helpless, the hopeless and the homeless. Gratification came cheaply. And it was not a bad way to go. He examined the body, muttering to himself as he prodded and touchéd the guy’s skin with distaste.
“So, what happened to you mister?” He looked a bit over 50, clean shaven, reasonably fit – he looked Eastern European, dark short hair, pronounced forehead, square jaw, swarthy looking. There was a scar above his right ear and his nose had been broken and had not been completely straightened. He did not recognise him... but then, why should he? There were hundreds of mug shots that regularly did the rounds at the station, but they were easily forgettable. “You wanna tell me who she was? Who got you like this?” He was clean and did not smell. With a cold detachment born of familiarity to the task he moved the body, it swung gently, floating securely with the straps attached to strong hooks on the wall. “Now, why are you hanging there? Why do we have these hooks on the wall eh? You like this? Regular client?” Banner prodded the guy’s butt cheeks, lifted his dick; there was nothing to see, no marks... it was an open and shut case. He would get nowhere. It was not a violent death, no cuts, scratches, no bruises, clean. There was no ID, but that did not surprise him. No money in his pockets, he had probably paid her before undressing, or before she undressed him. If there had been anything in his pockets left from the service charged she would probably have helped herself to a tip.. and by the look of the job she had done to him, probably deserved it.
He had lost count of the number of both men and women who had died in flagrante, caught in the naughty act of sin by the grim reaper and left flailing in this pathetic ridiculousness. It was a shock when he saw it for the first time. Then it disgusted him and saddened him. Now, well, it happened. It was just as much a part of life as dropping dead sitting on the toilet.. he’d seen that a lot of times too.. Banner never locked the toilet door; nor desired wild sex with a prostitute. He’d seen too much.
Banner suspected that she had lost one of her better clients. It would take lots of encounters to perfect this type of sexual understanding and confidence. This was no occasional visit. She would have known him well, as well as any working girl would get to know her client.
“ You finish?” The elderly Chinese guy who worked at the apartments desk downstairs had opened the door and had interrupted Banner’s train of thought.
“Come on, you hurry up. I gotta business to do. Wanna clean and tidy. Need room.”
“Can I use your phone? I want to get some photographs taken”
“What you wanna photo? He dead. Natuwal cause. He died... You get rid of body... I clean.”
“Can I use the phone?”
“No. You go away. Take body away too.”
“Sooner I get to a phone, get photos done and we can bag up the body and be out of here.”
“Who was the girl?”
“The girl that made this happen”
“Don’t know no girl. She just use the room, pay her rent. Could be any girl”
Banner knew that they would close ranks. There would be little point in asking questions. Even when he did find the girl, and that would take time, she would describe the nasty, lurid and sad little exercise that had led to this guy’s demise and it would be done. There was no pride in his job, no point in pursuing it much further, it was a done deal. And he would struggle even finding out who the guy was, he was just another loser and probably using a pseudonym.
“Who’s in charge here” Banner asked. “Who’d know who was renting this room?”
“Nobody. We know nothing. Just take money.”
The chinaman turned and went back downstairs leaving “you hurry up and go.. we wanna clean room. Losing business” in the air as he went.
Banner looked around the room again. Done. There would be a phone down in the bar and he’d call for a photographer and a bag and a van and driver and get the body to the mortuary. No reason to wait. Done.
“Bourbon on rocks. But not too many rocks.”
The barmaid didn’t say a word. Customer service was not her career motivation, but then working behind a bar in that part of town was no career. She had short, jet black hair, dark eyes and a narrow, distinctively pointed nose that was eye-catching and cute. And her nails were probably perfect. Shame about the personality.
“You worked here long” Banner asked, conversationally.
“Since we opened at 11”
“No, I mean for how long?”
She carried on chewing her gum and looked Banner straight in the eye. “I make that four and a half hours.... nearly.”
“And you’re a cop. And I aint no comedian. What d’ya want?”
“How d’ya know... nah, never mind. Who’s in charge?”
“Not me, honey. I just work here.. (she glanced up at the clock).. five and a half hours to go...”
“Call him.” Banner instructed, tiring of the girl’s attitude.
Anastasia tutted loudly. Wiped the clean counter deliberately down with a grubby tea towel and, eventually, clearly when she was ready and not before, picked up the phone. “Guy down here for you. Cop.” There was an inaudible answer. “No, I don’t. You ask him.” She put the phone down again with a thump, walked up to the other end of the bar and picked up a little mirror and studied her make-up, smoothing her eyebrows with a concentration and an attention that took her away and out of the dingy bar.
Banner held out his hand as Leonid came from out of a door at the end of the bar. Leonid just looked at his hand, then looked Banner up and down and said: “What do you want?” There was a tang of a Russian accent to his voice.
“Yesterday at 430 a guy died upstairs in one of your rooms. Do you know anything about it?”
“He had a heart attack. No big deal.”
“Do you run the bar and the rooms upstairs?”
“Depends what you mean by run. What’s the problem? These things happen in this part of town.
The rooms are rented out by the week or by the day – it’s not uptown luxury but we keep things clean and ordered.”
“Was there anything unusual about the guy, anything about him that we can use to identify him? What did you call him?” Banner was interviewing the call girl.
“He called himself Alexei but that was probably not real name.”
“I do not know. German, Romanian, Lithuanian... something like dat.. hey, he let me do the talking... that’s what he like. He like me to talk and talk and take my clothes of slowly, very slowly. You want me to paint a picture? He was a bit strange but, some men be like that. I bet you strange too... what you like detective Banner? Uh?”
“How long have you known him?”
“Maybe a few months. He liked my Russian accent, he like me to svear in Russian, it excited him”
“What happened when he died?”
“He just jerked about, like having fit. Cried out in pain.. but nobody noticed de noise, but I could tell it was no good straight away. Nothing I could do. He vent very, very quick. Not good.”
“You did not call the police? Why”
“He just had a heart attack. Why police? He did not need medic. Just went. Some say good way to go. I told Leonid, he called you. I needed to bath”
Banner knew it was not going to get him anywhere. There were no signs of struggle, no signs of drugs, no violence, no other witnesses.
A gang murder up Westside soon occupied Banner’s time and the guy who had been crucified was forgotten. Case closed. The photos had come back and had been passed around to see if anyone recognised him.. smirks and titters as they were handed round the office. Nobody had been declared missing, there was no evidence, no name, no nothing. Just another stiff at the mortuary waiting for a funeral that was not going to happen.
“You seen this?”
“This Russian guy”
Banner looked at the file and recognised the face straight away. His eyes flew down the dossier. The name jumped out at him. Alexei Kulokov. Now, there was a thing. Suspected of being a Russian spy and working for the KGB whilst travelling around selling office supplies. What? The file was not extensive nor new, nothing more than a few months old, but... there was something. It could just have been that the file was so small, just three papers and a mug photo. If they suspected he was KGB it would have been more. But this was different. That little pokey office in the backwater of seedy downtown did not come across spies. Drugs, gangs, petty criminals, protection rackets, family feuds was the norm. This was not Washington. Not spies.
“What do you think?” Godley waited as Banner read what little there was. “Was it him? The crucified man with that girl down Alexander Road?”
“Yep. No doubt. Where did the file come from?”
“That’s strange in itself. It was on top of the Mercer case, just sitting there waiting to be found. They looked about themselves... at Steve, Godley, Sweetman... these people they had worked with alongside for years, they trusted each other completely. Often with their lives.
“Steves? You seen this?”
“There was that broad around earlier, from filing... she must have left it, she had stacks of files. She wasn’t someone I’d seen before.” A brief, fleeting image of a pencil skirt and stockings came to Banner’s mind... he had seen someone.
“Strange that. It should have turned up just like that”
“Too strange.” Said Banner. “Something makes me think I should take a wander and have a little poke around again. Someone wants me to obviously... I’ll see what comes up... see if someone is playing games with us."
"Well, you can hope. Might be something different. You stay here, I’ll be back in an hour.”
It was bright and sunny, one of those days when working outside was almost a pleasure, it seemed to lighten the mood. Even the city folk were smiling, the girls wearing skirts above the knee and lowcut tops. Banner was looking forward to a cold beer on the terrace when he ended his shift at 5pm. And he was intrigued. This was no longer an ordinary case. He had yawned and pigeon-holed it as such. But the identity of the dead guy meant it was something more. Russia. There was a distrust, an unease that a Soviet spy might have been in this patch – what was he up to? What did he know? There were connections in high places and the word from the FBI was that he was a hitman, someone called in to infiltrate, weasel his way in, get to know people and places and carry out some task or other, then just melt back into his everyday life. They hadn’t been able to prove anything, he had never been interrogated, they weren’t sure – but that could just be because he was good. That good. But they weren’t sure. Which for Banner meant they were after more than it first looked, they hadn’t brought him in for a reason. Was there someone higher up they were after? Was something here he was missing? The dossier on Alexei was so incomplete, it didn’t look right. It stank of a cover up, of ‘keep your nose out’. And that interested Banner...
But someone who was maybe that good did not die casually having sex with a call girl. That did not make sense. A businessman after a bit of rumpy-pumpy with blonde curls and big titties, yes. A guy who drank too much and played too much, yes. Not a pro.
“I want to look at the room again. Nothing had changed in the bar from the previous week. It was as if frozen in time. Anastasia was engrossed staring into a glass of water. The bar was the same sombre, quiet dark place with a sense of foreboding, as if something was about to happen, not today, probably not tomorrow but definitely some time soon. It was too quiet.
“What room?” Anastasia muttered but did not look up.
“The room upstairs”
“What r... “ she hesitated, cutting herself short and obviously realising she could not play games with the detective, with an audible sigh she made her way to the phone.
“Mr Banner. I didn’t think we would see you again” said Leonid cheerfully.
“I want to have another look at the room”
“Nothing specific. Just want to see if I missed anything. Is it free?”
“Might be. But the room has been cleaned daily and used several nights there will be nothing for you to see....” Leonid shrugged his shoulders and led Banner out the front door of the bar..”I’ll take you up myself..”
The room was clean. Newly changed sheets, the floor was scrubbed clean and swept, there was a fresh smell of perfume, the windows open just a little. Nothing had changed except for a large painting hanging from the two hooks on the wall where Alexei Kulokov had hung. The carpet rug looked new.
“I’ll give you ten minutes” Banner nodded and he was left alone with his thoughts. He started poking around, checking here and there and hoping his instinct would help him to find something, not really knowing if there was anything to find. The lino floor had been scrubbed clean and there was still a faint lingering scent of bleach.
The picture looked out of place, far too pretty pretty and brightly coloured, painted a light pastel green wash with red, orange and purple poppies, some in full flower, others in bud with sprays of purple knots of petals that did not look lifelike. It was an impression of light and bold colour. But in such a plain and poorly lit room it did not look right. Banner lifted it off the wall and immediately noticed a stain, a tiny little trickle of discolouration on the paintwork. It was faint, as if someone had tried to wash it off, but it was there. Banner examined it closely, it emanated from what looked like a pin prick – a drawing pin hole or where a thin tack had been. The tiny hole was deep. And then it came to him in a flash.
“Leonid. I want to have a look at the room next door.”
“What on Earth for?”
“I want to check how much you can hear through the walls.”
“The walls are thin.”
“I realise that. I cannot see anything that really troubles me, let me do this and I’ll be out of your hair.”
There was an audible tut from both Anastasia and Leonid at the same time. Banner now knew they were hiding something, but he wasn’t going to let on.
“You cops never let go.”
The room was similarly sparse, the bed and chair were in a similar position to the room next door where Alexei had died. The same new rug on the lino too.
“Can you go next door and continue talking to me, I just want to judge how much you can hear from in here, how much sound comes through.
“Banner you are bonkers!”
“Count from one upwards if you can’t think of anything to say...”
As soon as Leonid had gone and had started talking to himself complaining, Banner went to the mirror and lifted it off the wall. It had been obvious. No Russian KGB operator would die having sex. He should have known that that assumption had been wrong.
The wall had been repainted, touched up in the same colour, but it was unmistakeable. Exactly in the right place, Banner stood back, measured with his tape to make sure, all the while he could hear Leonid next door still complaining and getting more annoyed. The wall had been re-plastered, just a few square inches... just a big enough hole to leave enough for a small hand and a lethal syringe. It had been murder.
TO BE CONTINUED
And yes, you can imagine…. It hasn’t been….. yet.
Welcome to my dreams. And this little piece of flash fiction (exactly 200 words) was an image that came to me in REM. From ‘Seven Pillows’ and written in 2017
Yes, it was a mistake, of course it was a mistake. My wife and I exchanged knowing looks as we entered the hall of the oh-so very posh guest house. Plush carpets, tasteful décor – and look at the furniture! Oh no; we did not feel out of our depth. We could feel at home in those surroundings. But would our Paul behave himself? I held his hand tightly as Mrs Swimhome showed us upstairs to our room.
‘Dinner at eight sharp. We’ll ring the gong.’
‘Will the… er… child.. require anything special? We do not especially cater for the very young I am afraid.’
‘No, he’ll be fine. He’ll have whatever we have.’ I replied not very confidently. Would he? He’d much rather have beans on toast. It was difficult enough to keep him sat down for his morning cornflakes, let alone a three course meal in a genteel guest house. And chatter. Once he got going he was incessant, would talk non-stop during a meal. Oh yes, it was a mistake.
Once Mrs Swimhome had gone, we gave Paul a talking to. A lecture.. Not a we’ll-kill-you-if-you-show-us-up one. More of a please-try-and-be-on-your-best-behaviour-for-your-Mum-and-Dad one. But he wouldn’t sit still. He was too excited. We unpacked. Paul jumped up and down on the bed. We put on the tv so he’d sit quietly. He started singing. Loudly. I sat and read him his book. He was bored. He wanted to go to the beach. I explained about posh hotels, how people like peace and quiet and did not like noisy little children. He promised to be good. But could he? Would he? At home we were relaxed and easy going. Noise was tolerated, almost the norm, but there in that antiquated, respectable and oh-so-straight-laced hotel all was quiet. Until we brought our Paul, that was.
‘I’ll sit next to him, he’ll be alright.’ I said.
‘We’ll have to keep him occupied’
‘He’ll be alright,’ I assured And Paul smiled up at me. Such innocence, such an adorable little menace.
The gong sounded dead on eight o’clock. With some trepidation we made our way down to dinner. Washed, brushed and changed, we talked quietly as we entered the dining room. Full dining room. Full of genteel, posh, elderly ladies and gentlemen silently supping their soups, spoons outward. We exchanged nods and hellos and smiles and made our way to the number 17 table. The first course was fine. And Paul was good. We relaxed a little. Whether it was the combination of the silence, the calm or the strangeness of the surroundings.. he was good. We were almost proud. He asked bright questions, made polite remarks. Even remembered his pleases and thankyous, with a bit of prompting, that is. But oh, would we be glad when it was all over. He ate his food without complaint. Didn’t get up and run around. It was hard work. We cajoled him, persuaded him, talked to him and tried to keep him interested. The service was excellent, thankfully. I dare not think what he would have been like if we had to wait for anything. We chose chicken for the main course and he didn’t insist on having tomato ketchup. Used his own knife and fork, well, almost all of the time.
‘Would the boy like ice cream for dessert? I think we have some wafer biscuits.’
‘Yes please!’ Paul answered enthusiastically. Oh Joy1 He was behaving so well. So normal.
‘After dinner coffee will be served in the TV lounge.’ We had won. A feeling of elation spread over us as we relaxed in front of the TV sitting on an immense soft settee. The room was full and we were feeling positively relieved. The TV was too quiet to hear properly and people were talking quietly. He had been so good. A new child. An angel. I smiled confidently as Mrs Swimhome brought in some more coffee.
‘What a good little boy.’ Everybody looked our way. And at Paul. And he was so quiet. I followed their looks, down at him as he sat next to me. Just as he extracted an index finger from his nose and produced the biggest bogey I had ever seen. Yes, it was a mistake.
Welcome to my dreams. And this little piece of flash fiction (exactly 200 words) was an image that came to me in REM. From ‘Seven Pillows’ and written in 2017
I am generally acclaimed to be the greatest mathematician of all time. I can plan, I can design and I can build. I am a master of all these things, a master of lines, of angles and of numbers... so many numbers...
I am surrounded by my familiar things, the things that I love and I am content. I look up at the bright, golden stars, stars that are so familiar, in their constellations, the lion, the hunter... I love the stars... they point their way and they point ours... but I am not an astronomer.
The doors are closing with a gentle grind and a hush. And suddenly all is very quiet. I am so very proud of this, this my masterpiece.
The light flickers gently, reassuringly and I eat my meal in wonderful, glorious silence. It is so peaceful and I feel such calm. My hard work is to be rewarded with my own little piece of eternal life.
I shall think of my numbers, but I shall no longer plan. And I wonder if in thousands of years.. but, no... I know... in thousands of years they will find me: the greatest mathematician.
Entombed in my polyhedron.
This story is an original from long ago. Probably started in the late-1980’s when I was running the bookstall in Letchworth Station and the character of Harry is based on one of the station staff. He used to play the harmonica when all was quiet… Included in ‘Brain Glue’ 2011.
Harry scratched his greying, perfectly trimmed goatee beard nervously and watched the
road. He wondered how long it would be before they would come looking for him and
the stolen bus he was driving… or was it actually stolen? It was his bus, his charge, his
job to drive it. He just was no longer on the correct route; was that stealing? Borrowing?
Or was it commandeering? Perhaps nobody had even noticed.
The drizzle continued endlessly, the windscreen wipers squishing and squeaking
repetitively… left…right…squish…squeak; almost hypnotising him. He stared ahead,
driving intuitively, looking in the mirror, changing gears, always safe. And thinking of
his wife, his Wyn, and how she had hurt him.
How she would have hated to see him like that, void of conversation, morose and
introspective. He had changed. He was listless, no longer caring about anything. Not the
football, not the garden.. But he would get over it. That’s what they all said: “It’ll take
time but you’ll get over her”
He hated them for their platitudes. He knew what they were doing, he hated them for
their false cheerfulness. But it didn’t matter. Why should he put on a face for them. He
hated them. Perhaps it was their fault that she had gone, perhaps they knew all along.
He had not found strength in the memories of his long friendship with his Wyn, it had
only left him with bitterness.
After 31 years of a happy marriage, she had just upped and was gone. Had it been
a happy marriage? She had left him alone, and he doubted, doubted how she had felt,
doubted whether the happy memories he had cherished were true and not just a life of
lies. He no longer knew, he doubted everything. He could not talk to her family, he
could no longer be friendly and did not want their sympathy and shallow understanding,
he only felt the truth that perhaps he had never really cared for them. Had only been
pleasant to them because of his Wyn. And he had learned to hate. That was not like him;
Mr placid, Mr calm-and-mild-mannered, that’s how they had seen him, or perhaps they
had never really seen him, perhaps they had just taken his shadow for granted.
Their son Peter was so far away. He wanted so much to be near him. To hold
him and be comforted by his presence. But Peter had his own life in Australia and could
not stay any longer than he had. He had gone with promises of holidays, of lengthy stays
and a new world for Harry to discover. But Wyn did not want to go.. she had moved
on… and for Harry, well, they all said it: life went on and you had to adapt, and he knew
that he had to face it all by himself. The future stretched out just like the long wet road
ahead. Not clear in the rain, but dull and misty and damp and miserable. Harry drove
down Church Lane, automatically keeping to the speed limit, still looking for bus stops,
even though he was no longer on the route.
Deep inside Harry knew that he couldn’t cope alone. He would crack. He knew
that he would not be able to take it, he wondered if they suspected. He wasn’t really
ready to come back to work. Had they held secret meetings behind his back discussing
the safety aspect of a driver who was perhaps not in control of himself? He had said he
was alright, that he just had to be back in familiar surroundings, doing familiar stuff. He
was a very experienced, very safe driver with a completely unblemished record. They
had trusted him and he had let them down.
He had stopped the bus at the traffic lights in Green Avenue as usual. He’d only
had one more circuit of the housing estate, down the Broad Avenue and into town and
back to go. One more trip. With no passengers aboard and it as such an awful evening.
He’d not be missed. He’d just taken off. Turning left instead of right. He’s stopped at
the hardware shop and pinched a spade from the front display area, just walked up and
had taken it and got back into the bus. A strange thing to do. Sitting in his driver’s seat,
he could see it out the corner of his eye. What was it doing there? Bright and shiny, with
a clean, strong long-lasting wooden handle. She hadn’t left him. She couldn’t. She
wouldn’t. It was all a nightmare, he was trapped in a world that was suddenly different to
the one he lived in, it was changed. Wrong.
Somehow two weeks previously his world had just turned upside-down. Only his.
He had slipped into a parallel universe. Everybody else went on about him as if nothing
had changed, for them it hadn’t. But his world had imploded upon him. Two weeks. The
pain misted his eyes again and Harry brought the bus to a stop. He was a good driver, the
best. He slipped on his waterproof jacket and picked up the spade and opened the bus
door with the emergency button, there was a hiss as it closed behind him. He knew what
he was going to do. It was obvious, he would sort it.
It was dusk, getting dark and turning cold, he pulled his collar tight around his
neck, head bowed, walking slowly but purposefully through the gate, past the shrubs and
well tended borders, past the seat and the water tap. It was quiet, so quiet. So peaceful.
Still the rain gently fell. There were row upon row of neatly tended plots. Headstones,
some with pictures of long lost relatives, some with religious verses… epitaphs.
He stopped. “I’m coming Wyn”. And he laughed gently to himself as the spade
slid smoothly and neatly through the freshly laid soil. He would sort it, it all had been a
mistake. The gravestone was not in place yet, the earth still bare, the wreaths of flowers
were dying. He started digging: “I’m coming Wyn”
This little 100 word piece of flash fiction was written in 2017 and included in ‘Seven Pillows’ I do not suppose for a second that as the first live pictures from the underground ocean on Europa come through in a few hundred years time…. that I will be proved right.
It was always dark, but no matter. Life was here in it’s alien wonder, everywhere.
Defying the rules. A teeming myriad of stick like forms, independently dancing and wriggling, constantly sucking in the nutrients fusing into a combined crystalline structure that spread as far as their light could see. But there were no eyes to see here.
The explorers in their bathysphere looked on in awe. They had brought their alien light, a bright fluorescence that glowed for the first time here in the impenetrable, perpetual blackness. It was an extraordinary unexpected wonder... but why was it all so colourful?
The next piece is more lyrical and is a combination of prose and poetry. Written originally as a monthly topic with Writers Group and expanded to be included in ’66 Pick Up Sticks in 2019
It was the slowest dance of all.
Slower than the clouds that drift on by on the soft breeze over a blue sky.
Slower by far than the raging, swirling cyclones and tornados that tango and wander in a freestyle dance over land and sea, causing such destruction and chaos to be.
Slower than the gentle gulf stream that waltzes and slides onto Atlantic shores bringing warm waters North.
Slower than the tides, slower than the seasons, even slower than the dancing elliptical orbits of planets and moons.
The glacier began her dance a long, long time ago when the icy grip of an age of cold, so cold was eased. She had grown strong, deep and heavy. Just a little, as the temperature thawed she moved. A gentle, seductive caressing slide against mountains of granite; moving, gliding along the path of least resistance.
Many, many hundreds of thousands of years ago she danced a rise and fall. And no one saw her moves.
The ice age had passed and the glacier moved a regular amount each year, creaking, cracking and gauging, rasping, grinding valleys from the rock as she moved in the Summer as the meltwater trickled and greased the slide. Each winter came cold and severe and the dance slowed to a stop and froze, in caress and mid-touch, two partners, rock and ice, locked in pose.
Man had learned to make use of stone as a weapon, as a tool. Migrating North from Africa and changing the virgin territory, colonising and polluting as he went.
Thousands more years passed without change. Neither polar bear, nor mammoth, nor seal or Inuit man gave the glacier a second look. Few were the footprints in the pristine snow.
But soon man had put away his stones, his bronze and iron tools and he advanced, and advanced.
He had grown in number manyfold. He gave the land a name and called it Green, he gave the glacier a name; after one of his own in vain.
His industrial age changed everything. Burning his coal, oil, gas and wood for warmth and for progress. Glacier’s Smooth dance moved apace; the tip tongue fragmenting and breaking, calving away into the Arctic ocean.
Man realised eventually that a catastrophe loomed; with global warming and a greenhouse world and did a little about it, but it was too late.
The summer sun was too warm and the dance moved too fast,
Yet still so shapely and gracefully slow
With the meandering and ever melting snow.
In seven or eight maybe more
Hundred years from now for sure...
green leaves will grow in the valleys that glacier had spent many, many slow millennia creating with her last, long, long promenade. Pretty little alpine flowers will bloom in the sun. But who will witness that final stride, that final glide and meltwater slide and ocean splash as glacier dies? No one. There will be no applause.
Greenland ice shelf
The future will judge us
As we do term and describe ages past:
Stone, iron, dark, industrial; centuries last.
They will put a label on us all
And I fear it will not be polite.
We thought we were so industrially astute.
The petrochemical industry roared around the world
Breaking new discoveries, new products.
Oil was discovered.
And the profit available made countries and companies and people rich beyond imagination.
Now that we pollute to such an extent
We bring closer our worlds end.
We thought we were so special, so creative, wild
Mother nature’s creation, Earth’s ultimate child.
But she should have known.
That we were yet darkening, dark seed
And each generation fuelled by more and more greed
Would consume, destroy beyond exponential need.
The earth warms.
The ice-shelf collapses into the sea.
Changing the maps and the weather, forever.
But that is not all that is threatened and foretold...
The rest is in a computer simulation and yet to unfold
This final piece of flash fiction was again (and it is surprising how often it happens) from a writing challenge at Writers Group.
I love bricks.
I love their mottled orange and browns.
I love the straight uncompromising lines, the roughness of the surface, the way they so neatly fit into my hand. And the way the cement fits them so squarely, so uniformly, so precisely together.
I am a brickie. There is a permanence to what I do; it is a skill, a trade and an art that has a solidness... I am happy to spend my day at this work, it has a serenity, a purpose.
The walls that I build brick by brick; the house I slowly create will last 100 years and more.
On this house, this street, I have worked here and there is a part of me left behind, left for posterity.
They say that this city, this new idea to plan and create a town. A unique designed, avenued, tree-lined, churched and parked is a model for the future. I do not know. I just do my job. I lay bricks and I do it well. I follow a plan, a grid, length and height, corners and edges, that is what I know. In a hundred years time, the innovationists will be remembered. I will not.