Category Archives: Amateur writing

The Hunter – Flash Fiction no:6 (of 100)

IASDpicFlash Fiction short story no:6 (of 100), under 700 words this time. I’ve been inspired to look again at some of my past abandoned storiesa1FlashFiction following a recent flash fiction challenge in the IASD writing group. Along with compiling many different stories from the group for an IASD anthology in the near future (news of which to be featured in a forthcoming blog post), I hope to publish my own collection of flash fiction too.

*

The Hunter

Jeez, I love what I do! It’s no mean boast, but I’m probably the best in the world. I’ve a room back home full of trophies and awards. A few years ago, I shot the last white rhino. Before that, I was the first to bag one of the few white tigers to have successfully survived in the wilds of the Indian jungles. To do what I do requires all the stealth and cunning of the wild animals I track. Only my peers and contemporaries can ever truly understand the thrill, the adrenalin rush, that sense of achievement that comes after days, weeks, and even months of tracking and stalking your prey until you finally corner it into position.

My latest quest is the most ambitious yet. Rumours of its existence have been floating liger2around the net for years. The biggest liger ever seen, or so the locals say. Yes, that’s right, a cross between an Asiatic lion from the Gir forest in India, and a Bengal tiger.

No one knows quite how this wild liger came about. Tigers are jungle cats while lions are found on the plains. But India has both, so it’s not impossible.

 

liger1It’s started attacking domestic livestock from the outlying villages surrounding the forest. That’s how its existence has been confirmed.

With the intimidating size and strength genes of a tiger and the ferocious fighting skills of a lion, it’s a truly magnificent beast. It’s reportedly 12 feet tall on its hind legs and possibly 1000 lbs in weight – heavier and taller even than Hercules, officially the biggest cat in the world. It could be the crowning achievement of my career. I’m determined to have it!

 

After my arrival at Keshod airport, it was still another 3-hour drive to the area just beyond the southern outskirts of the Gir forest where the liger was last seen.

After a few days preparation, I begin my hunt. It was last spotted nearby in the Gir National Park, probably in the hope of mating with one of the Asiatic lionesses, so that’s where I start.

Possessing twice the size and strength of a regular lion, it’s difficult to imagine any of the alpha males fighting off the intruder to the resident Prides.

Three days I lie in wait, shrouded in natural camouflage, smeared with the local vegetation and scent of the plains. The Park authorities are aiding me in my quest, appreciative of the publicity my success would bring to their tourist business.

It’s a dangerous spot. Being the only sanctuary in the world for the Asiatic lion, there are lots of them about. These are no tame, domesticated varieties you might find in a city zoo.

ligers4Sanctuary or not, these are dangerous wild animals that hunt, kill, and rend their prey limb from limb to satisfy theirs and their cubs’ hunger; human flesh would be a more than acceptable alternative to their more usual diet of zebras and giraffes.

I remain aware of the danger. But from years’ experience, I know how to protect myself. I focus instead on the job in hand. I finally spot my prey. I’m staggered by the size of it, even from two hundred yards away. It’s like some monster from the id, more like an image of a prehistoric Sabre Tooth than a modern-day hybrid.

liger3He’s in the cross-hairs of my telescopic sight now. A headshot I decide. I take aim. I’m hoping it will turn to face me. To capture that glint in its eyes, that moment of recognition between the man and beast, there’s no other feeling quite like it.

Turn will you, turn, I urge silently. He does. He’s magnificent. He’s mine!

*

‘Best photo of the year,’ said the New York Times.

‘Simply Superb’ was the verdict of the Association of Professional Wildlife Photographers’

And my favourite – ‘Another breathtaking glimpse at the majesty of nature, from Nature Magazine.’

Jeez, I love my job!

ligers5

House Sitting Surprise – Flash Fiction short story

IASDpicFlash Fiction story no:5. This one comes in at a shade over the 900-word mark. Just another 95 more stories to go till I reach the magic 100 figure for publication.   

                         a1FlashFiction

House Sitting Surprise 

Henry Abbot had grown tired of the local louts shouting abuse at him, throwing rubbish in his garden, even trying to break in a couple of times. Mostly it didn’t bother him. He was a sturdy old boy, but he wasn’t getting any younger. He needed a holiday, just to get away for awhile, he thought.

 

Dutch and Jonesy were two of Henry’s training recruits from his time as a Colour Sergeant in the army. That was a long time ago, and they had long since matured into two of the toughest squaddies ever to grace a drill square. In Henry’s eyes though, they were still his lads, and he was looking forward to seeing them again.

In ‘his lads’ eyes, he was still the NCO they would walk over hot coals for to hell and back.

*

Mick and Gazza were always on the lookout for a night’s grafting, though not an honest night’s one like driving a taxi or manning the local 24-hr gas station. Their idea of a night’s work was to go out and rob someone. A ‘good’ night’s work was not getting caught. Their usual victims were the frail and elderly, those who wouldn’t be able or likely to put up much of a fight should the two robbing scumbags be discovered mid thieving.

 

“Hey, Mick, that house on the corner opposite the post box, I just been past it, and it looks like they’ve left one of the downstairs back windows open.”

“That’s that old boy from Rozzerman street’s house, the old git with his polished shoes and the regimental blazer.”

“Yeah, that’s right. I remember a few years back him telling me to quieten down when I was yelling at some old girl. I’ll give the old bastard ‘quieten down,’ see if I don’t.”

“So, what’s this about an open window?”

“Yeah, back kitchen window by the looks of it. There’s no lights on, and his car’s not there. He might have fucked off somewhere for the weekend. 

“And left an empty house and an open window … nice!”

burglars

“I think we might have company,” Dutch silently mouthed the words to his mate.

Jonesy nodded his agreement. They both silently sidled up either side of the connecting door between the dining room and the kitchen, waiting for the two intruders to come through.

A moment later, the door opened. Mick and Gazza crept quietly into the dining room; they may have possessed the practised stealth of seasoned burglars, but they were rank amateurs compared to Dutch and Jonesy.

It was the last ‘creeping’ either of them would ever do again. The only sound they might have heard in those last few moments of life was their own or each other’s muffled screams through constricted airways. Both Dutch and Jonesy had big powerful hands, easily strong enough to squeeze the life out of the two robbing scrotes in Henry’s house.

Dutch and Jonesy would have preferred the quick and immediate method of a knife thrust just below the heart or for a few extra minutes of painful gasping for breath drowning in their own blood, a strike to the lungs. But they had Henry’s recently cleaned carpets and new sofa to think of, it just wouldn’t do to go messing up Henry’s front room when they’d promised faithfully to look after his house while he visited family abroad.

Between them, they soon had the two intruders sliced and diced and ready for disposal, and all without a trace of DNA evidence to show the two scumbag burglars had ever been near the house.

 

“They might be a couple of thieving bastards, but they’re young and healthy; all them mineral-rich nutrients in them would have done wonders for the Sarge’s garden,”  Jonesy remarked.  

When he wasn’t soldiering, Jonesy was quite the environmentalist – and yes, he was also the camp comedian among his comrades, and no, being dead now, the two intrusive burglars could hardly still be called healthy.

“Can we save the jokes, till later, eh?” Dutch replied, a slight tone of reprimand in his voice given the seriousness of the matter, “and no, we’re not burying them in Henry’s garden. We’ll stick to the woods we reccied earlier.”

digging1        bodies    digging2

*

“How was yer holiday, Sarge?” Jonesy asked, greeting Henry on his return.

“And the family, hope they were good?” Dutch added.

“Had a smashing time thanks, lads. And yep, the family were all good too. Them grandkids of mine are shooting up fast, I tell you,” Henry replied, adding: “And thanks too for stopping over and looking after my place. I know it meant giving up some of your leave so anytime there’s anything I can do for you, you’ve just to ask.”

“Was a pleasure, Sarge, “ Dutch said.

“What he said,” Jonesy agreed, waving a thumb at his mate.

“And those two louts I told you about, you had no grief from them, did you? I was sure they’d break in if they saw my car was gone and the lights out,” Henry said.

“No trouble at all. We kept the downstairs lights on most of the time, so they knew there were people in,” Dutch lied.

“I heard that they’d had some grief of their own with some rival scumbags elsewhere. Maybe you won’t have any more trouble with them if that’s the case,” Jonesy lied too.

“But you can always give us both a call if anyone else bothers you,” Dutch said.

“Cheers lads. Now let’s all go inside and have us a few beers.”

Oops! – Flash Fiction short story

IASDpicAfter the warm reception my last two flash fiction pieces received I thought I’d dash off another for one of my a1FlashFictionupcoming collections; I couldn’t think of anything particularly poignant to write about this time (I’d had a few beers so please forgive me on that) so I decided on something a little more humorous. Enjoy …

 

Oops!

ArmageddonIt was two years before that news of asteroid XT237’s collision course with the earth became public knowledge. Knowing of the world’s soon to be demise had sent it into a downward spiral of self-destruction. The breakdown of law and order saw neighbour killing neighbour and the emergence of just about every base vice the mind could imagine.

            Not surprisingly, all efforts at recycling and caring for the planet ceased. Anyone with a grudge or who merely enjoyed thumping or killing people didn’t hesitate in acting on impulse. And likewise with individual countries, every minor border dispute that had ever existed erupted overnight into full-scale war.

One small compensation was that the world halted its obsession with the UK’s Brexit vote, realising, at last, it wasn’t that important – all except Tony Blair of course, he was still insisting on another referendum before the ‘end of the world’ deadline.

The more sane members of the human race wondered if the asteroid wasn’t such a bad thing after all?

*

Touristic space shuttleAfter numerous efforts to blast the asteroid to bits with every atomic weapon of mass destruction ever made had failed miserably, along with several attempts by certain entrepreneurs to sneak away in their private space rockets, President Trilp had to accept that his multi-billion dollar personal wealth wasn’t going to save him. After being informed by his advisors that nothing could be done to avert the impending disaster, the President unilaterally decided that if everyone was going to die anyway, he would deprive the enemy, i.e. everybody, of their last few hours of life just for good measure. President Trilp quite liked the idea of outliving everyone on the planet.

Donald Trump Holding Orange BombA short while before the coming end, President Trilp tweeted that he had ordered the launch of the country’s entire nuclear arsenal in a 360-degree spread. The world was used to his online rants though. And with the asteroid just hours away, no one really cared, except the inhabitants of Switzerland that is, whose government took this sort of thing very seriously.

*

Nasa had originally calculated that XT237 would destroy the earth at approximately 17:37 on January 9th, 2020. At 16:11 on that day, those few scientists who had elected to monitor the asteroid’s approach right up to and including impact noticed a slight veering off its course.

There had been a miscalculation. It was clear now it was going to be another one of those near-misses. After a brief collective sigh of relief that they had been wrong and that everything was going to turn out fine, the military turned their attention to the incoming salvo of missiles, launched in retaliation to the President’s premature first-strike. Life as we knew it came to an end at precisely 17:30.

Had anyone been left alive, other than the inhabitants of Switzerland, it would have been recorded that at 17:37, asteroid XT237 sailed harmlessly past the earth.

Oops!

Epilogue

A hundred years later, tens of billions of cockroaches were thriving quite nicely. So too were the inhabitants of Switzerland whose government had wisely insisted that all new houses and public buildings included fall-out shelters. The Swiss being, well Swiss really,  had taken the precaution of ordering its citizens to evacuate to them, if only to justify the expense of construction, thus protecting its population from the worst of President Trilp’s nuclear tantrum.

            This is a work of fiction. Please don’t immediately all be booking flights to Switzerland.

 

Envy – Flash Fiction story

 

IASDpic

This is a flash fiction piece I wrote in response to a 100 -word sa1FlashFictiontory challenge in the IASD writing group. Obviously, I’ve expanded a little here on the original 100 words but at under 350, it still very much qualifies as ‘flash fiction.’ Following on from my last flash fiction story and several others I’ve written I’m hoping to compile a collection of 100 flash fiction stories by the end of the year.

 

Envy

enzo“Sam stared at the shiny red Ferrari. It wasn’t that he didn’t like his own top of the range BMW, but nothing came close to a Ferrari, he thought. It was his life’s ambition to own such an iconic car

In the adjacent lane, Louise was admiring Sam’s BMW with all its Depositphotos_1146938_originalcool accessories, miffed that she was still driving her battered old ford fiesta. If that snotty cow Becky wasn’t always sucking up to the boss, she’d have got that promotion instead of Becky, and she’d be able to afford a better car, Louise silently cursed.

Cyclist icon, vector simple cycling sign.A passing cyclist, Luke, wished he was old enough to drive. Life just seemed so unfair to him, having to wait another whole year before he could start his driving lessons. Like a lot of youngsters, Luke was wishing his life away as he impatiently awaited the day he could discard his hated pedal bike and symbol of his youth.

Pedestrian symbolA pedestrian on his way to work at the factory envied all the flash car drivers, and even the lad riding his bike; what with rent and other bills he couldn’t afford either, and bitterly resented that he had to walk to a low-paid job every day.

*

On the other side of the road, Danny was whizzing around the park like he was Stirling Moss. He was sure the ‘Go Faster’ stripes really did make him go faster. All he had to do was touch a button, and he could even speed up hills.

            Depositphotos_4235625_original wheelchairThe local community had clubbed together to buy Danny an electric wheelchair. Danny was unlikely ever to ride a bike or drive a car, or even grow to manhood; as well as paralysis of the legs, Danny’s arms were underdeveloped which made it difficult to propel himself in a regular wheelchair. He made the best of his lot though, enjoying life the best he could.

Danny simply loved his new wheelchair and was the happiest any little boy could be, without a care in the world.

I Remember … Flash Fiction story.

I Remember …

I’d lost track of how long the fighting had been going on. The noise and carnage all around made the passage of time meaningless, our only clue to its passing being the sky getting darker or lighter with the setting or rising of the sun, though fire and smoke from the bombardments often made a lie even of that.

artillery3

grey and black cloud with a thick blanket of smoke high in the wAnother deafening blast from an exploding Jack Johnson artillery shell sent us all scrambling for the nearest slit trenches, diving headlong in regardless of the presence of however many others might already be taking shelter. Bodies heaped on bodies, complaints and groans of yet another landing atop those already there.  But no one complained too loudly. And why would they? Another layer of flesh and battledress provided added protection from the countless flying shards of torn metal from the discarded guns and tanks strewn about the battlefield. And even away from the abandoned weaponry, the landing of each additional artillery shell would hurl deadly stake-sized splinters from the shattered wooden fencing that dotted the national borders of the blood-soaked mud and ground for which we were dying, mostly to clutch a few more feet from the enemy. And though the trenches provided some physical protection, they were useless against the billowing black smoke from the shells and even less so from the stomach retching effects of the dreaded gas attacks. The one followed the other as surely as thunder followed lightning, the first to completely confuse and frighten us, making the donning of gas masks all the more difficult after the second.

*

“Are you okay? What’s wrong?” A voice was asking. I couldn’t make out the exact words; the noise all around was way too loud.

“I’m okay; really I am. See to the others,” I answered weakly, not knowing to who I was talking, or indeed if I really was ‘okay.’

I continued to huddle in the little area of space I had found for myself.

Playing soldiers“It’s okay, Granddad, it was the local kids letting off some bangers and fireworks,” I finally heard a familiar voice telling me. It was Patrick, my 15-year-old grandson. I became aware of him taking my arm, helping me rise to my feet from the doorway in which I’d crouched to take shelter.

“Children? Fireworks?” I questioned, still a little dazed and confused. Soldiers

“Yes. They were playing at being soldiers, pretending the fireworks were the sound of bombs and artillery fire.”

I nodded. Yes, it was making sense now, though I admit it takes me a little longer to grasp things these days. My mind isn’t as sharp as it once was, but my memory sadly is in this case.

It was coming back to me now. All that was a long time ago, November 1915.

It was still November but the year was different now, 1985 I think. 

It wasn’t just the children, it was the people too. Some of them like to start their celebrations a day or two early to coincide with the weekend, Patrick was explaining to me.  He’s a nice lad, kind to me, you know.

His gentle patience was helping me to remember and understand. Yes. It was the same last year, and every year as far back as I can remember.

It was Bonfire Night …

artillery5

 

Short Story – Last Goodbyes

Macmillan5

In 2015 my good friend and fellow author, Ian D. Moore invited members of our FB writing group the IASD (see www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com) to write and contribute original stories for an anthology of short stories on the theme of Relationships in all their many and varied forms. The idea was born out of the author’s personal loss of a much loved close relative to cancer.

Many of the authors, both in this edition and the forthcoming 2018 Macmillan anthology have had personal experience of cancer, either coming to terms with it personally and/or via friends and family.

Even as I post this story, Ian D. Moore and a number of Indie authors are busy editing and formatting the contributions for the 2018 edition, also in aid of Macmillan cancer.  In addition to the adult contributions, a number of younger writers have also contributed to the book.

Needless to say, I will be blogging nearer the time and when it’s finally published. In the meantime, if you’ve not yet read the 2016 edition just click Here for the purchase link to You’re Not Alone.

Youre Not Alone 3d inamge (1)

You’re Not Alone

By

 Ian D. Moore & Friends 

 featuring:

Last Goodbyes

By P.A. Ruddock

“Ready for our adventure, Lucy?” I asked. A gentle squeeze of her hand in mine and the almost imperceptible smile on her lips was all the answer I needed.

“Do you remember the last time we were there, just the two of us?”

She did remember; it had been a glorious weekend, one where we enjoyed all that nature had to offer and lost ourselves in each other’s arms and company. This time though all the immediate family would be joining us: Lucy and me, our two grown-up children Cody and Nicola, and Gemma, Lucy’s younger sister. We knew it would be the last time we would all be all together.

“I’m sure that’s where we conceived our Cody.”  I added with a wink and a wry smile. Cody chuckled at my last remark, old enough now to no longer be embarrassed at the thought of his parents having once enjoyed all the passions of youth that his generation were presently taking for granted. But enough of all that, best be on our way …

We started off at a nice easy pace, no need to tire Lucy unnecessarily, I thought; I mean, neither of us was still in our first flush of youth, leave the mad scrambles to the youngsters, I laughed, not that Cody was likely to move more than a few feet away from us; our six foot two hulk of a son had always been his mother’s boy; I remembered when he was a nipper, whenever he wanted something, needed help, or anything for that matter it was always ‘Mum, can I…’ or mum this, or mum that… and when she wasn’t around it was simply ‘Dad, where’s mum?’ or ‘Dad, when’s mum back?’ I didn’t mind of course, how could I?

Navigating the majestic scenery of Rannoch Moor was something we had all enjoyed many times before, and even though Lucy knew the landscape and features as well as any of us, I couldn’t resist my usual running commentary: “It was like having Scotland’s answer to Wainwright tagging along.” Cody chipped in.

“Mum loves the sound of my voice,” I chuckled in my defence, adding as I turned back to Lucy, “don’t ya Luv?”

I reminded her of every site and feature we’d ever come across, so yes, I probably did sound like some over-enthusiastic tour guide. But it was more than that; what made it special was its proximity to Leum Uilliem, a nearby mountain where I had first proposed, and where we might well indeed have conceived at least one of our two children during subsequent visits.

“I remember that time dad tried to show you how to use a compass, he nearly went mad trying to explain mag to grid, grid to mag, taking bearings, and the differences between grid north, magnetic north, and then true north, that really got you going… ‘So what are you saying, that the other two are untrue’ you would ask just to wind dad up even more.” Cody was saying to his mum.

Nicola smiled, adding: “Yes, I remember that … ‘What you on about? How can you have three different norths? North’s north, it’s like saying there’s three different Glasgows or Scotlands’ you would say.”

“I remember too,” I said jokingly as I turned back towards Lucy: “It was your way of getting your own back for all those times I came back with completely the wrong things so you wouldn’t send me out shopping again, or mixing all the colours when you had me to do the laundry … you knew I hated owt like that.”

“Well, for what’s worth, I was always with you on that mum,” Nicola said defiantly, holding her hand, adding: “I never could see the point of all that map and compass stuff when you can click a button and see exactly where you are on a colour screen.”

“Don’t be daft Nic, we didn’t have all that back then, and what if we had, not much cop if the bloody batteries die on you or you can’t get a signal is it?” 

“Well, that’s made the day complete, ain’t it Luv?” I said to Lucy.

“Sorry mum, sorry dad,” the two of them said with a smile, almost in unison.

“Nowt ta be sorry for kids, I mean, what would a day out be without you two getting into a row over something?” They both smiled.

“Does anyone remember the time we turned up at Corrour railway station and we saw all the camera crews, we thought there must have been an accident?” I asked, changing the subject.

“Um?” Cody grunted.

“Well, it was when they were filming a scene from that film, what was it …Trainspotting … and the catering guys shared some of the film set food with us, and you scoffed three hamburgers.” I said in mock remonstration: “… and then you scolding me for letting him when he was being sick on the walk back later.” I added, turning back to Lucy.

It was nearly midday now, some four hours since the start of our reminiscing adventure, time for a break I thought: “Speaking of scoffing, sarnie and a brew, anyone?” I asked.

“Sounds good to me.” Cody agreed.

“Well, there’s a surprise.” Nicola laughingly added, at which point we all had a chuckle; Cody may have been the youngest but he had an appetite that matched the rest of us put together.

And so it went on, time flying by all too quickly as we swapped stories and memories of our travels together, like when we took the kids wild camping for the very first time; come to think of it, it was only the second or third time Lucy had agreed to camp out overnight as well. The kids, of course, took to it all like ducks to water and had no inhibitions whatsoever when I explained about ‘toilet etiquette’ in the wild.

“Not like you, Luv, I swear the first time we wild camped you thought the countryside would be littered with public conveniences or portaloos.”

Her curt and ‘not amused’ answer of ‘it’s different for men’ was just so funny at the time, especially as just then Cody and Nicola came running past trailing toilet rolls behind them just like the dog in the Andrex advert.

“Oh my god, yes, and Cody planting little flags all over the place to mark where he’d buried his poo.”

“Okay okay, there’s plenty I remember about you as well, Nic.” Again we all laughed.   “And then there was that time when we saw that Brocken Spectre, that was amazing,” Nicola said.

“Brocken Spectre?” Gemma asked. Gemma had never been much of an outdoor sort of person so wasn’t familiar with the phenomenon: “It’s a rare and lovely rainbow and cloud formation you sometimes see on a misty mountainside or cloudbank.” Nicola answered.

“It’s a sort of triangular or circular rainbow with a hazy figure in the centre. The figure you see is actually an optical illusion created by your own shadow reflected from nearby clouds. It’s hard to explain but your own movements can often appear to be reflected by the movement of the figure in the spectre.” I added by way of explanation.

“And you and dad convinced me and Cody all the angels in heaven were looking down and waving at us, and we started calling out to them and waving back,” Nicola recalled as she positioned herself to sit back next to Lucy …

***

Almost fortuitously, it was then that the doctor entered the room. He smiled – not a wide a beaming smile but just one of gentle sympathy. I imagine his manner and sympathetic demeanour was something he had had to perfect over many years but it was still appreciated nonetheless.

There was no need for us to wait for him to ask the question: “We’re ready.” I said. Gemma agreed. A heavy intake of breath and a slight nod of the head from Nicola and a stifled cough and tear-filled flicker of the eyes from Cody told me they were too. Gemma was the first to approach and lean in to take Lucy’s hand and kiss her on both cheeks: “See you again my kind and lovely wonderful sister.”  It had been a wonderful day for us all, just sitting with Lucy as we chatted about our times and memories together. And credit to Cody, it has been his idea to enjoy and share those memories at Lucy’s bedside while we imagined one last great adventure together.

I raised myself from the bedside seat, allowing room for Cody and Nicola to approach Lucy’s bed from either side. It was the first time I had released my Lucy’s hand from mine since I had entered the room early in the morning; it was now half four in the afternoon.

“Bye mum, love you always…” Nicola whispered, just loud enough for those immediately near enough to hear.

“Me too mum…” Cody added, the frailty and softness of his quivering voice totally at odds with the strong young man I knew my son to be: “You’re the best mum in the world, the best anyone could have … I’ll …”

I could sense Cody was welling up and could practically see the lump in his throat. He’d struggled to keep his feelings in check the entire day but now that the moment had come, the tears were rolling. He fell to his knees beside the bed, to place one last kiss on his mother’s cheek. I, in turn, placed a hand on his shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze, comforted by the return of his own hand to meet it: “It’s not fair, dad, it’s just not …”

“I know, son, I know …

Cody rose to his feet and slowly moved backward away from his mum’s side, not once looking away from her sight until he reached the window, when he finally looked away, supposedly to cough and clear his throat; but what parent doesn’t know every little nuance of their children? Nicola was always more open with her feelings, and rarely tried to hide when she was upset, but Cody, ever since I could remember would rarely let on if something was seriously bothering him, a practiced master of the ‘something in my eye’ ruse. I recognised all too well the truth of the matter; this time there was little disguising his stifled sobs, and I daresay it was probably only my greater years and experience of death that was giving me the strength to hold back my own, at least for now.

“Mr. Rogers.” The doctor said. I’d almost forgotten his presence. Although it had only been a few minutes since he had entered the room, it was as though a lifetime of memories had come flooding back in that brief time, much like how they describe how your life flashes before you when you’re about to die suddenly.

“I know,” I replied. We all gathered round Lucy’s bed one more time. Just the merest nod was all the final consent he needed to flip the little red switch off the respirator machine, while a nurse simultaneously switched off the various monitors. The cold reality and physical reminders of my wife’s condition seemed to disappear with the extinguishing of the lights and noises of the life-maintaining machinery and assorted apparatus.

“Time of death, 16:47.” The doctor declared. It sounded cold and clinical but I knew he was just following the hospital’s set procedures and other legal requirements.

“It was the right decision, and what she wanted…” I could hear the doctor saying, again his tone and manner caring and sympathetic, just as it had been these past months since the accident. Despite the finality of the moment, there was a sense of peace now, almost of closure for us all, just not for me … not yet …

***

Two weeks later we were once again reunited on the summit of Leum Uilliem, only this time for real as I looked westward to watch the setting of the sun, just as we had so many times before. The gentle breeze that had complimented the fading light had now grown into an angry storm, telling me it was time. I took the small urn and removed the lid; like a celestial carriage waiting to carry my Lucy’s soul to a better place where I knew she would wait for me to join her someday, the raging winds carried and scattered her ashes…

It’s not goodbye, it’s just You leading the way this time…

***

www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com

IASDpicAn international group of indie authors, inspired by the personal grief of one, decided to collaborate in the spring of 2015 in a project to create this multi-genre smorgasbord of original short stories, all with the same potent theme – relationships. Some are heartfelt, some funny, some poignant, and some are just a little bit scary – much like relationships themselves. All are by authors fired by the shared enthusiasm to give something back in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. Cancer touches us all. It has in some way affected those who have contributed their time and talent here. This is our way of showing that we care.

Indie authors carry forward a revolutionary shift in publishing, which allows the author to be the creative director in their own work. There are many exceptional, experienced and acclaimed writers who have decided to take this bold step in publishing. In producing this anthology we have also had the inestimable assistance on board of artists, graphic designers, and bloggers – all of whom have a place in our acknowledgments. You, the discerning reader, are the other vital part of this equation. By buying this book you are supporting the work of indie authors, as well as discovering their worth. You are also supporting the charity to which we have chosen to dedicate our work. And if you enjoy this book, hopefully you will continue your support in buying, reading, and perhaps reviewing the 2018 edition too …

Sincere Thanks,

P.A. Ruddock

 

* 100% of the royalties earned or accrued in the purchase of this book, in all formats, will go to the Pamela Winton tribute fund, which is in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

Book Review – Alone: and other short stories

Lopez1A truly lovely short story collection from the pen of C.L. Lopez,IASDpic with three guest stories from Tom Benson, both authors from our very own IASD stable of indie authors, writers, and bloggers. I only discovered this writer by way of reading one of her short stories in Tom Benson’s own short story collections and was sufficiently impressed to seek out others by her. The moral of the story – get your writing featured in as many places as possible!

*

Amazon blurb:  A collection of short stories of various genre, including suspense, thriller, sci-fi, mysteries, and paranormal. These are stories about the resilience of humanity. They are stories of people and their strengths and weaknesses. Stories of life.

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Alone: and other short stories

timberwolfamazonA varied short story collection where not a single one even slightly disappoints!

lopez2I first came across this author when I read one of her short stories as a ‘guest’ story/author in another short story collection, and was impressed enough to see if she had any collections of her own published, hence my finding this one. 

Having already read one of C.l. Lopez’s stories in Tom Benson’s anthology of science fiction short stories, even though the description mentions different genres I had slightly been expecting more of these stories to lean towards the sci-fi genre, but no, the stories are spread across a multitude of genres. Despite the variety of genres, the stories here actually have a lot more in common than their differences, more so than many a single-themed collection, each story providing real impact in its telling, using some dramatic scenario to both entertain and portray some aspect of human determination and resilience, what I would call real ‘people’ stories. Some are quite dark but still hinting at hope for the future such as in ‘Alone’ and ‘Cold Case,’ the latter being a story reminiscent of several what I would call typical True Crime stories. Others have a certain ‘feel good factor’ to them i.e. ‘Sulley’ and ‘Moving On.’

This super collection of seven short stories, along with three bonus ones from guest author, Tom Benson, were a truly unexpected delight to read, exceeding all expectations.

If I had to pick out one single story as my favourite it would have to be ‘Moving On’ for its combination of not only its feel-good factor but also a clever and ‘poetic justice’ type ending, and even though the general direction of the story was clear early on, it was still a refreshing twist.

And of Tom Benson’s guest stories here, I particularly liked ‘Bewitched,’ a love story but again with a bit of twist and moral dilemma about it, and the one of the three here that best complemented the other stories in this collection. 

Both C.L. Lopez and Tom Benson write across several different genres but in this particular collection they have stuck to writing stories with poignancy and dramatic impact rather than relying on clever endings and/or ‘twist in the tail’ type formats in most cases (though not all).

Any complaints about this book? Only that I was disappointed when I ran out of further stories to read at the end of it so hopefully C.L. Lopez is working on further stories for the future! A very easy and hugely deserved five stars for this one, not a rating I usually find easy for short stories given that it’s rare to read a short story collection where not a single one even slightly disappoints!

2 Short Story Reviews – The Consuming & Survival by Rhonda Hopkins

 

 

IASDBanner4

IASDpicHere are my reviews of two short stories written by Rhonda Hopkins, an avid reader and prolific reviewer as well as being a valued IASD member and contributor. Having already read and enjoyed ‘The Consuming’ I knew  I was on safe ground taking advantage of the free download of ‘Survival’ (though it has now reverted to its original price. Having said that, both are free to read if you have Kindle Unlimited).

***

Amazon Description: Survival: Survival Series Prequel

When Sarah escapes from her brutal abductors, she promises to return to rescue her twin sister, but with the walking dead invading Fort Worth, TX, she is forced to rely on a competitive coworker who made her work life hell for years. With her coworker weakened by cancer treatments, her sister still imprisoned, and zombies looking for an easy meal, Sarah’s only plan, if she can pull it off, is Survival.

SURVIVAL is a 14,000 word (approx. 45 pages) short story and was originally published in the Let’s Scare Cancer to Death anthology.

 

Survival: survival series prequel

timberwolfamazonA great start to what could well develop into a gripping ongoing series …

Rhonda2I haven’t read all that much in the Zombie genre so I can’t say how this compares with similarly themed stories but it certainly sets off at a cracking pace with the fight for survival starting right from the opening sentence almost; it was a nice touch that the initial ‘survival’ efforts were quite unrelated to the Zombie apocalypse occurring. It’s probably premature to make comparisons but the opening scene could easily be one straight out of the hit tv series ‘The Walking Dead,’ though the cover does invite such comparisons, which given its current popularity, I’m not sure is such a good thing.

Although it would read quite well as a stand-alone story, I’m glad the author indicates there will be future instalments thus hopefully allowing the reader to explore the characters in greater depth. It’s impossible to tell what direction the story will take in the future but the story has been written in such a way as to leave open all manner of possibilities and a yearning to know the hows and whys of the current situation the characters have found themselves plunged into.

 

***

Amazon Description: The Consuming

Serena knows her late uncle wasn’t crazy. So when she inherits his sprawling Carolina mansion and leaves the big city to restore both his home and his name, she uncovers a mystery that could cost much more than her sanity. As the house slowly reveals its dark secrets, and the extent of her peril becomes evident, she’ll settle for escaping with her life—if it isn’t already too late.

***

The Consuming: A short story

WPscreenshotA classic ‘haunted house’ tale of long-dead restless family spirits … 

Rhonda1A supposedly haunted dilapidated old house you’ve just inherited, the sudden death of an uncle you haven’t seen since childhood, rumours of madness, the locals refusing to go near the place, and a psychic best friend who warns you not to go near the place … It’s hard to say too much about a short story without giving too much away but here we have all the ingredients of a spooky little ghost story, the sort that would make for a great episode of Hammer’s House of Horror. I liked the author’s style of writing, hints of a modern Edgar Allen Poe but obviously more current and without overdoing the gothic atmosphere, striking just the right balance at the beginning between outward normality while feeling and knowing something’s not quite right. Sometimes a short story will leave too many unanswered questions but in one such as this, a bit of mystery left to the imagination just adds to its enjoyment.

Taking just under an hour to read, this is the perfect story if you like a little mystery and the supernatural in your reading but aren’t in the mood to take on the challenge of a full-length novel. Personally, I would have preferred this to be a little longer, perhaps with more involvement of the psychic friend but overall a fine short story that horror fans will appreciate.

Peer reviews: 

 “The Consuming by Rhonda Hopkins is the literary version of what films like Paranormal Activity tried to be. This has the bumps in the night flying off the page.”  ~~  TW Brown, Author of the Dead, and the Zomblog series.

“The Consuming is a wonderful, chilling tale that leaves you listening too hard in the quiet of a dark night, and jumping at shadows in mirrors. Definitely looking forward to more from Ms. Hopkins.” ~~ Stacey Joy Netzel, USA Today Bestselling author of Beneath Still Waters and Lost in Italy.

“The Consuming by Rhonda Hopkins is the perfect example of gothic horror…” ~~ Jennette Marie Powell, Author of Hangar 18: Legacy and the Saturn Society series.

“…Rhonda Hopkins’ The Consuming had me turning on all the lights in the house and checking behind doors.” ~~ Stacy Green, Author of Into the Dark and Tin God (A Delta Crossroads Mystery).

“…This tale will give you shivers up your spine, make you take second glances in mirrors…Superb!” ~~ Penelope Anne Bartotto, The Library at the End of the Universe.

More about the author:

Rhonda4Award-winning romantic suspense and horror author, Rhonda Hopkins, has learned firsthand that truth is stranger than fiction. Her two decades of experience as an investigator for her state and family courts give her characters a depth and realism that gives truth a run for its money. In addition to stories published under her own name, Rhonda Hopkins has also contributed stories to a number of other multi-author IASDpicanthologies. You can find out more about Rhonda at:

www.rhondahopkins.com.

@Rhonda_Hopkins

On Fb – Author page

 

 

See also Rhonds Hopkins’ Amazon Author page for all the author’s books

Rhonda3

Short Story – Digital Escape

 

 

digitalescapeBack in 2015 I was delighted to write and contribute aIASDpic ‘guest’ story to a forthcoming Sci-fi anthology by one of my favourite authors, Tom Benson. It was only after accepting said Tom Benson’s invite in our IASD writing group (without hesitation I might add) I began to wonder just what I had let myself in for, given that I had never before written anything even remotely Sci-fi related. With that in mind I set about crafting something in the genre, but adding just a hint of the sort of dark humour I feel most comfortable with and taking the opportunity to poke a little fun at Amazon and Facebook to boot. In December of 2015 I saw my story appear in all its glory in The Welcome by Tom Benson, and I’m delighted to say I don’t think it turned out too bad, even achieving not one but two accolades among the reviews …

 WPscreenshot An interesting read.    “… My favourte story, was “Digital Escape” by guest author Paul A Ruddock. I can imagine technology advancing in the same way that has been described in this story. It certainly would be scary if this happened. The ending to this story is very clever…”

timberwolfamazonGlad I Found This One. ” … The Best In Shorts Award – Paul Ruddock for ‘Digital Escape’. Absolutely loved it! … ”

… I hope you enjoy …

***

Tom Benson’s The Welcome

tb1

featuring

Digital Escape

By

Paul A. Ruddock

 

2215 AD

Digital escape, a short story by Dave Brown had been available for download for over 100 years, though it was only in the last 10 years the title had been available for neural interfacing. Michael Wright liked the look of it, intrigued by a storyline from so long ago could so accurately mirror the reading technologies of the present.

He might have enjoyed it too if he’d had more faith in the latest neural-interfacing technology, namely the neural implants that made the reading experience a more seamless one. But no, Michael preferred the tried and tested writst-worn e-Reading devices; no way was he going to risk his extended life-span with a neural-interface brain implant.

A quick tap of the wrist and Michael was in a world of imagination made real. Having read the reviews, he was anticipating an interesting and educational experience. Something didn’t feel right though.

He’d expected to be experiencing the story from the perspective of the main character, a story-hopping psychopath. Instead, he found himself in a long-forgotten profession, behind a shop counter serving a customer. He was confused at this unexpected role, and never having handled money before, he was even more confused.

The customer looked agitated with him, and Michael started to feel afraid. Apart from the hands around his neck it was the last thing he would ever feel …

***

Due to diminishing attention spans of the public and the abolition of crime, older stories featuring the darker side of human nature had become popular. So too had many other genres, simply for the quality and originality of the writing.

The automated content generators. Although powered by tens of billions of the most advanced analytical algorithms and capable of churning out thousands of new books each day, had never really fulfilled the potential hoped for by their designers – Flawless grammar, formulaic plots, and perfect sentence structure made for poor and lifeless writing, which was why so many centuries-old stories had been digitally resurrected.

***

Literature had come along way from those primitive days of the printed page and eBook readers. No longer did the public have the tedium of exercising their imagination, flipping book pages, or scrolling their electronic counterparts, although e-Reading devices had become the new way of reading in the 21st century.

Within 100 years of the first e-Reader, the world had become a sterile and colourless place. Little was left for nurturing the creative imagination, the very thing needed to compete with the automated production lines of CGI generated visual media.

It had become the norm to use mindless entertainment, requiring no more effort from its audience other than to click the ‘pay to watch’ holographic screen tabs. But the Interplanetary Products and Entertainments Corporation (IPEC) – more commonly referred to as The Mighty Zon, was not about to concede its cash-cow without a fight, and losing what had previously been a very profitable source of income.

The latest e-Read Intelligence devices (EI’s from The Mighty Zon’s e-Read Artificial Intelligence Division), allowed readers to connect neurally with books.

The system was similar to the ancient Virtual Reality game playing, but a thousand times more sophisticated and minus the nuisance of all the necessary physical accessories. In use, the EI devices allowed the author or reader’s imaginations to interpret and become involved in the world in which the story takes place. It also caused the demise of movie entertainment.

***

Dave Brown, the acclaimed author and pioneer of ‘active plot’ had been dead a long time. His full name was David Bolingbrook Brown, but when he gained celebrity status he preferred being referred to as Mr Brown. Prior to his death, he resented being told his theories were wrong.

It is perhaps not hard to imagine his surprise at once again feeling the familiar tingle of apprehension and excitement prior to snuffing out the life of someone for whom he’d taken a particular dislike, but something felt different this time.

Everything about him looked fuzzy and disjointed, like a bad copy of the worst pirate copy of an old video film. Just as bizarre was his mind. He knew who he was, and his memories were fully intact, but some of the detail was more like having read about himself as a person, a character in his own right.

Conceiving himself as being the person he was would have made sense, but remembering how he died – how could he know such a thing? That was the problem. He remembered how he died, but not in the same way as having read about it.

Anyway, such thoughts were temporarily put aside while he turned his attention to the matter in hand – the obnoxious shop assistant who’d failed to offer a grovelling apology for short-changing him by 23 pence.

Choking the shop assistant came naturally. It was immediately afterwards when Michael Wright was slumped across the counter, that Mr Brown noticed something odd … an electronic wrist attachment. It looked out of place in this artificial world, like seeing a digital watch in a period drama.

“Hmm, what have we here I wonder?” Mr Brown mused aloud. Instinctively he knew the odd-looking device had something to do with his newfound consciousness, so he carefully removed it and placed it on his own wrist. It took a few seconds for the EI sensors to interface with his nervous system.

Of course, Mr Brown wasn’t to know that these external devices weren’t as quick as the implant versions, but once device and wearer were synchronised and calibrated for interactive use, the wearer’s mind became flooded with the billions of titles available just two writ-taps away.

In Mr Brown’s case, he also became aware of what happened in the past.

***

“There’s been another one, Chief, another random victim and no sign of how the behavioural deviant accomplished their egress.”

“No, I don’t believe that,” Chief Regular Investigator Hilary Jackson snapped in reply, adding. “While we’re at it, Lester, please drop the official speak. Whoever’s done this is a murderer … and they escaped, plain and simple.” She allowed her words to sink in before continuing: “I’m sure these aren’t just random victims as you put it, there must be a connection, we just can’t see it yet.”

Hilary Jackson was an enigma in the Ministry of Surveillance and Investigation. She was an individual whose imagination and ability to think outside the empiric mind-set boundaries of her colleagues set her apart. Much to the annoyance of CRI Jackson’s superiors, she had the attitude and used the methods of generations long past, but she got results.

“I want to see the scene of crime, “ CRI Jackson declared, before adding disdainfully, “… before the clean-up squad completely sanitise everything.”

“But why?” asked regular investigator RI Lester Horton. “The SOC officers have taken all the sensor and surveillance readings available?” Horton protested. He lacked enthusiasm at the prospect of being in the physical presence of an actual corpse. In Horton’s opinion, that particular duty was best left to the ‘lower’ genetic work grades.

***

The sight of a dead body under the age of at least 150 years old was new to them both, but seeing one belonging to a man clearly in the prime of life was beyond the experience of anyone in the developed world. This had been the case for more than a century.

“There’s no sign of anyone else being here, just the life-drained victim lying slumped in the hover chair.” RI Horton casually remarked. He was trying hard, but failing dismally to hide his revulsion at being so close to a dead body.

“And no sign of a struggle either,” CRI Jackson said, “Just bruising around the neck.”

“Not the case,” RI Horton said, “according to the Central Health and Monitoring Centre, the victim’s life-light flickered for several seconds and then went out like it had just been switched off.”

The CRI looked in Horton’s direction with a blank expression.

Horton continued. “ The behavioural … I’m sorry, I mean the murderer … has left no sign or footage of making their egre-, I mean escape. There is no trace of their presence after.”

It was this last aspect of what had happened that most troubled the investigators. In a world where advanced technology and surveillance of every kind had made any type of deliberate crime a thing of the distant past, what they had encountered was quite impossible.

There were 1000 nano-cams for every man, woman, and child on the planet, so for anyone hoping to evade capture and justice, it was simply no longer possible. It was widely regarded as unthinkable to even try.

The ’whys and wherefores’ of a crime were no longer important to most investigators. They were only interested in the apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators. To CRI Jackson such attitudes and disinterest in the means and motivation behind a crime were a constant frustration. Equally frustrating was the lack of any additional evidence or clues to what was behind the recent spate of murders … She refused to treat them simply as unexplained deaths.

***

Since putting on the wrist version of an EI brain implant, Mr Brown’s world changed, frequently and quite literally. From the moment he discovered he could hop back and forth between countless imaginary worlds, which was something the EI was never originally designed for, Mr Brown exploited the unintended feature to the full.

Mr Brown had always fancied himself as a master criminal, preferably one with a few homicidal tendencies. The Thomas Harris novel he was currently immersed in was just the ticket. In true Hannibal Lecter style, he slowly choked the life out of his latest victim and was looking forward to making a stew from their soon-to-be dismembered body parts.

How disappointing it was when he awoke to find himself in a prison cell, having been denied his pleasure. His mind was a complete blank from the moment after he had stifled the last gasps of breath of the man he had seemingly strangled only moments before. It was indeed puzzling.

Perhaps it was a formatting glitch in the original upload? Mr Brown thought.

At least he was alone in the cell, though being in a cell at all was confusing, given that it played no part in the original story he was in. He still had a lot to figure out about his strange and recent digital resurrection, not that he was complaining – escape was a much more complicated affair back in the real world …

***

CRI Jackson said, “It may be nothing, but each of the victims had their EI interfaces active at the time of their deaths.” She was relieved to have found the connection she knew must exist.

“And?” RI Horton replied. “Most of the population spends half their time plugged into their books, news, or entertainment feeds.”

“On its own, I agree it means nothing.” CRI Jackson said. “But in each case, the victim’s life-readings started going awry precisely 11.62 seconds into their EI neural activations. That’s way too much of a coincidence to be ignored.” She had her subordinates’ renewed attention.

The surveillance technology has proved useful after all, Horton thought. Yes, she may have been right about some connecting factor but she would never have discovered it without the sensor and surveillance readings she was so quick to discount.

RI Horton felt vindicated, conveniently forgetting that it had taken no small measure of good old-fashioned detective work to bring the latest surveillance info to light.

***

“Yes. That looks interesting.” Mr Brown muttered to himself while browsing through the Sci-Fi and paranormal categories. Like most of the stories Mr Brown liked to read, the latest one to catch his eye was also listed among the IPEC’s Historical back catalogue, but was still a firm favourite among readers, even after 200 years since its first ancient print publication.

He allowed his mind to access the neural EI interface, submerging himself in the Look Inside sample pages. A further tap of his wrist and there he was, an actual character in the story. But Mr Brown was no ordinary reader.

A while back in one of his stories, he’d written a thriller fantasy about a man who could physically transport himself in and out of the digital worlds of the books he downloaded, using the ability to wreak digital havoc. Now as a result of some freak coding anomaly Mr Brown had that ability or something like it – for real.

The entire digital universe was his to explore. He regretted not having that ability many years before when he’d been sent to a secure psychiatric unit for hacking off the head of an irritating salesman who’d interrupted him while writing.

***

“I finally got a reply from The Mighty Zon,” CRI Jackson said. “Okay, it took the threat of going public to get it, but they’ve allowed me access to their customer database and records.” She grinned at her partner. All that was missing was the classic celebratory wave of a clenched fist.

“That’s impossible.”RI Horton replied, “ No one gets past their automated enquiry response firewalls.”

RI Horton’s response was understandable. It had been more than half a century since an actual IPEC employee had personally responded to an enquiry. On the previous occasion it had taken the entire resources of the Ministry of World Tax Revenue to elicit a single paragraph, buried among 5000 pages of legal jargon … and excuses.

“I’m as surprised as you are Horton, but The Mighty Zon is as worried about these murders as we are.”

It was an achievement by the CRI. For centuries the IPEC’s wealth and power had made it a law unto itself. The Corporation was practically autonomous, free from any outside authority. In a world practically without crime, where dying took place in secret wards, and where the elderly could quietly slip away, a few unexplained deaths could destroy the credibility of such an organisation.

Stern Dillinger, a member of the Board of Directors was prepared to explain and answer questions.

He said, “According to our investigations … one of our customers, a Michael Wright, downloaded Digital Escape, the classic by Dave Brown. While synchronised with the download, he should have assumed the identity of the main character but it appears that Mr Wright assumed the persona of one of the subsidiary characters of the story instead.”

CRI Jackson was squinting. “Are you telling me the subsidiary character died in both the story and in the real world?”

“Yes, “ Dillinger replied. “Somehow, due to the similarity of the main character’s own abilities to those provided by the EI neural-interface, the e-Read AI software mistakenly interpreted Dave Brown’s character as part of its own coding.” He paused. “Basically, the programme wouldn’t allow the customer to merge with it, instead choosing to shunt the customer’s mind into that of the one in nearest digital proximity.”

“Unfortunately for Michael Wright,” CRI Jackson said,”that just happened to be a rude shop assistant in the story.”

“Yes,” Dillinger said, nodding his agreement with the CRI’s summary.

“So, Michael Wright became the first victim,” RI Horton added. “What about the other victims in the story? Will other people in our world die as well?”

“No. Only the person accessing the story via their EI actually dies, and even then, only if they assume the character of an actual victim in the story. If they remain just an observer or an incidental character then they’re safe.”

“Surely, “ Horton asked, “there can be no interaction that could cause death in real time?”

CRI Jackson was impressed. Her young colleague was finally showing serious interest. Dillinger hesitated.

“In theory, it could only happen if the scene in the book was being accessed simultaneously, and a stronger character had taken on the identity of the antagonist… that’s what the planetary AI tells us, and no, I don’t fully understand it either.” CRI Jackson turned to Dillinger, asking bluntly. “So, how do we stop this happening again?”

“That I don’t know,” he replied with equal bluntness. “Have you any idea of the size of our customer database? We have over a trillion eBooks available. We can track this character, but only where he’s been. Trying to locate and isolate the code anomaly is impossible.”

“Surely your technical and programming staff can do something?”

What staff?” Dillinger said. “We have an army of maintenance technicians, but beyond that, the systems, the developments, the upgrades, have all been fully automated for the past century.” He shook his head. “The complexity of our interactive systems and algorithms started to exceed human understanding several decades ago.”

It wasn’t the answer CRI Jackson wanted to hear but it came as no surprise.

The CRI met Dillinger’s gaze. “If we can’t track this Dave Brown character in real time, we need to be ahead of him, steer him in a direction we want him to go.”

“Again, theoretically, yes.” Dillinger agreed.

“So, we could be waiting for him?” RI Horton added.

CRI Jackson nodded, pleased that her colleague was showing initiative rather than waiting for a computer read-out to provide him with a neat and tidy solution.

“I have an idea, “ the CRI declared, “but I’ll need the full and unrestricted resources of The Mighty Zon?”

Dillinger frowned.

The CRI was about to let rip with about how essential it was, but instead, she chuckled.,

“I mean of course, with the gracious cooperation of the IPEC.”

***

Mr Brown was choking on the smoke from an artillery shell. The acrid cloud had spread through the corpse-strewn trench in which he found himself. Bloody, limbless bodies lay all about. Flashes of shooting light dotted the sky, accompanied by the crack of explosive thunder.

Cries of ‘forward men,’were cut short by screams of pain. Dave Brown realised he was in a very different story to the one he had been expecting. Instead of having escaped to the relative safety of a Barbara Cartland romance novel after his latest adventure, this was like being dropped in the middle of a war zone.

Perhaps the summary justice of the Ministry of Behaviour might have been a safer option … It was bad enough that a minor formatting problem had caused him to skip an entire paragraph, depriving him of a cannibalistic feast, but this was inexcusable corporate negligence on the part of The Mighty Zon.

Mr Brown decided, should he escape with his digital life and in one piece from this latest story, he would write a very stern letter of complaint for listing what was clearly a dangerous War story under Romance. An idea came to mind, and he grinned as he considered taking other steps.

Another artillery shell landed nearby, hurling Mr Brown into the air, taking with it his left arm below the elbow … which included the wrist-worn EI neural-interface device. There would be no digital quick escape this time, at least there wouldn’t be till he recovered his missing arm.

***

They hadn’t solved the case to CRI Jackson’s satisfaction, but at least there had been no more unexplained deaths or EI related complaints. The best they could hope for was that the mysterious Mr Brown had been blown to pixelated digital bits and was finally dead – again – both physically and digitally this time.

Despite the uncertainty of that last hope, The Mighty Zon felt confident enough of that last statement:

‘The interplanetary Products and Entertainments Corporation would like to apologise to customers for the recent problems it’s been having with its Historical Content format and categorisation and sorry for any inconvenience and/or discomfort this may have caused.’

It was the closest anyone was ever likely to get to an apology for more than a dozen deaths and many more attempted murders by way of beheading, throttling, and dismemberment. Mr Brown it seemed had a penchant for doing away with people in the most horrible and violent ways.

***

What The Mighty Zon didn’t reveal in its apology or from its own internal investigations was that it had had numerous complaints from customers finding themselves surrounded by corpses and almost dying at the hands of a homicidal maniac.

Where readers hadn’t died or been attacked, complaints of stories changed beyond recognition flooded the light-wave communication channels – seeing a leather-jacketed., whiskey drinking biker making an impromptu appearance in a convent wasn’t what one expected when expecting to read a serious history of the Sisters of Saint-Hood.

Such incidents might have gone unnoticed for longer had they been confined to just the Crime, Horror, and Thriller categories, but they had appeared in all manner of genres ranging from Historical Romance to Children’s picture books.

As per company policy, such complaints had initially been ignored, but when they started finding the same complaints being posted on MeMeMe.Universe, the successor to MyFacePage.com, The Mighty Zon at last felt compelled to act, to curtail the activities of this mysterious digital assassin.

At CRI Jackson’s suggestion, every last one of it’s past and present catalogue of neurally-accessible eBooks were replaced with a particularly bloody and horrific scene from a shortened version of All Quiet on The Western Front, which is precisely where the mysterious Mr Brown continually found himself each time he ventured back into or from one digital story to another.

***

“Somewhere out there,” Stern Dillinger told the reflection in the mirror, “Dave Brown is still lurking, buried among a trillion lines of ancient Mobi-format page coding. He may still be very much alive …”

Book Review – A Time for Courage: and other military stories

Tom Benson is a multi-genre author and artist whose work I’ve reviewed several times since first discovering his writing on his wordpress site (see link below).

In 1969 at the age of 17, Tom left his native Glasgow to join the British Army. Tom’s military career spanned from 1969 to 1992. He followed this with a career in Retail Management, in which he was employed from 1992 to 2012.
Tom is a prolific writer and book reviewer and has been writing since 2007. He has published seven novels, five anthologies of short stories, a five-part novel, a five-part series of erotica novellas, and a series of five anthologies of genre-based poetry. In addition to his own writing, Tom Benson has contributed short stories to several other multi-author anthologies both commercially and in aid of various charities.

Youre Not Alone 3d inamge (1) TBpics  PR1

IASDpic

Tom is presently working on a number of other projects including helping manage and promote an international collection of indie authors on the indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com website which he helped create.

 

Tom’s other websites and contact details:
www.tombensonauthor.com 
www.tombensoncreative.com
www.tom-benson.co.uk

&

@TomBensonWriter

***

 Amazon Description

A collection of 12 stories created using a wide spectrum of scenarios. Military experiences can be funny, heart-breaking and, everything in between.
This anthology is a blend of my personal experience and knowledge together with specially created pieces to highlight the highs and lows of service life.
These tales can be enjoyed equally by those who have served and, those who have never donned a uniform.

Humour, fact, fiction, and fantasy are used to portray service in theatres as varied as Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Ancient Briton, the Persian Gulf, Africa, and elsewhere.

screenshotTom1ascreenshotTom1c.jpg

***

A Time for Courage: and other military stories

By Tom Benson

(Available as an eBook from Amazon – click on above title for link)

A Time for Courage - 2Of all the short story collections the author has written this is by far and away my favourite. Tom Benson has drawn on both his imagination and his considerable length of service to craft a poignant collection of short stories across a variety of military theatres. Unusually for a short story collection, not a single story here disappointed or fell even slightly below the high standard of every other.

Throughout this collection, Tom Benson has applied meticulous attention to authentic military detail but not to the point of overkill as to confuse the non-military reader. As anyone who has served will know, the army and other services practically speak another language with all the acronyms, slang and other assorted colourful phrases, but the author’s  clever use of dialogue and context give all the slang and military terminology clear and obvious meaning thus ensuring  the non-military is never left confused or wondering at certain words.

The opening story is a real ‘lump in the throat’ one of courage and self-sacrifice but it is immediately contrasted by the side-splittingly funny satire of the second, one that any military wife (or husband for that matter) will immediately identify with but its razor-sharp humour it cannot help but appeal to all. In the third, the author takes a somewhat personal trip down memory lane in a way that we can all relate to from some time in our lives when we were determined to prove our doubters wrong. Others in the collection highlight much of the military ethos of courage and protecting the weak and vulnerable but still providing the reader with a captivating story, and in the case of Photographic Memory, a real ‘punch the air feel good factor. In The Odd Couple we get a glimpse into some of the more covert activities of ‘The Toubles,’ bringing back painful memories for some of real events that mirror some aspects of the story. Another thing I liked about this collection was its sheer variety; from modern-day Afghanistan and  Northern Ireland right back to the 2nd Century, from Jungle warfare to covert missions in the desert, from the sadness of a family torn apart from being on opposite sites to the sort of comradeship that transcends family that can only be formed with those you would die for and they for you. One story that is particularly pertinent to modern times is that of Walking Wounded; with today’s modern medicine and better field facilities, many more servicemen and women are surviving the sort of injuries only a few decades ago would have spelt certain death. The downside to this, of course, is that we have a whole generation of soldiers returning from conflicts having to face and cope with life-changing disabilities, and it is easy to understand the increased cases of PTSD in many such people. In the Walking Wounded we see the beginnings of one such man’s journey in finding a reason to look to the future with some hope, and with an unusually heart-warming twist too.

In ‘The Afterlife’ the author once again uses mostly his personal experience to round off the collection, giving the reader some brief comparisons of his life since leaving the army with that of a younger man who has never served and through it we see just why so many ex-servicemen refer to themselves as such rather than simply accepting their post-service ‘civilian’ status.

Overall, a thoroughly entertaining collection that will not only entertain but give the non-military reader some rare insights into military service. For others, again it will entertain but also bring back memories, some good, others not so maybe, but if nothing else, for me personally they remind me how very much I have to be thankful for still being in a position to read such stories when so many others are not.

 

For further links to Tom’s many other books please visit his Amazon author page by clicking on the link below:

TBimage2A Time for Courage - 2

Tom Benson Amazon author page TomB1 

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