Below & Beyond

Written for NYC Midnight Flash Fiction; 1000 words/48 hours.

Prompts: crime caper/a hotel car park/sleeping pill.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Paul caught his reflection in the back window of the battered Ford. He’d had black eyes before. No big deal. He rubbed his tender jaw. Expensive dental work would soon be no issue.

He reached in and checked the glove compartment again. The fake I.D.s and plane tickets were of course, still there.

He should have taken care of it the night before. They should already be on their way to the airport, laughing and looking forward to the future.

With the Worthington diamond.

He tugged on the leash, but the small dog continued urinating on his tyre. Paul slumped against the side of the car, the inglorious night before fresh in his mind.

 

Fast acting sleeping pills crushed into her dessert. The gluttonous Mrs. Worthington feeling faint. And the waiter and maid heroically being there to “assist her back to her room.” The lump of lard would be snoring her head off while he and Yvette casually sauntered out with the priceless necklace. With that chunky strand of pearls around her flabby neck, the woman may not even notice the diamond gone.

But he should have put the pills in one of the other five courses. For Mrs. Worthington succumbed to the pleading eyes of Mitzi, her equally rotund Maltese Terrier, and the little bowling ball with fur lapped at the chocolate ice cream with gusto.

“Noooooooooooo!”  Paul dashed to the table, bending low to snatch the dog away from the bowl with the flair expected of a Palazzo waiter.

“Ch-chocolate is dangerous for dogs Madam.” To prove his point, Mitzi slipped into a coma.

Mrs. Worthington mistook the waiter’s watery eyes for canine concern and rose as quickly as size allowed. The dining table cannoned into Paul’s head, cracking an eye socket and loosening teeth.

Yvette, seeing opportunity in the confusion, dashed in to “help”, but slid in the spilt dinner drinks and suddenly found herself wedged face first in the woman’s fathomless cleavage.

Her attempt to sound sympathetic was muffled in the abundant flesh and sounded more like contented grazing.

Mrs. Worthington seemed to appreciate the concern anyway.

“Above and beyond the call of duty,” she remarked.

 

Later in the night, Paul lurked in an alcove near the woman’s room while Yvette triggered the fire alarm. Guests stumbled past, opting, as he’d hoped, for self preservation over material possessions.

He emerged from his hiding spot, just in time to encounter Mrs. Worthington, clutching Mitzi, at a full gallop. She collected the lightly framed waiter like a bug on a windscreen, engulfing him and riding him toboggan style down the opulent hallway as though she were at Aspen.

They eventually ground to a halt; Mrs. Worthington stunned but spared further injury by Paul’s obligingly cracked ribs. The diamond cruelly swung millimetres from his face, but her girth pinned his arms. It took a moment for Paul to realise that not only was Mitzi well rested, but male.

He humped away happily at Paul’s unprotected head.

 

“This time below and beyond,” laughed Mrs. Worthington when she came to.

 

Now Yvette was their last hope.

“She must take it off to wash” Paul had reasoned. “I’ll offer to walk the stupid dog while she gets ready.”

Mrs. Worthington would be ending her traditional week’s stay this morning, and Yvette begrudgingly accepted this final chance.

 

Now there she was, spinning out of the Palazzo’s revolving door.

 

Yvette staggered toward him.

He dropped the dog leash and ran to her.

“You bastard!” she hissed.

Her slap was just as vicious, ensuring Paul would resemble a racoon more than the picture on the fake I.D.

“What happened? Didn’t you get it?”

“Oh I got it all right,” sneered Yvette, fixing him with a hateful stare. “I used my key to let myself into her room, like you said. But there was no sign of the necklace, so I crept into the bathroom.”

“You what?”

“It was so steamy I figured I could find the diamond. Get out before she knew what had happened.”

Yvette shivered, despite the warm morning.

“Mrs. Worthington opened the cubicle door and saw me.”

“What the hell did you do?”

“I gave her a Palazzo smile and offered her a towel.”

“And?”

“She pulled me into the shower. Where I learnt two things. That Mrs. Worthington is used to getting her own way. And that there’s probably no Mr. Worthington.”

“Oh you poor..”

“Don’t touch me!” screeched Yvette.

 

She was still trembling when the limousine pulled up next to them. Mitzi gleefully scrambled into the open back door and onto the lap of his owner.

“There you are!” announced a delighted Mrs. Worthington. “You two really are wonderful.”

She unclipped the string of pearls and casually dropped them into their hands.

“A small token of my appreciation.”

She winked at Yvette. “Above and beyond.”

Mitzi appeared to shoot Paul a wink as well. His swollen eyes couldn’t be sure.

 

As the limo pulled away, they struggled for the pearls. Yvette demanded them as compensation but Paul refused to come out empty handed. They wrestled each other to the ground, where the strand gave way. Horrified, they watched as the pearls, funnelled by the angled drain, marched briskly away like a line of soldiers before plopping one by one through a grate and into the sewer below.

Paul tore off the cover, and with a primordial scream plunged headlong into the muck. He rose sludge covered and triumphant fifteen minutes later, grinning up at Yvette with a single pearl.

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

The driver held open the door and Mrs. Worthington struggled out of the back seat. “None of my business of course Madam, but should you have given your pearls to those people?”

“Those? Fakes, my dear. I sold the originals last year. You don’t get rich giving away real ones, sweetie.”

Pulling her dress from her butt crack, she carried Mitzi toward the beaming smiles of the cruise ship staff.

“You wouldn’t get ten bucks for the lot!” she laughed.

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Fresh

Written for NYC Midnight Challenge 2; horror/tractor trailer/bar of soap. 1000 words

 A long haul trucker and his partner offer Cassie a lift from Alice Springs to Darwin without her even putting a thumb out. But what exactly do they deliver, and to who?

      FRESH

“Take ya top off or ride in the trailer.”

Dan looks at her with the blue eyes that last night looked friendly. Now they are glazed, pupils pinpricked by amphetamines.

The tip of a knife caresses the underside of her ribs.

Cassie doesn’t hesitate to pull her shirt over her head.

Not the trailer.

 

The previous evening, at a bar in Alice Springs, it seemed Cassie had got lucky. Lanky, sandy haired Dan and his partner Meg were fun company. Physically, they were an odd couple. But Meg, a five foot pepperpot with tight curls and a cute laugh, clung to her blonde beanpole with genuine affection.

“I’ll keep an eye on him,” she told Cassie with a wink.

Of course Cassie gladly accepted their offer of a lift all the way to Darwin.

It was too good to be true.

But now, pulled a mile off the highway in the middle of nowhere, with kind eyes turned to crazy, she hugs herself, trying to cover more than skin.

Dan spots the cherub on her shoulder and frowns.

 

Good. Cassie’s mind is scrambling for any positives. His expression offers a glimmer of hope she won’t be raped.

Meg peers around the seat.

“HE dun’ like tattoos.”

Her tongue thrusts into Cassie’s ear, leaving a slosh of saliva dripping from it.

“We should just put you back there,” she whispers.

Cupboards click open and shut in the sleeper compartment. A length of wire is suddenly looped around Cassie’s neck, tying her to the headrest.

Meg has a bar of Solvol. “Hold ‘er arm, honey,” she asks sweetly.

The industrial soap scours through the flesh of Cassie’s shoulder, eradicating the tattoo and exposing raw nerves and capillaries. Meg is sweating when she finishes. Neither she nor Dan is bothered in the slightest by Cassie’s screams.

He lifts Cassie’s bound hands easily, despite her struggle. There are letters across her knuckles. L.O.V.E. A remnant of her teens. The writing is clumsy, the ink faded.

It doesn’t matter.

HE dun’ like tattoos.

Dan presses her fingers closed to form a tight fist.

Meg giggles as she scrubs.

“You crazy motherfucking bitch! I’ll fucking kill you, you fucking psychos!”

Finally the soap shudders against bone. The white gleams through the blood.

The soap is thrust into her mouth. A rag tied to keep it there.

“You gotta dirty mouth,” hisses Meg.

Cassie feels the wire tighten, cutting into her windpipe. She claws at it, peeling skin from her throat with her own fingernails as she tries to loosen it.  Her eyes bulge as she gasps for the breath she can’t take, choking on the piece of soap she has bitten off.

“Meg! We can’t kill her.”

The wire relaxes. The gag untied. Dan thumps her back and the soap splats into her lap with a rush of yellow bile.

We can’t kill her.

Can’t?

 Is there a chance they’ll get careless? Give her a chance to escape?

Cassie thinks of the woman in the brown checked shirt.  They’d come across her a hundred miles or so back. Three year old boy on her hip and steam pouring out of her Ford.

“You guys chat-I’ll sort this out,” Dan smiled, jumping down from the cab.

Cassie saw the relieved woman in the side mirror. Saw Dan ruffle the little boy’s hair. Then only white as the rear doors to the trailer were opened. The freezer? Ten minutes later they pulled away, the car still spouting steam and disappearing into the depths of the mirror.

“Taken care of,” said Dan.

Meg giggled.

Despite the cab heater taking the edge off the desert’s morning chill, Cassie shivered.

 

“This is our baby,” Meg had announced earlier with pride. “Mr. White’s Quality Meats” read the giant letters on the side of the semi.

Had he put them in the trailer?

Cassie decided quickly, before they got too far ahead of the Ford.

“Sorry guys, I really need to take a leak. Can we pull over?”  She would take her chances, either with the brown checked shirt woman or whoever else came along.

But Dan pushed the accelerator down harder. Cassie scrambled for the door handle. Strong fingers immediately grabbed her throat, pushing hard under her jaw. A cloth covered her nose and mouth, drenched in something sickly sweet. Chlorof……….?

When she’d awoken they were here. Hands and feet bound.

The heater circulating the smell of body odour.

And the stench of evil.

“Gotta lose that ring.”

Cassie desperately tries to prise her mother’s ring off but her fingers are slick with blood, her knuckle too swollen.  Meg’s patience runs out quickly. She hands Dan a pair of rusty wire cutters.

Cassie runs out of screams long before the bone finally splinters and the last shred of flesh gives way. Her long moans are deep and purely animal.

Her jackhammer heart coats her fists in crimson.

The cigarette lighter pops. Dan presses it against the stump to stop the bleeding. Cassie vomits from the pork crackling smell. Her teeth chatter in shock.

Now might be time to ride in the back,” says Dan, lifting her chin.

Cassie shakes her head.

Meg climbs past to open the door.

“About time.”

They drag her the fifty five feet to the back of the trailer.

Cassie welcomes cold dark death, if she’ll be away from these two.

But the heavy doors release an inhuman stench of warm air instead.

Dozens of bodies hang from rows of meat hooks, most still alive.

Dogs, kangaroos, emus.

Humans.

The closest one is the woman in the brown checked shirt. Mouth moving silently.

A massive, pale spider-like creature is feasting on the soft flesh of her child. The milky meniscus slides back from its multi faceted eye.

It looks over the fresh offering in the doorway.

He dun’ like tattoos. Gotta lose that ring.

They don’t deliver for Mr. White. They deliver to him.

There is one hook spare.

Meg giggles as they lift Cassie onto it.

Demonkeyracy

 Written for NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2016-1000 words/48 hrs.

Political satire/zoo/stolen bicycle.

 

 

“There was pandemonium at the San Diego Zoo this morning, with a possible outbreak of rabies in the primate area, the exposure of a brazen gang of thieves and a berserk mandrill having to be sedated.

More news at seven.”

 

 

 DEMONKEYRACY

 

“Honey, how’s my anus look?”

“Bright blue and incident free, dear.”

“Excellent.”

The mandrill lifted his tail even higher, swaggering past the gibbons to the front of his enclosure. He backed up to the bars and “faced” the day’s first visitors.

“My fellow simians, human subjects…”

 

“Bit early isn’t it?” complained a lemur, rubbing his eyes.

 

Madagascans,” muttered the mandrill, so only the gibbons heard.  “Do you even know what’s going on?”

 

Standard power grab based on flamboyantly colored anal glands, surmised the lemur through a yawn. “Not really,” he lied, “but I saw what happened last night when your neighbor there stole the human’s carry-beast.”  Satisfied with his contribution, the lemur casually reclined into the shade next to his mate.

 

The mandrill glared at the smug orangutan. In the foliage above, the night guard’s bicycle was visible through some obviously placed palm fronds.

 

“We have confiscated the dangerous beast which throws the human in its cold blooded anger,” announced the orangutan proudly. “Along with the ear rocks and vines that distract and upset them so much.” In one hand he held several cell phones. In the other, headphones and ear pieces. “For their own, um, safety of course.”

 

“Don’t let the humans see those.”

A capuchin monkey shook her small head. “The metal beast is not the problem. The human always reeks of alcohol! He has the balance of Mr. Baboon.”

 

“Your contribution is noted,” nodded the orangutan thoughtfully as he sneakily hid the contraband. “From this moment forth we declare a ban on consuming fermented fruit as well. For us of course, since we can’t really, um, enforce that on the humans.”

 

The baboon groaned, hiccupped and fell face first over a log in protest.

 

“Sacrilege!” cried the gibbon in support of his fallen brother.  He clung to the bars to add a dash of drama. “Why are we, the superior species, subject to such injustice?”

 

“Superior?” laughed the capuchin, “You are not even the superior species in your own cage! We are in a prison you idiot.”

 

Aghast, the gibbon turned to engage the chimpanzees in a feces flinging competition. “A battle of wits it is!” he shrieked.

 

The mandrill, alarmed that his rear end was no longer the centre of attention, saw his moment.

“Prison?” he roared. “These protective barriers keep predators away. We are lavished with food and attention by our loving subjects.”

Cameras clicked.

“See how they make reverent portraits of my rectum!” He turned to put the other ass cheek closer to the humans.

“This is by far my best side.”

 

“By far,” agreed the capuchin.

 

The orangutan scratched his head vigorously with one elongated finger. The cameras now swung to him. He grinned benevolently.

“Subjects? No. They are our responsibility. We must protect them from, um, stuff. Themselves mainly.”

The humans watched him elaborately gesture with his arms. They smiled and pointed back at him.

“Yeah, these guys are getting it.”

 

“You old fools, we are their captives,” shrieked the capuchin. “Part of an intricate socio-economic…”

 

A huge thump stopped him short. The gorilla had heard enough. “Fools? Wasn’t it you that said coconuts don’t kill gibbons, gibbons kill gibbons?”

 

Hoping they were supposed to, the chimps fell about laughing (since their cage was right next to the gorillas.) The gibbons chuckled to cover their coconut problem.

 

The macaques feigned hilarity, (hoping the chimps and gibbons had got it right.)

Only one from their group remained silent. An Asian macaque, scarred from witnessing his brother’s demise to a human’s gun in ‘Nam, clung desperately to a branch and tried to look invisible. The excited voices and clacking flashes were triggering, well,… flashbacks.

 

Every cage but the lemur’s now rocked with commotion.

 

Concerned staff joined the growing crowd.

 

The female gorillas were beseeching the males to let it go. The males were declining the suggestion, reminding them that King of the Apes was not just a slogan used by the humans.

The mandrills were strongly reminding the gibbons the extra fruit they’d been passing on meant backing up their leader when required. Gibbons were apologizing for being a little busy. The chimps made the most of the scolding by getting in several direct hits.

 

The capuchin struggled to be heard above the din.

“That which we call wings are naught but the rigid wires that bind us!” she screeched. Her troop chittered in agreement with this wisdom. They all started excitedly quoting their own favorite monkey philosophy. All but the PTSD macaque joined the lively discussion.

 

It was noisy, so the orangutans had to call loudly for quiet.

 

 

The mandrill reached across and grabbed a gibbon by the scruff of its neck.

 

The bewildered humans swung their attention back to him.

 

“We must take the situation by the throat. We need strong leadership,” he declared with a flourish.

“You O.K. there JoJo?” he whispered.

“All good pal,” mumbled the gibbon. “Here let me say a few words, buddy.”

The mandrill pushed the JoJo’s head through the bars to let the crowd see him easier.

“Look how committed this guy is,” pleaded the gibbon.

“I am, I am,” shouted the mandrill. He bared his teeth in a smile of humility.

 

The humans reacted with a curious mixture of photography and screaming. One of them hastily loaded a dart into a rifle.

 

“They can’t understand you,” warned the capuchin. “Put JoJo down!” Her warnings were drowned out in the cacophony of simian debate.

They can’t understand me thought the mandrill. It’s way over their heads.

 

From the macaque cage came a single “Nooooooooo.”

 

The dart whistled into the blue with a thud. The mandrill slumped, ass first down the bars of the cage.

 

Silence.

 

Except for JoJo’s whisper of “Blue Moon down, Blue Moon down.”

 

And the crash of a ten speed racing bike falling to earth.

 

The orangutan looked as shocked as anyone.

 

 

 

From the shadows of the lemur cage came a small but determined voice.

“Honey, how’s my anus look?”

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Overlap

(Written for NYC midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2015-1000 words/48 hours. Genre-comedy, location-school detention, item-pretzel.)

 

You can do this.

 

An hour, tops.

 

And Larry Breen could forget about St. Tolerance forever.

It’s just one kid.

A kid with issues, sure. Who struggled with responsibility, race, religion, reality.

Pretty much anything starting with “r.”

 

Breen reached into the sanctuary of his inside coat pocket. He gulped from his new asthma inhaler before entering.

 

Tyrone.

Standing on his desk, draped in a UN flag.

“This is not the first time a Luggajéan has been unfairly detained. Racist!”

Breen kneaded his temples as hard as the bruising would allow.

“Against which part of your French Hungarian African Canadian heritage?”

“Probably all of them. Khnyok!” scoffed Tyrone, descending in dramatic profile to accentuate his nose.

“Um, Jewish?”

“Since mid morning. Church of England first thing.”

Breen shuffled the history paper to the bottom of the pile. No need to question why “Bitch had it coming.” was the entirety of Tyrone’s Joan of Arc essay in first period.

 

“We have to talk about your inconsistent grades.”

Tyrone snatched the sheaf of papers.

“You kidding me? D for media studies? My school website page got like a billion hits.”

“And the picture of me buggering the school mascot got me on the national sex offenders list. Though you did get an A for photoshopping,” added Breen begrudgingly.

“Hey what about this one? I’ve scored some kind of acting gig or something. You are summonsed to appear…”

“Sorry, that’s mine” said Breen grabbing it back. “Did I mention it was an A+ in photoshopping?”

“Oh I see. A technology A because I’m Asian”

“Tyrone, you’re black.”

“But we live over a Chinese laundry,” he wailed.

“You aced Chemistry though.”

“Dad did all my homework.”

“Yes, I saw his lab on the news. Don’t worry Tyrone, six months will pass in a flash.”

“Hey what about this one? An F?”

“Your exam paper was blank.”

Tyrone tapped his forehead, eyebrow raised knowingly.

“It’s physics Tyrone, not psychics.”

“The others did seem a bit hands-on,” the boy mused, passing something unseen to something else unseen under his desk.

Breen leaned forward.

“Just feeding Quetzalcoatl, sir.”

“And when did you become legally blind?”

“Tuesday for about an hour after dad’s mushroom gumbo. It’s not a guide dog though. He followed the old man home from the airport.”

At the boy’s feet, a contented beagle in a harness chomped away on a phallic shaped treat. Breen winced; though his stomach growled like an overprotective father with an underdressed daughter. Being picked up by a beefcake in a curtained kombi. And a sticker saying if it’s rockin’ don’t bother knockin’.

“Hungry sir?”

“Well I haven’t eaten today,” Breen admitted. His lunch hour had been spent recovering in the sick bay. The chlorine in his inhaler had eradicated his sense of smell. A blessing in halitosis/flatulence 101.

“They’re druidic pretzels,” explained Tyrone as he held up another glazed penis with sesame seed sprinkled testicles. “Made them in cooking class.”

“Are there any not shaped like genitalia?” asked Breen against hope.

Tyrone rummaged through a tote bag adorned with Yiddish. Breen spied a Ziploc bag among the stone tablets, rosary beads and severed lamb’s head.

“Now this is how a pretzel should look,” he announced, retrieving the bag.

“Like the overlapped praying hands of a monk,” Tyrone agreed reverently.

 

Breen retreated to his desk, sneaking a bite. The piece lodged in his throat and he rocked back and forward trying to dislodge it. Tyrone leapt to his feet, and tapping in on his inner Japanese, politely returned the same number of bows.

“H-h-heim-lich m-m-manouvre” gasped Breen.

“Oh great,” responded Tyrone, “Holocaust guilt.”

Breen’s face had turned the brash purple of his tie. He clasped his hands, pleading. Tyrone paused only to prop up his camera phone on an L Ron Hubbard novel before arriving to help.

“Jehovah is really at odds with Samaritan right now” he sighed. To witness or rescue? Reluctantly, he grasped the teacher from behind.

“The power of Christ compels you!” he screamed, slamming Breen’s head onto the desk and stapling two essays together. Breen’s recoiling head cracked Tyrone in the face. The force dislodged the offending chunk of pretzel. It sailed in a graceful arc across the class where it was snapped out of the air by the grateful beagle.

“You saved my life,” rasped Breen. He drew greedily on his inhaler. “Eventually.”

He staggered upright, where Tyrone clutched his bleeding nose.

“You racist atheist fascist,” he groaned. “I’m going to the principal’s office with your blatantly intolerant DNA still fresh on my face.”

“But it’s on camera,” wheezed Breen. “It was clearly an accident!”

“I can delete that,” shrugged Tyrone.

“Or you can leave it in. Think of Student saves teacher’s life despite shocking facial injury on You Tube. A billion hits!”

Tyrone’s crudely stereotyped Judaism won the brief arm wrestle over his rather shaky vow of poverty.

Aaand detention’s over?”

“I was going to let you go for saving me anyway.”

“Vishnu be praised.” Tyrone grabbed his phone, shouldered his bag and led out Quetzalcoatl. At the door he stopped to light an enormous joint.

“Rastafarianism,” he smiled. “ And Hare Krishna, Mr. Breen.”

 

Breen watched through watery eyes as the boy led the beagle across the yard outside. Still starving, he gobbled down the rest of the pretzel, despite its stodgy texture. Typical. Tyrone was recipe challenged as well. Blissfully grateful for the lack of functioning taste buds, he finished every crumb.

 

The dog stopped to empty his bowels on the manicured lawn of St. Tolerance.

“Go nuts,” murmured Breen. He had survived the year. Survived Tyrone. Shit away, pooch.

 

But the beagle’s shining coil of turd formed a too-neat neat circle on the grass. The overlapping ends like the praying hands of a monk.

 

Breen’s purple complexion skipped the rest of the rainbow and went straight to green. He fumbled for his inhaler.

Tyrone waited for the beagle to finish, Ziploc bag at the ready.

He waved.

You know.

In that way those damn Rastafarian French Hungarian African Canadians do.

Swertgg


Recently I’ve had the privilege of reviewing the work of some very talented young writers. This one is special……………

 

 

 

/?   Hhhhhh55555555555555555555555555555555555555555555555 55555555555555555555555555555555555555555555555555555 55555555555555555555555555555555555555555555555555555 5555555555555555555555555555555yl/kkjhjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj jjjjjjjjmmmmmmmm          mmmmmkkk  lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll,llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll.  .7rrrrrrrrrrrrrswertgg7rrrrrrrrrrrrrswertggHHHH

 

 

 

Pete’s review of “/?” by Elliot (3)

Firstly, I loved your title. “/?”  I know you set this as a very clever riddle. Since the two symbols share the same keyboard key, I’m guessing your hidden title might be “Shift” since you need this key to access them both. Ingenious.

A bright opening line. Who doesn’t love a hug (capital H), followed by five friendly hi’s (lower case h)!

Then the fives began, and the story took off. Don’t you love how the 5’s look like S’s that haven’t had that last curve bent into them by the bendy letter making machine? Or S’s that got tired of being S’s and went over to the side of numbers? And, if you squint at them, you start seeing 3’s in there as well?

Of course you did, you’re clever.

The “l/kkjh” was a real curveball, and the many purple j’s helped to ratchet up the tension. (How do you even change the colour of the text?)

Then the story takes a thoughtful tangent (“mmmmmmmmmmmmm”), before you remind us what’s at stake with”kkk”.

From here the tale kicks into overdrive. Thank goodness you added a comma after about eighty blue“I’s” as I was struggling to keep up with your frenetic  pacing. Then, after yet more I’s, a couple of moments for the reader to catch their breath before……

7!

Seriously?

7?

Wow, did NOT see that coming.

And when the r’s swarm, and surely there’s no way out?

Then “swertgg”! Amazing. Absolutely brilliant.

Then another 7! Are you kidding me? Just when the danger seemed past, another 7. And, with another 7, the r’s are resurrected. I nearly wet my chair.

With your second awesome “swertgg” the situation is finally put to rest. Most writers wouldn’t be bold enough to use one swertgg, let alone two. Bravo, Ellie.

There was only one spelling error (impressive)- “l/kkjh” is of course spelt “l/kjkh.”

Overall, this story has a bit of everything. A warm introduction, a plethora of 5’s, j’s and I’s. But there are also r’s aplenty, pensive m’s and terrifying 7’s.

Great story.

I encourage you to keep writing. Would love to read more of your work.

 

(P.S. thanks for the four hugs at the end.)

The world needs more swertgg.

 

Grandad. x

Truce

(Written for NYC flash fiction challenge. 48 hours, 1000 words. Prompts-fantasy, a mountain stream, milk.)…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Many years ago in the land of Ardanelle, Mikel and Melane, king and queen of the unicorns, set off to Silver Mountain, their horns encircled in vines of butter milk flowers…

“Unicorns!” laughed Jacob. “Hey, shouldn’t I be telling you a story?”

“Shush, father. You said you’d listen,” scolded Ceri.
The king nodded wistfully, stroking the raven waterfall of her hair. Outside her tower window, distant tallow smoke hung acrid on the night breeze. In the morning he would ride for the outlands. Amongst the burnt huts and bodies of subjects he could no longer protect, he must sue for peace with the mad prince at whatever the cost.
“Men never listen!”
The familiar tone jolted him back more than the poke in the stomach. So much like Kaetrina had been. As beautiful as the spring fields. Determined as the moon season rains. The dry crust of grief caught in his throat. Five bleak years had passed.
He kissed the top of Ceri’s head. Where a crown was predestined, but now never going to sit.
“I’m sorry sweet child. Please go on. Flowers? Why?”
“Butter milk flowers,” sighed Ceri. “As a sign of truce of course,” she added, dismayed that a king would not know this.

King Mikel and Queen Melane followed the narrow track ever upwards, between boulders growing ashen as they climbed. Every step sensing their enemies upon them.
Feeling their eyes and dreading their claws.
Trusting an ancient law and a circlet of pale blossoms to keep them safe.
At last they topped the plateau. Where the mountain stream began as a trickle from the snow capped boulders. Where their eternal enemies held court high above Ardanelle.
The eyrie of the griffin.

“Griffins!” remarked Jacob. “With the head of an eagle and the body of a lion?”
“Of course,” groaned Ceri, waiting for further interruption before continuing.

Lord Leonid and Lady Enora were paired for life, the only custom the unicorns agreed with.
Leonid’s honey flecked eyes met those of his counterpart. Mikel’s glared back, cold and blue as the stream beside him.
“This must end Leonid. Where is Mikaley? Where is our daughter?”
Enora hissed, ruffling her golden feathers angrily. “Mind your tongue horn horse!”
Melane stepped forward. “But for the snows we would have come earlier Enora.” Her sweet voice lowered. “We heard the beat of wings the night she was taken. Only a griffin…”
“Always the griffins,” snarled Leonid. “Why should we believe anything you say? Those who would trample the forests to starve of us prey? Drive the dograbbits and jackalope far from the flat lands? Use their cruel horns to gore our kin? Their hooves to crush our skulls?” He paused, the fire momentarily dulled. “What of our son. What of Levaris? “

“We know nothing of his fate,” snorted Mikel.
“Liar!” screeched Enora. “Trust nothing they say my husband.”
“And why should we trust those who would dam the river? Forcing us to drink at the valley pool, easy prey to vicious claws and razored talons? The corpses mount at the lake edge, bringing deathfly and disease.” Mikel raised his proud head. “The grasslands shrink without the river and creeks. By sun season’s end there will be no grazing lands left,” he added quietly.
“Then you too will know hunger,” growled Enora. She stepped forward, drawing close to the unicorn queen. Melane recoiled from the fetid stench of the carrion breath.
“Don’t worry,” sneered Enora, “That’s not her you can smell.”
Melane lowered her head, her horn at the throat of the Lady griffin.
“You would attack while wearing the garland of truce?”
“If you are to mock my grief for Mikaley,” growled the unicorn, “I will carry home your head.”
Enora’s fierce eyes narrowed. Her powerful hind tensed, prepared to strike.

They turned at the soft clop of hooves.
A unicorn stepped into the clearing, prodded forward by a male griffin.
The length of her body was almost hairless, a myriad of scars. Her abdomen was etched in dozens of thin stripes; fresh, cruel, weeping cuts. Her legs trembled to hold her thin body upright.
“Mikaley,” gasped her father
“You!” cried Melane, charging at the griffin. She drove her horn into his eye, puncturing through his brain and the top of his skull. With a violent twist of her neck she threw him to the water’s edge.
The garland of flowers slid from his eye socket and followed the reddening stream away on the current.
“Levaris!” howled Leonid in anguish.
Melane turned to her daughter, but Enora was already at her.
“No, wait” pleaded Mikaley as the talon opened her long throat. Enora’s screech of vengeance tore the clouds above them to shredded rags. Mikaley slumped to the ground, her face a visage of disbelief.

Jacob nodded, recognizing the madness of war in his daughter’s tale.

In the second of silence before the madness continued, came a rustling from beneath the great golden wings of Levaris.
Two small heads emerged. Eagle heads. Eyes closed, they sniffed the air excitedly. Dragging themselves from under their father’s wing they tottered towards the fallen unicorn. They pushed at her back leg with their beaks, seeking to feed at her soft underbelly.
Melane raised her hoof, blind with rage. Mikel stepped forward to halt her strike.
“Their legs my love. Their hind legs.”
Enora’s head fell in shame. Leonid wrapped her in his wings
The young ones had hooves.
The four of them watched as their grandchildren suckled.

Unicorn tears fell as diamonds. As only they do in times of peace.

Ceri gripped her father tight, her small fingers clutching the leather of his tunic. “Hippogriffs?” he whispered. She nodded, easing from the embrace.
“The union of Levaris and Mikaley gave both sides something in common. They ended the war with love.”
He bent down to kiss her cheek, but her head turned away, tucked behind her drawn up knees. She rocked gently upon them.

Jacob was nearly to the door.

“Did you really listen?”

“Ceri? Honey?””

Then he noticed.
And couldn’t help but hear.

The chair.
Her saddle on its high back. The neat pile upon it, wrapped in a pelt blanket. Beneath; her favorite boots, brightly polished.
His voice deserted him though his lips formed the words.
“Oh Ceri.”
On a wooden peg next to the chair hung her best white dress. Her long travel cloak.

And a circlet of buttermilk flowers.

Make It Rain

The screech was ear splitting. The anguished scream of the goddess. It tore the sky into ragged black shreds of woe. Isis had thrown back her white hair, her naked breasts heaving with exertion. She shuddered in sobbing gasps of breath. The remnants of her shredded clothes hung like carrion on her body. Mad with grief and frustration she turned to Nephthys/Aleesha. Her eyes dangerous vivid emeralds.
“Make it rain” she demanded. “I know you can do it”
Her skin glowed as her power regathered.
“Make it rain!” she roared. “Now!”
The demand came as a piercing spear. Aleesha felt the sting as it struck.

Nephthys raised her hands to the sky. She focused her thoughts on her mother. Called the clouds to them. Projecting her spirit among them, she felt the dampness in the air high above.
Slowly, steadily, she curled her fingers into fists. The temperature dropped as ice crystals formed overhead. With the same slow method she opened her fingers until her hands were flat.
“Yes!” hissed Isis as the first drops fell. The clouds burst into life, delivering in a torrent.
Isis looked down at him. Her eyes blazed with anticipation. This would work. It must work. This was all she had left to try.
Around her body, a ripple of blue static began to build. It crackled like a fire all over her. Aleesha could feel it’s’ intensity building. Pulsing. Growing.
And through Nephthys she knew what Isis was attempting. It may have been a mystical spell with an appropriately romantic name but it simply came to Aleesha as two words. Lightning rod.
With an enormous crack, a massive single bolt struck.
Isis and Osiris vanished in a blinding sheet of white. Nephthys was knocked off her feet by the blast, landing twenty feet from where she stood. The vegetation all around was dead and blackened by the heat.
Picking herself up from the ground, Nephthys ran to where Osiris lay. As she approached there was no sign of Isis. The blast had thrown her clear of the area. Nephthys put her hand to her mouth at the stench of burnt hair and flesh. But the sight of him was almost too much to bear.
The king of all men lay on the mud soaked ground. His severed limbs had been meticulously reattached. Amongst the sutures, written incantations protected the wounds from further detrition. Around his throat, spells proclaimed his desire to see again. To look upon his love and know her. On his legs, to come to her. On his arms, to hold her. And on his penis, to consummate their love.
But there was also more. Parts of his face and body were charred from the lightning strike. Flesh had bubbled and sagged. Steam rose from his fiery wounds as the rain cooled them.
And on his thigh.
Oh dear sister.
Dozens of slits, many overlapping into crosses and stars. Fresh and raw. Part of no ritual for his resurrection. In her insane rage she had used her small jewelled dagger. The one he had given her.
She had stabbed until the knife had disintegrated. The broken blade was still in his leg.
Nephthys tried to pull it out but the fury of the blow made it impossible.

Despite his condition, she could not contain her desperate love for Osiris. This beautiful man had opened her heart. And taken it forever captive. As her tears spilt the rain intensified.
She leant over his face, handsome despite everything.
And longed to see him open his eyes.
To look upon his love and know her.

For love.

Once for love.

She spoke the name of Ra.
And held her breath.

“Get away from him!” screamed Isis. She conjured a blast of energy which thundered into Nephthys’ body. Her right arm took the brunt of it, the bones splintering into fragments. Most of her ribs broke, puncturing both lungs as she flew twisting like rag through the air. She landed contorted and broken. Her eyes filled red with blood.
“Stay away from him!” Isis stood over his body as a lioness over its kill.
“Not you” she cried.
“Not you” she waned.

She knew.

Nephthys tried to breathe, gurgling blood and mud and wet air.

Then Isis gasped.

“It worked!” she shrieked. “Dear Ra it worked. His eyes are open!” She pecked him with kisses, muttering thanks and praising her forefathers.
Through a crimson veil Nephthys watched their dark silhouette against the magenta sky. Her sisters’ hand grasped his penis, working him to arousal. Isis mounted him quickly, holding him in place as she rose and fell. Osiris moaned as her pace increased furiously.
Nephthys shut her eyes and prayed for an end to everything.

Finally the sounds stopped. The downpour drew to an end. Several minutes passed.
Nephthys opened her painful eyes to see Isis above her. Her face a raging mask of hatred. The panther of black magic. Her hair rippling deep purple.

“He thought it was you” she seethed.

She pressed her foot into her sister’s stomach. Blood bubbled out of her nose and mouth.

“He called me by your name”

She held up the head of Osiris. The magical stitches had held. No knife.
She had torn it off.

With a thud she dropped it onto Nephthys’s chest.
And walked away.

(from the novel “Last Goddess”)

Miriam

From Aleesha’s description he knew it was her. White gloves. Pale as the moon. Long black hair with a silver streak. Eyes a funny grey, bluish in the right light. Small, delicate like a bird.
Well the little bird had flown in.
David painfully crunched the M.G. into reverse. He wanted neutral ground. He also didn’t want to hang around and chat with the seven foot, scar faced man at the gate.
He manoeuvred through several side streets, heading north towards the clinic. There was a large community park with bike tracks and a duck pond he knew of. He spun the car to a stop with a spray of gravel. By the time he had the keys out of the ignition, the woman was standing near the edge of the pond. Houdini in a nightie. David stomped down as barefoot as her, still in his running gear.
She looked out over the diamond surface of the lake. The sparkle of the moon reflected ice blue in her eyes. David thought she looked fifteen and fifty at the same time. Beneath the lustrous hair, the tired face of a child up past her bed time. But for some reason, even with his emotions raging about Aleesha, he felt intimidated by Miriam. She unsettled him. He kept his voice level.
“Did you do something to Aleesha.?”
“No. I only spoke to her.”
“I tend to think that may be bullshit.”
“I am not the one you seek.”
“Who is the one I seek?”
“Another part of me.”
“Well do I need an appointment? Tell me what the hell’s going on.”
She took a breath. It reminded him of Ruth just before she was about to deliver a speech she expected you to pay attention to.
“All of us have spiritual energies. Kas, souls, psyches. Parts of these transfer between people when we interact. Become part of our own. Giving up some as well.”
David took his own pre speech breath.
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
Miriam turned to face him, her small face serious.
“Some of these spirits are very unique, powerful, and seek a stronger body when the one they’re in becomes too old or weak.”
“Are you telling me Aleesha’s being possessed by a spirit?”
“No. But affected by one.”
The words she was saying sounded crazy, but the way she said them was not.
“Are you the body that’s become old and weak?”
“Yes.”
Miriam shivered, brushed by a chill that David couldn’t feel.
“So what is this thing? This spirit. And why Leesh?”
“It is ancient. As old as any of the spirits. It knows her remarkable qualities. It is making itself known to her, though she doesn’t want it too. But it is accustomed to being accepted, and will show her things to tempt her.”
“What do you mean show her things?”
“It will play with her appearance, her body. Seduce her. She may get ill or hurt forcing it away. It will give her gifts. Enhance her senses, give her traces of magic.”
“Traces of magic? She was collapsed in the bathroom when I got home. Puke and piss on the floor. Then she had some sort of psychotic episode. Didn’t seem very frigging magical to me!” he shouted.
“Nevertheless it was there. It probably scared you. You will need to be there for her until she can control it. It will be scaring her too.”
“It fucking scared me all right. And you’re not helping.”
“You will need to have faith.”
“Faith? Faith in what?
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
“Yeah, Martin Luther King, I know. But I don’t see any of the bloody staircase. And I don’t know that Aleesha does either. Faith must be enforced by reason. When faith becomes blind it dies. Gandhi.”
“Faith makes things possible, not easy” Miriam replied calmly. “Unknown.”
“And blind faith in your leaders, or in anything, will get you killed” David growled. “Known. Bruce fucking Springsteen. Look Miriam or whoever the hell you are, something’s happened to Aleesha. But she’s not enhanced, not getting, what did you say, traces of magic. I’m a vet. There’s life, death and patch ‘em up when you can. But there’s no bloody magic. It doesn’t exist.”
He heard the familiar jingle of his keys. She was tossing them casually up and down in her hand. He looked at his empty hand. How had she taken them without him feeling it? She swung her arm in a gentle arc and threw the keys into the duck pond. They plopped below the surface twenty feet out.
“What the hell!” yelled David.
“The magic exists.”
She gestured out at the lake with one hand. She pulled her thumb and fingers slowly apart. David had already sworn more than he meant to while talking to her. But this one was worth it.
A gap opened in the water, a corridor exposing the silty bottom. A path from the edge of the pond to his keys, shining in the moonlight.
“Holy fucking shit.”
Like a zombie he walked out to get them.
“The faith is a bit harder to find” he heard from behind him.
As his fingers plucked the keys from the mud, the water rushed back in, reforming the pond surface.
When he turned back she was gone.
He waded out of the pond, scanning the park for her. A single duck squawked at him as he walked toward the car. His world had become ridiculous.
David started the car, still looking around for. There were plenty of dark shadows she could be hiding in, but he knew that wasn’t the case. This Miriam could pull out a freaking Moses. She was wherever she wanted to be.
He rattled the gear stick into reverse. Then for the first time ever, he stalled the M.G.
He hurriedly unwrapped the handkerchief from his bloody fingers. No skin was torn. No bones broken. He turned over his hand, slowly examining it.
Not an ounce of pain.
Two miracles in five minutes. “Holy fucking shit” was not a big enough statement to do the night justice. And it wasn’t over.
He had to get home.
On the way he flexed his blood covered hand. He kept glancing at it, as though it wasn’t his. But it was. Good as new.
“Holy fucking shit” was the best he could do. He’d momentarily lost the ability to say anything else.

(from the novel “Last Goddess”)

Kir-eleyne

There was a pause in the heartbeat of the earth.

The god of the sun exhaled for the last time and for a moment everything stopped. Reason ceased. A small flock of belling birds, the last thirty or so left in Etelenty, forgot how to fly. More than half of them simply fell out of the sky, their small bodies landing with muffled thumps on the dead leaf carpet.
Spreading in a concentric pattern from Ra’s body, any plant still clinging to life lost its fight, the ground blackening as though burnt. The ring spread rapidly, and in moments everything to the horizon had darkened.
At the same time, the air diluted, losing its freshness, its vibrancy. Its life.
Above the head of Nephthys, maniacal violet thunderheads surged across the sky. The hue of the world changed to a sickening vermillion in the challenging rise of the winds. Magenta explosions raged inside the swirling clouds, threatening a monsoon of blood.
A storm unlike any other. A cataclysmic storm.
Her mother had begun to grieve. Her mother the sky.

Below her pretty bare feet, she felt her father’s protest.
A rapidly intensifying tremor rumbled through the sanctity of Aedom, tumbling her backwards across the charred and brittle turf. The sudden imbalance in all things was personified by an enormous crack, the loudest sound Nephthys would ever hear. An angry jagged fissure opened up in the earth, splitting the great Acacia in half. The fountain of truth disintegrated into thousands of obsidian chips, which whistled in all directions like tiny missiles. The psychotic fissure screamed through the ground, splitting Etelenty from one coast to the other, releasing choking sulphur. Nephthys gasped for air as the great trees began to be consumed by the quake, spilling like toys into the growing abyss. Deep below, the ravenous magma began its hungry climb, preceded by the fiery glow of warning
As her beautiful Mother Sycamore plummeted into the chasm, she actually did stop breathing, the air at the epicentre too thin to maintain respiration. She slumped forward crazily, the pricked balloon of a dying goddess. As she came to rest on the ground her wavering vision tried to focus on something. Anything to give her hope.
A familiar face swam through the haze.
An important, familiar face.
Green catatonic eyes staring.
I…..know………..you.
Sister.

With the last of her strength, Nephthys gave her voice to the hellish sky. A desperate call to the one who had always come. Without hesitation or judgement.
The magnificent Kir-eleyne punctured the armies of warring clouds, hurtling towards them.
My dear friend.
Thank you.
She felt a lopsided, palsied smile on her face.
Thank you.
The mighty raptor snatched up the two sisters like mice.

The charred bodies of the remaining belling birds dropped like stones into the molten mouth.

Kir-eleyne thundered its massive wings to get to safety, but the poison in Isis climbed rapidly though its talons and into its body. It dipped in the air as this strange sensation coursed through it. Kir-eleyne had never suffered weakness. Never been afraid. It would have dropped Isis but for the call of the girl with eyes the colour of sky.
Help us.

The great bird drew upon the essence of Belleren, using it to limit the spread of poison to the blue eyed girl. Knowing that it must do this.
It struggled ahead, crashing though the now brittle trees of Aedom, trying to gain height. Magma spewed out of the ground, bringing forth deadly cannon balls of fiery subterranean rocks. Kir-elyne’s wings were punctured, leaving smoky holes.
It had never felt pain either.
Somehow it lifted the sisters over a ridge, but it flew drunkenly as blood loss weakened it more.
A little further.
A little further.

Help us.

Get them safe.

As the poison reached Kir-eleyne mighty heart, it recognised the touch of the pale man.

You will not have them.

One giant push of its wings was all it had left. It pulled the two girls in close to its body. With the help of Belleren it encircled them with its golden wings, locking itself into a ball around their bodies.
Kir-eleyne said farewell to the sky and died while still in the air.
It crashed to the earth, protecting them as it tumbled and broke.
It was far enough to be safe from the earthquake. But not the rain of molten rock. They peppered the great bird’s body, and its feathers and flesh burnt with a stench lost in the madness of the apocalypse.
The ka of Kir-eleyne passed to Isis and Nephthys, giving them the essence of its being and the remnants of Belleren. It was just enough. It would allow them to survive.

They were safe.

from the novel “Last Goddess”

Morton Street, eight years earlier…

She felt conspicuous in her St.Bernadette uniform. But within her, right from the start, she knew she could have been wearing a potato sack and it wouldn’t have changed a thing. He was looking at her face. Mainly. Trying not to stare in the clumsy way of boys. He kept stride with her from the other side of the road. A quick glance revealed enough information for her to work with. She recognised the drab grey of the state school uniform. She hadn’t seen him before. Tall. Fair haired. Non threatening. Not creepy but annoying. Was he lost? He stood out amongst the dispersing tide of St Bernie’s kids in their royal blue. As she crossed another side street he did too.
Why me? Lucy Bower was walking with the pretty girls ahead of her. Everyone looked at Juicy Lucy. She had a career in T.V. or modelling ahead of her. And the others in her well groomed pack Amanda, Rachel and Carina. They plumped and preened and chewed up boyfriends like crazy. Aleesha didn’t consider herself attractive in the slightest. She tried not to be. But her peripheral vision picked up the line of his eyes. As she was walking on her own (as always) it was her in his sights. She felt exposed, her anonymity taken.
Increasing her pace, Aleesha used Lucy’s group for cover as she ducked into the mini mart. Prising a hand basket from the stack, she rummaged a pocket for the brief list of supplies Ruth had asked her to pick up on her way home.
She’d been in the store a full five minutes when the door chime signalled a new customer. Though several people had come and gone since her entry, Aleesha knew it was him. She wore no makeup or jewellery, which most of the other girls did despite school policy. Her skirt was a modest length, at least four inches longer than Lucy’s. Aleesha chided herself for suddenly caring. It was just a boy, damn it.
His sun bleached hair contrasted like a new mop on top of the slate grey shirt and pants. State school haircut to match the uniform. Straight fringe and shapeless cut. Done by his mum, possibly while having a beer, she thought. His sleeves were folded back to the bottom of his biceps. Nice arms, she conceded.
Picking up a magazine, he pretended to read while scanning for her over the top. Found her adding a packet of pasta shells to her basket. The small amount of his face she could see around his roaming green eyes was blushing.
She smiled an “oh brother” which he interpreted as a “come here baby” and was there before she had got past the rows of spaghetti sauce.
Up close he was cute-ish. Kind of.
He stammered through an introduction with a voice struggling with nerves and adolescence. His name was David and he was two years older than her. His unease transferred to her but she kept a lid on it. Ruth had told her men took a lot longer than women to mature. This guy seemed light years away. Aleesha cursed herself again for being aware of her plain appearance. And for seeing something in his eyes which brushed ever so lightly at her soul. For feeling something. It felt uncomfortably nice. Double damn.
David appeared genuinely shocked when she knocked back his offer of a movie date.
“But you smiled at me” he reasoned, leading her to a second grin.
For a moment he just stood there, and she saw a brief flash of something she would never forget. As though she could read his very thoughts, she knew what he was going through. I’m losing her. I can’t lose her. I’ve only just found her.
After just a few moments of meeting, he already valued her. It scared her to realise this. And it scared her how much.
His brain, obviously in tunnel vision- hunter mode, struggled to work it out. He raised the magazine he still held.
“Was I holding this upside down?”
Aleesha shook her head as he realised which publication he had grabbed. Cleo. The sexually transmitted diseases special. His face went from awkward pink to traffic light red. He glanced down, then back at the magazine, serious as though checking his symptoms.
Aleesha couldn’t hold back a snort.
He broke into a laugh that was contagious. She laughed along, something she did far too little of.
“Find a guy that makes you smile.” Ruth.
The words escaped her lips before she could reel them back in.
“Would you like to walk me home?”
He looked almost ridiculously happy. Oh lord.
Aleesha paid for her items. The cashier returned her change and a sturdy brown paper bag. David reached for it with eager chivalry but Aleesha wrestled it back. She was independent and wanted to show him that right away. It would have been weird to let him carry it, despite his wounded look.
He crammed his hands into his pockets as they exited the store. They walked side by side along Morton Street with little conversation. He seemed content enough to just be with her, which confused her. The awkwardness made her wonder if this was a mistake.
But along the way their hands slipped together. She wasn’t really aware of it happening. Her small hand felt right in his warm grip.
And for the first time in a long while she felt special.
Safe.
She belonged.

She hoped his hand would always be there.

from the novel “Last Goddess”