Tag Archives: short story

#DiceGames: Day One

4 Jun

 Prompt: a moustached giraffe, ice skates, the Isle of Man.

(Disclaimer: This is my first foray back into flash fiction since exams, essays, and generally trying not to fail my degree took over my life. Be gentle with me!)


‘Welcome to the beautiful Isle of Man,’ the sign proclaims in peeling yellow letters, the first thing I see as I  step off the ferry. I blink at it, bemused. What am I doing here? And is that…a giraffe?

I close my eyes briefly, trying to clear my foggy head, but when I open them it is all still there: the sign, the fairground in the distance, the giraffe. Still bemused, I make my way over to it, only to nearly fall over in shock when it greets me with a cheery “Good day, madam!”

I am speechless, taking in the sight of this talking giraffe, which upon closer inspection is wearing a suit, a top hat, and a monocle, and sporting a rather fetching handlebar moustache. The mouth underneath that moustache is looking decidedly irritated actually, and soon the giraffe speaks again.

“Good day, madam!” He repeats, the cheer sounding a little more forced. “My name is Gareth, and I will be your tour guide for the duration of your stay on the beautiful Isle of Man!”

I can’t help it. As soon as I open my mouth, a snort of laughter escapes.”Gareth?” I splutter incredulously.

Gareth sighs. “I didn’t choose it, you understand? If I had, I would have been named something much more respectable, like Horace. But no, giraffes have to have names which begin with the  letter ‘g’ and so Gareth I became.”

I’m dying to point out that Horace is no better a name than Gareth, but I keep quiet, figuring that I’ve caused enough offence for one day. Besides, Gareth is already talking again, outlining the day’s itinerary. It sounds jam-packed. And more than a little crazy.

“And then in the evening…” he’s saying now. “…we can go ice-skating! Do you like ice-skating? I love it!”

I’m just trying to envisage what an ice-skating giraffe would look like when another strange thing happens (as if I hadn’t had enough of those already today). It’s as if all of the colour begins to drain from the world, and in the distance a voice is calling my name.

“Jenny!” It repeats insistently. “Jenny, can you open your eyes for me?”

Baffled at this, for I’m sure that my eyes are already open, I am nonetheless able to obey, and see a figure standing over me, dressed in what looks like a pair of baggy green pyjamas.

“I’m Dr. Phillips.” She says soothingly. “I know that you might be a little groggy from the anaesthesia, but I want you to know that the operation was a complete success.”

“Where’s Gareth?” I croak out, my hold on reality still tenuous at best.

“Gareth?” The doctor’s brow creases in confusion and I realise my mistake. “There isn’t a Gareth here. I can call him for you if you like? Or Susan’s outside, I can get her to come in?”

I shake my head weakly, allowing sleep to pull me back under. If I’m lucky, I might be back on the Isle of Man in time for the ice-skating.

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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.”

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.


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.”

Fiction Friday – Sea Turtles

1 Oct

This week’s Fiction Friday was to write something based on this  image:

I have to say that I started writing mostly based on the turtle, and haven’t really incorporated the arrow into my piece, but here’s what I came up with:

Sea Turtles:

I was twelve the day that my elder sister decided to leave home. She had just left school and our parents thought that she had a glittering career ahead of her. She was going to university to study medicine, and there was no doubt that she would be successful. And then she heard about the sea turtles.

The change was instantaneous. One day she was sitting at the kitchen table, poring over her anatomy textbooks, and chattering excitably about specialisms and  surgeries, the next she was in the hall, gesticulating wildly, explaining her new grand plan. She thought that she was making a difference, doing something worthwhile. My parents thought that she was throwing her life away. As I huddled at the top of the stairs, peering nervously through the banisters, no-one asked me what I thought. Not that I knew what I thought, but it would have been nice to have had a say in the decision that was to change my life forever.

Two days later she was gone. And not just out of the house, out of the country. The plane taking her to Costa Rica went down somewhere over the Bermuda Triangle. No bodies were ever recovered, but we knew that she was dead. All because she wanted to make a difference. All because of some sea turtles.