Flash Fiction – Late Again

I fly down the pavement, barging old women out of my path. Wait for me! I yell at the hulking bus idling at the roadside.

I make it just in time. I climb on, haggard and panting.

I take my wallet from my back pocket and open it, hands trembling. Frantically I search for the right money. Once again, luck was not on my side.

“Do you have change for a ten?” I ask with trepidation.

He begins to chuckle, then breaks into a full-blown guffaw. Small flecks of spittle hit me as he laughs in my face.

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Flash Fiction – New Decking

Welcome dear readers! Gather round and soak up the soothing and life-giving warmth of another blog post.

This is a piece of flash fiction I did for the fun weekly competition over at the Carrot Ranch (link here). The piece has to be 99 words – no more, no less – and the prompt was “property values. I hope you enjoy!

New Decking

We found a body in our back garden. Right where we wanted our new decking. What are the chances?

The estate agents obviously never said anything about it.

Of course the local media soon caught wind and documented the whole thing: forensic tents, police detectives, us.

Months later and they’re still camped outside our door every day.

We’re sick of the attention and want to move; start again somewhere else. But we can’t because the property is now worth pennies, and no one wants to live in a suspected “murder house.”

And we still haven’t got our new decking.

Another short story

Salutations dear reader, and welcome once again to the tepid nether-regions of despondency I call home. I offer to you another short story of mine. This was a more experimental piece, and my first real attempt at stream of consciousness. It was a lot of fun to write, and I hope you enjoy! Any feedback is appreciated.

Creep.

There’s too many people here and Charlie, my only lifeline in this social orgy, disappeared a few hours ago. It’s our first time down in Portsmouth and I’m unsure how we ended up at this party. I’m still wearing my Arsenal shirt after the match, even though it was four days ago, but hopefully it’s sufficiently hidden by my jacket. Since we got rinsed by Pompey, Charlie and I have just been bouncing across the city with no real plan.

I let everything wash over me like a wave, not taking in the specifics, other than that the music is too loud and I’m starting to come down. This mandy that Charlie got for us is shit. Shit drugs for a shit party in a shit-hole house in a shit-hole city.

The local guy we found assured us it was The Good Stuff. Imported. I didn’t ask where from, makes fuck all difference to me. He was a complete arsehole. Kept us waiting for nearly an hour, strolled up in his bright red shell-suit, and started giving us the same bullshit they do every time. Best in town. Purest you’ll get. As soon as we turned the first corner I pulled out the bag for a proper inspection, excited to see how badly we’d been mugged off. There was a few muddy brown crystals and some grey granulated powder. Didn’t scream Purest You’ll Get, but it would have to do. We both dipped a key in the bag and stuffed some of the powder up our noses, inhaling sharply to make sure it got up there fast.

I did the rest of my share in two big lines as soon as we got here and felt barely anything. That was a few hours ago and now I just feel like shit, plus I can’t even bug Charlie for more because he’s likely finished his too. So here I am, melting into a stranger’s sofa while a party happens without me.

Someone turns off whatever generic electro is playing, much to the dismay of the sizeable crowd jostling against each other in what I assume is usually the dining room. Whatever the DJ has put on is not doing it for them so they disperse, directing boos towards the hi-fi. This new song is slow, melodic. I recognise it. Ugh, Creep by Radiohead.

I’m a creep

I’m a weirdooo

What the hell am I doing here?

I don’t belong here.

Radiohead are usually a no-go for me, but for once I’m inclined to agree. I don’t belong here either, Thom. Me and the song seem to connect on some emotional level I’ve never experienced with Radiohead before, and I close my eyes to try and appreciate the music.

Oi mush, nice jacket. I open my eyes. Some Gobshite is standing over me, clearly unaware I was having an important drug-fuelled introspection.

Cheers pal. Unfortunately he takes this as an offer of small-talk and sits down next to me on the sofa. I’m unsure whether I should consider his opinion of my jacket to be valid because his own choice in attire is vapid and uninspired. Black jeans, white oxford shirt and brown shoes.

Where you get it? Clearly he is feeling for some connection, some lifeline to clutch on to that will continue our interaction.

Charity shop I think.

You can get some good deals there.

Yep. Gobshite doesn’t seem to know where to direct the conversation after I deliver this finisher. I had hoped this would rid me of his company, but he seems determined to find some elusive Common Ground he’s convinced we share.

Want a line? I nod, hiding a flicker of surprise at the idea of Gobshite being this immediately generous. He reaches for a mirror that’s been placed on the coffee table for this very purpose and tips out a small amount of powder. I don’t bother to ask what he’s offering. I’m not interested in the product, only the opportunity to abuse this stranger’s generosity. He won’t exist to me after this evening, and so I need to take advantage of this moment while it lasts.

The line he racks up for me is pathetic, so when he offers me the mirror I do both it and the one he’s racked up for himself. He looks at me with shock, but I know he’s also secretly impressed with the sheer gall of my action.

Sorry, I say nonchalantly, were they not both for me?

No.

I lie back on the sofa and can already feel this new drug getting to work on my body, it tendrils creeping through my skull, starting at the base of my neck and working forwards. Not bad gear. Nice one mate. I know Gobshite next to me is sorting himself out with another line so I just stay quiet and let the stale air between us dissipate. I must have started swaying unconsciously to the music because Gobshite interrupts with

Aren’t Radiohead sweet man? One of my favourite bands. He obviously thought he had finally found our Common Ground. I bet it was you that changed the track, you cunt.

Actually, I reply, relishing the immanent collapse of our budding friendship, I find their commentary on social issues such as the War on Terror and modern alienation to be facile, and the overall experimental nature of their music somewhat contrived.

I look over at Gobshite, wishing this moment could sustain me forever. I can see in his face that I have finally burned his last olive branch. I take my leave of him without explanation. He doesn’t need one. Out in the hall I bump into Charlie and ask him where he’s been.

Upstairs mate. Some bird fancied a quick one. Even let me stick it in her arse.

Nice one. I would be surprised if he’d used protection, he usually doesn’t. It’s a wonder he’s never knocked a girl up. Or if he has, he hasn’t told me about it.

Where’s that smoke Matty? I could do with one to mellow me out, that girl was spicy.

I hand him the bag of weed I had tucked into the waistband of my jeans. It’s the only place I can be sure it won’t be stolen.

You coming for one?

In a bit. Where’s the bog?

Upstairs. He walks off without giving me any further information, leaving me with the unenviable task of finding it on my own. Charlie was on his own mission this evening. Our loss to Pompey has dampened his spirits and he’s clearly trying to numb the pain. Neither of us are looking forward to the aftermath of this bender, but we’ll put it off for as long as possible.

I head up the bare wooden stairs and onto the landing, which is barely lit and smells like a chemical toilet. The carpet had been stripped at some point, exposing the rough wooden boards underneath. It looked like someone had started renovating it but had gotten bored and just fucked off. There’s graffiti on the walls and what looks like used needles in the corner. This must be one of the more happening smack dens in town.

The first door I come to is ajar and so I poke my head in, hopeful I would get lucky on my first try. My eyes take a moment to adjust to the darkness, but then I see a woman sat on a dresser, head tilted back. It takes me a moment to realise there is a guy with his head between her legs, one resting on each shoulder. He must really be going for it because she is gripping the edge of the dresser and grunting like a pig. She clearly wants more because she opens her legs wider and shoves his face in and holds it there. Poor sod surely can’t breathe. I can’t wait to tell Charlie about this.

I’ve been standing here watching them for a good few minutes now. There was a brief stir in my pants, but my poor little soldier seems unable to break through the wall of drugs to stand to attention. Just as I’m contemplating leaving, Thom Yorke’s wise words appear again in my head.

I’m a creep

I’m a weirdooo

On the money again, Thom. Maybe I should give Radiohead a chance after all. Forgetting where I am, I snigger at this thought. The woman opens her eyes, screams, and pushes the guy away. He loses his balance and crashes backwards, smacking his head on the floor.

Perve! Fackin perve! There’s someone watchin at the door. Oi Phil, fuck im up!

The guy is on his feet again now and has registered my presence. He runs at me, and is seemingly unaware his cock is still hanging out of his tracksuit trousers. I slam the door shut and pelt down the stairs, shedding my jacket, and toss it into the living room. Now I’m just that twat in his Gunner shirt at a party in Portsmouth. Under my new guise I head for the garden. Hopefully a change of clothing and scenery will be enough camouflage to keep away my assailant.

I find Charlie chatting up a group of girls, most of whom are probably more interested in the massive joint in his hand than in Charlie himself. I slip into the circle on his right and he passes it to me almost immediately. There’s some fine pieces of gash in this crowd, and Charlie and I use our position as drug suppliers to our advantage. Charlie seems determined to shag again this evening, but for me it’s all just show. My excessive drug consumption has left me unable to perform down there.

Charlie and I hang out in the garden for a while, having nothing conversations with nothing people. I’m still anxious about my position on Phil’s hit-list, so I remain outside for as long as possible, enduring all these losers desperate for a hit on my joint. I’m feeling quite messy now, but Charlie seems far more on-track than me.

Charlie turns to me, swaying slightly as he does so. I want to see if I can score some more gear. Coming?

Sure. Even though my body is reaching drug-saturation levels, another line won’t do any harm.

On my way through the kitchen I steal a few cans from the fridge and stuff them into my back pockets. Where did my jacket end up? I should probably find it before I head off.

As if by magic, I see Gobshite sauntering through the living room in my fucking jacket! Crafty bastard must have seen it abandoned and thought this was his chance for revenge. Well don’t worry Gobshite, mine shall be the last laugh.

Charlie makes for the living room, clearly attuned to the presence of some drug connection. When you’re this far down the rabbit-hole you can smell other users out. We’re all in Wonderland together, folks. I keep my head down as I’m unsure what Phil looks like, ready for him to jump out of any dark corner.

Oi cunt! I swivel around. There’s Phil. I stand my ground, ready to receive my punishment, but he isn’t heading for me. He’s seen my jacket and put two and two together. And got five.

Fink you can watch me going down on me bird and then just fuck off?

Before Gobshite can respond, Phil slams him in the face with a powerful right hook. Gobshite hits the deck, blood spurting from his mouth, and is out cold. Gutted prick, that’ll learn you for taking my jacket.

I take this near miss as my cue to leave the party and head for the front door.

Charlie, we gotta go.

He looks puzzled, but follows. He knows there’ll be other parties. We walk out into the night, on our never-ending quest for the next FIGHT, the next FUCK, the next FIX.

School’s Out For Summer

Greetings dear readers, and welcome to the bright and shining microcosm that is another post. I am (mostly) done with university for another year, and finally have time to choose my own reading. So instead of preparing and researching my dissertation, I’ve created a list of my summer reading. I hope you enjoy!

 

bee

The Informers – Bret Easton Ellis

I’m slowly making my way through Ellis’ back-catalogue. I recently finished Imperial Bedrooms, and it was definitely true to form! I picked The Informers up in a charity shop a while ago and still haven’t read it. It is a collection of short stories, seemingly set in the same universe. I imagine it features the same almost satirically dark and emotionless writing we have all grown to know and love. I’ll post a review in the future.

 

telling-tales-paperback-cover-9781782111573.600x0

Telling Tales – Patience Agbabi

Okay, so this one is actually university related, but I’ve wanted to read it for a while. Patience Agbabi is a British poet who uses grime-influenced hooks and beats in her poetry. If you haven’t seen her work before, find her on Youtube. Telling Tales is a modern reinterpretation of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Agbabi reimagines the original characters as modern Britons; from the Nigerian businesswoman The Wife of Bath, to Robyn Miller, the 18 year-old newly-wed. It’s safe to say I’m very excited to read this.

 

mcfarlane

The High Places – Fiona McFarlane

I picked this up at a local bookshop a while ago and it’s sat on my shelf ever since. Recently however, I’ve come across several positive reviews of McFarlane’s debut novel The Night Guest, and I thought it was time I gave her work a try. This collection of short stories has been described by The Guardian as “off-kilter” and deal with some interesting aspects of the human condition. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

BerenLuthien

Beren and Luthien – J.R.R. Tolkien

This is a posthumous work, published in 2017 by Tolkien’s son Christopher. It’s compiled from various pieces of work Tolkien produced in his life, elements of which have appeared in several of his other works. The story is set in the First Age, some 6,500 years before Lord of the Rings, and follows the story of Beren on his quest for Luthien’s love. I’ve enjoyed Christopher Tolkien’s work in the past so I’m looking forward to this one.

 

Thanks for reading, and if you have any other suggestions, let me know in the comments.

Flash Fiction

Good day to you all dearest readers. You join me again in the swampy mire we call reality for another post. This time, I bring you a piece of flash fiction. Flash fiction is always interesting to write; its tiny word count makes it a good challenge. This piece was written for a competition with the prompt “stock.” I hope you enjoy!

The Search

The supermarket stood desolate and abandoned. The windows were smashed and a thin layer of radioactive dust had crept into the foyer. Inside it was dark and the air smelled stale. No one had been here in years.

“Do you really think we’ll find any here?”

“Have faith.”

They crept into the gloomy depths of the store, guns at the ready. Anything could be hiding in here. Their breaths escaped in short, laboured bursts, and echoed faintly off the empty shelves.

Sunlight barely penetrated this far, but they couldn’t risk torches. Plus they needed to save the batteries. Supplies were running low.

They turned into aisle 12. This was the right one. She remembered from before the world ended.

They searched the shelves fastidiously. There! She grinned. Tucked away were three packs of glorious coffee, six jars in each.

“We better stock up. We don’t know when we’ll find more.”

Hello!

Hello again dear readers! I have surfaced from the dark and gloomy forest of “real life” to bring you another post! This one is a creative writing assignment I submitted earlier this year. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I hope you enjoy, and see you in another year!

Aellonor

Aellonor sat at the window, hypnotized by the crashing waves. The cool breeze tickled her cheek and ruffled the loose strands of her matted hair. This was the closest she got to freedom. Melodic whispers sprung from her mouth and floated into the wind. To the untrained ear they sounded like birdsong. The setting sun bathed her tower-top cell in its dying light and she shut her eyes to its glare. Her whole body quivered as she muttered.

Suddenly Aellonor was back in her woodland home. The heady aroma of damp leaves replaced the salty tang of the coast. A broad smile spread across her face as she felt the grass beneath her feet. The forest sighed; “welcome home.” Her small hovel nestled amongst dense undergrowth still looked how she remembered. The wood had protected it for her, kept it safe while she was away. It knew she would be back soon and it had missed her.

One day a party of dangerous men had stumbled upon her while she was out picking mushrooms. They had enjoyed chasing her through the woods, hunting dogs snapping at her heels. She knew the forest well, but she was outnumbered and unprepared. After many hours of relentless torment they trapped her in a tight gully. She lashed out at them; fought tooth and nail, like a mother bear defending her young. The dogs cowered in fear and would not go near her.

“Pelt her with rocks!” one hunter shouted, “She ain’t strong enough to beat rocks.”

“Don’t damage her too much,” said another malevolently, “I’ve got a plan for her.”

Eventually Aellonor became too weak to resist their torment. They dragged her away, back to their homes as the ultimate trophy. She let out a long, primal wail that the forest seemed to echo back at her.

The click of the lock snapped Aellonor out of her trance. The haggard old crone shambled in through the door and watched Aellonor warily through her one good eye.

“Don’t try no funny bisnuss,” she said, “I don’t wanna hafta tie yew down for bein’ foolish.”

Aellonor said nothing; only glared. Hatred smouldered in her eyes, and the crone felt the rage burning into her as she set down a basin of water and some towels.

“Yur lordship is comin’ tomorrow, so yew need to do summin’ about the smell. Wash yersel’ down and change yer clothes. I’ll be to check on yew later. Yer a disgustin’ creature, I dunno how he can stand to put his cock in yew.”

Aellonor hissed and spat as the crone backed out of the room. She would do no such thing. She didn’t care if his lordship wasn’t happy. He could hardly treat her any worse. Her stomach growled as she returned to her birdsong. A crowd of seabirds answered her as they flew about the cliff-face at the bottom of her tower.

A lone bird, she recognized as a Chough, broke off from the flock and flew up to greet her. Aellonor held out her hand and the bird landed on it happily. It cawed and fixed its beady eye on her filthy face. They stared at each other for a moment, and the bird seemed to give the faintest nod of assent. It knew what needed to be done. Aellonor smiled, showing sharp, discoloured teeth, and clasped the bird gently in both hands. It didn’t struggle as she hopped down from the window ledge. She closed her eyes and said a small prayer. Then, quick as a flash, she snapped its neck.

Aellonor tore the bird’s chest open and sunk her teeth into the warm flesh. Blood squirted through her fingers and down her face. Its metallic tang filled her nostrils and awoke a hunger in her. His lordship was sparing with her meals, he thought it made her more docile. Little did he know nature was sustaining her. Body and mind.

With the greatest care, she peeled off the Chough’s skin in one piece and set it aside. Usually one bird would last several days, but there was no point in saving any this time. One way or another it would be her last night in this tower.

Now that her cell was illuminated only by candlelight it felt smaller than ever. The only furniture, a giant feather bed that dominated the room, cast massive shadows that flickered and danced on the bare stone walls. It was made up with thick cotton sheets and soft animal furs. Only the best for his lordship. The crone had been in to change them earlier in preparation for the visit. He would only stay one night, but the sheets would smell of him for days after. Tangy sweat and cheap wine, his personal fragrance. She refused to ever sleep in the bed. For her it was a prison within a prison.

The shackles had been her own fault. The first time his lordship had clambered on top of her, deep in his drink, she had fought back viciously; clawing at his face and wrenching his cock. She almost pulled it off. The next time he visited, he made the foolish mistake of leaving her ungagged. As he ran his blubbery lips up her neck, breathing wine fumes on her, she sunk her teeth into his ear and wrenched it as hard as she could. The bite didn’t go all the way through, but almost. The lord screamed; wailed with sheer animal rage. He beat her so hard and for so long that she cracked several ribs, and lost a tooth. He didn’t care too much what she looked like. All he wanted from her was a cunt and a heartbeat.

Every time since then, and there had been so many now she had lost count, the crone would supervise her restraint. It took four burly soldiers to capture her, even in that tiny room. Aellonor screamed at them; she kicked, clawed, bit, spat. Anything she could to fight them off. But they always got the better of her. Sometimes it took a smack to the head for good measure before they would pick her up. When she was tied to the bed she would writhe like a snake, throwing her body around like she was possessed.

“You’re a fucking feral bitch,” his lordship would say. “But that’s what’s so great about it, I feel like I’m fucking Mother Nature herself. Hopefully our kids will have your spirit.”

She would not give him the satisfaction of bearing his children. Twice now the worst had happened, and she had felt them growing inside her. But they didn’t last long. She knew how to destroy them, even with limited tools at her disposal.

Aellonor shuddered at the memory. It had crept up on her while she devoured the bird. She threw what remained of its carcass aside and turned her attention to the skin. It was the last one she needed. Aellonor scuttled over to the bed and reached under it, pulling out a great cloak. It was a patchwork of feathers; grey, black, white. Tones of purple and green shimmered in the candlelight. The way she had sewn it mimicked a bird; great wings spread out from a downy body. It had taken her many years to finish, but now she had the final piece.

Aellonor snapped the wings off the skin in her hand and lay the body flat on the cloak in the last blank spot. The wings she arranged carefully in their place at the very edge. She ran over to the darkest corner of the room and muttered to a spider that lived there. It gifted her with several yards of fine spider silk, which she threaded through a small bone needle. She sewed the final pieces into place deftly, aware that the crone would soon return to make sure she had washed.

Finally the cloak was complete. Aellonor draped it about her shoulders and felt the weight of the feathers shifting as she tied it about her neck. There she stood; dark and resplendent, draped in feathers. She clutched the corners in her hands and lifted her arms, admiring the way her wings flapped. The feathers sounded like wind in the leaves as they rustled against each other. The sound make her shudder with excitement. She could taste freedom already. She said a prayer of thanks to the birds that had helped, and to the spider whose silk held her creation together. Without them she would have had no hope.

The stone felt cool under her feet as she climbed onto the window ledge. Moonlight cast an ethereal glow over the now calm sea. Aellonor let it wash her clean. She looked down at the waves breaking on the rocks. Each crash reminded her of the risk she was taking. She said one last prayer to her Earth Goddess, the one who had kept her alive all these years. Live free or die.

My Recommended Audiobooks

I love audiobooks. For me, they fill a certain niche. I listen to them when I’m walking my dog, playing video games, or partaking in any other activity that requires my eyes but not my brain. I also, unashamedly, use them to help me plough through my reading list for university (12 novels in 10 weeks is surely a challenge for anyone). I particularly enjoy using them for books I find a bit long-winded (looking at you, Jane Eyre).

 

I’m also aware that audiobooks can be considered a contentious subject in the literary world. Do they count as reading? Are they the same as absorbing the story with your own eyes and your own narration? My answer to both of these questions would be a resounding yes. But then I’m a millennial, and everyone knows we’re all about short attention spans and quick fixes.

 

So, on the back of my declaration of love for the audiobook, here is a list of my favourites. This list is based not just on the book itself, but the performance given by the narrator(s). When it comes to allowing someone else to read a book for you, this is surely one of the most important factors. My list is based off books available on Audible, just in case you were thinking of checking any of them out. I hope you enjoy!

 

NOS4R2 – Joe Hill. Narrated by Kate Mulgrew.

This is a brilliant book, and a valuable addition to the world of modern horror (I’ll inevitably do a review of this soon). The story focuses on Vic McQueen, a young woman who can travel through space using her bike and a mysterious bridge. She ends up using this ability to rescue her son from Charles Manx, a convicted child molester. Manx kidnaps children in his Rolls Royce Wraith and takes them to a special place called Christmasland, where he turns them into vampires and feeds of their life-force. I consider this book to be more thrilling than scary, but it is certainly brought alive by the oddly cheery voice of Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway/Star Trek, Red/OITNB).

 

Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection – Arthur Conan Doyle. Narrated by Stephen Fry.

Everyone (I assume) knows the stories of Sherlock Holmes in some form or another. Whether it’s from the original source material, the (frankly awful) Guy Ritchie films, or the modern TV adaptation. I’ve read the books several times before, but had to download the audiobook purely because it is read by Stephen Fry. The Audible version is a commitment, it’s over 70 hours of listening, and was around £69 last time I checked. But, with an Audible subscription, it can be yours for the low, low price of £8! How could you say no? I would recommend this for old and new fans alike, as Stephen Fry certainly knows how to bring a world alive.

 

Dracula – Bram Stoker. Narrated by Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Simon Vance, Katherine Kellgren, Susan Duerden, John Lee, Graeme Malcolm, Steven Crossley.

As far as classic literature goes, Dracula is up there with the best in my opinion. Stoker’s choice to tell the story as a series of letters, transcripts, telegrams and newspaper clippings (an epistolary novel for you literary buffs) is a perfect choice for a story about a mysterious creature of the night as it highlights the questionable validity of the written word. Audible commissioned a production by some pretty big stars to bring the world to life again for a newer audience. The use of the original manuscript and different narrators certainly adds to the tension of the novel, and really works with its format. This was one of many I downloaded for university and it definitely made me appreciate the quality of the novel more than I already did.

 

Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood. Narrated by John Chancer.

It was necessary for me to include a Margaret Atwood novel on this list. Oryx and Crake is the first in her “MadAddam” trilogy; a series of speculative fiction novels set after the world is ravaged by a pill that makes people infertile. The first book focuses on Snowman the Jimmy, a man who bumbled his way through pre-apocalypse life and is now searching for his lost friends. The books are unusual to say the least, but show off Atwood’s power of imagination. Chancer’s performance is not the most noteworthy on this list, but there’s something about his reserved charm that made me enjoy the performance much more than reading the book.

 

Moonraker – Ian Fleming. Narrated by Bill Nighy.

Let’s be real here. If you’re a fan of the James Bond series, we can agree that Moonraker is not the best story. But Bill Nighy has an amazing voice. It’s like chocolate. He manages to bring the post-imperial, casually racist world of Bond alive with his dulcet tones. The series on Audible are all narrated by big names (David Tennant, Rory Kinnear, Damian Lewis), which gives listeners even more reason to visit this series again. I’ve read the Bond series countless times, and these audiobooks certainly breathe new life into them.

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and one that I’ll definitely be updating as I make my way through Audible’s catalogue. Are there any particular gems you would recommend? Let me know in the comments.