Category Archives: Amateur writing

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!

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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

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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.

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***

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:

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Tom Benson Amazon author page TomB1 

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Short Story – Well it ain’t my hole

IASDpicThis is a story I wrote back in mid-2015 as my contribution to an anthology of short stories by members of the IASD Indie Author Support and discussion fb secret group …

(see: www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com for our group website).

It was an idea first suggested by IASD member and author Eric Lahti who also has a superb blog and review site at:  www.ericlahti.wordpress.com.

 

Amazon Blurb

The Indie Author Support and Discussion Group proudly presents Holes: An Indie Author Anthology.
Starting with the theme of holes of any kind, an international group of indie authors put their writing minds to work to come up a collection of stories that will make you laugh, cry, shudder in fear, and want to clap your hands. Inside you’ll find stories about:

A twisted story about innocence and revenge.
A young woman racing for her life and her love against the age of clockworks.
A man who lost his life in a traffic accident and discovers the afterlife is being stuck in a classroom.
A young African schoolteacher who tackles a band of ruthless, marauding terrorists.
A Russian mobster who made a deal and thought he’d found a loophole to get out of it.
A cautionary tale about being careful what you wish for…you just may get it.
A place where life disappears to when you’re not watching.
A question about whether we are really the dominant species and masters of our own future.
A reader-interactive comedy of errors.
An anomalous client demanding something written from the soul, a soul he is threatening to take
An Inspector Winsford murder mystery.
A legacy gift that just goes on giving.
Slapstick comedy with a touch of British buffoonery (my contribution)
A pretty tease who toys with her theology professor until dark revelations stop her in her tracks.

Some stories are full of sorrow, others full of joy, but all of them will leave you wanting more.

 

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Well it ain’t my hole…

The man from the council stood looking at it, scratching his head in a stereotypical fashion that so perfectly betrayed his utter bewilderment. This was surprising because if there was ever anyone who knew about holes it was Adam Wiggly; what Adam Wiggly didn’t know about holes could be written on the back of a postage stamp, but this one had him baffled.

“Well it ain’t my hole.” Adam said.

“Nor mine,” agreed Karl Rockley, the man from the gas board. He too was scratching his head, almost in sync with several others who were standing around, all with about as much idea what to do as a eunuch in a harem.

“Could be one of Smiffy’s I reckon. I mean, it’s hardly the biggest I’ve ever seen.” Karl suggested.

Adam sniggered at the tail-end of Karl’s remark, but on this rare occasion resisted the temptation to say something crude in reply.

“Nah, not his style, I’ve seen Smiffy’s work, this ain’t one of ‘em.”

“What? What d’ya mean, not his style? It’s a just a friggin hole for Christ’s sake!”

“Nah, ain’t no such thing as just a hole, each one’s different, got its own character, like.” Karl turned towards him with one of those ‘what the f…’ looks.

Adam continued. “Like I says, they’re all different… ya got yer belly holes, slit trench type holes, and then there’s the sort of hole yer get from an entry wound from a small firearm, which is quite different from the hole it leaves the other side. There’s a real science to it, like.”

Karl shook his head in feigned disbelief, though inwardly acknowledging the absurd logic in what Adam was saying. He quickly dismissed the thought from his mind for fear of actually getting sucked into what was fast becoming a ridiculous conversation on the topic of the character of a hole. By now of course, one of the local plod, Police Constable Bill Witherby, had also turned up, equally puzzled but determined to bring a semblance of order to all the confusion.

“Stand back, stand back please, nothing to see here, it’s just a hole in the ground,” the young plod was declaring to anyone bothering to listen.

“I’d hardly say that mate, I mean, there’s no paperwork for it, and the council know sod all about it, not even a B41 stroke 252 for it,” Adam replied.

“And you are?” Asked the plod.

“Adam Wiggly, Chief Roadside Excavation Officer.”

“What he means is, he watches and stands around, drinking tea and scratching his arse,” Karl added by way of explanation of the important sounding title. “Other people dig the holes, and then he tells ‘em what a shit job they’ve made of it.”

Adam turned to give him a scouring look. He would have preferred punching him but there was already enough animosity between the council and the gas board as it was, so had to content himself with the curt response:  “Ya fookin’ twat!”

The plod had now been joined by a second plod, Police Constable Hilary Jenkins. Adam and Karl both switched their attention to the shapely young lass. The uniform really suited her, Adam thought, reminding him of a fantasy he had about Angie Dickson, the actress who played ‘Police Woman’ in the TV series.

“Soz about the language luv,” Adam hastily added.                                                    Karl smiled, feeling smug at Adam’s obvious embarrassment, unaware that it was due more to a ‘below the waist’ reaction than his having sworn in front of a female police officer.

“No need, me dad was Navy so there’s nowt you or anyone could say that I ain’t likely to have heard… or seen… before,” PC Jenkins replied. To emphasise her point she gave Adam a sly wink and a smile while momentarily glancing down at his crotch area. For some reason Adam’s face now resembled a beetroot.

“Now, what’s being done about this ‘ere ‘ole then?” PC Jenkins asked in a gruff voice that was totally at odds with her small but shapely stature and good looks.

“That’ll be for me to decide,” said the latest arrival at the scene, a short squat little man wearing a cheap ill-fitting pinstripe suit and a Laurel and Hardy style bowler hat. Karl and Adam just sighed, knowing exactly who he was:

“I’ll take charge now, now stand aside you two so I can assess the situation,” the bowler-hatted little man demanded with about as much authority as a toddler demanding an ice cream.

“And your name is?” Asked PC Jenkins, her tone making it clear she had no intention whatsoever of letting the little man take charge.

Taken aback by the petite looking blonde haired PC’s authoritative manner, the little man partially delegated his response to Adam Wiggly in the vain hope of soliciting some support in asserting his imagined importance.

“Mr. Wiggly here can confirm my identity and status, I’m Mr. Dibble… Dibble of the Council.”

It was hard for anyone in earshot not to piss themselves laughing at the pomposity of the way in which he declared it. It brought to mind the likes of Gideon of the Yard or Scott of the Antarctic… and now added to those illustrious names… Dibble of the Council. Somehow though it didn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Adam and Karl shrugged their shoulders in a half-hearted manner, nodding in the affirmative, though their disdain for Dibble couldn’t have been more obvious, something the pretty young PC picked up on.

“Well, Mr. Dibble,” PC Jenkins replied, adding as an afterthought, “of the Council… What exactly do you intend doing about this ‘ere ‘ole?”

“That’ll depend, first thing’s first…” It was a typical Dibble response, to say a lot but mean absolutely nothing, particularly when he was out of his depth. Given that he’d probably be out of his depth at the shallow end of a toddler’s paddling pool, that was more often than not.

“I don’t get it?” Karl said.

“Get what?” Adam asked. “What you on about now?”

“Y’know, what Dibble said… ‘First thing’s first’… what’s all that? I mean why would anyone say that? It’s not like you might decide to go with second thing first or third thing second. It don’t make sense. Everyone turned to look at Karl, baffled as to what he was rambling on about. Knowing however that the subtleties of the English language weren’t likely to be one of his few strong points, no one really felt up to the job of trying to explain.

“And that first thing is, Mr. Dibble… of the Council?” Asked PC Jenkins.

“Assess the situation, establish the facts, and decide on a course of action,” Mr. Dibble replied, ignoring the obvious sarcasm in the PC’s voice.

In the meantime, a couple more plods working under PC Jenkins’ direction were doing exactly that rather than just talking about it. Barriers were being erected to divert traffic from the busy junction close to where the hole was, while the first officer on the scene busied himself with keeping back the growing number of curious onlookers, many of whom had their own thoughts on the matter:

“What a carry on, I wonder if it’s one of those hidden camera shows?”

“Nah, can’t see any.”

“Well you wouldn’t would you, not if they were hidden, stands to reason.”

“Ha ha, I hadn’t thought of that…”

“Maybe there’s a serial killer on the loose and they’re looking for bodies?”

“What? You think someone’s been digging up the road, tarmac and all, burying bodies then fixing up the road again, and all without seeing or noticing owt, nah, don’t be so bloody daft.”

“Reckon it’s a remake of that film, you know, the one where a load of inept workmen make idiots of themselves, oh what was it called again..?”

“Uh?”

“You know, the one with Eric Sykes and Tommy Cooper in it and all them others…” “Oh I know the one you mean, yeah, what was it… The Plank!”

“It’s the aliens, same ones as that keep making them there crop circles,” suggested yet another. Admittedly it was the most far-fetched of the speculations, but it was probably the most justified considering the old fella spouting the latest theory was pissed as a newt.

***

With all the attention the hole was getting from all and sundry, no one seemed surprised when the TV guys appeared in one of their vans. First thoughts were that it might be some sort of news crew. Already the assorted parties were jostling for position, for their five minutes of media fame should they be approached for their thoughts on the mysterious hole that had appeared from nowhere. Maybe the theory that someone was filming a remake of The Plank wasn’t that far off the mark after all…

“Hi guys. So tell me, what’s the story here?”

Adam was about to speak up, well, that’s what Adam did most of the time, speak a lot when not filling his gob with beer that is. He was quickly silenced by the interruption of his bowler-hatted boss.

“I’m the one you’ll be wanting to speak to on that matter I imagine,” Adam’s bowler-hatted boss declared. “Mr. Dibble’s the name, Dibble of the Council.”

Adam and Karl, and even PC Jenkins couldn’t help but snigger at the repetition of how he introduced himself. Mr. Dibble ignored them, pretending to be oblivious to their contempt.

***

No one noticed the approach of the tweed-jacketed, corduroy trouser wearing man wheeling a bicycle. Had he still been riding it as he approached the police barriers no doubt he would have been stopped, but the crafty bugger had dismounted by then, and stealthily approached unchallenged in a manner your average rucksack carrying kamikaze terrorist could only ever dream of hoping to get away with…

“Ermm… Hello. Might I enquire what you’re all doing standing around and trampling through our excavation site?” The latest addition asked.

Your excavation site? You mean this is your bloody hole?” Adam exclaimed.

“Well of course it’s mine, well my department’s I should say.”

Once again, it was the little Napoleon Dibble – of the Council – who sought to take charge, shuffling his way through the assorted workmen and other departmental officials. I say shuffling on account of his lack of height and presence preventing him from barging his way through in the way he would have liked, and genuinely believed his imagined importance should have allowed. In reality he was forced to apologetically plead to be allowed to pass and squeeze through the crowd in much the same way some suited civvy might try and squeeze unnoticed through a bunch of drunken squaddies to get to the bar…

“Which is… and you are?” Dibble of the Council asked.

“Henry Michaels… of the Ministry for endangered indigenous species and habitats.”

It was at that point Adam and Karl nearly spat out the tea they were drinking from the polystyrene cups they were both clutching. It was yet another illustrious name to add to Dibble of the Council, Gideon of the Yard, and Scott of the Antarctic – Michaels of the Ministry no less.

“This has gotta be some kind of fookin’ Candid Camera prank,” Karl was saying to Adam.

“Nah, can’t be. They’d need a F69 stroke P Form for sommat like that.” Adam replied without a trace of irony. The only thing that even came close to what Adam knew about holes was his almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the myriad of paperwork needed to dig one within the borough limits. Karl was more inclined to think he was taking the piss and probably making it up as he went along…

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Michaels of the Ministry said. “This hole is definitely not a television prank. It is a serious endeavour to preserve the Lesser Spotted Peat Bog cockroach. The creature was long thought to be extinct until its albeit yet to be confirmed rediscovery when the electricity board were laying some cables here.”

“That’s all very well but who gave you permission to dig the entire street up? My department never authorises anything bigger than a six by eight hole without a committee meeting first.” Mr. Dibble replied in his haughtiest tone.

“I can assure you Mr. Dibble, my department did acquire the emergency requisite permissions as per Form B209 stroke 4b.”

Mr. Dibble was now glowering and his cheeks were turning crimson. For once Adam came to his rescue without any need for prompting.

“Ahh right,” Adam interrupted. “Yeah, that would allow the excavation of a hole this size, but only over the weekend or a long bank holiday. What you actually needed was a D59 dash 3b Form to cover weekday emergency excavations.” Adam explained, delighted to embarrass his boss with his superior knowledge of council rules and procedures…

“Which I would have had to authorise… If I decided to!” Mr. Dibble added, determined not to be outdone by his subordinate.

“Hey, I’ve just had a thought,” Adam piped up.

Really?” Remarked Karl in mock surprise with a sly grin sprawled across his face. Adam once again felt a desire to punch the little git for the implied sleight on his ability to think, but since it was probably no different to what everyone else was thinking, he decided Karl could wait, turning instead his attention to Michaels, the man from the Ministry.

“No offence mate.” Adam said. “But ya don’t exactly look like the sort of fella who earns a living digging holes, mate?”

Michaels of the Ministry laughed: “You’re right, I didn’t dig any holes personally, I just arranged for a more specialised firm to take over from the original excavation, though I can’t for the life of me remember who was in charge of that?”

“Actually, that would be me,” yet another new arrival to the merry band announced: “Smiffy’s the name, Arnold Smith if we’re being all formal.”

“Ha! ‘Ello Smiffy, you ain’t gonna tell us this is down to you are ya?” Karl said. “Ya see Adam, I told ya it might one of Smiffy’s but oh no, you knew better, reckoning it were too big or weren’t his style or some other bollox.” Karl added, eager to take the opportunity to prove Adam wrong.

“Yes and no is the answer to that.” Smiffy answered.

“Uh?”  Adam grunted.

“I might have known the electricity board would be at the bottom of this!” Mr. Dibble huffed.

“If I may,” PC Jenkins interrupted, “If you could shed some light on this, I’m all ears?”

“Sure,” Smiffy said. “Me and my crew were called out on a rush job to replace a faulty cable last night. Not long after, some fella walking past stopped and told us he’d spotted some rare insect or bug I think he said, scurrying up along the sides of our hole. They just looked like regular bugs to me but what do I know?”

“About entomology? Probably about as much as I know about digging holes I suspect.” Michaels of the Ministry said.

“Ento…Uh? What was that?” Asked Smiffy, not being used to that many syllables in an entire sentence let alone a single word.

“Entomology.” Michaels repeated, “The study of insects.”

“Could start with taking a look at Dibble them.” Adam chipped in. Karl did his best to supress a snigger. Dibble on the other hand wasn’t so amused. PC Jenkins took a deep breath.

“Can we please let Mr. Smith continue with his account?”

“Ahh right.” Smiffy said, forgetting all about entomology: “Well, next thing I knew, half a dozen official looking bods were crawling all over the site, ya man here included. Before I knew it they were in charge with their own diggers, hence the ruddy great fuck off hole we got now.”

“And why wasn’t I made aware of all this earlier, and where have you been in the meantime, we could have had all this cleared up ages ago,” Mr. Dibble said.

“Out of my hands now, speak to the organ grinder over there,” Smiffy answered, pointing in the direction of Michaels of the Ministry.

“That’s absolutely right,” Michaels agreed. “This entire area is now under the jurisdiction of my department.”

Needless to say, Mr. Dibble took umbrage at seeing his authority and control of the situation fast disappearing:  “Make no mistake,” Mr. Dibble said. “I shall be having words with the mayor about this I can tell you!”

As per usual, despite his official position in the council, no one was paying much attention to the officious Mr. Dibble, and even less so when Adam made his latest observation.

“Eh up!” Adam announced. “Can anyone make out that bit pointing out at the bottom at the far side of the hole, it looks like some kinda shell…”

Silence descended on the collective chatter for a few moments as the seriousness of the last statement dawned on everyone.

“It might well be,” said PC Jenkins as she stepped to the very edge of the hole and peered down at where Adam was pointing. Strangely enough the others were more inclined to edge themselves in the opposite direction…

“When you say a shell Mr. Wiggly, are you saying it might be some sort of bomb?” Michaels of the Ministry asked, who oddly enough now seemed to have lost some of his authority and confidence. Suddenly people were taking a little more notice of the oafish Adam.

“Yep, that’s exactly what I’m saying Mr. Michaels… and you there Miss, PC Jenkins, might be an idea not to be getting too close.”

“Yes, I agree, perhaps we should all move a little further away and pass this onto someone better equipped to deal with the new situation.” Mr. Dibble urged. For once, he and Adam finally agreed on something. If truth be known, Mr. Dibble was probably more worried at Adam later being credited as the first one to alert everyone to the danger and acting decisively in the matter… Mr. Dibble had no intention of letting Adam challenge him for his job on the strength of that…

“Way ahead of you guys,” PC Jenkins replied prior to getting on her radio to report the latest development.

“Ermm, Mr. Wiggly, if it is a bomb, or even just a suspect one, what’s likely to happen now?” Michaels of the Ministry asked.

“Controlled explosion of some sort I’d guess,” Adam replied. Karl nodded his agreement with Adam.

“Whoa, now let’s not act hastily, there’s already way too many people involved and contaminating the site.” Michaels of the Ministry said:  “Contaminating the site? It’s not a crime scene you know.” PC Jenkins interjected.

“I know that but this site has been designated as a one of special importance. You do know the Lesser Spotted Peat Bog cockroach hasn’t been seen in over two hundred years, and that the ones residing in this hole might be the last living specimens in the world.” Everyone’s jaw just dropped at that, including Mr. Dibble’s. Until that point he had been unrivalled in his capacity for stupidity, but Michaels of the Ministry’s concern for some rare bugs over all their safety eclipsed even his capacity for coming out with complete and utter bollox.

“Err, hello up there, but I think something’s ticking down here.” Called a voice from just a few feet away from where Adam had first spotted what he was now sure was an unexploded shell, probably a souvenir of the last war.

Whilst they’d all been discussing who the hole belonged to, and then the current danger, some of Michaels of the Ministry’s lab staff had clambered down into the hole to take soil samples in the hope of collecting some live specimens of the rare bug Michaels was so excited about…

“Sorry, false alarm, it’s stopped now…” The voice called again a second or two later.

“I don’t care, you guys get yourselves back up, now!” PC Jenkins shouted down at them.

“PC Jenkins.” Said Michaels of the Ministry. “Let me remind you I’m in charge here, and I won’t have you or anyone jeopardising our preservation work here.” Before she could respond, Michaels had already turned his attention elsewhere:

“You chaps down there, carry on collecting the samples I asked for.”

“Suit yourself, on your head be it then.” The pretty PC answered.

“Might be an idea if you and your lot get everyone cleared from the area, luv.” Adam said. “If that thing down there’s started ticking once, it might start again, what with them twats down there with their digging and whatnot,” Adam was telling PC Jenkins. Again, Karl was nodding his agreement.

“Well we don’t know that for sure, and they did say it was a false alarm. And yes I think it needs to be investigated, but I’m not going to authorise a full scale evacuation of the area just on the say so of a council hole-digger and a man from the gas board.” PC Jenkins replied.

“Chief Roadside Excavation Officer, if ya don’t mind, luv.” Adam corrected her. “Gas Infrastructure Site Surveyor.” Karl added.

This time it was Adam’s turn to give Karl a ‘what the f…’ look, knowing damned well he’d just made that up.

Mr. Dibble was staying on the fence on this; he didn’t want to openly agree with PC Jenkins just in case she was wrong, but he thought Adam and Karl were probably exaggerating the danger and he didn’t want to share in the bureaucratic fall-out by endorsing their advice if that turned out to be the case.

“Thank you PC Jenkins, a voice of sanity at last,” Michaels of the Ministry declared. He was relieved he and his team of could continue their bug collecting and that no one was going to deliberately blow them up, or at least not until they had enough of their precious specimens.

“Sod this for a game of soldiers.” Adam huffed: “I’m off to the pub until the bomb disposal mob declare this a safe zone, you joining me Karl?”

“Too bloody right mate, this lot are off their heads, mate.” Karl agreed.

“Hold up, wait for me.” Smiffy shouted after them. It wasn’t that he was worried about being blown up but he knew the local pub served a mean bacon buttie.

They really should have listened to Adam and Karl. They were both ex-military and knew only too well the dangers of an unexploded bomb.

***

It took seconds for the immediate surroundings to feel the full blast of the explosion, though it took considerably longer for the resultant fires to be put out and for the dust to settle. Any life within the immediate vicinity was now toast. The one exception was the previously thought to be extinct colony of Lesser Spotted Peat Bog cockroaches, who were now happily scurrying away to find another hole to enjoy a well-deserved nap in after having been kept awake by a lot of silly humans. Considering cockroaches will probably still be around long after the last of the human race has been irradiated under an atomic mushroom cloud, Michaels of the Ministry really shouldn’t have been too worried about them.

Adam and Karl, who had sensibly decided they’d be better off supping a quiet pint in a nearby pub rather than gabbing away around a ruddy great hole with a ruddy great bomb at the bottom of it, continued where they’d left off in their previous discussion on the character of a hole…

 

 

IASD Update 2 – 2017

Many thanks to Tom Benson for this latest update on the IASD website, a group and site which I’m proud to be a member and part of …

Indie author support & Discussion

Hello fellow members of the IASD

Well, that happened fast, didn’t it – November already!

We had two aims, apart from the ongoing appliance of our collective target (our group’s initials).

First, we wanted to maintain our monthly Featured Author.

Secondly, we had new anthologies we wanted to create.

Featured Authors

When we got the idea underway (two years ago), the author was selected by a secret ballot. Next came my use of a ‘randomiser’ program, which entailed me listing every member’s name. Early this year, thanks to Sylva, I started using the Sociograph program to see who our most active members were in a month. This third method works well and will continue for the foreseeable future.

New Anthologies

When the year was but young we had good intentions and aimed to produce three more collections as a group.

– another anthology of short stories and this time…

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Making things Beta

An eagerly awaited military themed short story collection from the pen of friend and fellow blogger, Tom Benson. Having read and reviewed several of the author’s many and previous works I know this will make a welcome addition to my reading lists.

Tom Benson - Creative

A glance at my Work in Progress will give some idea of my intended output for the next few months. I enjoy variety in my writing as I do in my reading, so apart from working on novels this year – I aim to produce two anthologies.

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A Time for Courage - 1My next anthology of short stories is due for publication at end of March 2016.

I’ve already adjusted the font, and the angle of the plane on the cover for about the fifth time, but I believe the latest version does the job.

A Time for Courage is a collection of 12stories. There are two which appear in other collections, but they deserve to be included here.

As always I strive to produce a varied selection, even when adhering to a theme, and I’ve worked to develop these stories in each successive draft.

I’m now looking for volunteers to sample the…

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A Cherished Memory & a picture from the past …

This blog post was born out of an idea by Damyanti to host the Cherished Blogfest, an opportunity to discover and CHERISHED1
connect with many of our fellow bloggers. I was happy to agree to co-hosting the project, along with Dan Antion, Peter Nena, and Sharukh Bamboat. The remit was to write a 500 word post about some cherished object or possession we each had. It was hard trying to decide just what to choose, as I’m sure it was for most of us, but in the end I chose something that had a family significance rather than exclusively personal to me.

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We all have things we cherish, be it a car we’ve put our heart and soul into restoring and preserving, a piece of jewellery we may have been given by a loved one long, long ago, or perhaps even a keepsake or photo we carry around in our wallet or purse that brings a smile and a happy memory every time we see it. My cherished object though is a drawing – not a valuable piece of art or some daring exploration of pushing the artistic boundaries, but a simple small crayon drawn picture that my son brought home from school over twenty five years ago. It’s of me, my late wife, our son Liam, and of all things, some alien monsters he’d seen in a picture book. It has pride of place just beneath one of my treasured photographs, and is rarely removed from its spot except for the odd dusting or in this instance, to be photographed for my Cherished Blogfest post.

Why does this particular drawing hold such a place in my heart and memories? Well, I think any parent will have half an idea already. I mean, what parent doesn’t possess some treasured item of their children’s childhood, but for me, whenever I glance at this picture it brings back a memory of the day and circumstances when I first saw it. I’d just moved into a new and freshly decorated flat. The front-room was wall-papered but with a waist high white area along the bottom. But to Liam, that shiny white painted area represented an enormous canvas for him to practice his drawing skills on. When I returned home from work I could his see his colourful efforts reaching all the way along from the living room door, stretching behind the sofa that was a foot or so away from the wall, right as far as the glass patio doors. Needless to say I wasn’t amused…

BLOGPIC1“Oh he didn’t mean, he was just playing,” Liam’s grandma said when she saw the less than happy look on my face. “He didn’t know it was naughty to draw on the walls, I’ll have a quiet word later.”

“Didn’t know? So why is he peeking out from behind the sofa with that cheeky grin on his face?” I replied, unconvinced by her defence of the little lad’s artistry, turning my head back in Liam’s direction whose little smiling face was still half peering out from his hiding place. His gran ignored my question, choosing instead to change the subject:

“Oh before I forget, he brought a drawing home for you, it’s on the kitchen table.”

Liam’s smile had grown even bigger and he was nodding his head at the mention of his drawing. I don’t why but my initial anger just disappeared. It was probably the first bit of real mischief and naughtiness he’d gotten into since the death of his mum a year earlier, and for some reason I couldn’t help but give a silent chuckle. Liam still remembered her. My son’s picture was a welcome and timely reminder that life goes on…

Join in the “Cherished” blogfest for 2015…

Blogging for me has opened up a world of writing opportunities, not to mention the joy of making many new writing friends around the world; the “Cherished” blogfest referred to in the title is the brainchild of my fellow blog friend Damyanti, and is a great opportunity to expand your blogging network of friends so please join me and my fellow co-host bloggers: Damyanti Ghosh, Sharukh Bamboat, Dan Antion, Peter Nena.

For anyone new to blogging or not familiar to what a blogfest is, it’s really very simple, well it would have to be for an old codger like me to be taking part – all that’s required is that you write a blog post on a particular date on a particular topic – See below for more details:

The Cherished Blogfest Badge...

The Cherished Blogfest Badge…

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The Cherished” Blogfest

 

For the Cherished Blogfest, we invite you to talk to us about one of your cherished objects. Tell us what it is, post a picture of it if you like, and tell us why you cherish it.

Keep your post to 500 words, and join us on the 24th, 25th, & 26th of July 2015 in sharing memories, emotions, information.

Place the badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media.

Above all, join us in making new connections, and renewing old ones. Sign up in the Cherished Linky List, which would open in a new window.

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Some of my fellow co-host bloggers who are already taking part:

Sharukh Bamboat – Sharukh writes a truly fascinating and illuminating travel blog featuring the many different and wonderful attractions of the indian sub-continent. He compliments his writing with some of the most beautiful and stunning photographs you could imagine, along with a host of other multi-media.

Damyanti Ghosh – An established freelance writer/journalist. She is an experienced and well known and established blogger based in Singapore, and the autghor of a book of short stories, The A to Z Stories of Life and Death.

Dan Antion – Dan is a multi-talented blogger that writes about all sorts of things, many of which often centre around his hobbies and life beyond writing and work, such as making things, personal experiences, and often, technical/engineering/science based posts, but all with an endearing and humorous style and perspective along with soime fascination pictures and illustrations to breath added life into his posts.

Peter Nena – Peter is one of the best and most talented short story horror writers I’ve read. His stories are as original as any I’ve read, and definitely not for the squeamish. One of his stories is also featured in my own debut short story anthlogy.

 

The Cherished Blogfest Badge designed by Dan Antion and the very talented Cheryl KP.

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