Tag Archives: flash fiction

#DearValentine Challenge Week One: Office Gossip

5 Feb

Somehow, I managed to miss the beginning of ‘Timony Souler’s new writing challenge, #DearValentineBut although I’m too late to sign up properly, I only missed the posting date of the first prompt by a day, so I decided to participate anyway. This week’s prompt was: a note, a photograph, the docks.


Office Gossip

It’s all that anyone in the office can talk about, unsurprisingly really. Why on earth would Barry, who wears string vests under his suit jackets, chews with his mouth open, and seems incapable of continuing a conversation for longer than thirty seconds, why would he have a picture of a beautiful woman on his desk?

“Maybe it’s his sister?” Someone suggests, but this suggestion is quickly shot down. How could that gorgeous creature possibly be related to Barry?

“Maybe he’s stalking her.” This whisper spreads across the office, and heads nod in agreement. It can be the only explanation.

Emily, the giggly girl who was hired to be the boss’s assistant, but who seems to do nothing but gossip and dispense phony relationship advice, creeps over to the desk and studies the photograph. “There’s a note on the back!” She announces, as the assembled crowd hold their breath. “I think it’s a love letter!”

There’s a collective gasp, some quiet murmuring, and then someone speaks up. “He probably faked it.” The voice is malicious, it belongs to Roberta in Accounts, who hasn’t had a date in thirty years and probably never will again. “He just wants us to think he has an admirer. Why else would he have left it out there for everyone to see?”

More quiet murmurings. No-one likes Barry, but no-one much likes Roberta either, so they’re reluctant to pick sides.

“Well we’ll soon see.” Emily declares, with the expected giggle. “According to this note, he’s meeting her at the docks tonight. If he comes in looking like the cat that’s got the cream, then we’ll know that it wasn’t made up.”

But Barry doesn’t come into work the next day. In fact, he doesn’t come into work ever again. And when, a few weeks later, the body of a fat man in in a suit jacket and a string vest is pulled out of the water at the docks, the whispering in the office quietens guiltily. Only for a day or two, though.

Resolution Confusion Writing Challenge: Anger Management

10 Jan

I’ve been so wrapped up in reading for (and distracting myself from) my dissertation, that I almost forgot to post my entry for ‘Timony Souler’s Resolution Confusion challenge! The challenge was to take one of six resolutions and make it go wrong, and my resolution was:

5. I will go to anger management classes.

I’ve noticed that most of my flash fiction pieces end up as a fragment of a scene, so I think that I need to set myself another challenge to write a proper self-contained short story. I’d be interested to know what other people think though.


Anger Management

“So how did this happen?” Sadie asked, dabbing gingerly at the cut on my forehead with the alcohol wipe. For a trainee nurse, she was surprisingly squeamish when it came to the sight of blood.

“It’s all Emma’s fault.” I grumbled, wincing and pulling away as she attempted to cleanse the wound. “Her and her stupid anger management classes!”

“Oh?” Sadie’s face, a picture of concern only a moment before, was now taking on a pink tinge thanks to the effort of containing her amusement. “So they didn’t go well then?”

“I went to one.” I explained, in what may possibly have been an exaggeratedly long-suffering tone. “The instructor made us sit on the floor for two hours doing breathing techniques. Two hours, Sadie! I’ve been breathing perfectly well on my own for the past twenty years, I didn’t need her telling me that I was doing it wrong!”

“Maybe…” Sadie began, before trailing off when she saw the expression on my face. “Never mind. What happened next? One failed anger management class does not explain why you’re bleeding all over my kitchen.”

“Well I tried to explain what a disaster the class was to Emma.” I continued. “But she wasn’t having any of it. Said that I’d made this resolution for her, and she wanted me to see it through.  And then she said that if I really didn’t think the classes were working for me, then I should explain why in a calm and rational way.”

Sadie cocked an eyebrow at me. I glowered back.

“Sorry, John.” She said, pressing a bandage to my face and securing it with what looked like masking tape. What was wrong with plasters, that was what I wanted to know. “But this does not look like the result of a calm and rational conversation.”

“Oh but it was!” I defended myself. “It was very calm and extremely rational…right up until the moment I punched him.”

Sadie blinked, her expression the same one that she wore whenever I explained my messes to her. It was the ‘tell me you did not just say that’ face.

“It might still have all been OK.” I continued, not wanting to deprive her of the full explanation. “If he hadn’t had anger issues of his own. And a black belt in karate.”

Fiction Friday: Santa vs. Technology

23 Dec

My first Fiction Friday in a while, the prompt was:

Santa has employed a publicity agent and marketing firm to revamp his style; as he feels he has lost touch with the modern child. In your flash fiction submission, choose a scene or event surrounding this event. It might be his decision, his attempts to approach credible firms, or a glimpse into what the “new look Santa” has to offer.


Santa sat in front of the computer, feeling thoroughly confused. Of course, he had delivered these machines to countless children over the years, but until the present moment he had never used one himself. Still, it couldn’t be too difficult. He had already managed to get the thing switched on, and after only forty five minutes. Everything else should be a doddle now that he had figured that out.

Three hours later though he was still staring blankly at the screen. That was the state in which Leonora found him when she arrived to check on his progress. Leonora was a publicity agent, and in her own shrewd opinion one of the best, but she had never taken on a client quite like Santa before. But then she always had problems with the older clients, she just needed to convince him to move with the times. He certainly seemed kindly enough, and hadn’t kicked up a fuss at any of her suggestions. Not even the one about the naked pictures.

Still, from the bemused look with which he greeted her she could tell that it was going to be a long afternoon. It was times like these when she wondered whether her policy of letting the celebrities have as much involvement as possible was really for the best. They tended to get irritable if they weren’t involved, but they were just so incompetent. For goodness’ sake, she could have worked her way through the majority of this list of tasks in less than an hour on her own.

“I just don’t understand what it’s all about.” He was saying helplessly now, gesturing towards the screen. “It all seems rather silly to me.”

Leonora sighed, flipping a wayward strand of hair out of her eyes with a long manicured fingernail and taking control of the mouse. “Twitter’s actually a very valuable tool for self-promotion.” She explained, willing herself to stay calm. “All the celebrities are using it.”

“I see.” Santa nodded, considering. “And what would happen if I pushed this button?”

The screen juddered and then went black. Leonora blew out a breath. She could smell a change of policy in the air.

Drabbles: Ice Fishing and The Crow

16 Nov

Firstly, an apology. As I knew would happen, I have given up on successfully completing NaBloPoMo. I am also severely behind on NaNoWriMo, although I have high hopes of correcting that with the Night of Writing Dangerously on Sunday. But I did get some writing done today, with the Creative Writing Society’s Drabble Night. For those not in the know, drabbles are pieces of fiction which are exactly 100 words long – no mean feat, I can assure you. I managed to write two, which I’m posting here for your enjoyment: constructive criticism is, of course, welcome!


Ice Fishing

Sometimes, in the winter, we would go to visit my grandfather in Canada. And sometimes, during those visits (only if we had been especially good), he would take us ice fishing. It doesn’t sound like the sort of activity that would entertain a small girl, especially not one who spent most of her days playing with dolls and reading fairy tales, but I loved it. The unknown of the water, hidden beneath its thick blanket of ice, fascinated me. I wanted to know what was down there.

Until, one day, I found out. And things were never the same again.

 

The Crow

The crow sits on the branch, silhouetted against the night sky. She looks down at the people walking below her, watches the wonder on their faces as they stare at the glowing moon turn to horror as they catch sight of her. She would smile in amusement, but her beak makes it impossible, so she simply lets out a loud caw, making the couple jump in fright. She can’t tell them that she means them no harm, that she’s only a crow who likes to watch the world go by. Maybe she wouldn’t if she could. No-one will ever know.

Ghouls Galore Challenge Week 4: Home At Last

9 Nov

This is a couple of weeks later than scheduled, but I wanted to finish the mini-saga which these prompts had inspired, so here it is, hopefully better late than never!

The prompts were:

Borborygmus (Rumbling in the guts)

A creature of your choosing


Home At Last

“Do you know,” Michael mused, collapsing exhausted onto the living room sofa, their mission finally completed, “I’m starting to think that Crazy Meg might be in league with these creatures.”

Sarah raised her head wearily to give him her patented Big Sister Glare. “Stop looking for trouble!” She scolded. “She may have led us on a bit of a wild goose chase, but I think she’s just mad, not evil.”

“Not at all.” Ben agreed, quite charitably given the circumstances. “She hasn’t actually caused any of these situations, she just seems to enjoy prolonging our misery once we’ve landed ourselves in them.”

Just then, a loud borborygmus noise erupted from behind them. The siblings looked at each other in confusion, each making gestures to indicate that they had not been responsible for it. Eyes meeting, they each felt a sinking feeling in their stomachs as realisation set in.

“So what kind of creature do you think that was?” Ben asked, sounding more than a little terrified (and with good reason).

“I have no idea.” Sarah sighed. “But I’m sure that whatever it is, Crazy Meg will have a book on it!”

Ghouls Galore Challenge Week 3: Absquatulated

23 Oct

The prompts this week were:

A Gormagon

Absquatulate


Absquatulated

“So you’re saying that this creature absquatulated with your brother?” The old woman peered at Sarah and Michael over the rims of her small round glasses. The pair shifted uncomfortably.

“Is that what we’re saying?” Michael whispered to his sister, receiving a confused shrug in reply. Chewing his lip, he addressed the woman. “I’m sorry Mrs. Jenkins, I don’t actually know what that word means. But if you mean did it run away with Ben, then yes.”

“Hmm.” Hunching over her desk, she began to rifle through a huge leather tome. “And what did you say it looked like?”

The two siblings began to speak almost in unison.

“It had a lot of legs…”

“…and at least six eyes…”

“…and three mouths…”

“…and three bums…”

“Michael!”

“What? I’m describing! And it also had three, you know…”

Michael motioned between his legs, silenced by his sister’s glare. The old woman nodded knowingly.

“I believe I know the beast of which you speak, and a most fearsome beast it is too. They call it the Gormagon.”

There was silence in the room for a moment, before Sarah tentatively asked.”Where can we find it? How do we get Ben back?”

The old woman flashed them a quick smile, them turned to heave a book down from the overflowing shelf on the wall behind her desk.

“The answers are here my dears.”

Safely outside, Michael let out a sigh of despair. “Another book? Why can’t Crazy Meg ever just give us the answers herself?”

Fiction Friday: The Antiques Dealer

21 Oct

Today’s challenge was to use the sentence “the townfolk heaved a collective sigh of relief when the antiques dealer packed up and moved away” somewhere in my story. Seeing as I was feeling singularly unimaginative, I decided to use it at the beginning! (If anyone’s interested, this was mostly written in the Durham University Debating Chamber, while waiting to hear David Milliband speak. The talk was free, but I did have to sit on the floor for two hours for the privilege!)


The townfolk heaved a collective sigh of relief when the antiques dealer packed up and moved away. It was a shame really, for had things turned out differently he could have been a valuable addition to the community. Grey-haired, and with a twinkle in his eye, he appeared at first glance to be a kindly sort, like the grandfather who hoists you onto his lap and tells you stories of his war days. Conversation with him inevitably revolved around the subject of antiques, but that was fine, because this was a rich town, and the inhabitants loved to boast of their treasures. There was no greater pleasure for them than to invite him back to their homes, to allow him to run his wrinkled hands over the fine grain of a mahogany cabinet, the pile of a Persian rug, or the glass of a Tiffany lampshade, and to be told how lucky they were to possess such treasures. He helped them acquire more too, and there were certainly no complaints on this front either. It was only when he invited them to see his treasures that the problems started.

It seemed that the whole county had turned out to his rented property, a small farmhouse on the outskirts of the town, practically hopping with excitement at the thought of what riches might lay inside. Their chequebooks lay inconspicuously in their pockets, and each and every one of them was entertaining the thought of cajoling him into offering them a good price after the inevitable brandy had been passed round. But once they had seen the interior of the house, all thoughts of making a purchase were quickly forgotten.

For it turned out that he was not only an antiques dealer but also a collector of curiosities, most of which were items which had once been alive. ‘Once’, however, was an indicator of some time in the distant past, as they were now stuffed, pickled, or nailed to planks of wood, and displayed all over the antiques dealer’s living room. The townfolk were horrified by this, although of course they were far too polite to say, and a smile remained firmly on the antiques dealer’s face throughout the afternoon. It was only one lady, advancing in years and generally regarded as mad, who noticed the sinister glint which had replaced the sparkle in his eyes.

It was not long after that their pets began to disappear. Anything and everything that was not kept inside, and even some that were. No-one knew how he was doing it, but they knew that he was the culprit. And then, one day, not long after a rumour had been spread that the police were going to be involved, he was gone. Again, there was no indication that he was going to leave, no indication of where he had gone. He had just gone. And the townfolk heaved a sigh of relief, and prayed that he would never return.

Short Story: The Girl Who Couldn’t Smile

18 Oct

This was written during a session of my university’s Creative Writing Society, in response to the prompt “Impressions and Expressions”. I also set myself the challenge of writing a full story, with a beginning, middle, and ending, rather than just a story excerpt, as is my wont when responding to prompts.


There was once a girl who couldn’t smile. No-one knew why, as she didn’t talk much either, in fact she didn’t do anything much at all. She had just arrived in the village one day, to live with her grandmother in the house at the top of the hill. It was unclear as to where she had come from, or how long she was planning to stay, but when she hadn’t left after four years, they assumed that she was there for good.

All that they knew about her was that she couldn’t smile, and even that was an assumption. What they knew for certain was that she didn’t. She went to school every day, ignoring the other children and even the teachers unless she was forced to do otherwise, and never ever showing even the tiniest hint of emotion. When the class clown placed a frog in the teacher’s drawer, causing the rest of the class to explode into giggles, she seemed unamused. When she was praised by the teacher for her consistently high marks, her face showed no sign of pride at her accomplishment. When the circus came to town and the faces of the other children lit up in wonderment, she remained impassive. It really was a mystery.

At first, the other children had tried to befriend the girl, and the village adults had attempted to coax information out of her, curious as to whence she had come. But they had quickly tired of being ignored and rebuffed, and soon paid her very little attention whatsoever. She had become simply “the girl who doesn’t smile”, and before long they had all but forgotten her actual name.

Until one day a new teacher came to the village school. She was young and idealistic, and worried about this quiet little girl, who had no friends and who always seemed somehow sad.

“What’s wrong with her?” She asked in the staffroom one lunchtime, and was met with looks of puzzlement by the other teachers.

“Wrong with her?” Came the response. “Nothing. She’s always been like that!”

“But haven’t you asked her why?” The young teacher replied in horror, and was met with a laugh of derision which rippled around the staffroom like a wave.

“You can talk to her if you want.” The head teacher offered, sensing the fire in the young teacher’s spirit. “But I’d be surprised if she responded. She never has before.”

Unswayed by this, the young teacher decided to try. And so, the next day, while the rest of the children played and the girl sat in silence, head bowed over her book, she crouched down beside her.

“I hope I’m not disturbing you,” she began nervously, for there was something about this girl which made everyone nervous, “but I was wondering if everything was alright?”

The girl looked up, something like surprise appearing in her dark eyes. “Alright?” She asked.

“Yes.” The teacher continued. “You never play with the other children, and you always seem so unhappy. Is there anything wrong?”

The girl looked directly into the teacher’s eyes and sighed. “Oh,” she replied. “You want to know about the smiling. Everyone’s always curious, but no-one’s ever seemed quite so concerned before. So I’ll tell you, but only if you promise to keep it a secret.”

“Of course.” The teacher swore.

The girl leaned closer, lowering her voice. “The truth is I just don’t like the people in this village. They’re so nosy, always wanting to know everyone else’s business. So I decided not to talk to anyone, so that they’d leave me alone. And then the not smiling thing irritated them so much that I decided to keep it going. I’ll be leaving in a year anyway, to go to boarding school in the city. And I can smile at home, and talk to my grandmother, so it’s not so bad.”

And with that, she stood up, collected her book, and left the room. But the teacher could have sworn that, as she paused in the doorway, she flashed her the tiniest hint of a smile.


Fiction Friday – Metaphors

15 Oct

This week’s Fiction Friday prompt was: “Use this metaphor – “a galaxy of longing” somewhere in your story this week.”

I tried to think of a non-ironic way to respond to this, but I couldn’t, so I wrote this instead:

Metaphors

“A galaxy of longing?” Matt snorted, lifting his head from the stack of papers in front of him to raise his eyebrows at his girlfriend. “Really?”

From her position in the armchair opposite, his girlfriend glared at him. “Hey! That’s my masterpiece you’re laughing at!”

“I know.” Matt replied. “And it’s really very…masterful. The metaphors just need a little work, that’s all.”

Jenna pouted as he continued to flip through the pages, occasionally pausing to chuckle, though whether it was at the actual humour or the quality of writing was anyone’s guess. Eventually, she could stand it no longer, and moved across the living room to position herself in his lap.

“You know what?” She announced, pushing her manuscript to the other end of the desk. “Maybe we should save this for another night. I can think of a lot of other things that I’d rather be doing right now.”

“Really?” Matt cocked his head, studying her face. “I thought that you needed criticism to grow as a writer?”

“I do.” Jenna giggled, resisting the urge to clobber him with the result of her last year’s work (a thousand pages, double-spaced, excellent weapon). “But I can get criticism from the internet too, from other writers. It’s a lot more helpful, and it means that I don’t have to see their facial expressions while they’re reading.”

“Fine.” Matt sighed in mock disappointment. “I’m sure they’ll agree with me about the metaphors though!”

Ghouls Galore Challenge Week 1: Crazy Meg

8 Oct

This was written for the first week of the Ghouls Galore Challenge. The prompts were:

A Poltergeist

“Boustrophedonic”

Crazy Meg

The book was ancient, the pages yellowed and curling at the edges, the leather bindings cracked beyond repair. But Crazy Meg had said that it held the answer to their problems, and despite being, as the name suggested, crazy, she did seem to be the authority on such things.

There was only one problem: reading it. Not only was it written in some form of Old English, but every other line seemed to have been written backwards, which made interpreting it a monumentally difficult task. As the eldest, Sarah had ‘volunteered’ for the challenge, and after hours of scrutinising the lines of cramped handwriting, she had finally cracked it.

“I’ve got it!” She exclaimed, a sigh of pure satisfaction escaping her lips as she collapsed back in her chair. “It’s a poltergeist!”

Michael and Ben exchanged a worried glance, unsure as to why their sister looked so relieved.

“Sarah?” Ben asked in a timid voice. “Aren’t poltergeists supposed to be evil vengeful spirits?”

“That’s a common misconception.” Sarah responded, in the voice which she reserved for correcting her younger brothers. “Many poltergeists are simply mischievous. Only a few turn out to be murderous.”

“Oh, only a few?” Michael said faintly. “That makes me feel so much better. Is there any way to get rid of it?”

“Exorcism.” Sarah replied immediately. “But it doesn’t say here how to do one, and you know what that means…”

The three siblings sighed in unison.

“We have to go back to Crazy Meg’s.”