Category Archives: Works in progress

Current long-term writing projects

Unrequited Love – flash fiction short story

 

 

Unrequited Love

Vector silhouette of a woman.Lucy Brannen simply adored Tommy, and why shouldn’t she? He was a handsome fella, what with his thick, jet black hair, and eyes that could entrance the most reluctant heart.

Everyone loved Tommy; Lucy’s parents, her friends, and even complete strangers too immediately took to him. It was something Lucy understood and accepted, having fallen for Tommy’s charms more than two years before. Yes indeed, Tommy was something special, even if his demands and attention-seeking sometimes made her feel invisible. She had some sympathy now for how new mothers must feel when everyone’s attention and compliments were all directed towards the baby, like the mother wasn’t even there other than as some glorified slave … where was the appreciation and attention she deserved? Whatever her occasional misgivings though, Lucy continued to dote on him, attending to Tommy’s every whim, everything from preparing his meals right down to even trimming his nails, nothing being too much trouble for her. All she asked in return was the occasional show of love and affection, to be treated as something a little more special than his personal servant.

It wasn’t entirely true of course; Tommy did treat her to the occasional glimmer of attention, snuggling up to her when she least expected it or gazing into her eyes, enchanting her all over again. But such emotional shows were few and far between, and invariably seemed to coincide with when he wanted something, like a snack from the kitchen; as smitten as she was, Lucy was not stupid, fully aware the relationship was utterly and completely on his terms, and not hers.

The truth was, Tommy treated their home as little more than a hotel, often lounging around all day while she went out to work. The least she could have expected was for him to be there for her after a hard day’s work, but no, Tommy was a law unto himself, coming and going whenever he pleased, and at all hours of the night.

Lucy often wondered if Tommy would even notice if she just left, walked out and never came back, at least apart from the need to get himself another dogsbody? She knew she never would though; Tommy meant too much to her, and besides, what would have been the point? Tommy knew his worth and would have been sure to land on his feet elsewhere, perhaps even with that little blonde next door, the one always paying him compliments and attention.

There was one person though who wasn’t seduced by Tommy’s charms, and that was Lucy’s best friend, Clara. She treated Tommy with the same indifference he pretty much treated everyone else. When Tommy and Clara were in the same room, you could almost feel a literal drop in temperature, such was the coldness between them. It was not surprising then that whenever Clara visited, Tommy would either make himself scarce all together or at best, somewhat rudely go and feign sleep in another room.

And so it was today when Clara called, Tommy just huffed his annoyance and flounced out past them when Lucy opened the front door to her friend.

 

“Sorry about that, he’s in a bit of a mood,” Lucy apologised.

“Don’t apologise for him, he’s always in a mood,” Clara reminded her in reply. “If he wants to behave like a spoilt brat, that’s his problem.” Lucy just shrugged, her loyalties torn as they always were.

“Look, Lucy, I’ve no sympathy,” Clara bluntly told her. “I told you at the start … if you wanted slobbering affection, undying loyalty and the rest of it, you should have bought a dog … Cats are different.”

*

Tommy surveyed his kingdom from atop the mahogany bookcase, having snuck back in via the cat flap. Satisfied that all was well, he looked down on his devoted human.

Even though Clara had now left, Tommy was in no mood to jump back into Lucy’s arms. No, he would make her wait for another snippet of the attention she so desperately craved and needed from him, and why not, she was after all his slave, as all humans were to their feline owners.

Clara on the other hand, she clearly had no understanding of the honour and privilege it was to belong to some feline God or Goddess, never having shown him the deference he was entitled to, not even so much as kneeling before him to present some delicious offering. Her presence or lack thereof was therefore of little interest to him, assuming her to be one of those evil creatures that didn’t bow down to their feline masters or mistresses, or worse still, she might even be … a dog person … urghh, was all Tommy could muse to himself at the thought …

Tommy leapt down from the bookcase, landing beside Lucy on the sofa. He had kept her waiting long enough, a suitable penance he thought for giving some of her attention to another. Nonetheless, he snuggled beside her, again gazing up into her eyes, allowing the soft touch of his fur to brush against her bare skin. He even allowed her the rare privilege of stroking and caressing him.

Any thoughts of replacing Tommy with some slobbering little puppy as Clara had suggested instantly evaporated, Tommy’s mastery and ownership of her once again more assured than any cage or set of chains could ever do.

cat3

 

***

Enjoyed this story? Would like to read more? Then stay tuned for the publication of Flashbulb Moments towards the end of this year …

Azzz

 

Two opening stories from Book Three in the Creature Tales collection – Six, eight, & Many Legged Tales: A Swarming Mass of Bites and Stings.

Be

 

 

 

For a short time only until book three goes live sometime next month, here are two of the opening stories from the third and final book of The Creature Tales collection.

 

 

 

 

Mutant Mozzies! 

Mozzie3Clinging to the stem of a leaf, she watched the human from about twenty feet away. It was rare to see one out at night so deep in the woods, but there he was, nestled in position by the river for a spot of night-fishing, probably to supplement his other poaching activities, not that the minuscule hungry predator was to know that.

She flew in a little closer. The distinctive hum produced by the rapid beating of her wings and movement through the air might have alerted the human but for the orchestra of other tiny nightlife sounds that filled the woods. The bigger danger was alerting any of the other innumerable tiny predators that filled the woodland air whatever the time of day or night. Even a flight of two or three feet might expose her to the lightning strike of a reptilian tongue, an airborne attack from a dragonfly, or even being caught in the web of some equally predatory spider. Had such a rival got to her first, the unsuspecting human might have remained undisturbed but it wasn’t to be.

The one stalking the human for her next meal was of course from that deadlier than the male, blood-sucking half of the winged pests, a description that was equally true of most of the insect world, and indeed those larger creatures farther up the tree of evolution. Having avoided being eaten, squashed, or other violent death for the past month, she was a veteran of the swarming army of more than a trillion mosquitoes that patrolled practically every last inch of the planet.

The light touch of her slender elongated body and its three pairs of long hair-like legs were too light and gentle to induce the slightest flicker of response in any of the many nerve endings of her prey’s soft warm skin. It wasn’t the human’s skin she was interested in though, but the nutritious substance it housed just millimetres beneath its surface, the delicious blood she would need to grow her eggs and another generation of her kind.

She had the element of surprise; she was after all a hunter, and a creature immeasurably better adapted and more practised in day-to-day survival than any two-legged giant; humans were little more than embryonic infants on the planet compared to her own species’ two-hundred million years plus.

Once comfortably settled, her feathery antennae hover over the surface of the minute patch of skin she had landed. Although also used for other purposes, they act as the mosquito’s nose to determine the suitability of the food source. The human is a type ‘O’ blood type, and while she, the mosquito, plays no favourites in who she feeds off, type ‘O’ is the mosquitoes’ vintage of choice for nourishing their soon-to-be young. Without further hesitation, she thrusts her two serrated cutting blades to literally saw through the outer layer of the human’s epidermis while two retractors prise open a passageway for the straw-like proboscis through which she will suck out the blood she needs like a drill extracting oil from the ground. To hasten the feeding process and reduce the likelihood of the victim swatting her away or worse, splattering her into little more than an unsightly stain, a sixth and final anatomical needle spikes the skin to inject an anticoagulant to prevent the blood from clotting.

It’s all over in a matter of seconds, though before she flies off to safety, she leaves behind an unpleasant reminder of their encounter, the irritating blotch from the allergic reaction to her saliva; in this case, the human is lucky that he’s not in one of those parts of the world where that same saliva might do something far worse, like infecting him with any number of fatal diseases such as  malaria, Zika, West Nile, dengue or yellow fever. But the danger is not over yet. She is a new and far more dangerous specimen of her species than even she realises, the latest result of the white-coated humans’ meddling in things  …

*

If they’re close enough for you to hear them, then unless you’re drenched in DEET or imprisoned inside several layers of head-to-toe clothing, it’s probably too late. That all too familiar humming buzz of the mosquito is enough to have the potential human meal here in the west and in cooler climes immediately pulling down shirt sleeves, donning long trousers, or reaching for the insect spray, anything to lessen the likelihood of the blotchy red bumps, the days of maddening scratching, and hourly applications of anti-histamine lotions.

In other parts of the world, the consequences were usually a lot worse, often adding to the mosquitoes’ 700,000 annual fatalities

Someone once said that God had a lot to answer for allowing those two bloody mosquitos aboard the ark.  Quite apart from the plague of malaria, every hiker, rambler, or anyone who had ever suffered the maddening irritation of a mosquito bite would probably agree.

Nowadays of course, everyone agreed …

*

Seth Packard was making his way home after another successful night’s poaching. The nearby estate provided him with not only most of his own food needs, but quite a nice income on the side from the adjacent salmon-rich river. The estate gamekeeper and local police were more a minor inconvenience to Seth’s activities than a real obstacle. Having grown up in the countryside, Seth was at home in the woods and forest any wild-born creature, practically immune to the irritating effects of most insect bites. Nonetheless, even he was becoming concerned by the growing number of ticks and mosquitoes, a fact he was reminded of when he felt that immediately recognisable heat and tingling of the after-effects of just such a bite to the back of his neck. It surprised Seth – it wasn’t that he never got bitten or was totally immune to a histamine reaction to the insect toxins or saliva from some tiny six and or however many-legged creatures, but it was rare for him to notice their effects. Perhaps that was why he instinctively brought his hand up to scratch at the inflamed area. In the process though, he had accidentally grazed his hand on either a thorn or the sharp or broken edge of an overhanging branch.

In contrast to the inflammation following most insect bites, Seth was used to such scratches and minor cuts, an inevitable consequence of spending so much time in the wild. This time it was a tad deeper though, and probably needed a proper dressing. Still, Seth had suffered worse in his time and simply wrapped a bit of cloth around it to help clot the blood, for now, not giving it a second thought beyond that.

The makeshift bandage around Seth’s hand didn’t clot the flow of blood though, and the wound it was covering continued to trickle blood throughout the night.

Another effect of the mosquito bite was to make him sweat, but not the sweat of exertion or from being too hot … every pore and orifice of his skin and body was seeping blood, draining it like some water-filled container with multiple holes in it. When they found his body a few days later, it looked like the theatrics department had gone overboard on a Hammer Horror film set.

Despite his naturally acquired immunity and tolerance, Seth Packard’s fate had been sealed on his last night of poaching in the estate forest; he would likely as not have been unaffected by the mosquito bite, but combined with the thorn it was just a matter of time, not that he would have had long to wait.

Perhaps it was a good thing that Seth’s insect immunity and lack of irritation from the mosquito bite had dulled any sense that something might be wrong. Had it not been so, he would have suffered the fear of knowing just how he was going to die long before the full effects of the mosquito bite combined with his minor cut took their toll.

Seth Packard was the first recorded UK victim of what the Press would later call the ‘Blood Sweating’ disease … he was not to be the last.

*

Sumatra Genetics had been tasked with developing a delivery system for the World Health Organisation’s newly developed universal flu vaccine, HN247. There had been a time when conventional methods of vaccination would have done the job. But that was ten years before … things had changed.

As well as more virulent human and avian strains, they were now having to cope with a new one on the block – Rodent flu. Like its avian counterpart, this too had jumped the species barrier, and worse, it didn’t kill its rodent hosts or trouble them in any way.

China alone had suffered near on a hundred million casualties, with India close on its heels. It was only stricter quarantine regulations and more efficient rodent control measures that had lessened the impact on Europe and North America, with their death toll still limited to the low tens of millions. South America, on the other hand, was reaching close to sixty million dead.

Quite apart from the logistical nightmare of trying to vaccinate 8 billion people, and the cost, the death toll and other debilitating health effects on the estimated billion or so already infected made it a race against time. If the current pandemic wasn’t stopped in its tracks, it would soon cripple the world’s ability to react at all.

It was ironic that Sumatra Genetics should be the one the WHO should look to for help given that it was their experiments with rats that had led to Rodent flu in the first place. That little nugget of information was something only Sumatra’s most trusted staff knew about. And since those in the know had all been bought off with substantial share options, that was the way it was likely to stay. It was a further irony that this latest crisis was an opportunity for the shady genetics company to become even more successful if they came up with a solution.

Sumatra already knew there simply weren’t enough doctors, nurses, or similarly trained medical staff, let alone the facilities or resources to manually vaccinate 7 billion around the world. Clearly, a new and radical approach had to be devised, one that took no account of borders, quarantine zones, or any other obstacle to a vaccine delivery system.

They put their Microbiology department to working on the problem, and more specifically, their entomology section. The nanoparticle-based universal flu HN247 vaccine the WHO had developed made it ideal for viral delivery via almost the tiniest of nature’s multicellular life-forms, namely insects.

Unbeknown to the WHO, Sumatra were already ahead of the curve on the problem; they had several years’ worth of research into viral delivery systems, the only difference being that theirs was for weaponised agents, not life-saving ones.

Within a few months they had adapted the vaccine to be carried by insects, any and every insect in the world in fact. By infecting selective insects with a harmless virus carrying HN247, they anticipated that it would take less than a year for some 90% of the human population to be likewise infected. And they were right. Within a matter of months, half the world’s population were now immune to the Rodent flu.

It had been an unqualified success in the more rural and less developed parts of the world, where daily and multiple insect bites were more a plague than a lifesaver. In the developed world, progress was slower; the greater cleanliness of the cities and their population’s obsession with keeping their homes sterile and germ-free was less conducive to an openly thriving insect population.

The public announcements though about Rodent flu immunity being spread by harmless insect bites weren’t popular at first. Fortunately, perhaps, the increasing death toll from Rodent flu was even less popular, inducing, or rather frightening. most of the public to briefly dispense with their insect and pest repellents and take to walking bare-armed through the parks and countryside.

With the third world and countryside largely vaccinated, that left the developed world free to supplement the insect viral delivery system using more conventional methods of vaccination to spread the life-saving infection, free of the international communities’ condemnation of only looking after themselves.

Sumatra Genetics had once again come up smelling of roses to quote the old saying. Unfortunately, the roses, in this case, had nasty and unexpected thorns …

*

In the aftermath of the Rodent flu crisis, the world had breathed a collective sigh of relief at its resolution. It was probably why the first reports of a mosquito problem largely went unnoticed; compared to the death of some 400 million from the Rodent flu, no subsequent crisis seemed to warrant urgent attention.

Mosquito bites had plagued mankind since it first climbed down from the trees. Admittedly, some repellents worked better than others, and a small lucky percentage of the population seemed immune to the annoying winged pests. Still though, mosquitos were high on the list of most people’s pet hates.

Despite the drug companies’ best efforts, there as yet remained no way of preventing most people from being bitten from time to time. Worse still, it was rare to suffer only the one bite when attacked. It was just a case of having to suffer the several days of excruciating itching and inflamed red blotches that invariably followed.

Had people known what was to follow they would have been glad to put up with the maddening but temporary annoyance of a regular mosquito bite.

*

The disease had first hit the poorer parts of the world around the filthy pools of stagnant water where the mosquitos thrived. Just another tropical disease running its course in some backward part of the word nobody cared about had been the original assumption. That had changed.

Only a small number of mosquitos were carrying the new disease as far as anyone could tell given the tiny ratio of deaths to mosquito numbers. It was enough though to finally get the WHO’s attention. It wasn’t so much how many were dying but who that had prompted them to take notice, namely the inclusion now of rich westerners.

Dozens of cases were cropping up all over the world, not that the actual death toll was yet anywhere near high enough yet for the health authorities to start panicking. The public though were another matter – not since the early 80s during the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic had they been so thoroughly gripped by fear.

It was the way people died from it that really had them scared. It started with a single bite, that’s all it took; unlike most insect bites, it was one you actually felt rather being alerted to it by the post-bite irritating blotchy inflammation.

In the beginning it had been thought to be some strange form of advanced haemophilia for want of a better definition given the excessive bleeding. It didn’t take long to determine whatever it might be was being transmitted by insect bites. Narrowing it down to mosquitos had come later. It was bizarre to think the media had been the first to make the connection with their Mutant Mozzies and Sweating Blood hysteria-inducing headlines. Either way, it had come as a relief to the WHO that it had been narrowed down to one specific insect.

Despite assurances from Sumatra Genetics to the contrary, the WHO had originally feared it might be a delayed side-effect of the insect carried viral delivery of the HN247 flu vaccine. Had that been the case and all insects had been carriers of the new disease it5 truly would have been the end of mankind. Nonetheless, they were still investigating along those lines … and so too was Sumatra Genetics.

Something unique in one of the Mosquito’s fourteen thousand different genes had combined with the HN2247 nanoparticle-based vaccine, boosting the naturally occurring anti-coagulant in the mosquitoes’ salivary glands. Instead of the usual maddening but non-fatal effects, victims were dying. It wasn’t that the anti-coagulant was any more effective, it was simply longer-lasting; whereas a normal mosquito bite would only disable the regular clotting ability of the blood for a few minutes in the immediate area of the bite while the mosquito fed, these others were causing the effects of the anticoagulant to spread throughout the body for up to twelve hours.

In the young and elderly, it was even longer. Any significant injury during the active phase of the mosquito bite would see the victim sweating blood from every pore of their body – even a simple cut or a bruise could be fatal for the less robust victim.

“Well, we’ve identified the problem. We just don’t have a solution … or know if there even is one?” Dr Natalie Martins was telling the board.

It wasn’t often any of Sumatra’s research staff were quite so blunt with their bosses. But then of course, it wasn’t often the company’s survival or keeping the Sumatra board of directors from a prison cell depended on one of them either.

“You are aware of the urgency of the matter, aren’t you Dr Martins?” Simon Cadwell asked, one of Sumatra’s vice-presidents.

“I’m aware of the urgency, yes. A lot of lives depend on our coming up with a way of either neutralising whatever it is causing the disease or fighting its effects.” Natalie knew very well the ‘urgency’ being referred to had nothing to do with saving lives.

“We’re all aware of that, Dr Martins. But we also have to provide answers for the medical enquiry board.”

“Probably best I don’t waste any more time here then. I’ll be able to answer your questions a lot quicker if I’m allowed to get on with looking for the answers.” 

Simon Cadwell didn’t bother to reply, instead simply looking down to make a few notes in his sheaf of papers … I’ll remember you, Dr Martins, when this is all over, the Sumatra VP thought to himself, annoyed some little jumpstart of an employee should be in a position to speak to a member of the board in such an insolent manner.

In their desperation to eliminate themselves from any blame for the new disease, the Sumatra Genetics investigatory board had finally allowed Dr Natalie Martins access to their sealed files on their previous failed efforts to find a way of eradicating Malaria.

With the new though still classified information in her hands, she discovered Sumatra’s previous efforts to splice a modified gene into the malaria transmitting Anopheles mosquito, one that would neutralise the plasmodium parasite that causes malaria.

She was not impressed by the shoddy science and shortcuts they had taken in their efforts. Like most of Sumatra’s projects, their eye had been on quick profits rather than being prepared for years of painstaking research and trial to verify their results.

Not only had it not worked, instead of neutralising the malaria-causing parasite it was originally meant to, but this new modified gene had also now found a more compatible receptor in the nanoparticles of the HN247 vaccine. It was now snugly nestled between the same anti-coagulant producing gene in the mosquito salivary gland and another responsible for the mosquito’s tolerance for changes in temperature. This tiny realignment of its DNA was making successive generations of its host mosquitos better able to survive the cooler conditions of the Northern hemisphere.

Once she had reported her findings, Dr Martins was given the task of heading the team Sumatra formed to eradicate the mutated Anopheles mosquito. Of course, every Anopheles mosquito now carried the mutant gene but it was a simple matter for Sumatra to breed and release a variant into the wild with the mutant gene removed. Given that the modified gene was essentially a foreign body in the mosquitos’ DNS, nature was quick to accept the new variant, and the rate at which all insects bred, it quickly became dominant. But nothing was ever quite that simple when it came to meddling in the very building blocks of life. While the gene responsible for the mosquitos’ anti-coagulant had returned to normal, the exposure of all the new generations of mosquitos had migrated north had permanently adapted them to its cooler temperatures. The malaria carrying Anopheles mosquito was there to stay … the wealthy industrialised north had swapped one disease for another, and with a

*

It was Dr Martins’ work that had stopped what the media had coined the ‘Blood Sweating’ disease. Unsurprisingly it was Sumatra Genetics that took the credit. Again, the relief at having averted the latest of the pandemics the world seemed to be lurching between had shielded Sumatra from public condemnation, allowing it once again to bask in the glory of being its saviour.

Yet again, one of Sumatra’s lines of research had almost spelt disaster for the entire human race. The dodgy genetics company had destroyed many of its research archives in response to investigations into their activities over the years. They had so many rogue scientists and laboratories working under the radar, they weren’t even sure themselves just how many ticking time-bombs were waiting to blow up in their face.

In the meantime, the WHO continued their close monitoring of the increasing occurrence of more virulent strains of malaria across the northern hemisphere …

Dr Martins wasn’t the only one to suspect their problems were only just beginning …

***

Night of the Bed Bugs

BdEver since many of the genetically modified crops and insects had started to mutate in ways their god-playing creators had never imagined, instead of adapting the environment as it had always done, mankind was instead having to insulate itself against it.

Mosquitoes the size of small birds, ant colonies so colossal that they thought nothing of descending on human towns and cities, and a host of new and fatal diseases carried by pesticide-resistant insects had made even a stroll in the countryside a dangerous thing of the past in many parts of the world.

*

Rachael Mills had never felt comfortable venturing beyond the city limits, much preferring the hum of an air-conditioning unit to the sound of the wind, and the feel of carpet or wooden flooring beneath her feet rather than insect-ridden grass or earth. Perhaps it was the spider and cockroach-infested slum she had grown up in that had led to her irrational fear of them, and in turn, of what she thought of as the insect-infested countryside; it wasn’t agoraphobia in the strictest sense, more a fear of nature itself. To her, the growing insect problem was a confirmation of all her views, that the buzzing, stinging creatures of the wild were nothing more than a living disease that crept and crawled.

Even in the relative safety of her sterile city apartment, Rachael had all manner of insect repellent devices humming away, periodically releasing bug killing toxins into the air. The smell of DEET clung to every inch of flooring, furniture, and the walls. In her own room, such was her fear that as a last defence against the insect enemy, Rachael slept under the sort of fine-meshed mosquito net more usually found in the tropics, again drenched in extra-strength DEET.

Mozzie2Little Peter Mills was all of six years old, and not nearly as afraid of monsters as he used to be. He was a big boy now, and while he still enjoyed the magical imagination of a child, he was starting to feel more grown-up every day. But that wasn’t to say he didn’t welcome the reassurance of having his mum tuck him up in bed, safe and sound, telling him not to let the bed bugs bite. So why were they biting?

At first it was a just a slight irritation that had Peter tossing and turning in his bed. To anyone looking in, they would have probably just put it down to restless fidgeting or having a bad dream. But the irritation was getting worse; not enough to wake him, not yet, but the pinprick like sensations sweeping over most of his body were turning his bad dream into a nightmare.

The little lad was thrashing about now, so badly that the tucked in ends of the bed covers had come loose and been thrown to the floor. Just for a moment the irritation stopped, only for it to return with a vengeance as Peter’s tiny but entire body become immersed in it. It was no longer just the increasingly painful nipping away at his skin, every inch of his body now felt like it was on fire. Until then he had been shielded from the worst of the pain by the anaesthetising effect of still being in a half sleep-like state, but the continuous assault on his nerve endings was too much …

Earlier in the day, Peter wished they hadn’t squished so many of the little bugs when his mum had taken him to one of the designer parks, enclosed bio-domes professionally designed for maximum aesthetic appeal.

Though a good imitation of the outside and natural world, to anyone who had grown up before the need for such bio-domes, they were more like a landscape painting, but with all the colour, life and imagination sucked out of it first. But never having been to a real park let alone run wild in the countryside, Peter thought it was just great, with birds flying high above, and little squirrels popping out of nowhere to look up and investigate visitors to their enclosed domain. And to maintain such a good imitation of such natural beauty, a computer-generated optimum number of non-modified insects too had been added to encourage more natural behaviours of the equally optimum numbers of birds and mammals.

His mum had led him to the grass verge beside the artificial wild-life pond for them to enjoy their picnic. The sandwiches and sugary goodies she had packed soon attracted ants and other assorted flying bugs to join them too, and so she immediately gave the flying ones a blast with the super-strength insect repellent spray most citizens now carried with them. She also took hold of a napkin and started brushing the ants away, squashing the ones that were crawling about the grass near where they had placed their picnic food and drinks. She encouraged Peter to brush them away too. He had been reluctant at first, fascinated by the animated movements of the creepy-crawly creatures, happy too to peer at them more closely as he held up an ant-covered hand before his eyes, entranced by their scurrying movements up and down his fingers. His mother was having none of it though, Peter’s hand suddenly finding itself engulfed by a squirt of super-strength insect repellent.

Peter thought it cruel to kill them that way, but his mum had made a game of it, laughing and joking as she went about her crushing of the loathsome little creatures …

“There’s another … and another. Gotya!”

Again and again she would bring her hand down on the tiny helpless ants.

Not wanting to upset his mum or make her think he wasn’t happy she had brought him out, Peter half-heartedly joined in the ant-squishing slaughter …

Peter’s mind exploded into consciousness. The almost instantaneous awareness of the pain he was in sent his body into spasms. He tried to scream but no sound escaped his throat and nor would his body respond to the instinctive urge to move away from whatever it was attacking him. Something in the bites must have paralysed his muscles. He had to lie there, unable to fight the pain while thousands of tiny insect mandibles tore away at his flesh, boring under his toe and fingernails, crawling inside his ears and mouth, eating away from the insides, and lastly the eyes.

It was a small mercy that the same mind that amplified his pain with its awakening was now shutting down, separating what little was left of the boy’s sanity from the reality of what was happening.

The following morning, his mother screamed at the sight of her little boy, a half-eaten body with what little remained covered in vicious swollen red blotches from the thousands of tiny bites of the clearly visible huge bed bugs, still feeding on what was left …

“I don’t understand,” she was sobbing over and over.

“I thought we’d be safe here in one of the population concentrates, away from the country and open ground. Is nowhere safe now?” she asked again and again.

The police officers exchanged worried glances with the security detail attached to them while the white-coated medical staff took samples, sealing them in small vials, and the bedding in toxic bio-hazard bags. Having attended at least a dozen more in the past few months, it wasn’t the first insect-related death the police and white-coated investigators had been called to, but it was the first one in a typically sterile domestic home setting, the smell of DEET and other insect repellents hanging thick in the air.

Until now it had mainly been attacks on stray cats and dogs and other relatively small animals such as the city rat and urban fox populations, though in a city of more than five million, these minor incidents had gone relatively unnoticed, even when they increased in frequency. It wasn’t until the victims became bigger, when street patrols started finding the lifeless remains of the city’s homeless that the authorities started to pay more attention. Some had been stung to death in the way one might expect from a swarm of bees, while others had literally had the flesh stripped from their bones, the only clue to their fate being a few dead insect specimens of the victims’ attackers.

Rachael watched as the authorities carried her son out on a stretcher. She had wanted to accompany them to wherever they were going, but she had been politely but firmly restrained from doing so.

It was neither the morgue nor the hospital they were taking Peter’s body, but a government facility set up to investigate the growing insect problem.

Given Rachael’s naturally distraught and hysterical state, they had also insisted on calling an ambulance to take her to hospital to be treated for shock and grief, but more importantly, to also keep news of the latest incident becoming public knowledge while they tried to convince her of some other believable explanation for her son’s death. They hoped that would be possible, otherwise, she faced becoming another statistic in the missing person figures. 

*

In a nearby apartment to Rachael’s, innumerable tiny eyes watched the two giant residents’ return from their Centre-Parks holiday, a bio-dome resort much like the one Rachael and Peter had visited the week before, only bigger.

To the residents’ uninvited guests, it meant they would once again be vulnerable to attack from the death delivering bug sprays their larger enemies drenched them in at the mere sight or sound of anything that crawled or buzzed.

Though once indifferent to the humans’ presence other than as a source to occasionally snack on small quantities of their blood, the watching eyes now regarded them as a dangerous enemy, one to either be avoided at all costs or attacked without mercy rather than merely tolerated for the sugary foods the tiny creatures were so greatly fond of and which the human giants provided in such abundance.

There was a time when they would simply have moved on to a less hazardous feeding environment, but though tiny in comparison, the bugs were getting bigger too. When a million bugs double in size and number in the space of a single generation, so too does their appetite; blood alone was no longer enough to satisfy their nutritional needs, and the sugary treats the humans unwittingly left for them were hardly an adequate substitute – they had acquired a taste and need for protein-rich flesh to satisfy their growing size and numbers, particularly that of a food source that wasn’t protected by fur, scales, or able to retreat to an environment hostile to the tiny predators.

The human residents’ return had been aptly timed for them; the bugs were hungry with a million more young to feed. They were smart though and didn’t attack immediately, waiting instead till it became dark and their intended food sources retired to their nice warm beds, the same beds the bugs were also partial too.

It was almost a week before the human couple’s absence had been noticed, more than long enough for the bed bugs to finish their meal before the police and white-coated investigators discovered the two human skeletons.

The sight that greeted them was a less ghastly one than on their first visit to the bed bug-ridden apartment block, the bugs having had time to feed uninterested this time. They might have been discovered sooner but similar reports had come in, not just about residents of Rachael’s apartment block, but other throughout the city – the skeleton couple’s discovery was just one among thousands in the coming days following what the press was calling the night of the bed bugs.

Bigger, stronger, and in greater numbers, the bees, the ants, the mosquitoes, and as many different types of insects as you could think of, they all needed to feed … there would be many more such nights of a million other species in the future …

*** 

If you enjoyed these two stories, then stay tuned for next month’s publication of Six, Eight, & Many Legged Tales: A Swarming Mass of Bites and Stings, the third and final book in The Creature Tales collection … in the meantime, Books 1 & 2 are also available …

Coming soon …

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Guest short story reblog … A Killer in the Mist by Tom Benson …

As regular readers of my blog will know, many of my flash fiction and regular short stories have karma and retribution themes to them. Another author who also writes some of the best revenge/retribution you could ever hope to read is multi-genre writer/author, Tom Benson.

Tom’s first book of such short stories, Smoke & Mirrors, is a real classic of the retribution genre … At around the 750-word mark, Killer in the Mist falls into the longer end of the Flash Fiction category, but like all good flash fiction, it packs in way more entertainment and content than it’s relatively short length would suggest.

Am delighted to say, Killer in the Mist will be appearing as a ‘guest’ story in my Flashbulb Moments F/fiction collection later in the year

***

A Killer in the Mist

 

picAThe evening fog was getting heavier, so Philip flicked his headlights down to dipped beam. Unknown, unlit countryside and the earlier incident had been bad enough.

“You agree, don’t you?” Philip glanced at his passenger. “We couldn’t have done anything else.”

“Whatever ….” Lauren said, not looking at her married lover.

“What do you mean, whatever? If I’d stopped, there would have been questions, and names would be required.”

“I’ve got nothing to hide.” The teenager peered into the illuminated grey mass ahead.

Click HERE for Tom Benson’s original post and full story …

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Cell Bitch – Flash fiction short story

Another little taster from my up-coming under 1000 word flash fiction stories, Flashbulb Moments …

 

Cell Bitch

 

Luke Thompson was as nice a young man as you could ever hope to meet, the sort of boy parents hoped their daughter would bring home to meet them. In Luke’s case though, it was correctional officer Vince Zackery introducing Luke to his parents. It was okay though; Vince’s parents took to Luke the moment they met him. And likewise, when Luke introduced Vince to his own family, they were delighted Luke had found himself a boyfriend who obviously adored him, and given Vince’s 6’3” height and build, one they knew he’d be in safe hands with.

It was an unlikely pairing; they’d met and fell in love during Luke’s monthly visits to his older brother serving a seventy-five-year sentence for armed robbery at the penitentiary where Vince was an officer.

 

Luke was attending a staff Christmas dinner and dance night. He had thought about not going what with Vince working nights, but Vince had told him to go and enjoy himself, and besides, Luke would have felt guilty letting Kathryn down. Being a popular guy, Luke had no shortage of girls happy to dance with him, which was more than could be said for Nathan Morrison. Nathan was your stereotypical homophobic racist, and a jealous one to boot, given that the girl he fancied, Kathryn, was more interested in limp-wristed Luke, as Nathan called him. Luke and Kathryn were best friends in a brother and sister sort of way. All night the girl whose knickers Nathan wanted to get into had spurned him, preferring to chat and dance … with some nancy boy … instead. Afterwards, Luke and Kathryn left together, Luke insisting on walking her the half-mile to her house.

cell7Along with two of his knuckle-dragging mates, Nathan followed at a discreet distance before taking a shortcut in readiness to confront the pair …

 

“So, what’s girly little Luke got that I ain’t?” Nathan demanded to know as he stepped out from the shadows.

“Maybe she’s a dyke and reckons on Luke providing some girl on girl action,” one of the other Neanderthals suggested. Had it just been Nathan on his own, Luke would have taken his chances and struck out at him, but he had Kathryn to consider, and was fearful of what they might do to her if he angered them in any way? In that respect, he needn’t have worried; the three Neanderthals had no intention of raping or hurting Kathryn, knowing full-well what the consequences of that might be. But Luke was another matter – they figured he’d be too ashamed to complain given just what they had in mind for him, and even if he did, they’d say he tried to touch one of them up, that they were fearful of his homosexual advances … sadly, it was a defence that was often successful in some of the ‘less than liberal’ states of America.

Nathan and another of the trio slammed Luke up against the wall, unbuckling his pants at the same time, while the third one kept hold of Kathryn, making her watch. Nathan then produced a bicycle pump he’d stolen from a bike while following them.

“I bet this is what you want, I mean, a hole’s a hole, and you want it, don’t ya?” Nathan whispered, “and if ya scream out, ya little girlfriend here will be getting the real thing from all three of us,” he added, knowing Luke wouldn’t do anything to jeopardise Kathryn’s safety.

 

Nathan had been right in assuming they wouldn’t report the assault, though not because Luke was ashamed. Luke was worried what the others might do to Kathryn if Nathan went to prison. Nonetheless, Kathryn pleaded with Luke to go to the police, but ultimately, she respected his wishes not to.

*

cell2.jpgA month later, Nathan was convicted of a similar assault against a young girl. Hearing the news, Kathryn finally told her father, who just happened to be the judge trying Nathan’s case, what had happened. She also told Luke’s partner, correctional officer, Vince Zackery … 

Nathan Morrison entered the three-man cell somewhat nervously to begin the first day of his ten-year prison sentence for sexual assault. He nodded to the two man-mountain sized figures looking across at him from their bunks, one from a single bed, and the other the lower one of a set of bunk beds.

 

cell5“What’s ya name, boy?” asked one of them while the other returned to flipping the pages of his porn mag.

“It’s Na … Nathan … Nathan Morrison,” he finally managed to blurt out.

“Well young … Nathan … your pit will be on the top bunk above me, though most of the time you’ll down here keeping me happy … oh, and it’ll be me on top.”

“Don’t be greedy, Jim, there’s more ‘n’ enough of that sweet little ass ta go around.” The two cellmates both laughed. Unsurprisingly, Nathan didn’t see the funny side of the crude interjection.

“Too sweet an ass t’be called ‘Nathan,’ that’s for sure … I think we’ll call him Natalie instead.”

“Look guys, I mean …” Nathan began, “I’m … I’m not gay or anything, not that I got owt against anyone who is or anything …”

“Neither are we, but unless you’re hiding a pair of tits and a pussy under that jumpsuit, you’re all we’ve got … and besides, what was it you said … A hole’s a hole?” Nathan didn’t know what to say, too terrified to even notice the flow of urine soaking the front of his prisoner jumpsuit.

cell3“Luke Thompson’s my kid brother … and if you’re thinking of yelling out to the guards, ya know that mean looking muthafucka of an officer that’s in charge of out wing, his name’s Vince,” Jim revealed, brandishing an officer’s nightstick in a somewhat obscene manner before adding: “… and he’s Luke’s partner.”

It was going to be a long ten years was all Nathan could think … that’s if he even survived the night?

cell1

***

 

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read many more like it, please stay tuned for my up-coming anthology later this year, with guest stories from an additional six authors (3 more still to be confirmed)

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Short story – Blind Devotion

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Another short story taster from my up-coming anthology, Canine Tales: A  Growling Pack of Hungry Horrors, book 2 in my Creature Tales collection (due out the end of March this year).

Blind Devotion

puppy1Lucy first met her master to be as a wee young pup, no bigger than a palm-sized tiny ball of mischievous fur, but with a heart as big as the world. In stark contrast to the gorgeous golden coat of fur starting to emerge, she had the sort of big beautiful brown puppy eyes that made you instantly fall in love with her.

The introduction was to see if she immediately took to the man whose life she would hopefully transform. From the moment she was placed on the couch beside him, Lucy nestled up beside his leg. The man sitting there instinctively reached down to caress and stroke her back. Lucy liked that, turning to lick his hand. It was clear from the start they were going to be a good match when the time came.

Vince Downing had slowly been losing his sight for several years. It was just a matter of time, perhaps a year to eighteen months at most before the last flicker of light disappeared forever. He wasn’t bitter about it, just one of those things, the luck of the draw as he would say. But he already missed his independence and hoped a guide dog would at least help make him less reliant on others. In return, he would love and care for that dog with every fibre of his being; like Lucy, he had the kindest nature you could hope for in a man, or indeed a dog too. Thankfully, Vince still had enough sight left to cope with the 12 months of puppy raising before she went off to the training centre. It practically broke his heart when the time came to wave his faithful companion off after guide dog trainer, Chris Morton, arrived to collect her.

 

puppy2Lucy had been a dream to work with, and Chris Morton would be sorry to see her go, more than he cared to admit even to himself. He’d made the cardinal mistake of any trainer in becoming overly fond of one of his charges. Lucy too had grown to love the man who had patiently taught her all she knew, but even so, Chris was a sighted man, and would never need her in the way she was being trained for. Lucy understood this.

She was a natural for the job; it wasn’t that she was some blindly obedient canine equivalent of a sat-nav, she had a wilful and mischievous playful streak, but when it came to the important stuff, she instinctively knew what was expected. Come ‘playtime’ though, she always enjoyed the rewards of all the hard work she was putting in. But after nearly 9 months of obedience and guidance training, Lucy was ready to fulfil the role she’d been earmarked for when her loveable nature and extraordinary intelligence had first been remarked on.

The timing was fortuitous – Vince had less than 5 per cent of his sight now and had officially registered as fully blind. All that was forgotten though when Chris brought Lucy back. Vince recognised her bark immediately.

 

“Hello, my Lucy, I’ve missed you so sooooo much, girl,” Vince said, kneeling to give her a welcoming stroke of her back. Lucy licked at his hand, just like she used to when he was puppy raising her. Now though, she held her boisterous personality in check – no sudden jumping up at him or quite the same playful nature as before. Lucy had been taught well; she knew her master’s limitations and her role as his guide and protector.

For the next three years, the two of them were very happy together. Lucy was everything Vince could have wanted in a guide dog, and just as importantly, as faithful a friend and companion as ever lived.

With all the modern technology and speech to text software available, Vince was able to continue his career as a successful writer. With several best-sellers to his name, Vince was now a very wealthy man. Such success had attracted a lot of interest of late, though in the most recent case, not from a good source. In a recent interview, the subject of his blindness had come up, something a certain career criminal by the name of Dean Smith had picked up on. Dean was a thief, burglar, and one-time street robber, the last of which he’d given up when one of his victims decided to fight back. Nowadays he was far more selective about his victims, usually picking the elderly or otherwise vulnerable. Vince Downing sounded like a perfect candidate.

Though not the smartest guy in the world, Dean knew his way around a keyboard and the internet and was soon able to discover the well-to-do address where Vince lived. A quick check on StreetView showed it to be an expensive house too, no doubt filled with valuables. He made his plans accordingly …

 

It seemed like the perfect night to put his plans into operation. Months of planning and preparation, and exploiting Vince’s blindness, had allowed him to neutralise the problem of Vince’s burglar alarms and other security measures. His only concern was Vince’s guide dog. Observation had revealed she had free run of the extensive gardens to the back of Vince’s house day and night. Dean figured that throwing  several pieces of drugged meat in them enough to keep her quiet on the night; his first thought had been to simply lace said meat with some fatal poison, but he’d read somewhere that if he used enough to ensure death, a dog’s acute sense of smell might alert it to the danger. On the other hand, if he used less than a significant amount, he’d have no way of knowing how long it would be to take effect. Reluctantly, Dean opted for lacing it with a sleeping draft, harmless in the long-term, but sufficient to knock her out long enough to rob Vince’s house without interference once inside. As it happened, his plan worked better than he could have hoped for. Lucy enthusiastically devoured the bait, quickly succumbing to its effects.

Noticing the increasing lethargy of his beloved companion, Vince wasted no time in calling for a vet, and Lucy’s trainer, Chris Morton. The fact that she simply appeared ill rather than there being any obvious effects of being poisoned, it didn’t arouse the same sort of suspicion that would have followed the latter.

Dean was watching from inside his van at a discreet distance when both the vet and Lucy’s trainer arrived. Shortly afterwards, the dog was taken away in the veterinary ambulance with Chris in attendance. Vince had wanted to go too but had reluctantly accepted Chris’s assurances that he would stay with her until the vets gave the okay to bring her home.

Vince was now in the house alone. It was already getting late and the time Vince usually went to bed. Nonetheless, Dean waited another hour, not being able to rely on the usual turning off of lights to indicate Vince going to bed as he would with a sighted person.  Dean figured though on having several hours at the very least, and more probably until the next day before the dog was likely to be returned home. Still, he was anxious to get in and out asap; the last thing he wanted was to wait too long and risk being interrupted in the middle of a robbery. With the alarms already taken care of and the dog out of the way, Dean made his way through the rear garden, entering the house via one of the back doors. That was the point where things started to go awry. Dean had been wrong to think Vince would simply go to bed, knowing his beloved Lucy might be fighting for her life. Of course, he hadn’t gone to bed. What would be the point given the worry and turmoil raging through his mind? Even so, being worried and anxious wasn’t enough to stop Vince from picking up on the faint noise Dean was making as he rummaged through Vince’s study and other rooms to the rear of the house, assuming the occupant to be asleep upstairs. It was perhaps that same worry and anxiety that prevented Vince from thinking straight; he had a panic button/app on his mobile phone to trigger an alert to the local police station, but he’d left it in the kitchen, and instead. instinctively called out …

“Hello, is someone there?” Dean froze. The voice sounded like it had come from close-by, an adjacent room maybe, but certainly a downstairs one. The sensible thing to do would have been to get the hell out. But not Dean. He had invested a lot of time and effort into this job and wasn’t about to give it up.

In the semi-dark, he worried that Vince might have an advantage in a confrontation and switched a light on to see better. He took an involuntary gasp at seeing Vince standing in an opposite doorway just a few feet away.

“Please, I know someone’s there. Please, just go, I won’t call the authorities or anything,” Vince pleaded. Again, Dean was being given a second chance to cut his losses and run.  Instead of taking it, he instinctively lunged and struck Vince with the flashlight he was still holding. It was a hard blow that sent him crashing to the ground and combined with the force his head hit the polished wooden floor, a fatal one too. It wasn’t how he had planned things, but Dean knew he could dispense with being so quiet now and proceeded to ransack the house for any cash or high-value items.

Chris tried phoning Vince later that night to let him know Lucy had had her stomach pumped and would recover just fine. There was no answer. He guessed Vince must have gone to bed, and so elected to return with Lucy the next morning. Again, there was no answer to the doorbell. Lucy was barking loudly; not the usual enthusiastic barking that you might expect from being reunited with her owner, but a more urgent and agitated sort, so Chris used the key Vince had given him to let himself in. As soon as the door opened, Lucy pulled free of Chris and ran inside to where Vince was lying. Had he simply been unconscious or asleep, Lucy would have licked at his face, nudging him with her nose to try and waken him, but Lucy knew the smell of death, and that her beloved owner wasn’t going to be getting up to stroke and caress her ever again. She slumped beside him, softly whining. Chris joined them a moment later, kneeling to take Vince’s pulse to check for life despite the futility; he could see from Lucy’s body language and lack of interaction with her owner that Vince was surely dead.

 

Chris Morton was not happy with the decision to assign Lucy elsewhere quite so soon after her owner’s death, especially given that Vince had left him his house and a large sum of money for Lucy’s future care and veterinary bills. Ideally, he would have liked to take Lucy himself, allowing her to continue living in the home she had shared with her former master. But guide dogs possessed exceptional qualities and were expensive to train. There simply weren’t enough of them to go around, and not to reassign her would be too much of a waste. Chris understood the reasoning and agreed to introduce her to a prospective new owner.

The man in question had recently been blinded in a street attack, acid thrown in his face according to the file. While feeling sorry for the man, Chris couldn’t help but wonder might have provoked such a vicious attack. It could of course have just been another senseless act of violence, but if not, it worried him then just what sort of man he would be leaving Lucy with? He forced himself to put the thought from his mind as he made his way to the man’s apartment.

There was no garden for her to play in, and the area was in the poorer part of town, not the sort of place he would want for Lucy. But rich and poor alike were deserving of the very best help they could get, and if he was a decent sort, there was no reason to believe Lucy wouldn’t adapt and be just as happy as she had been with Vince.

The meeting was short and perfunctory. The man seemed to have little interest in asking questions about Lucy’s care other than how much it cost to feed a mutt? Lucy for her part didn’t display the usual degree of curiosity and affection either when meeting someone new for the first time. Oddly, she seemed more interested in sniffing about the man’s apartment, in his closets and cupboards like a sniffer dog looking for drugs. After completing a few formalities, Chris reluctantly left Lucy in the man’s care, determined not to allow his misgivings to influence him.

 

Lucy was guiding her new master to some local street corner. To exactly where and what for, Lucy had no way of knowing, her job was to simply ensure he got to wherever he was walking without mishap. It was night, and while that made no difference to the man at the other end of the leash, it was not ideal for Lucy guiding him.

They stopped at a crossing. Despite the late hour, there was a lot of noise and activity, too much for the audible warning to either wait or cross to be heard. Lucy could see and hear the approach of the oncoming bus. A gentle tug on her lead was the cue for her master that it was safe to cross. A split second later he caught the full force of the bus, killing him instantly. Thankfully, Lucy had managed to jump back in the nick of time, her leash immediately dropped from her master’s grasp at the moment of impact, and so she remained safe. The police and an ambulance quickly arrived on the scene, but too late. Lucy had stayed put where she was just as she was trained to do. The emergency service staff arranged for Lucy to be returned to the guide dog training centre as per the information on her dog tag. 

Back at the centre, there was some discussion on how such an accident could have occurred. Lucy was by far the best guide dog they had ever trained, but Chris was able to successfully argue that given the circumstances, Lucy could no longer be relied upon in the role. No one objected to Chris applying for her custody.

 

Epilogue …

Subsequent investigations into the background of Lucy’s second deceased master threw up some interesting results. A search of his apartment revealed several items stolen from Vince Downing’s house along with forensic and DNA evidence linking him to the tragic robbery and murder. It was those same items that had almost certainly prompted Lucy to immediately start sniffing around the apartment when Chris first took her there. Some remnant of Vince’s scent was probably what had alerted her, though Chris was hardly to know that at the time. Speculation immediately arose as to whether Lucy may have deliberately allowed Dean Smith to walk into oncoming traffic, leading to do his death?

There were a few jobsworth officials who tried to insist that Lucy might be a danger to people and since, for obvious reasons, Lucy could not be questioned on the matter, it might be best to have her put down. On the other hand, the consensus was that Dean had got exactly what he deserved. There was little doubt either that the acid attack had most likely been related to his criminal activities, and besides, any suggestion of taking action against Lucy would have outraged every dog and other animal lover in the country. The last thing any Texas judge wanted was to be the first in the world’s execution capital to be the voted out of office by the dog vote.

To this day, Lucy still sleeps on her favourite rug in the exact spot where her former master, Vince, had died.

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For more canine-themed stories – some sad, some savage, and others more subtle – keep tuned for:

a2y

Publication date – 31st March 2019

Short story – Never-Ending Wrong-Turn

Story no: 87 – First draft of another of my little under 1000 words flash fiction tasters –  Just one from one of my upcoming short story collections …

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Never-ending turn-off …

coma5It had been a long drive and Mason Garvey was tired. The rain and poor visibility had meant he had had to concentrate harder on the road than that for his more usual leisurely driving trips, adding even more to the fatigue he was feeling.  He really should have stopped and parked in a lay-by or one of the motorway services. Instead, he thought it better to simply increase his speed and carry on driving through the night; the thought of splashing out on some dingy hotel room or spending an uncomfortable night in his truck in a lay-by didn’t appeal as much as his own nice warm comfy bed. He was especially anxious to get home too for some much-needed sleep. He wanted to enjoy the celebrations on the eve of the end of the millennium the following day.

Just another two hours and he would be home if he didn’t drop below 70 mph. That might have been okay if he was still on the motorway but he wasn’t. He was on a country road with lots of twists and turns and overhanging foliage. The rain was coming down harder, and there was only the glare of his headlights to see by.

The benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing. We can learn so much from it, much like experience. Sadly, it wasn’t much use to Mason Garvey or going to change what had happened.

coma6It was just a fraction of second between taking the corner too fast and ploughing into the motor-cyclist whose body and bike were now lying sprawled some twenty feet away from his 4 tonne Bedford lorry. Mason reached for his phone, ready to dial 999 … and then he stopped himself … he needed to think, clear his head.

He’d been driving too fast. He’d been drinking. The motorcyclist had had right of way.  Did he really want to risk a lengthy prison sentence? And for what? For hitting someone he didn’t know during a momentary lapse of concentration, someone stupid enough to be riding a motorbike on the road at night and in the rain? Already Mason was rationalising a decision that suited him best.

coma4He looked around his truck for signs of damage. It was pretty old, already sporting its fair share of bumps and scrapes, ideal camouflage for a few additional bumps and scratches to the paintwork the accident might have caused. He looked too at his road atlas; he was no longer bothered about getting home in any reasonable time, just getting there via a route that avoided for as long as possible any likely CCTV or other monitoring equipment. There appeared to be a turn-off a few miles ahead. He got back in his truck to continue his journey, not even bothering to check on the motorcyclist to see if he might still be alive?

The accident seemed to have given him a second wind fatigue wise. A few minutes later he spotted the turn-off. He’d reached it quicker than expected but didn’t give it much thought. The turn-off looked more like a dis-used track than the ‘B’ road indicated on the map. He wasn’t complaining – it would lessen even more the likelihood of anyone spotting and remembering his truck. He continued down the old road. It was a real test of his driving skills, navigating the meandering stony and uneven single track. The trees and foliage appeared to close in on him the further he went, though never quite enough to halt his progress.

It was over an hour before the road appeared to widen again. He’d feared that he had got himself lost, already sure this wasn’t the ‘B’ road he had meant to take. Seeing the turn-off coming to an end, he increased his speed, anxious to leave the somewhat eerie road he was on …

It was just a fraction of second between taking the corner too fast and ploughing into the motor-cyclist whose body and bike were now lying sprawled some twenty feet away from his 4 tonne Bedford lorry. Mason reached for his phone, ready to dial 999 … and then he stopped himself … he needed to think, clear his head.

Mason Garvey got out of his truck, already regretful of trying to get home in such a hurry. He wished too he hadn’t stayed on for those last few drinks with his mates. There was something familiar about the scene but he was still dazed by the shock of what had happened and put it from his mind. But whatever his state of shock, he had enough of his wits about to know there was no way he going to do a lengthy stretch in prison for some bozo he didn’t know.

coma2He was in luck. According to his map, there was a turn-off just a few miles away that would take him most of the way home without re-joining the motorway. He reached it quicker than he thought … it was an eerie looking road. Mason wondered if it was the same one on the map? He didn’t care. It was leading away from the dead motorcyclist, and that was all he cared about.

The Rhondda Gazette

coma7‘… A motorcyclist was killed in a hit and run collision late last night or possibly the early hours of the morning. The man believed to be the other driver was found unconscious a few miles away having driven his lorry into a tree along a dis-used farm track, presumably in an attempt to avoid discovery and prosecution. Forensics confirmed the unconscious man’s lorry to be the vehicle to have hit and killed the motorcyclist …’

*

Mason Garvey remains in a coma to this day.  He remains trapped in his own mind and body, perpetually reliving the events of that rainy night, each time remembering and interpreting them a little differently … all except the ending, that remains the same. That remains his punishment.

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The Fixer – Flash Fiction short story

IASDpicFlash Fiction short story no:7 (only 93 more to go). This a1FlashFictionwill probably be the last one for a week or so while I catch up on some long overdue book reviews. Happy reading, writing, reviewing, and blogging. Whatever your passion, enjoy …

 

If you’re enjoying these flash fiction stories, for some even shorter 100-word microfiction from different authors, see link below:

IASD Micro-fiction

*

The Fixer

Anna Dawson listened to the reading of the verdict. The words not guilty would ring in her ears for the rest of her life.

justice3The man who had raped and killed her daughter was about to walk free from court. She didn’t blame the jury, the police, or prosecution for that matter; it had been slim enough evidence to start with. And with such a convincing alibi they weren’t left with much choice but to let the monster walk. It was hard to argue with the sworn testimony of over thirty people, each one of whom was willing to testify that Harry Tilsley was hundreds of miles away drinking with friends when her daughter, Jackie, met her death.

Harry Tilsley flashed a smile at her before showing a thumbs-up gesture to the jury, almost like a mock ‘thanks.’ He knew Anna was in court. The wry smile and gesturing were all directed at her, a reminder that his money made him virtually untouchable.

*

“Hello. Mr Jacobs, it’s Anna Dawson here,” Anna said.

“Write down the following directions. Do exactly as I tell you, and I will meet with you in three days,” the voice at the other end of the phone answered. There were no polite formalities, not so much as a hello or goodbye from the voice, just the lengthy instructions followed by the crackle of the line going dead.

She followed the directions and instructions to the letter. It was an odd place to meet, she thought. Still, it was better that than the cliché flash of headlights in a deserted underground carpark.

justice5Mr Jacobs was not at all like she expected. Actually, she hadn’t known quite what to expect, except that with his gangster fedora and cigar, and the whole seedy smoke-filled nightclub in a less than respectable part of the city, this wasn’t it. The entire place, the people, it was like a jaunt back in time to a Sam Spade movie – she wouldn’t have been surprised to see Humphry Bogart walk through the door with his trademark raincoat turned up at the collar. The man that did join her though wasn’t that far off the mark.

 

“You’re the man who arranged Harry Tilsley’s alibi,” were the first words out of Anna’s mouth when Mr Jacobs approached to join her at the table she had been instructed to sit.

Mr Jacobs nodded his agreement with her statement. If Anna had been expecting denials, excuses, or justification, she was going to be disappointed.

“But I understand you’re not here to recriminate with me, so, to business then,” Mr Jacobs continued.

“No, I’m not. I want to employ your services. I don’t have the same money as Harry Tilsley, but I’ve raised a sizeable amount, and I’m willing to work for you to make up any shortfall,” Anna replied, handing him a note with the figure she had raised. He looked at it and mouthed a barely perceptible smile. Mr Jacobs passed it back to her, nodding his agreement of its acceptability.

 

Anna no longer hated Mr Jacobs and his organisation for what they had done. Had Harry Tilsley not employed their services, yes, he would have gone to prison.  But would he have got the punishment he deserved, that was another matter. With his money, he would probably have got the charge reduced to involuntary manslaughter. Any actual prison time would have been in some cushy minimum security place, and likely for no more than a few months.

     This was better, she thought, much better indeed!

*

Anna made Harry suffer. Surprisingly, she opted not to kill him. Leaving him as ‘half a man’ was much more satisfying. It wasn’t all bad for Harry though; with modern medicine and advanced surgery, there was every likelihood of being able to reconstruct some sort of artificial penile tube for urination. And perhaps those little rubber implants to at least give Harry the illusion of him still possessing his balls might be a comfort too. Looks wise though, he was left with a face not even his own mother could ever love again despite all the reconstructive surgery his money could buy.

Anna now owed Mr Jacobs her lifelong loyalty should he decide to act on her offer to work for him. It was a small price to pay, she thought.

*

Naturally, as the mother of the girl Harry Tilsley had been accused of raping and murdering, Anna was the authorities’ first port of call in their investigations. They quickly dismissed her as a suspect though; she was still too distraught from Harry Tilsley having been proved innocent at his trial to barely think straight, in their opinion. And when they checked her alibi, Anna Dawson was found to be hundreds of miles away drinking in a seedy smoke-filled bar, drowning her sorrows with friends – over thirty people were willing to testify to that.

 

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…

View original post 622 more words

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.

*

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…

View original post 259 more words

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