My first attempt at what I would call a ‘proper’ flash-fiction piece. I hope you enjoy it…
The room was pitch black but for the small light source at the end of the room. Tom was scared, very scared. He crouched down out of sight of the man brandishing the dagger, who appeared to be looking for something or someone…
Tom’s eyes were tightly shut. He knew he should keep them shut and stay out of sight till the man left but curiosity kept prizing them open, just a squint, while he ever so slowly edged his head to the side to catch a glimpse of what was happening…
The dagger was glistening in the man’s hand. Tom watched the man as he continued to silently search through the room, opening drawers, moving furniture, determined to find what he was looking for, or maybe some clue to finding who he was looking for.
Whatever it was, Tom was sure this man was dangerous. Tom tried holding his breath so the man wouldn’t hear his breathing. He needn’t have worried, for that moment the room erupted into life as another figure burst through the door, laughing and hissing like a snake. The man with the dagger jumped back, pulling a religious cross from his jacket, which seemed to stop the other man in his tracks. The other man hissed again, but he had stopped laughing as he raised his arm, holding his black cloak up to shield his eyes.
Tom didn’t understand what was happening but he knew it wasn’t good, that his own life would be in danger if he should be discovered. He knew he should never have come downstairs. Tom’s eyes closed tightly shut again as he instinctively curled into a foetal position, praying that it would all soon be over. Tom could hear the two men shouting and arguing, and then a crashing sound and a cry of pain. Tom curled his body up even tighter, his hands clasped over his ears to try and block out the sound…
“I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist one last look round the castle,” the man in the cloak hissed, “It’s time we put an end to this…”
The room immediately lit up as if it were ablaze. Tom feared the worst as he heard that familiar scream…
“Tommy!” Screamed his mother, “How many times have I told you not to creep down at night to watch horror films, you know they give you nightmares.”
Four year old Tommy crept from behind the sofa, his tearful wide-eyed innocence more than a match for his mother’s initial anger, and skedaddled back to the safety of his own warm bed…
This was a sort of twist on those early episodes of ‘Doctor Who’ that so many of my generation would tentatively watch from behind the sofa, worried that the monsters on screen might just be real. I made the TV program a horror film, as a Doctor Who episode probably wouldn’t be shown late at night…
A to Z Stories of Life and Death, by D. Biswas (available on Kindle and via Smashwords.com)
This anthology of flash fiction / short stories is one I discovered while blogging, and certainly glad I did. For any aspiring writer who enjoys both reading and writing in the flash fiction / short story genre, this is well worth reading, not just for its enjoyment value, but as a lesson in literary writing.
As delightful and thought provoking an anthology as I’ve read in a long time. The stories themselves fall largely into the flash fiction genre and occasionally the vignette, though to pigeon-hole them this way hardly does them justice. The settings span the globe but are set mostly in the Asian sub-continent and the far east. The topics and social issues they deal with are both difficult and provocative: domestic abuse, poverty, sexuality, and exploitation to name but a few.
As a European reader, I was captivated by the author’s accounts of life in other cultures, many of which are saddening and hard to comprehend; our (European) notions of poverty and deprivation are quickly turned on their heads by the honest and sensitive way in which they form the backdrop to the stories. Elements of the storyline in each case often deliberately remain unwritten, i.e. implied or hinted at, forcing the reader to use their imagination and interpret each story in their own way and really think about what they are reading. Some of the stories conclude with a glimmer of hope for the future set against the harrowing circumstances of what’s gone before; others do not, which for me really gives them added authenticity – life isn’t all about happy endings.
If all the reader is looking for is light entertainment then this book probably isn’t it, but for stories that really engage the reader, gets them thinking, challenging their own perspectives and thinking, then these twenty six literary jewels would be hard to surpass.
A good man…
Scully was an eighteen carrot prize bastard, no other way to describe him, least-ways not in polite company; a miserable little weasel with a fondness for preying on the teenage waifs and strays coming to London for whatever reasons – escaping abusive homes, lure of the bright lights, promises of fame and fortune – the reasons as innumerable as those arriving. Pimp, drug dealer, predator, Scully had been all of these and more…
The man’s neck snapped like a twig underfoot. His body fell limp into the waiting arms of Hatchet Ron, ready for disposal. It was all in a night’s work for Old Hatchet, real name Ronald Hatch, not that it was wise for anyone to call him ‘Old’.
This had been a rush job. Normally he would have charged a hefty bonus for the added urgency, but after a little digging into the weasel’s life, he’d willingly foregone the extra.
Hatchet Ron thought back to the previous week when he first met the old man. A ‘friend of a friend’ as it were had sorted the details. The old man’s grand-daughter had died six months earlier…
“It’s just not right, out-living your own kids, and then ya grandkids too…” He remembered the old man saying between the coughs and splutters. He’d be dead soon, was his first thought. He knew death well – the look, its smell. The old man should have been dead already but there remained one last thing that needed doing, one more person he needed to out-live.
Two years earlier, Maria, the old man’s grand-daughter, had fell in with a “thoroughly bad lot,” as he had put it, “run off with some conman who had promised her the world…the things he’d made her do…you wouldn’t believe…” But he did believe; it was a tale Hatchet Ron had heard all too often to be shocked or moved to sentimentality by. Despite the horrific details, Hatchet Ron’s face had betrayed no emotion or reaction to the old man’s account of his grand-daughter’s suffering. He’d wanted to console the old man, place a hand on his shoulder or something, reassure him that her suffering wouldn’t go unpunished. He didn’t though; there was another witness to the tale, the ‘friend of a friend’ who had made the introductions – Hatchet Ron was a paid cold-blooded killer, he had a reputation to maintain, and sentimentality wasn’t a part of it. Not even the old man’s parting words that he only had a few weeks to live, hence the urgency of the job, had visibly stirred him.
“I understand. It’ll be done by the end of the week,” he’d told the old man.
“Thank you; you’re a good man.. I wish I could pay you more…”
“No. It’s a simple enough job, this is more than enough to cover it.”
The old man had tears in his eyes as the ‘friend of a friend’ discreetly passed Hatchet Ron the thick brown envelope, not just of sadness of the circumstances, but gratitude too for the knowledge that his grand-daughter’s tormentor would soon be dead. He had no way of course of enforcing the contract but something about the manner and voice of this, to him, nameless man told him that this was a man of his word…
The old man’s face lit up at the arrival of the following week’s edition of the Dalston Chronicle. The headline read…
Brutal death of local drug dealer
It went on to catalogue a list of horrific injuries that local drug dealer ‘Sculley’ Mitchell had suffered prior to the final one, a broken neck that had ended his life. He knew of course that the newspaper account was a heavily abridged version; the photographs Hatchet Ron had provided him with had shocked him, but he had no regrets, it was nothing more than the scum had deserved, it had been worth his twenty thousand pounds life savings… Harry Simpkins died the following day clutching the photos with a smile on his face…
Hatchet Ron had so wanted to tell the old man that his grand-daughter Maria had had a son a few months before her death. Hatchet Ron had known this before accepting the job. The boy had been placed into foster care and then adopted by a very nice couple in the country. But that would have created a dilemma for the old man – to pay for the vengeance and justice Maria deserved and die knowing that Scully would go on living, or provide an inheritance for the boy? The old man was a decent sort, he would rather have lived his final weeks with the misery of injustice just so long as he could do something for the boy. And Hatchet Ron would not have got his fee. He couldn’t let-on, he had his reputation to maintain. Even the hardest and most vicious of his peers were a little taken aback at the coldness of his decision not to give the old man the choice, and to think the old man had called him a good man
A little over twenty years later, little Todd Simpkins came of age. He’d grown into a fine young man, having inherited all the kindness and generosity of the great grand-father he never knew, so who could begrudge him the previously unknown trust that had been set up for him twenty years earlier, twenty thousand pounds that had since grown to nearly a hundred thousand pounds….
Hatchet Ron sat listening to the frail old woman as she recounted the story of the thugs who had stolen and brutally tortured and killed her only companions, her beloved two cats. She wasn’t the least bit upset at parting with Hatchet Ron’s sizeable fee, knowing that the thugs would be brought to justice.
Hatchet Ron had been moved by the plight of the local animal shelter that desperately needed funds to remain open and had been wondering how he might find the cash to make a donation…
All the things I want to do: be a best-selling writer, enthral and amass thousands of followers and fans on my web blog, climb mountains, go wild camping in the Highlands, ride my mountain bike in the Welsh valleys, get really fit and muscular, load up my land rover and travel the country. I always have, since I was about ten. That was forty years ago…
Well, now I’m really going to do them, I’ve decided. Time to put to use the last ten years of subscribing to Writers News. I’m going to read it from cover to cover and do all the things they suggest.
I’ve bought a book on basic navigation; I mean, how hard can it be? I might go on one of those advanced navigation courses, all the outdoor magazines recommend them. I could of course just get myself a top of the range handheld GPS set, but I want to look like a proper adventurer, and I’m sure holding a map and compass will look better on my Facebook pics. Oh and you should see the tent I bought, the lightest and best on the market, the man in Snow & Rock told me so.
And I’ve joined a gym; I’ll need to be quite fit if I’m going to climb Ben Nevis. Maybe I should buy some protein shakes and supplements, to help things along. I wonder how long it takes to get huge muscles like all the top athletes. Shouldn’t take too long, I mean, it’s a really expensive gym, all the latest equipment and stuff. Then I’ll be able to start wearing all my new cycling kit; I wouldn’t want to look like a novice.
Would be great to make some money from my blog too, just to tide me over still I start earning royalties. I think I read somewhere if you let search engines put ads on your blog they pay you for all the ‘hits’ they generate. I’m still not sure what to write but I’ve got a book on order, ‘Ten great ideas for a Best Seller,’ and there’s loads of free downloads for Kindle about blogging, I must look into that.
It’s not easy being a writer; people think you just sit at home in the lap of luxury, that all your time is your own, to do as you like whenever the mood takes you. It’s not like that; you have to be disciplined, ruthlessly sticking to your meticulously planned work schedule. I mean, you wouldn’t just down tools if you were at the office or on an assembly line just because you wanted to catch the DNA results on the Jeremy Kyle show, or nip off for a cuppa until you felt like working again would you? Well, I wouldn’t either, not normally, but it’s okay sometimes; it’s not as though I’ve got a long commute or ‘owt like that so I can allow myself a few distractions – but not too many, wouldn’t do to get into bad habit – oh hang on, be back in a min, my phone just pinged, I’ve got a Facebook friend request, someone I got chatting to in the library the other day I think. Always good to have loads and loads of friends listed, shows publishers how popular you are. Now what was I saying, oh yes, not getting into bad habits…Yes, it’s important not to allow too many interruptions to your writing – Oh, sorry, my phone again, it’s an email from amazon, the latest Kindle Newsletter update… Ah, that’s awkward, it’s recommending you turn off your phone and internet whilst writing so’s not to be distracted. Well maybe, I’ll think about it. Anyhow, as I was saying, it’s important to build your readership for when you get published. But you still have to stick to your writing schedule, making the most of your free time, balancing your writing with all your other interests. Take this coming weekend for example; I was planning to get in some serious writing starting dead on 5pm and not finishing till at least ten, and then start again first thing Saturday morning right through till midday. That would leave me the rest of the day and all day Sunday for some hill walking and maybe get some material for a travel blog too. If only it wasn’t the X-factor finals this weekend and there’s a sci-fi film weekend on the TV too. It’s only the one weekend though, and it’s not like there’s a final every week. But enough talking, I really should be at my keyboard updating my blog. I’m going to write every night all this week… What’s that? Oh it’s the doorbell, hang on… Sorry about that, was the post man with a delivery, the final season of Dexter. Have you seen it? Great isn’t it? One of those series you can watch night after night…
I just have to watch it, I mean; it’s the very last season. I’ll definitely make a start on my writing next weekend…
Well, blog no:4 – I wrote this short story a few years back when there was a lot of talk in the press about the spread of nuclear weapons. Now with all the speculation about when and not if Iran becomes a nuclear power I thought it might be time to give it another airing, enjoy,..
A Silly Thought….
It was just past the third sunset of the day, on a world far, far away, when the three of them began the long journey home from the Bi-Centennial fireworks display.
“Wow, that was the best ever!” the little boy exclaimed from the back seat of his parents shuttle-pod.
“It’s just not fair we can’t have them more than just once every two hundred years, and bigger too?”
He was still very young. His Mother turned and smiled, seeking to explain:
“Because of the radiation,” she said. “And you know how dangerous it would be if it was any bigger. We all do.”
The little boy fell silent, thinking about what his mother had said, knowing she was right: “I suppose so, but… it’d sure be nice to see it close-up next time.”
This time it was the Father who addressed the little boy’s innocence:
“If only that were true, but it’s not,” the father began, knowing the time for explanation had come: “You see, when the scientists discovered atomic power, everyone knew it was a gift of nature, a marvellous gift to warm and light all the worlds for ever and ever.”
“Just like a star?”
“Yes, in a way, but not quite – more like having our very own ‘little’ star, right in out hands. But like any precious gift, it has to be looked after, and treated carefully.”
“Well, the scientists realized how, if the little star ever got away from us, it could destroy entire world; because it’s more powerful than anything else we know – more powerful than any earthquake or volcano. That’s why we had to wait so very long before we made the atomic power stations, until we knew enough to make them absolutely safe. So once every two hundred years we have the atomic fireworks show, not just to entertain us and to remind us of how lucky we are, but also to remind us how careful we have to be.”
The little boy understood. “I never thought about it like that. I suppose if we weren’t so careful, some people might even try and throw the little stars at each other.”
Ronnie! The little boys parents gasped, momentarily stunned.
Mother spoke first: “What a silly thought. That would be insane.”
Then Father spoke: “Even more insane than me aiming this shuttle into the sun and just killing us for no reason at all.”
The little boy was ashamed of his silly thought now that he realized just how insane it really was: “I’m sorry,” the little boy cried.
Mother and Father took him in their arms, soothing his fears: “I love you both. I love everyone,” the boy said.
“We love you too, Ronnie,” Mother and Father answered, smiling and forgiving. And in that far away world, life went on… happily and forever…