Dare you

Written for Miranda’s #MidWeekFlash. I thought I’d broaden my range and have a crack at a scary ish story. Note the ‘ish’.

It’d been a dare, of course.

Spend Halloween night in the creepy old house behind the graveyard.

So just after ten, we quietly broke in through the back door and made our way through the house. It was dark inside, apart from the beam of light from our torches criss-crossing and catching the motes of dust we disturbed, and everything had that damp-and-cold smell that abandoned places do.

We found the kitchen, a cavernous room with high, Victorian ceilings, and then a dining room, with the table still laid, and finally the sitting room. Massive, ancient furniture with greyed anitmacassars on the high backs made the room feel cramped and uncomfortable. We decided to camp in the hallway.

We laid our sleeping bags out by an old, dust-covered sideboard. On the sideboard was some broken crockery, a vase of long-dead flowers, and a heavy iron typewriter, which still had a sheet of yellowed paper caught in it. We sat cross-legged on our sleeping bags and one by one turned the torches off until we were sat in the chilly, oppressive dark, telling each other ghost stories.

It wasn’t long until we heard noises, creaks and groans which we reassured ourselves were nothing more than the sound of the house settling in the night. But then…tap. Tap. Tap.

It sounded like the typewriter, but surely couldn’t have been… so we flicked our torches on and looked over. It sat, innocent, in the light. We went and looked closely at it, and there was a ripple of unease.

die

The word on the paper was bold, and we wondered that the ink in the ribbon had not long dried up. There was nervous laughter, and jokey accusations as we looked at each other. But nobody owned up to typing the single word, and we collectively shrugged. Someone was playing silly buggers.

We went and sat down again, turning the torches back off, although nobody really wanted to. But equally, nobody wanted to look like a coward. We spoke to each other quietly, an appreciatively spooked audience.

But again, tap, tap, tap. Clunk, tap, tap, tap. Clunk, tap, tap, tap, TAP.

The torches came on almost as one this time. In a huddle, we approached the typewriter again.

die

Die

DIE!

And then, a moan which most definitely wasn’t the house. Eerie, chilling, wavering, it filled the space until our heads were pounding along with our hearts. There was a shuffling noise at the top of the stairs, and we shone our torches up to see a cadaverous man, clothed in grey and white rags, and wielding an axe. The moan broke off, and the man screamed, “Die!” and started slowly down the stairs.

We stood, paralysed with terror, until the man was nearly upon us. He lifted the axe and screamed and we screamed back, before breaking for the front door, which was locked. Fumbling fingers reached for rusted bolts at top and bottom, numb lips sobbed desperate prayers, but eventually we wrested the door open and spilled out into the cold, dark night, before running away as fast as we could.

The following day, we met up at the old house in daylight. Surely we’d had some kind of mass hallucination, right, brought on by the night and the darkness and our willing minds, yeah? Exactly.

But when we pushed the open front door to and made our way into the house, this time we could see when the typewriter began to type by itself…

The Curse

You’d think life as a genie was the good life, right?

WRONG.

I mean, the wish-granting part is good, especially malicious compliance and deliberate misinterpretation, but the rest of it is not garden of roses.

Take me, for example. Born of smokeless fire, as is the way of the genie, I lived a wonderful life in what you’d call the Middle East, roaming about, causing a little mischief, seducing fair maidens… And then I was cursed by one stronger than I, and trapped in a glass bottle for all eternity. My only hope of escape was if I was found and freed by a person true of heart and strong of mind.

So for the last 2,000 years, that’s been my life, such as it is. Luckily, I can shift my form and the confinement hasn’t been too bad most of the time.

The Powerful One who cursed me disguised themselves as a fortune teller, and gave me to a woman who came seeking her fortune. She was told that as long as her family held my bottle, they would have prosperity and health.

I became a treasured family heirloom and was handed from mother to daughter to daughter. All that time, I spoke to my keepers, hoping one of them would be The One, able to free me from my captivity…but their spirits were dull and their minds duller, and I remained trapped.

And then, tragedy! One careless wench lost me, and I spent three hundred years buried in sand. That was a horrible time, even for one such as I, but it came to an end when I was ‘discovered’ by a party of French archaeologists in the 1800s. My vessel was cleaned and catalogued, and I was sold at auction.

The woman who bought me placed me on a windowsill, where I could look at the bustling Parisian streets. It was good to feel sunlight on my bottle again, and I was refreshed and felt my strength growing. I spoke once more, but her mind remained closed to me.

When she died, I was sold again, to a collector of oddities. The Persian origins of the bottle spoke to my new owner, who wove wondrous tales about it for his children, never once suspecting his fantasies of genies were true. His youngest, a girlchild of four or so, could see me, but everyone thought she was making stories up like her papa when she spoke of me. As she grew, her mind too became closed-off, and my chance of escaping my Curse was lost.

And so things continued for nearly two hundred years, with my bottle passing from hand to hand, sold and re-sold, until I came to you.

I knew at once you were different. I could see you had an artist’s soul and a true heart. Your strong mind became apparent to me as I watched you battling to make your name, to take your place in the world. I watched as you took forgotten and unwanted items and transformed them into desirable objets d’art.

One day you picked up my bottle and looked at it long and hard. “I know what to do with you,” you said. And with passion and skill you transformed me into….a lamp.

How clichéd. A genie in a lamp. However beautiful it is, I’m still imprisoned.

But I believe yet you are the one. And I keep telling you my tale in the hope that one day you’ll hear me. That when you see the echo of my form, trapped within the bulb of the lamp, you’ll remember these words, and free me.

Without you

-a sort-of poem thing for Miranda’s mid week flash.

I walked through the springtime without you,

My grief a new, sharp, raging thing,

Causing me to curse and cry.

Flowers were dull, new life was alien to me,

The birdsong a mocking, cackling chorus.

I sat beneath a tree in the summertime,

By now my grief was quieter, calmer,

But still with the power to cut.

I turned my face to the sun, feeling it caress my face,

I curled beside a fire in the autumn,

But was unable to enjoy its warmth.

Grief an old friend, it’s presence a given,

The ache in my breast ever-present.

Leaves turned, then fell fluttering to the ground,

And I felt the stirring of something new.

I stood on a bridge over a frozen stream in the winter,

A year without you had come and gone,

And although I still hurt, I still lived.

The sun sank below the horizon

I saw the beauty of the sunset

And breathed.

Terra Nova

***disclaimer- my first go at SF. It’s harder than it looks!**

The hold of the ship was in darkness.

I moved quickly through the vast space, my torch shining on containers of everything from deconstructed agricultural equipment to dining services and building supplies. I had everything here to begin life on a new planet, but before I could unload anything, I had one vital task to perform. 

The spherical metal container stood nearly as tall as I was, and it reflected my image back grotesquely as the light from my torch played over it. I reached for the keypad on the sphere’s surface and tapped in a sequence of numbers long since memorised. There was a beep, and the sphere began to peel back from a crack which appeared in its circumference. Cryo-smoke poured out, chilling the air around me and making my teeth chatter, despite my space suit.  An automatic light glowed from within, casting ghostly shadows around me.

Once it was fully open, I stepped inside and grabbed a hip-high cylindrical tube, grunting with effort as I took its weight. I lifted it with effort and retraced my steps, back out of the hold and up to the huge airlock, preparing to make my way outside.

The airlock cycled around me, and I hummed to myself. I’d been in space, alone, for six months, and was used to my own company, although sometimes I wished for a companion or two…for conversation, if nothing else.

The doors whooshed open, and I looked out onto planet Rho-Epsilon 4.

The sky was blue, and two suns shone yellowly down on me and the rocky surface of RE4. Pulling out a sensor wand from my waistband, I took a few quick readings: the air was safe. We’d sent probes ahead of my mission and they’d reported the planet as habitable, but it was always best to check. 

I opened my helmet and took my first breath of non-recycled air in six months. Oh, it was sweet. Dragging the cylinder along with me, I stepped onto the planet’s surface, bouncing slightly in the lower gravity. My mission from this point was simple — find a large, clear space, and press the big red button on the top of the cylinder. Easy as.

Carrying the container with more ease now, I walked towards the horizon, soon coming to a relatively flat and clear area. I set the cylinder down, nesting it into the sandy ground, and pressed the big red button.

The top of the cylinder unscrewed, and fell to the ground.

There was a WHOOSH, and a rocket shot up and up, into the sky before detonating like a firework. Suddenly dark clouds massed above me and it began to rain. Petrichor filled the air, a sweet and welcome scent after the stale air in my ship.

The sides of the cylinder peeled apart, yellow-green smoke roiling out, over my boots and over the rocky gound, bringing with it the smell of cut grass and privet hedges. 

I stood for a couple of minutes, basking in the rain and filling my lungs with the gorgeous,vital aromas, before turning back to my ship. Now, all I had to do was wait.

I stayed on board for an earth week. During that time, storms and high winds battered my ship. I pottered about, completing busywork to keep myself sane. Waiting had never really been my forte, but I knew I had to be patient; going outside now would be fatal.

At the end of the week, I suited up and made my way to the airlock once more.

Stepping out of the outer doors, my eyes opened wide. 

What had been a rocky, desolate planet, was now covered in low, fragrant clover and many types of grass as far as my eyes could see, like the plushest carpet imaginable.

The violent storms had abated, and the sky was blue again. I pulled my glove off and bent to brush my hand over the lush greenery. Damp, spiky fronds tickled my palm. I straightened up — the terraforming was working!

With a whoop, I ran back to the ship. Time to contact my compatriots and let them know we had a habitable planet.

RE4 would be our new home.

Dreams

As far as dreams go, this one’s a bit clunky. I mean, here’s me, dragging a giant key across a seemingly limitless grey desert. But my subconscious has never been straightforward OR subtle.

So, I suppose I should be looking for a lock.

Or water.

But instead, the dream sends me a double-decker bus-sized, lime-green tiger. Shit!

“Hello,” I croak. Dream-tigers can be unpredictable creatures, so manners are always a good start.

The tiger roars. I cower, and cover my ears. The roar shakes me to my bones, going on and on and on… when it stops, I look up. The tiger’s mouth is still wide open, and at the back of it’s throat is a door.

I inch closer to the tiger, feeling it’s gaze on me the whole time. The tiger’s breath is hot and foul, and I gag as I reach its gaping maw. With a shudder, I step onto its vast tongue, dragging my key behind me with a wet scraping sound.

The door gets bigger as I approach, and the tiger recedes, until I’m stood before a towering door, banded in iron, with an immense keyhole. I pull on the key’s rope, feeling the weight of it in my mind as well as my arms. I reach down to grasp the bow, but fall instead, through the hole, and into nothingness.

The key implodes behind me, becoming a small, glowing sprite, which flies down to land on my arm as I keep falling.

Suddenly I land, the air whooshing from me upon impact. I look up into an endless orange sky alive with whirling galaxies. The sprite cheeps at me, and I sit up slowly, resentfully.

My head thumps, my body aches, but the sprite continues to cheep until I manage to stand, then it flitters off a short distance. Being out of ideas, I follow it.

The sprite leads me here and there in a random manner through the dreamscape, turning to berate me when I stumble or lag behind.

Eventually, we come upon a waterfall, and I fall to my knees and drink deeply until my belly hurts and I feel the urge to retch. I heave, feeling something hard and sharp in my throat, then I hurl, and out with the water comes another key, this time a modern yale one. The sprite cheers squeakily and tugs on my hair.

I turn my head to see another door, this one barely as tall as my waist. The yale lock gleams and I insert the key, which turns smoothly. The door opens onto my bedroom, where I can see myself sleeping.

The sprite pushes me to go through the door, so I crouch and squeeze through.

I stand beside myself, listening to my dream mutters, and watching myself toss and turn. The sprite tugs on my hand, pulling me closer and closer to the bed until I bang my knees on the bedframe. 

Sleeping me wakes up at the bump, and looks at dream me with bleary eyes. Paradoxically the two of me regard each other.

And all of a sudden, I know the purpose of this dream.

“Hey, me,” I say. “Remember to put the bins out in the morning.”

Sun Dust.

The little man stepped right in front of me, and nearly got mowed down for his efforts.

“Oi! Watch it!” I grumped. It had been a long day in a series of atrociously long days, and I just wanted to get home.

He grinned and reached for the button on his raincoat and I stepped back in alarm. Seriously, small flashers – flashers of any size – could just do one. I prepared to scream.

“I have something for you,” the little man said, as I drew a deep breath. His coat came apart and a steady, bright light shone from inside.

Hang on, what?

My brain froze and I looked down at the glow coming from inside his coat.

He reached a gnarled hand into his inner pocket and withdrew a tiny glass bottle. It was obviously the source of the glow, because it positively beamed as he cradled it.

“This is for you,” he said. “I know I’m meant to give it to you: you’ve probably had a rough day, or week, or year? This will make things better.”

And with that, he thrust the bottle into my shaky hands, and walked away, whistling a jaunty tune.

I looked down at the bottle, which still shone merrily. It was warm, and just looking at it cheered me up. There was a small yellow label on the bottle. Sun Dust, it read. Sprinkle any time to add a little light to your life.

“Well, it’s not like it can make anything worse,” I muttered, and eased the worn cork from the neck of the bottle. I upended it, feeling a sensation not unlike popping candy as the glowing dust hit my palm. Feeling a tiny bit daft, I lifted my hand with a ta-daa! motion, and the powder drifted down over me with a flurry of pops. I put the cork back in, tucked the bottle into my pocket, and resumed my walk home.

Only now, I didn’t feel hopeless, furious, exhausted or down — I felt light, warm, goodwill-unto-all-mankind-ish!

I grinned to myself, humming a happy little tune. My steps picked up pace until I was sort of skipping along. People eyed me askance, but I ignored their censure and smiled at them. It was a wonderful, liberating feeling. I was happy, fully and completely so. Not just surface happy, but right down to my tingly toes joyful.

I saw two toddlers splashing in a puddle, and resisted the urge to join in. I heard the birds singing in the trees, two young lovers billing and cooing, and a dog barking happily. It was like the Sun Dust had opened my senses to all the little tiny moments of happiness there were to be found, and I revelled in it. I realised that these things had been there all along, but I’d been too wrapped up in myself to notice. What a wonderful place the world could be! I marvelled at this little truth.

As I neared home, I saw a young man trudging towards me. His face was drawn, his shoulders hunched, his steps heavy. I slipped my hand into my pocket and felt the Sun Dust, warm against my fingertips.

I knew what I had to do.

Tentacles

An eldritch moon shines dimly
Illuminating
Tentacles, cagéd, writhing.

A figure appears, black-garbed,
Whispering soft prayers
Wrapped in the pow'r of the gods.

Suddenly, he calls aloud;
Light beams from above
Casting out the clinging dark.

Screams can be heard all around,
Appendages whip,
Shrinking in upon themselves.

Another yell, and blue fire
Flickers all around
Purifying tainted ground.

Then the darkness falls again
Revealing clear earth
The tentacled scourge is gone.

Written for @PurpleQueen's #MidWeekFlash prompt on twitter.



I wrote!

Peeps, it’s been so long since I’ve wanted, or been able to write. I think it’s something to do with the mind-adjusting meds; since I’ve been on them, I’ve been a lot calmer and less volatile as a human, but it’s also taken away an awful lot of my creativity. Swings and roundabouts, eh?

Anyway, this morning I just started writing, and got 1100 words down! They’re probably not awesome words, but I did it!

I really hope this isn’t a flash in the pan, and I can continue to write again. I’ve missed it.

This is a very short, slightly gloaty post. Sorry, and thank you for reading 😉

Well, hello.

What to say? It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

Lots has changed since last I wrote.

I’m no longer a Christian; that ship sailed and went down with no survivors. I’m now a sort of free-range believer-in-the-universe.

The kids are now 22, 14 and 12 (where does the time go?) and still opinionated, amazing, lovely beans.

I’m still married to Paul. Poor bloke, he deserves better. We celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary last Christmas.

We now have two dogs, Lulu, a saluki(ish), and Summer, a lurcher. They’re both rescues, about four, and have three braincells between them.

What else? I still hate mirrors, love haribo, and don’t do enough housework.

I’m going to try to blog more regularly; it’s good therapy and free (ha ha ha). I might also try to get back to writing.

If you’ve read this far, thank you. Hope to see you again.

Mammoth story prompt

Slowly, painfully, I knelt before the old priest.

“Father, I need absolution for my sins, I need to be clean again,” I wept. “I know I am loathsome and I don’t want to be any more!”

His bony hand wove through my hair to cup my skull. “My child, you know I can’t offer absolution,” he said quietly. “I can offer a listening ear, a prayer, a blessing…but I’m the wrong kind of priest to absolve you.” He reached for a huge, old bible and released me so he could flick through it, obviously searching for the right verse or reading to ‘help’ me. But that wasn’t what I wanted.

“No!” I wailed, and reached to grab the Bible from him. I screamed and dropped the heavy book, staring at the smoking skin of my palms, the blisters forming on my fingers. The pork-like scent of burning human flesh mixed with a curiously sulphurous smell and the priest stumbled backwards, reaching for the cross around his neck.

Suddenly there was a tearing across my shoulders and I screamed, falling flat on the floor. I writhed as the tearing became agonising pain, hearing my bones crack as a stretching, unfurling sensation overtook me and huge weight pressed me to the floor. It was all too much: I blacked out.

When I came to, the priest was sobbing quietly, curled up on the floor with his back to me. The room seemed dark, and when I looked up, huge black wings spread above me, blocking the light from the stained glass windows. I tried to stand, but couldn’t. Reaching up, I plucked a feather from the wing nearest me, gasping at the small stinging pain I felt as I did so. The feather was a thing of beauty, glossy and dark with an oil slick-rainbow sheen to it. And apparently it was mine!

Concentrating hard, I furled my wings and slowly pushed to my knees, then up. I wobbled but eventually got used to the weight of the wings, swishing them about me and kicking up dust in the old church. Turning in a wide circle, I knocked over the vase of flowers on the altar table with a crash, and I smiled.

“Thanks, Father,” I said. “Looks like I won’t be needing that absolution after all…”