Archive

Archive for the ‘Story’ Category

Choices

September 11, 2015 Leave a comment

Here is a flash fiction story I submitted to Fireside Fiction, but they weren’t impressed.

“She’s coming.” The wind whispered to Maggie, slipping under the door and rattling the windows.  She looked up from her workbench where she was grinding a concoction of herbs and gazed blankly around the inside of her cottage, hoping she had misheard. Perhaps it was a tricksy mouse scuttling across the floor, making fun of her. But the room was empty of mice. The huge kitchen hearth stood centre stage on the back wall, her work area where she was standing to the right of the hearth contained a jumble of benches and shelves holding an endless arrangement of jars, bunches of dried herbs, piles of raw minerals and assorted junk. To the left was a tidy seating area comprising two chairs on either side of a low table.  A small bed rested against the far wall, neatly made up with a colourful plaid blanket. There was nowhere for mice to hide.

“She’s coming.” The wind taunted louder, a swirl of smoke and sparks belching from the fireplace.

Maggie put down her mortar and hurried over to the hearth, stamping on the tiny embers. “Nobody is coming,” she scolded the impertinent wind.

Another gust of wind sent smoke billowing across the room. “You called her,” sighed the wind.

Maggie shook her head, and jiggled the flue to shut out the wind and the smoke and the summons. She returned to her workbench and picked up the mortar and pestle and ground and ground and ground the herbs, muttering to the obstreperous wind.  “Nobody is coming. I was angry, that’s all. It wasn’t a proper calling. Grief shouldn’t count”. The wind laughed.

#

The rabbit hopped a few steps into the clearing and paused. The paw on its rear leg was badly mangled, the leg trailing in the dirt hindered its progress. The fur on the lower part of the leg was matted with blood and pus, picking up dirt and dried grass as it moved deeper into the clearing. It hopped hesitantly forward for a few more steps then paused again, looking around dully.

Maggie knelt down in front of it and reaching out cradled it gently between her bony, work worn hands. It blinked, but barely twitched as she picked it up, cradled it against her scrawny chest and stood. She carried the wounded rabbit across the meadow that fronted her small cottage, shouldered open the door and ducked through the low doorway.

Maggie tutted to herself as she shoved aside a collection of bottles and gently placed the rabbit in the space provided.  Keeping one hand on its back as a precaution in-case it tried to escape, her other hand hovered over the group of bottles, until identifying the correct one she picked it up, shook it a few times and put it back down again. She fumbled the stopper out of the bottle and waved it under the nose of the passive rabbit.

It’s nose twitched, it made an aborted attempt to jerk away and then slowly slumped over.  Maggie quickly replaced the stopper. It wouldn’t do to get a whiff of that particular concoction. She hurried over to the hearth and picked up the kettle simmering gently beside the fire, brought it back over to her table and poured some water into a shallow bowl. Putting the kettle on the floor, she picked up a cloth, dipped it into the water and began to clean the wound.

#

The wind rustled a warning just before her cottage door was flung open and crashed against the wall. Maggie continued dabbing at the rabbit’s leg.
“That’s my kill,” said a female voice.
Maggie looked over at the stocky young female standing in her doorway, legs braced apart and arms akimbo, a bow slung over one shoulder and a hunting knife strapped to her thigh.“Oh no dear, he’s not dead yet.”
The girl strutted into the room. “My trap, my rabbit.”
“But he wasn’t in a trap,” said Maggie, reasonably.
The girl made a move to reach around Maggie for the rabbit. “I tracked him here.”
Maggie grabbed her hand and bore it down to the table, away from her charge. “My cottage, my rabbit.”
The girl wrenched her hand away. “Do you know who I…”
“Oh yes.” Maggie tilted her head slightly, “Well I know who your father is, which is rather more to the point.”
The girl flushed. “You can’t take what’s not yours. I hunt these woods. What I catch is mine.”
“Think of it as a trade. You took something of mine. I take something of yours.” Maggie glanced at the array of bottles on her table. “I had thought to take something else.”
Looking around the Spartan room, the girl sneered. “As if I would take anything of yours.”
Maggie continued talking, as if the girl hadn’t spoken. “I had a cat you know. A marvellous mouser, but she would wander out into the woods, even though I warned her. She also thought she knew best.” Maggie shook her head and glanced at the girl’s bow. “One day she came home with a most terrible hole in her side.”
The girl swallowed, looking a little uneasy. “Well it wasn’t me. I kill what I aim at.”
Maggie stroked the rabbit. “Is that so?”
The girl took a step forward, hand dropping to her knife. “Give me my kill.”
Maggie bent back over the rabbit. “No.”
The girl turned on her heels, stomping out of the cottage. “You’ll regret this.”
“Perhaps, but choices must be made,” said Maggie to the sleeping rabbit.

#

“They’re coming.” The wind whipped through the tree branches above Maggie’s head. She resettled the pack on her back. “They’re here,” cried the wind.
The rabbit stuck his head out the top of the pack and twitched his nose inquisitively. Maggie glanced back once at her cottage as the flames shot skywards with a roar, almost drowning out the screams. The rabbit ducked back down.
“They’re gone, sobbed the wind.

Categories: Blog Entry, Story

Flash Fiction – The Watchmen

March 14, 2012 Leave a comment

I wrote this one a while ago when I was  all alone, at night,  in the grounds of the old Gladesville hospital. I submitted it to Strange Horizons but they weren’t interested…

The old watchman ambled over to where the new guy was standing, all spick and span in his freshly ironed uniform. A camera lay in the gutter; one of those compact digital jobs best suited for happy snaps. Its lipstick red cover was scratched as if it had been kicked along the gravel path before coming to rest. Sighing he picked it up and flicked the switch to the off position. Continuing on his round, he showed the new guy the meandering route through the old hospital grounds. They rattled doors, checked ground story windows for loose boards and upper story windows for broken panes. They cleared away a pile of broken beer bottles and empty chip packets that had appeared overnight. Contractors came in once a week to mow the lawns and weed the garden beds, but they refused to do cleanup. Back at the gatehouse he placed the discarded camera in the lost and found trunk beside the door before heading for the tiny kitchenette.

The new guy stood a bit awkwardly by the door. “Aren’t you going to look at the pictures? Maybe it will give us a clue who it belongs to.”

The watchman briefly glanced back over his shoulder before continuing to gather the fixings for tea. “No point.”

“But…”

He turned and lent back against the kitchen bench. “Look, whoever owed it is long gone. And the pictures on it, they ain’t real. Them digital cameras, they’re not like the old sort. The ones with real film, they only showed what was there. The new sort, these digital ones, they record what you see.”

“But isn’t that the same?” asked the new guy as he wandered further into the room and sat at the tiny table.

“Course not. Why do you think there weren’t never any ‘evidence’ of spooks and such before the digital cameras started being used? Since it weren’t there, the old film cameras didn’t record it. Now, you get pictures of all sorts of stuff going around; spooks and weird shadows and faces appearing where no-one is and all that. If you want to work here you got to get it in your head – that stuff ain’t real. Else you’ll end up like the ones who owned that camera. I bet they were running like their pants was on fire. And all because of their own imaginings. Got it?”

“Um, sure.”

“So, cup of tea?”

“Thanks.”

The watchman put the mug of tea in front of the latest new guy before plonking himself down in the other chair. “Anyway, you gonna stick around? Most don’t last the first week but your mum talked me into giving you a go. Said you would be ok. Said you wasn’t one for imagining things. I tell you, I don’t usually bother remembering names unless a guy lasts at least a week.”

“It’s Barry. And I’m pretty sure I’ll last at least a week. Mum would kill me otherwise and I’m more scared of her than…um, stuff.”

“Yeh, she’s a tarter alright. Ok then Barry, you stick by me and you’ll get by ok.” He smiled as a thought suddenly occurred to him. “You play chess?”

It was well after midnight and the two men were into their second game. A muted scream followed by a crash and the tinkle of broken glass caused Barry to jump to his feet, nearly upsetting the chess board. The watchman sat forward a bit but didn’t move from his chair.

“Shouldn’t we …”

“No, wait.” The screaming got louder as whoever was causing the racket approached the gatehouse. Someone charged passed the small building and kept on going. The screaming was cut-off by the slam of a car door. The men could hear tyres squealing against the tarmac as the car rapidly accelerated away.

The watchman settled back into his chair. “Nothing we can do tonight. We’ll see what’s what in the morning.”

Barry walked to the window and peered through it towards where the noise had originated. “But what if someone else is hurt?”

“Oh, they usually run in here if that happens, or we get an anonymous phone call. Only had one dead one, no matter what all them tabloids say.” He glanced involuntarily over at the lost and found box. “God knows what he was doing up on that roof.”

“Only one dead. Um, but what about the missing?”

“Well if they’re missing, we ain’t gonna find them. Now sit on down. It’s your move.”

The next morning the two watchmen stood outside the old psych ward. The basement door had been forced open and one of the second story windows was blown out. A camera lay in the gutter below the missing window; one of those flash SLR digital jobs with a zoom lens. Barry picked up the battered silver case and flicked the switch to the off position. As they continued on their rounds the old watchman explained where the tools and ply were kept, what sort of repairs they were expected to do themselves and what warranted a tradesman being called out. At the gatehouse the discarded camera went into the lost and found trunk beside the door.

Categories: Story

Flash Fiction – The Train Station

March 12, 2012 Leave a comment

I completely forgot I had written this story a couple of years ago. I was supposed to be travelling on the train from Canberra to Sydney, but I got lost looking for the station…..

Ann hefted her bag and swapped it to the other hand. If only she hadn’t bought those extra books, but they had been such a bargain. She glanced again at the map in her hand. The street names were mostly the same except for those new roads between the Canberra Glassworks and Cunningham Street. According to this, the Canberra Railway Station was between Cunningham Street and Wentworth Avenue, next to the Railway Museum. Since she was so early, perhaps when she got there she would wander through the museum to kill some time. Walking from the gallery to the station had seemed like a good idea at the time, but the sky had become overcast and there was thunder rumbling in the distance. Rounding the last corner of the road which ended before the station she peered with confusion through her glasses.

The station was not what she had expected. It looked deserted and had the appearance of a shipping yard rather than a public railway. And as for the museum… what a joke. It looked downright spooky. There was a high chain mail fence the whole way around, and any minute she expected a pair of slavering guard-dogs to appear from under one of the rusting train carcasses and lunge at her through the fence. This was obviously not the right station, but she walked on, hoping the owner of the beat up old Falcon sedan was around and would be able to send her in the right direction.

Walking closer to the platform she could see the front of the railway office was completed covered with large wire and several of the window panes were broken. Everything was covered in graffiti and there were weeds growing from between cracks in the concrete. This was ridiculous. There was no way this was the right station.

‘Hello, is anyone around?’

There was no answer. She briefly debated with herself about calling a taxi, but she would feel like a fool if they turned up and the station was around the corner. Perhaps it would be best to ring the ticketing office. She had purchased her ticked online and had the paperwork in her bag. Ann put her bag down and fumbled with the wad of papers containing the printout of her hotel booking and railway ticket. She dropped them in her haste and the wind blew one of the pages out of her reach. Fortunately it was last nights hotel confirmation, so she didn’t bother chasing it down.

‘Um, hello. This is Ann Somers. I booked a ticket on-line from Canberra to Sydney, but I think I am at the wrong station.’

‘Wentworth Avenue? On Wentworth Avenue? But I am at the station between…’

‘Ok, I will go up onto the platform. I can’t see anything. Oh, hang on, I see it now. It is on the other side of the tracks about five hundred meters to the right. Ok. Thanks.’

Feeling like a complete fool Ann picked up her bag and began walking back the way she had come. The forgotten hotel confirmation, with her name and address printed prominently on the top, was picked up by the gusting wind and jumped from one clump of weeds to the next until it came to rest against the wall at the base of the seemingly deserted railway platform.

The next day it was gone, as was the beat up old Falcon.

Categories: Story