Tag Archives: Fiction

The Seasons of Love: winter by Shirley Golden (FreeSpace #1)

13 Aug

Welcome to the first of 4 FreeSpaces featuring fiction writer Shirley Golden who, over the next few months ahead, will be sharing 4 pieces of fiction around the theme of seasonal love. Here’s her first piece:

 

Shimmering

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The Seasons of Love (winter)

SAD

by Shirley Golden

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He wanted to ride all the time, feel the air, driven tepid by speed. She’d cling to his back and watch scorched wheat fields pass. They’d stop, if she begged him to sunbathe in the grass, pour melted iced water from wet plastic bottles over the other one’s throat. She liked the way the liquid pooled into his jugular notch. They never stayed still for long.

The roads were slimy with heat.

She can still hear the crack and blister of tarmac, the spark of metal and snap of bone on road.

When hot weather descends, she draws down the blinds, turns up the air-conditioning, and retreats from stark chinks of light.

It doesn’t take much to pretend that she’s caught in dead winter’s grasp.

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First published by Visual Verse

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Some of Shirley Golden’s stories have found homes in the pages or websites of various magazines and anthologies; a few have won prizes.  She lives in Hampshire where she is door-person and arbitrator to two wannabe tigers, and can sometimes be found on Twitter when she should be writing.  She likes to bake jumbo chocolate and pecan cookies.

shirleygolden.net

@shirl1001

 

Image: Shimmering Lights on Sumida River by outakuwannabe

 

More soon….

 

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Weekend Showcase : Stephen Thom (Writer)

13 Mar

Spotlight

Every Friday, 1 creative, letting their work speak for itself.

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Stephen Thom

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Marbles

 

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IT IS ALL LITTLE MARBLES IN OUR EARS

by Stephen Thom

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Hugh placed his plastic cup of sparkling wine beside the picnic hamper and pushed the tweezers deep into Lottie’s left ear. She slugged her own cup back violently, wincing as the bubbles surged down her throat and cold metal tongs simultaneously wriggled into her earhole. Selecting a pair of tweezers for herself, she directed them into Hugh’s right ear and tried to focus on her own prodding and poking. And as it was, she succeeded first. A little, smooth, dark round bead was tugged from Hugh’s ear, clenched between the pincers of the metal implement. Swiftly the bead was followed by more and more tiny round balls, connected together by some sinewy, sticky tether. Hugh’s ear bled as the beads were carefully extracted; dribbling, red pearls hanging from the lobe.

‘How does it feel?’ Lottie asked. Hugh’s head was throbbing, but he didn’t want it to show. Instead he tried to change the subject. ‘I can’t seem to get a handle on yours.’ He switched positions, wedging the blanket into the sand beneath it as he shifted onto his knees. Finally he felt his tweezers click around a smooth surface, and with his eyes screwed up in concentration, tugged the first few beads from Lottie’s left ear. They slid out with comparative ease; soon a whole, slick chain of dark little stony spheres was unravelling out of her earhole, and she barely flinched as she focused on yanking and squeezing Hugh’s assorted beads out individually.

‘Ow,’ he muttered, craning his neck against the roving tweezers. ‘Ow.’ His eyes flickered to the trail hanging from his ear. ‘Ah…Jesus.’

‘They look a bit like marbles,’ breathed Lottie, stroking his head to calm him. ‘I thought you’d be able to see…more, or anything. Maybe they’re different on the outside, like, maybe they change?’

‘Maybe,’ choked Hugh, grinding his teeth as water formed in the corners of his eyes.

With a sucking noise, what appeared to be the final bead was wrenched from Hugh’s ear; Lottie laid his collection in a bundle on the blanket beside her own, long since unravelled to the ground. They surveyed the piles of beads in silence for a while, Hugh rubbing his ear. ‘How long do you think we have?’ He murmured.

Lottie looked up at him. His eyes were jet black, but she declined to inform him of this.

‘It doesn’t matter,’ she said, reaching for his hand. Hugh let her caress his palm for a moment, then picked up one of his beads. He rotated it between thumb and forefinger. In the centre of the little ball, a cloud swirled amongst the gloom. As he watched, it gathered texture, accumulating into a structured mass. This mass snaked out to incorporate fleeting glimpses of minuscule limbs, features, stretches of environment – a world condensed into a smooth, sticky marble.

‘No, you were right,’ Hugh concurred, ‘it must have been a type of…camouflage, or cover. Look, this is when I met you.’

He held it up to her glassy eyes, still in ownership of their pupils. A scene danced across the minute circular landscape.

‘It wasn’t, though,’ she replied, averting her gaze. Then, looking back at Hugh, she saw a thick sliver of black liquid ooze from his dark eyeballs. He wiped his cheek in shock. Hastily, he pulled the beads up one by one, scrutinising the pictures the little marbles conveyed.

‘This is Greece!’ He cried. ‘This was our holiday! When I was twelve…I had such bad sunburn. I had to have cold showers. Look, this is when Mum was ill…we were waiting at the station for Dad to pick us up, but he’d got the time wrong, and you just kept talking about how you have to pay to use the toilets there, I guess you didn’t want to talk about anything else-‘

‘Hugh…’ Lottie covered the bead with her left hand, and pulled the arm of her jumper down over her right hand, wiping away some of the black fluid flowing down his cheeks.

‘I don’t know if it was the right thing to do anymore,’ he croaked. He was having trouble kneeling upright now; he seemed to be hunching into himself without realising. ‘Even if they’re not ours, or mine, or whatever, it’s what we knew. It’s all I knew. I should honour that. It doesn’t feel right, or like I thought it would. I still spent my life with these people.’

Lottie kissed him on his smudged cheek. ‘It is right,’ she said, and she felt her own voice flagging as she did so. ‘You did spend your life with them, and you will meet them again, just in the right way this time. These things, here…’ her hands fumbled with the beads, ‘they’re not our own, they’re someone else’s interpretation. But all these…links, they’ll come back to you. You will see them again,’ she finished, trying to sound decisive.

Hugh’s face was a mess of black fluid, and he sunk to the blanket as his knees failed him. The sand that had drifted onto the blanket mingled with the thick oilish substance as cracks and sores opened across his skin, and more of it flooded forth. Lottie held his head tightly, staring straight ahead as her own eyes dulled to black.

‘Hugh, did you hear me? Hugh, it’ll be your own now.’

‘I’m sorry,’ he sighed as a black mass converged before him and fractured into a million splinters; splinters that remolded themselves as little black marbles, tumbling in every direction.

He saw his embryonic, shapeless shadow chasing after them, ready, renewed-

‘Don’t ever be sorry,’ Lottie sobbed, somewhere far behind.

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Biography

Stephen Thom is from Carrbridge in the Highlands of Scotland, and enjoys reading and writing fiction with an interpetive element. His pieces have appeared in Firewords Quarterly, Holdfast Magazine, Fur-Lined Ghettos, High Flight, Don’t Do It, Thought Collection Publishing, Thick Jam and Puffin Review amongst others.

http://stephenthom.wordpress.com/​
@StephenThom3

Stephen also plays mandolin in a folk-rock band called ‘Dante’. Their debut album, ‘Wake’, was released in October 2013 to fantastic reviews and features in the Herald’s ‘Top 50 Scottish Albums of the Year’.

http://www.dantemusic.com
@wearedante

 

 

If you would like a Weekend Showcase please do get in touch via the contact form on the What’s On Page or via the comment box.

 Image by Barnaby N: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blast/212455

 

 

 

Weekend Showcase : Marie Gethins (Writer)

6 Mar

Spotlight

Every Friday, 1 creative, letting their work speak for itself.

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Marie Gethins

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Brigid Painting

 Painting by Brigid Delahunty

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Jeremiah and the Singing Sheep

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A few months after Jeremiah turned the fields around Gallybeg blue, sheep began to sing. People in the village called it singing, but it was more of a hum. Shamie Howlin claimed he heard the chorus to O’Donnell Abú one night when he took a short cut home from the pub. However everyone knew better than to trust Shamie’s opinion.

Jeremiah arrived one April with a long beard and an orange tent. “A New Age blow-in,” my mother said, shaking a finger at me. “Now lad, don’t get too familiar.” By the end of his first week, she puzzled together enough information to serve Jeremiah’s life story with my father’s Saturday steak. “Brains to burn, degrees coming out his ears. He’s here to set-out those wind turbines.” She poured pepper sauce across his meat and potatoes, tapped the metal spoon against the pot. “From Kentucky—so they say.”

The wind turbine project pleased almost everyone in Gallybeg, bringing with it a handy cash injection. A protest group from Dublin came down a few weekends until a bull got loose and chased them through the village. “If we had the climate for tomatoes, it would be as good as Pamplona,” my father said. But we could only grow grass and by the look of the livestock, even that didn’t seem to be doing so well.

Part of the preliminary crew, Jeremiah took measurements and pounded sticks into fields marking off access roads and tower bases. He said that he liked to live close to nature. Although the company would pay his expenses for a city hotel and commute costs, he preferred to pitch a tent near the construction sites, landowners permitting.

Jeremiah’s orange tent became a regular fixture and feeding him a competitive sport. It began with a sandwich pile and tea flask, but stakes rose to a full Irish breakfast and hot dinner by farm number three. When he arrived at our place, my mother pinned meal plans and a baking schedule to the kitchen curtains. My mother decided she couldn’t cook, bake and deliver, so my father and I shared the task of bringing Jeremiah his meals.

He had an easy way of speaking: slow and gentle, leading you along. Philosophy, engineering, nature, mythology—Jeremiah covered them all, mixing one with another. Often I couldn’t tell my mother what we had talked about, only that I agreed with him. One evening my father and I shared a warm apple tart and tea with Jeremiah while the ewes and lambs nibbled around us.

“That’s hard dining.” He motioned towards the flock with his fork. “Ryegrass, what’s the variety?”

“It’s a mix,” my father said. “Irish seed mostly, but I was thinking of trying a bit of Italian next.”

“Italian ryegrass? Wouldn’t you consider Poa? Works real well back home. Poa pratensis, Kentucky bluegrass. Those sheep would be so content they’d sing.”

My father shook his head and laughed.

When the construction team arrived, Jeremiah moved onto his next job, but he said he’d return to Gallybeg before the wind turbine commissioning. Although everyone had stared at Jeremiah’s stick outlines for several weeks, big machinery churning up the fields came as a surprise. The post office, petrol station and pub buzzed with complaints. My mother put away her recipe cards and told me to stay well clear of the crew. From my bedroom window I watched the white towers rise, giant fingers pointing to heaven. On rainy days, they broke the grey clouds into marshmallow pillows and when the sun came out, clinging drops glimmered on their sides. With rotors fitted, the turbines became a line of fairground pinwheels waiting for God to blow. My father heard the electrics still had to be wired up.

The heavy works crew left and after a few days Jeremiah appeared. We walked around the wind turbines with him, our wellies sinking in the muck.

“Not a blade left in the field,” my father said.

Jeremiah stroked his beard. “I believe there’s a reseeding contingency in your contract. This could be an opportunity my friend.”

Two weeks later several sacks of Kentucky bluegrass seed came by special delivery. My father covered them with old blankets and locked the shed. When he deemed conditions were ideal, I helped him plough the field and spread the new seed. Soon tufts popped up. A mixture of green and teal blades surrounded the wind turbine bases and covered the soil. When seed heads appeared, the land turned a blue tint in twilight. The ground firm, we moved our flock into the wind turbine field. The sheep rustled through the new coarse grass, happy to dine on the American gourmet fodder. We started to notice other Gallybeg fields the same shade as our farm.

Commissioned at last, the wind turbines began to rotate. Regular rent payments arrived from the energy company. My father talked about building a new shed, my mother a conservatory. Reporters interviewed farmers, photographers snapped shots of white wind turbines and fluffy sheep against bluish fields.

Summer rains shifted into autumn frosts. On a clear November night, my father and I checked on the flock. An orange harvest moon hung heavy in the dark sky, stars scattered like bog cotton around it. A rhythmic hum grew louder as we approached the field.

“Do you hear that?”

My father nodded. “It must be the sheep.”

“What?”

“Jeremiah said that grass would make them sing.” He slapped my back and chuckled.

That winter noise pollution protestors from the city went round the village asking people to sign their petition. They wanted the wind turbines silenced. “But the wind turbines are silent,” the villagers said. The protestors passed around leaflets on infrasound, asked about headaches, nausea and tinnitus.

“Don’t you hear that hum?” one said. “How can you sleep?”

“Ah that’s just the sheep.” My father handed back a leaflet. “They’re so happy with the Kentucky bluegrass they sing for joy.”

A CD and a letter from Jeremiah came with my father’s latest seed order. The cover had a picture of him outside a tent, beard plaited, a funny looking guitar in his lap. He wrote that he’s started an Ashram in the Appalachian Mountains and plays bluegrass music on the sitar for the local wildlife. Next birthday I’m going to ask for an orange tent and when I’m older, I’m going to grow a long beard. In the meantime, I play the CD for our flock, a background hum in harmony.

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Biographies

Marie Geth­ins’ work has fea­tured in the Litro, 2014 NFFD Anthology, Flash, NANO, The Incubator Vin­tage Script, Circa, Firewords Quarterly, The Lamp, Control Literary Magazine and Word Bohemia. She won or placed in Tethered by Letters, Flash500, Drom­i­neer, The New Writer, Prick of the Spindle, Sen­tinel Lit­er­ary Quar­terly and 99fiction.net. Marie is a Pushcart and Best of the Short Fictions Nominee. She lives in Cork, Ireland, working on her MSt in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford.

https://twitter.com/MarieGethins

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 Artist:  Brigid Delahunty:

Award winning artist Brigid Delahunty’s work reflects upon the different shapes of man-made objects built or left in the landscape with their random presence creating a new perspective and incongruity in the environment. Each scene is individual and fictitious with a narrative approach that emphasises a sense of emptiness and isolation. Contact info: https://brigiddelahunty.wordpress.com/

 

If you would like a Weekend Showcase please do get in touch via the contact form on the What’s On Page or via the comment box.

 

 

 

 

Weekend Showcase : Elizabeth Rose Murray (Writer)

9 Jan

Spotlight

Every Friday, 1 creative, letting their work speak for itself.

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Elizabeth Rose Murray

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Gothiclitterabastarda3

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The Books, They Cry *

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Sarajevo, 1993. No idea what date exactly – it’s not important any more. Food and cigarettes are the only currencies that matter.

Zoran pulls himself out of his bunk and into his hole-ridden combat jacket, rescued from a dead comrade last week. Bullet holes in a jacket bring you luck, they say. Bullets are proud like Serbs. Never hit the same spot twice. There’s no glory in that.

The scarf that Zoran tied carefully around his face has slipped in his sleep. The dusty air burns, dry and hot. Every breath suffers. He gulps like a suffocating fish, checking around nervously to make sure he hasn’t disturbed his comrades. As his gaze falls on his commander, Zoran stiffens, straightens as much as his tired body can manage. He wonders how the commander sleeps so well.

Before he turns sixteen, Zoran wants to be in charge of a unit. The Great Siege is all he has left. His mother, father, brothers and sister; they all died unremarkably. Zoran was outside sketching the last lime tree in his village when return fire blew their makeshift home apart. He found remnants of his mother, but the others evaporated like mist. Hiding in the apartment was a cowardly act. They should have been fighting for the cause.

Under his commander’s care, Zoran is no longer the snivelling boy found curled around his mother’s severed body. Tomorrow, he starts his first shift on the barricades on the Northern Bank of the Miljacka. The barricades offer the best contact fighting. They’re where you earn respect.

“Are you ready to join the men, Zoran?”

Zoran had not noticed the commander wake. He stares into his leader’s eyes. The others say the commander can see into a man’s heart. Zoran believes it, even though his own vision is clouded. He puffs himself up, sucks in his cheeks like he’s seen the others do.

“I am, sir.”

He hopes the thin croak in his voice doesn’t betray him. He’s been dreaming of this moment, can’t risk his excitement being mistaken for fear. The commander reaches out, grabs the boy by his shoulder and squeezes. Zoran accepts the pincer-sharp grip, fights the urge to pull away. Inside, his heart pumps like rapid-gun fire.

*

The Gazi Husrev Bey Library is so silent Ismet can hear his father’s breath from the other side of the room. Before the war started, before the bread queues and blockades, before the trees were cut down for firewood, the building would have been full. Nobody comes to read books any more. They’re too hungry or cold or afraid. The majestic glass dome is now a withered skeleton. There is no glass left in Sarajevo.

Ismet’s father used to say the library was the middle point between heaven and earth. He talked of how the books came alive at night; “Imagine, Ismet, while we sleep, philosophers and scholars from every country, every era, leap from the pages to debate the world’s most important ideas.” When war threatened, Ismet’s father didn’t panic. He smiled, cupping his hands around a decorative spine. “In times of war, books and prayers can be of great comfort to a man.”

Back then, Ismet would examine the treasured sixteenth century manuscripts, trying to make sense of the beautiful, handwritten script. Scarlet, viridian and indigo inks whispered to him, offering a glimpse of the nighttime chatter of ghosts. Ismet listened carefully, trying to decipher their incessant noise in languages he couldn’t understand.

Those days ended when the ‘men in the hills’ arrived. Now, Ismet’s father is silent. He holds the books close, smells their musky scent, strokes their covers. But there is no smile. He reads very little. Always, he worries. The books, they cry.

Once one of the most respected scholars in Sarajevo, Ismet’s father is reduced to stacking abandoned manuscripts into banana boxes. See the remnants of his past in the elegant angle of his neck as he concentrates? Ismet tries harder to see it every day as willow-thin and grey as the sky, his father methodically piles book upon book, then seals the box.

An act that could cost him his life. His son’s too.

*

Zoran secures an excellent view of the Latin Bridge: a necessary crossing for civilians in need of water. Day after day, war-worn men and grief-bruised women race across the bridge in the hope of reaching the Brewery. Here, they drain water from the pumps, then risk their lives again to get back home to their families.

A tall, wiry sniper stationed at the Northern Bank barricade grins at Zoran. He nods his head towards the bridge.

“Easy pickings.”

In return, Zoran widens his lips and shows his teeth. It isn’t what a smile used to look like.

“Easy pickings,” he repeats.

Holding the high-precision rifle makes Zoran feel taller. Excitement rages through his body. Unlike the defending soldiers, he has ammunition. Ignoring the rusted trigger, chipped handle and uncomfortable weight, Zoran imagines that his weapon gleams against his hip. He’s thankful that there are no mirrors. He doesn’t want to see the oversized, tattered gun against his slight frame.

Zoran was never athletic or academic. He only excelled at art. Looking back, he scorns that weak, sunburned boy who spent hours dabbing at canvas with a sable brush. Cerulean blue, lemon yellow, alizarin crimson: all distant memories buried under the dust and debris of constant shelling. What need is there of such wasteful occupations? The city’s freedom will be beauty enough.

*

The city’s main library is bombed. Ismet’s father grows increasingly restless. What will stop them from turning on the Gazi Husrev Bey next?

“It is time, Ismet,” he says.

A disused fire station near the tunnel that leads from the city to the airport is their only chance. No one attacks the tunnel. The fighters need their cigarettes. The black market needs its extortionately priced food. And those who can pay need their way out.

“How many books will we take, papa?”

“All of them.”

More than ten thousand tomes have made their home in the Gazi Husrev Bey. Ismet sighs. He wonders whether, with all their wisdom, those revered scholars saw The Great Siege coming? Pausing, gleaming manuscript in hand, he peers skyward, expecting to see apparitions. There is only the flat grey sky where the dome once glistened like dew.

“When, papa?”

“Morning.”

Ismet’s mother begs her son not to go. She says it is too risky for a boy of fifteen. She has not heard the books whispering, isn’t familiar with the sound of their important ideas. Ismet knows that if Sarajevo is to be rebuilt, it cannot be left to the criminals and thugs that have sprung up on both sides. Whoever wins, whatever the future, the books will preserve the city’s identity. They need to be heard.

*

Pacing the barricade, staring down into the city, Zoran feels sweat drip down his spine despite the wintery air. With every step, the sniper’s eyes sear into him, calculating his next move. Zoran knows his future relies on impressing this man. Otherwise, the commander will be disappointed.

“Smoke?”

Zoran takes one of his companion’s cigarettes, taps it against his palm before lighting it to buy time. After three days of watching, he must shoot. But the choice of target is critical.

As he sucks on the cigarette, Zoran tries to think like his commander. Could shooting a man earn him the most glory? Maybe killing a woman would show he’s cut all ties with childhood? Or would a toddler be best? He looks into the sniper’s eyes, trying to read him like a colour palette. But the sniper only sees in monochrome. Zoran has to make his choice alone.

As soon as his cigarette is finished, Zoran stubs it into the ground and perches his rifle on the barricade. Closing one eye, breath slowed, he waits. Instinct tells him to let the first few people cross. But when a man in an expensive blue suit and hat steps out, Zoran’s heart thumps. The world pales. The blue suit gleams as it sprints across the Latin Bridge. Zoran aims, fires.

Recovering from the thump of the gun against his shoulder, he sees the man make it safely to the other side. His hat lies crumpled and smoking in the middle of the road. As Zoran lowers his weapon, a fist strikes him in the mouth. He springs back, but doesn’t cower. The blood is bright against his palm as he wipes it away. The sniper fixes his stare on the boy, spits his cigarette to the floor.

“Idiot! There’s no room for failure, here. If you want to lose, join the other side.”

*

Ismet and his father are ready. The city library still burns, lighting up the sky as their stooped figures step out into the morning, each loaded with a banana box full of books. Their task has made them strong. In single file they run across streets, dodge down alleyways, duck behind boxcars. Last night’s mortar attacks leave the air extra thick with dust, cloaking their movements.

When they reach the Latin Bridge, their hearts throb with fear. The bridge is open and in full view of the Northern Bank barricades. No dust will save them now. Waiting with the stragglers and empty water cartons, tucked behind an upturned truck, they watch. Ismet scribes a prayer in the dirt. War involves too much waiting.

A woman runs out, plastic water bottles clanking by her hip. She kicks an abandoned hat adorned with a single bullet hole, stumbles, but makes it safely to the other side. As another woman crosses successfully, Ismet decides he will grab the hat as he passes. A gift for his father as protection; they say no Serb bullet strikes the same place twice.

“It is time,” says Ismet’s father. “I will go first.”

He believes a sniper will fire as soon as he sees the box. There won’t be enough time to reload and shoot at his son.

“See you on the other side.”

Taking a deep breath and heaving the box of books close to his chest, Ismet’s father races into the street.

*

Sucking on his wounded lip, Zoran peers out across the range. There’s been little movement since he missed his shot. Just a few women he’d let pass to lure better prey. The others cower like starving dogs, sheltering behind vehicles. Zoran has heard that some people count the seconds after a sniper shot, trying to guess the safest time to cross. When will they realise it will only be safe when they, the Serbs, have taken the city by force?

Avoiding his comrade’s gaze, Zoran squints into the distance. He knows this is his last chance. If he doesn’t hit his target this time, his commander will be informed. His dreams of leading a unit will crumple in cadmium flames like the city library.

Zoran wears his non-smile as the civilians relax and begin to cross. First: a bent, grey man with a proud face. He runs slowly, only just able to bear the box he carries. Zoran blinks. Did he see right? His eyes haven’t deceived him; the box is imprinted with bananas. Zoran stalls. He knows that the black market is thriving; cars, clothes, toys, water. Anything can be bought for the right price. He’s seen the men in tracksuits with their oily hair and oilier palms, slicking their way from tunnel to hill to valley. They didn’t bother him before – smugglers are always chameleons in war – but the bright yellow-gold of the bananas feels like an insult.

“We don’t even have bread, and they have bananas,” says Zoran quietly.

Anger creeps into his stomach. His heart shrivels. As his blood pumps faster, making his forehead throb, he knows he will shoot the next person to appear. Under the watchful eye of his fellow sniper, Zoran lifts his rifle. Prays he won’t fail this time.

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* ‘The Books, They Cry’ was shortlisted for the RTE Francis MacManus Short Story competition (2013) – it was aired on national radio but this is the first time it has appeared in print.

 

  Biography

Elizabeth Rose Murray lives in West Cork where she fishes, grows her own vegetables and lives for adventure and words. Book One of her Nine Lives trilogy for children (aged 10-12) will be published by Mercier Press in August 2015.

Elizabeth has poetry & fiction published in journals across Ireland and the UK, and she has been shortlisted in the following competitions: RTE3 Short Story (2014) Penguin/RTE Guide (2013), Powers/Irish Times (2013), Writers & Artists/Anam Cara (2013) and Aesthetica Creative Works (2011). In 2012, she performed in Ciudades Paralelas: Station – a live writing installation in Kent train station as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival.

Twitter: @ERMurray
Facebook: /ERMurray.Author

Elizabeth will be returning to ArtiPeeps on Wednesday 25th February for her first FreeSpace. Do watch out for her. 

 

If you would like a Weekend Showcase please do get in touch via the contact form on the What’s On Page or via the comment box.

 

 

 

 

Weekend Showcase : Brenna Layne (Writer)

19 Sep

Spotlight

Every Friday, 1 creative, letting their work speak for itself.

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Brenna Layne

 

The Glass Box

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Love is the crooked thing.
—William Butler Yeats

 

Prologue

Imagine a village.

Imagine it perching high on a steep slope just above the treeline, clinging to the mountainside like a bird to a branch in the instant before it takes flight.

You have seen such villages before, and you know how the winter wind laces its fingers through the cracks under doors and around windows, crying to be let in. You know that scrabbling a scant living from rocky soil has carved deep lines around the mouths and eyes of the men and women. You know that their children run wild over rock and alpine meadow, driving the goats home just before twilight falls.

You have seen such villages before, and you know their inhabitants. There is always a mayor. He always has a wife who died in childbirth, and an ample waistcoat, and some number of lovely daughters, and the sharpness of his vision always extends just to the borders of his own town.

There is always a healer, an old man or woman whose cottage smells of pungent herbs. The healer always sees a little farther than the mayor, just far enough to see his or her own death as it approaches, padding on soft paws up from the foothills.

There is always a holy man, too, though he goes by different names—prophet, seer, madman, poet, fool. He stands with one foot in this world, and one in another. He sees things that do not exist, and hears voices on the wind.

There are always craftspeople, filling the streets (which are always winding) with the music of their industry, and their forges and kilns and looms and ovens are always attended by wide-eyed and slightly underfed apprentices. The craftspeople and their apprentices squint inward, into the mysteries of fire and clay, the warp and weft of fabric, and the alchemy of rising dough.

There is always a beautiful young woman, and a minimum of two strapping young lads are always in love with her at any given time. Whether one rival kills the other will determine many of the events which will follow.

And there is always another, a stranger blown in by the mountain storms that rage about the peak.

You have seen such villages before, but not this one.

This village backs up like a cornered animal against an impassable mountain peak, which is not unexpected. A thick forest covers the slopes below the village, hemming it in, which is also not surprising. If this were any other village, a path would run through the forest. Few of the villagers would venture down it, of course, but occasionally a small caravan would make its way up the mountain to trade. Perhaps once or twice in a generation, a young woman or man, weary of smoky fires fueled by goat dung and houses huddled together against the wind like old gossips, would venture down the path that wound through the towering firs and aspens, and would embark on a quest for True Love or Adventure.

But there is no path through this forest. There may have been, once, but the trees have grown close together. The forest is expanding, inching slow fingers up the slopes. Every year, the grazing lands grow a little smaller. Every year, the village boundary contracts just a little, almost too little to be worth noticing. The villagers have built a low boundary wall of the grey stone that is their chief natural resource. The wall keeps nothing out or in. A child can step over it. The wall is a reminder only, a way of marking time. Each year, the forest creeps a little closer.

Nothing in the village is wooden, unless it is a hundred years old. The sounds of axes never echo off the mountainside, and there has not been a carpenter in the village for a hundred years. If there were Woodsmen here once, no one now living remembers them. And no one ever, ever ventures beneath the shadow of the trees.

There is something moving in the forest. What it may be, no one can say. The villagers understand one thing about the forest—whoever enters it will die. Because there is always an exception to prove the rule, a boy wandered into the trees once, seven years ago, and sprinted out again with only emptiness behind his eyes. Now he speaks in riddles by day, and screams at night. Now, if a child dares another child to dart between the trunks and back again, both children’s fathers set the rope to their backs, for love of them.

No one comes to the village through the forest. From time to time during the brief summers, when the slopes burst into a patchwork of color, a traveler-mage materializes without warning in the village square. No one else has business with the village. The only enticements it has to offer are copious amounts of goat cheese and the beautiful young woman, and both these things can be found in any other town of its size.

Once upon a time—or somewhere in its general vicinity—a man came to the village. If this was a different story, such an occurrence would hardly be worth mentioning. To this village, however, no one ever came, and so the event proved to be not only noteworthy but very nearly cataclysmic.

The villagers feared the stranger when he first arrived, because he had emerged alive and whole from the forest, and the light of reason still shone in his eyes. They watched him as he set up camp on the slope just above the village, wondering how long he would stay, and if he had brought anything to bargain over. One or two wondered if he had anything worth taking, and calculated whether anyone would notice if he went missing. Then they watched him as he built a house after the manner of their own, lifting and stacking stones and roofing it with sod, and wondered what he could possibly be thinking, to settle there.

This man’s name was not Frost, but he called himself that anyway, and so that was how the villagers came to know him. When he arrived, more than a few of the village maidens sighed and pined and batted their eyelashes, until their fathers asked them if they had something in their eyes, while their mothers wisely asked nothing and silently wondered if they, too, were not too old to be sighing and pining and batting. If this were another story, this would have been due to devastating personal beauty or at least a seductive aura of danger on Frost’s part. However, it was due mainly to the fact that Frost paid no attention to anyone, and did not smell like goats.

At first, he threatened to live up to his name. On closer inspection, everyone found that their first impressions had been correct. Frost was, in fact, as cold as the winter winds that swept down from the peak, freezing the goats’ milk in the pail in the time it took to move between the shed and the kitchen.

The next time the traveller-mage arrived in town, he brought, for some inscrutable reason, a great quantity of window-glass. Frost bought most of it, and fitted his stone cottage with windows looking up toward the peak and out over the treetops below. The villagers shook their heads, but a few of them bought glass, too, when the others weren’t looking, and replaced the goatskin-covered windows in their own houses. The traveller-image returned the next spring with more glass, and by the time he left, most of the windows in the village glinted in the sunlight, though all but the stranger’s looked back toward each other, away from the storm-wreathed mountain and the shadows of the trees.

Time passed. People got married, had children, grew old, and died, hemmed in by the trees that pressed closer each year. Many things happened, but three in particular are worth noting. In order, they are these:

1) The village matchmaker died.

2) The mayor, improvising as mayors must, broke with hundreds of years of tradition that dictated that the matchmaker be an eccentric old woman, and foisted the job off on Frost.

3) The beautiful young woman vanished without a trace.

Because you have known villages like this one, you know that a village has a long memory, but also a prodigious capacity for forgetfulness. By the time three more winters had come and gone, the first and third things had become irrelevant, and only the second mattered. It mattered because of a glass box. Because you have known stories like this one, you have heard about a princess in a glass box, who is awakened by True Love’s Kiss.

This is not that story.

 

nb. the above is the beginning of a larger meta-fairytale which Brenna is currently developing. 

.

Biography

I am a writer, wife, mother, beekeeper, and chicken-wrangler living in rural Virginia. I write YA fantasy, and am currently seeking an agent.

http://brennalayne.com/

https://twitter.com/writerdotmom

A Shattered Moon: A Hot Potato Collaborative Short Story

22 Aug

Moon

A Shattered Moon

by

Steve Harris, Michael Schmidt,
Shannon Pardoe,
Sam Grainger, Josh Kremer, Jessica Cooke

Illustrations by Sam Grainger

(written collaboratively March-May 2014, as part of our Hot Potato initiative)


Night fell swiftly, like a bird of prey plunging from on high to claim a squeaking victim. The evening was still warm from another baking hot day. Winston lay on his back on the hard concrete yard, the way he always did when he wanted to gaze up at the heavens.

The fragments of broken moon created a dusty ring around the planet that made it harder to see the stars clearly most nights. Only when the once-whole moon would have been dark, when the Earth was between Sol and what remained of the shattered satellite, could Winston see what he wanted to see: constellations, an iridescent miasma of flickering suns burning themselves up billions of miles from where he lay.

Something waited out there. Something wilder and brighter than he would ever find on the sluggish ball of rock and decay where he’d had the misfortune to be born. He had no idea how to express the certainty that for him life lay beyond the atmosphere of his home. He simply knew. The same way he knew when he was hungry or he needed the bathroom. His mother thought he was an idler.

“Winston, get yourself inside and do some school work before bedtime.”

“Do I have to?”

“Of course you have to. There’s work for educated people and nothing but misery for the dumb and the lazy.”

You would know, he thought to himself as he took one last look at the stars, squinting slightly so that the light from them all blended into a fire, like a signal beacon calling him to rise up from the Earth, to seek adventure and meaning.

“What happened to the Moon?”

“Do your school work.”

He knew she wouldn’t answer. Nobody ever answered that question. At school the teachers avoided it, or pretended they had not heard when it was asked countless times a day. The adults kept forbidden knowledge from their children. Sara, his best, his only friend in the bedraggled neighbourhood, once whispered her theories during a particularly evasive science class.

“Must be something terrible. Something they think will scare us to death. Like a huge war or an experiment that went disastrously wrong. Zombies and mutants and stuff.”
“Do you think we will be allowed to know when we’re adults?” he asked.

“Don’t know,” she admitted. Like Winston himself she felt that at ten years old they were already pretty grown up as it was.

“I’m going to find out.”

She did not argue. He sounded utterly convinced.

 

Face
Of course no one could have known what would happen next. Sitting on top of a rock outcropping just above the hole in the ground he now called home. Winston looked out on the skyline of a wasted L.A.. He fumbled through this and other memories as the sun didn’t so much as set, but withdrew into a grey night. Sara’s green eyes sometimes appeared when he closed his. But just like all the other faces he used to know– the nuances in her expressions, the exact impression of the freckles that spread across her cheeks and nose, have slowly faded away over time with every night, with every cigarette, with every jar of moonshine.

He remembers nights outside playing with Sara. He remembers sprinting home for supper after the street lights had come on. He also remembers the suspicion he felt after viewing the U.N.-approved orientation video at his town’s drive-in movie theatre. The video briefly explained how the moon had been hit by a meteor and how there was nothing to worry about as only the tides would be slightly affected. He remembers as nations slowly stopped fighting and focused inward on themselves as if bracing for something. He remembers the intangible panic he felt during those last years of unnatural peace. He remembers waking up one night to shrieks of desperation and the roar of space shuttles full of doctors, scientists, and engineers stealing away from earth in the night. He remembers words like Europa, Titan, Mars—and then of course, he remembers standing outside of the same drive-in movie theatre watching a television feed of those same shuttles colliding, one after another, into the blanket of debris which had been left by the destruction of the moon. They must have known it was a suicide mission, but what did they know that would force their hand in such a gamble? What piece of knowledge had they kept from us that made their suicide mission seem like a safer alternative to staying on Earth? He looked up at the night and gritted his yellow teeth at whatever leviathan of antithesis lay lurking between the stars. He never believed in God, but he believed in this.

He remembers the last lines of a poem and falls asleep out on the rocks as the words ring back in forth in his head–what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Earth to be born?–

—–

Winston woke the following morning disgruntled and listless from a poor night of sleep. He watched in silent indignation as a dusty haze swept across the horizon, bringing with it memories of long summer days and burning skies. Ever since the Event these memories had become his constant companion, playing out in his mind like the old movies he used to watch back at the drive-in theatre. Had she known even then?

Since the moon’s destruction things had fallen into chaos, the seasons had become erratic and with no anchor the raging seas had calmed to a gentle ripple. For those, like himself, who stood in defiance of whatever darkness lay beyond the planet the world had become a dangerous place, far worse than anyone imagined. The floating debris offered little protection from the asteroids that fell from space, crashing into the planet and leaving craters and burning cities in their wake.

But it wasn’t the destruction he feared the most. It was the silence, the emptiness left behind from those who had fled, they had run from the unknown and into the arms of death.

Like Sara and the rest of them he has stayed, too afraid to take the plunge into darkness opting instead to face whatever evil lurked between the stars. Even as a child, before grasping the enormity of what was happening, he had sensed that something was watching them, waiting. There was no way of knowing when it would happen but part of him knew it wouldn’t be long ‘til he found out. Until then he had only one task, one goal that would tip the scale in Earth’s favour – Sara. As shards of light drifted across the remains of his old home he could hear her voice.

“Winston, do you remember the promise we made to each other when the shuttles left Earth?”

Of course, how could he forget.

“You promised that no matter what we would stay together.”

He sighed, even here on the rocky outcrop he called home, far above the desolate streets of L.A she had found him. It was because of her that he had made it this far, the pixie like voice driving him onward, but she was only a voice. Even though he could no longer remember her face something deep inside his chest told him that somehow she was still alive, waiting for him to find her. The last words she had spoken haunted his every moment. He had to do it, he had to go on.

One sleepless night everything changed: he had found Sara’s telephone number, hidden under bags of waste in a dumpster. He had waited for morning to follow up on what he’d found. It’d be safer then. Terrors moved through the streets at night; terrors even he couldn’t face. He rolled the soggy piece of paper around in his mouth. Nothing would take it from him. Nothing. He’d swallow it if he had to, if it came to that.

Images of Sara kept his eyes light through the night, and his thoughts had a constant pulse. It had to be her. It had to be. She was alive. He knew she was. She was the solution. She was his absolution. She was the only hope left.

He’d begun to fear the worst after years of searching. But, in her old abandoned house he’d found it. It caught his eye in a most unlikely place.

The toilet bowl was dry and stained with murky lines. Unknown to him, just out of view, a piece of paper clung to the side of the basin. A small corner came loose from the trickle of his urine and curiosity had made him peel it away. It read:

New – 207 948 9882

Hand

Eventually, the morning came and brought a twist in his gut. He climbed out from the dumpster and made his way to a bar at the end of the street. It was a risk that had to be taken.

The bar held a mist of smoke. The low-lifes vegetated; cigarettes hanging from their bottom lips, drinks resting between their fingers. Empty eyes rolled over him as he entered, and remained fixed. The bartender glanced up in tired recognition.

‘I need to use your phone,’ Winston said.

‘Look, I’ve told you alrea- ’

‘I need to use your phone.’

The bartender nodded towards the end of the bar. ‘You’ve got two minutes – no funny business.’

Winston took the sodden ball of paper from his mouth, smoothed it out and dialled the number; a Maine area code. Why Maine? There was nothing left on the east coast; just wastelands. What was she doing in Maine? His bones vibrated painfully as he held the receiver.

It picked up.

‘Good afternoon, Sara’s Boutique Florists, how may I be of service today?’

It was her. That voice. It was Sara. The relief tasted of melted sugar in his throat. He broke into pieces and clutched the phone with two hands.

‘Sara? Christ, Sara, you’re alive. Fuck! Sara, it’s me, it’s Winston!’

‘Shit…’ the sound suddenly muffled on the other line, ‘Give me a sec, Jill, I’m sorry, it’s him again.’

‘Sara? Sara? I don’t belie – I don’t believe it. Sara, it’s me! It’s me, Winston. Where did you –. Where are you? I thought you were gone. I thought I’d lost you.’

There was no reply.

‘Sara? SARA?’

‘Winston, please don’t call this number again. I thought I made that clear to you last time. I don’t look after you anymore, Winston, I’m sorry. You’re not my responsibility. Please stop calling me. Goodbye.’

The phone clicked.

‘SARA!’

‘Hey!’ The bartender had moved to Winston’s side and ripped the phone from him, ‘Get out of my bar you maniac, I said no funny business. GET OUT.’

All Winston knew was he had to see Sara for real, despite her cold words. He had to go to her, find her. The wasteland of coast was not an easy path to follow, but through the midden of fallen sky and obliterated earth Winston carried on. Every step was somehow more treacherous than the last as fragments of stone, moon, and people’s lives crunched under his heavily lined boots.

The moon’s breaking seemed an entire lifetime ago. Its pieces still plummeted to earth on occasion, never letting anyone forget the past and grounding them in some strange future. Winston’s steps were slow and deliberate as he navigated the debris of Maine, each step bringing him closer.

For how long had he considered the day the moon was ravaged the changing point in his life? For how long had he been wrong?

All the world had watched, paralyzed, as the moon shattered and ruptured humanity’s trajectory for a bright future—the worst of cataclysms—yet Winston was unchanged by it. He had a strong spirit.

He had changed when he had lost her—and every day since he had blamed the moon, and had felt his heart breaking, healing, and breaking over again. He had become a drifter, floating through whatever came his way, coasting. Drinking.

Maine’s air had a crisp bite as he consulted his pocket map, and carefully measured the last leg towards a facility the world seemed oblivious to. How she had come here, and why, didn’t matter. He had to find her.

He had been lost in his head for so long, he had forgotten she was still alive and not a fragment of the past. He devoted everything to his memory and her face. Her face, piercing, drove him on. It held electrifying beauty.

The scientists had failed. They were meant to be the last, best hope for humanity—and Winston didn’t care. His only hope was Sara, his only vision was of her face. He didn’t register his steps in terms of mileage, but measured them in terms of closing the distance between him and her.

He could at last see an unscorched building, the last structure this part of the world seemed to have, and slipped inside. The door creaked, but no one seemed to hear. A dull hum filled the corridors as he quietly began his search for her. His boots clumped loudly and left scuffs across the floor tiles, so he removed them. He peered in doors only to find empty rooms.

Carefully he continued, turning a corner and—

“Winston?”

“Winston, is that you? Where the devil are your shoes?”

To Maine he had gone, for a woman he only remembered as a girl. He had made a promise to her…had she forgotten that she had made one to him as well?

Sara stood facing him at the end of the corridor. He walked towards her, stepping lightly and slowly, as though she was a tiny animal and so much as a breath less delicate than hers could cause her to break away.

Her hair was twisted high on top of her head in work-mode, and she wore a white surgeon’s coat complete with rubber gloves. A tiny badge pinned to her left breast read, “Sara, Florist.” Little spots of color flecked her gloves and coat. She’d been painting.

“I knew you’d hate me having this job,” she said, “I’m sorry I wasn’t in touch. This was just something I had to do. Something… Without you.”

It had been like traveling a hundred years in the dark. Looking in abandoned places for numbers that might not be there, going into bars asking favors from people that didn’t even want to see you. A hundred years in the dark till now but instead of one light, he felt a thousand burning between the place where his bones meet his skin, and under their glare he felt more lost. He wanted to undo the pin that held her hair, letting it all fall across her shoulders and tell her how pretty she looked.

How much he’d missed her. A decade ago, he wouldn’t have thought twice, but right now one more step and he’d feel like he was breaking the law.

“Do you want to see the lab?” she asked him.

He followed her into a crisp, white room where jars holding pickled flowers lined the rooms. He stared. Roses, tulips, lilacs; each jar held one single flower of a different breed to the last.

Real flowers hadn’t existed like this in years, yet here they were, blurring the line between past and present. The long white petals of a daisy unfurled in the dappled liquid, its base gleaming like a yellow eye, its stem curved, suspended in the jelly.

She brought him to a table just in front of them, and opened the lid of a metal box.
There, inside, a miniature blue flower dipped its head towards its stem, curling into itself. Its leaves fanned out like ghosts in the water.

“Prototype, “Sara said, “Bluebell. Wild flowers are harder to recreate, because they weren’t as artificially engineered as the more popular ones. Rose was the first one, obviously.”

“Obviously,” he repeated, dumbfounded.

“I don’t know. You always seemed so obsessed with the moon, with the past. It was like you blamed it for everything. I needed to get out of LA. I mean, we haven’t had weather like the ancestors did since before we were born. So, I never understood why everybody mourned it so much. It was a terrible thing to happen, sure, but don’t you feel like the more we’re mourning one kind of light, we’re missing out on another?”

“Your flowers are beautiful,” he told her, “but fake.”

She looked down, sighing.

“I thought you’d say that. That’s why I didn’t want to tell you what I was doing. Can’t you see the benefits of the work we’ve done here? It’s only one small thing, but it’s a step towards recreation. Towards life.

“Through art.”

He shoved his hands into the pockets of the white coat she’d given him to hide their trembling.

“This isn’t Art. This is synthetic. Like, most of outside, what’s natural, what’s life is not synthetic flowers. I’d rather give my girlfriend a bouquet of moon! Because that’s what’s real. At least when she smelled she’d smell a piece of something that did exist, that was blown up, and that hurt everybody. It wasn’t nice that it happened, but I’m not about to forget that it did happen. This world has been changed, and no amount of chemical flowers is going to make me forget that life doesn’t exist any more.”

“What is the difference? Yes, they’re chemical, yes we made them and we painted them! But they’re here! They’re something! A step towards rebuilding! A step towards finally being happy!”

“It’s not about being happy. It’s about truth. Denial of the truth is the worst thing anyone can do to another person.”

“Is that why you came here? Hoping that I could be your truth, hoping that I’d want to go off with you and wander around, picking up bits of broken moon and imagining what life could have been like? We’re not kids any more, Wints.”

“I just wanted to see you. I had to see you,” he paused, “I still want you, even… even if this is what you want.”

“This is what I want.”

“I know. When I called you I just had to see it for myself.”

“I’m moving to New York,” she said suddenly.

“When?”

“Tomorrow, they have a new lab opening. They have a project opening; they’re planning to recreate the whole of Central park, but with lots of flowers ahead,” her voice sped up, excited, “We think we can manipulate the roses to grow right out of the bark in the trees, can you imagine how beautiful that would be?”

“When do you leave?”

“In 2 days.”

Winston could see it now. The stuff of dreams. But how real was a dream when it hadn’t come from within? When it had come from someone placing it there, someone constructing it. He would never be able to visit the park without feeling like he was a trespasser in someone else’s garden.

“I should go,” he told her.

She didn’t blink.

“Okay.”

A hundred years in the dark, for only a flash of light.

He left the building into the dust swirling street. Charcoal grey shimmied in the thick air around the emaciated branches of a tree. There was something beautiful in its wasteful figure. The way it held itself, proud of its bareness, unashamed.

He bent down, scooping a piece of moon up from the gravel and placed it in his pocket.

What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards the Earth to be born?

Sara could have her garden, they all could. The moon felt coarse and hard in its pocket, its jagged edges scratched his legs through the thin fabric of his pants but he did not remove it. It would remain there all day, every day, a rough beast in his shallow life.

Sara and her friends would create a garden, inventing Nature in a way that no one had intended, and in decades no one would know the difference.

He put his hand in his pocket, holding the piece of moon. A hundred years in the dark with only a reminder of light.

Writers’ Information

Steve Harris:

http://theplanetharris.com
https://twitter.com/theplanetharris

Michael Schmidt

http://glitteringafterthoughts.wordpress.com/
https://twitter.com/geometric_auras

Shannon Pardoe:

https://twitter.com/shannongpardoe

Sam Grainger:

http://sgraingy.tumblr.com/
https://twitter.com/SGraingy
http://sgraingy2.tumblr.com/

Josh Kremer:

https://twitter.com/joshuaDkremer

Jessica Cooke:

http://madramblingsss.wordpress.com/
https://twitter.com/JessicaCooke5

If you would like to take part in our next Hot Potato short story collaboration do get in touch via the comment box or via the Contact form on the What’s On page. You would be welcome.

Weekend Showcase : Chris White (Writer)

25 Jul

Spotlight

Every Friday, 1 creative, letting their work speak for itself.

______

Chris White

 

Flash

 

The Shadows of the Jungle

 

“What’s the fucking time-stamp on that picture? Does anyone know?”

The image staggered and jumped – overlaid with a static-fuzz, the jump-suited soldiers were barely visible, flicking in and out of phase with the shadows of the jungle. Had they realised that the mech was dead? He certainly hoped not.

“Janice! Janice! Get down in the turret now! And somebody go and bloody warn the others!” Was it too late? Shit, he hoped not.

The image looped, in his peripheral vision, over and over and over again. There were kids inside the factory – sure, they’d done their best to make it seem decrepit, had pumped a slurry of sewerage and grey water and algae into the roof to dampen their heat signatures, to hide from the drifting satellites, hangovers from before the war was won. From before the world was lost. There were kids inside the factory. That was why it was soldiers, this time, not drones or tanks. Infantry. Quislings, they’d already adjusted to the new regime, they’d already betrayed their own species.

“Yeah, we get it Phil, they’re bastards.” He heard Janice, cutting through the static in their old-fashioned walkies. He hadn’t realised he’d been talking aloud. “Have you got a visual on ‘em yet?” She pedalled the belly-mounted turret around, the little plas-steel bubble rotating on the jerry-rigged bicycle chain – electricity was at a premium, and the settlement’s air-purifiers, waste-recyclers and water-pumps were more important than the old war machine that quietly rusted outside it. Most of the time. That was why the mech’s cameras weren’t set to be always recording, why they were motion-activated, why they didn’t have a goddamn time-stamp. Wearily he fingered the connection code, powering up the mech’s weapons systems, imagining the sudden, hushed silence inside the factory building as the lights faded and parents snatched up frightened children, or grabbed some antique piece of weaponry. Bolt-action .22 rifles, bows and arrows – they might as well be carrying clubs.

But even a B.B. gun was better than nothing. There were gaps, weak spots in those armoured jump-suits, around the eyes and the joints. Thank Christ for the secret, underground organisations, of doomsday prophets and nutty Christian survivalists. Without them there’d be no tinned foods, no bottled water, no ammunition. No survival.

The bugs had never bothered too much with the rogue settlements – the jungles were outside their habitable zone, they preferred the cold, high deserts, like the Atacama, the Gobi and the Antarctic plains. Which was how they managed to get settled in, no-one went and checked out the flaming crash landings. Meteorites fizzed into the atmosphere all the time, and if they landed somewhere inaccessible, somewhere far from cities or farms…well, who cared? Humanity had just breathed a collective sigh of relief, and wondered how they’d slipped through the ring of satellites all looking outward, counting pebbles in the vacuum. Why hit the rogue settlements now? And why with men, carrying stun-guns and handcuffs? It was simple, really. They needed to enlarge the breeding pool, they were just trying to encourage a little bit of genetic diversity.

He heard the drone of the gunner’s nest powering up, the whisper of the rail-guns, the bark of lumps of uranium-enriched tungsten breaking the sound barrier. He heard Janice cursing, spitting profanities that he didn’t know she knew as the guns kicked into life and dealt out death. She was only fourteen – his little girl. But he couldn’t stop her from calling him Phil, couldn’t stop her from trying to catch the tails of the window lizards, couldn’t stop her from sneaking out into the forest without her respirator or his rifle.

The spider’s eyes lenses of the cameras drew the black-armoured soldiers into sharp relief against the green-grey-red foliage of the jungle, painting them with the computer’s targeting lasers.

It was all the invisible, untouchable satellites needed, as their own computers locked onto the signal, and the drones ghosted their paths high above the battlefield.

There was a flash of light, which blinded the cameras and the crippled legs of the mech collapsed in a shower of rust flakes and torn, screaming steel.

They took the settlement, without much more resistance.

 

 Biography

Chris White is an author. His words (and worlds) can be found in both 1’s and 0’s, as well as in books made of dead trees. His blog is right here: http://chriswhitewrites.com

 

If you would like a Weekend Showcase please do get in touch via The contact form on the What’s On Page or via the Comment box.

 

 

 

 

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