FLASH FICTION: “PESTS”

There are no sugary treats for this plague of ants to swarm over, so I have no idea what has brought these vile creatures here to this isolated, desolate part of the city. No statues or structures of historical importance, no famous breweries or distilleries, no birthplaces of long drank themselves to death musicians or now-derelict buildings where the still alive ones recorded their first albums as fresh-faced nineteen-year-olds. Yet, here they are, milling around, trapping me on this square foot of footpath, everything about their being grating on me like fingernails down a blackboard. The shrill, excited noises they make seem to pass for speech but their language is impenetrable to me. The squeaky sounds of their feet as they shuffle around sicken me to my core. But it’s the incessant clicking. That, more than anything else. I try to leave, but they follow, the clicking sound escalating, accelerating. The chatter intensifies and I realize that they are not ignoring me the way they were seconds ago. They have recognized my presence and have locked on to me. I have become the subject of curiosity and they will not rest. Not until I stop and, one by one, take each of the smartphones they’re clicking away on from them and photograph them with their friends, in front of a fence that backs on to waste ground strewn with scrapped kitchen appliances and broken pushchairs.

My heart sinks as I discover that I am smiling and that I am readily, willingly taking their phones and making polite, accommodating sounds. What is this? These wide-eyed locusts are eating away at me, stripping me of my self-respect. When they’re done with me, when they’ve reduced me to a husk, they will move on to the next feeding ground, forgetting me like I never existed, like I was simply a feature of the landscape. My dignity is one of the last things of any worth I have left. I am not prepared to let it go this cheaply.

They say that in the event of global thermonuclear war, only the cockroaches and rats will survive. But they forget about the tourists. And the fearless way in which these vermin descend into the most dangerous parts of the city with complete abandon, drawing as much attention as they can to themselves with unknown languages and misunderstood accents, getting in your way, blocking your path, disrupting your day, like bluebottles and wasps spoiling a sunny afternoon in the garden for everyone, just begging to be swatted out of the air and crushed underfoot.

The first one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I hit her with her own phone. There’s half a smile there, but it vanishes when I slam it into the side of her head again, the handset snapping with the force. I drop it to the ground along with her as her boyfriend, I assume, steps up to defend her honor. He doesn’t get far. The next phone to hand is wrapped in a protective case that transforms it into the next best thing to a brick. It takes only one smack to the temple to ship him to the kerb along with her.

I’ve angered the rest of them now and they swarm, screaming angrily, circling, arms flailing, attacking. I drop the remaining phones and take the rolled-up newspaper from my pocket. It makes me laugh to think I could dispense with these annoying pests the same way I could their tiny, winged insect cousins, but once I roll the newspaper up even tighter, it’s surprisingly effective. Even five on one, these people are no match for me. I batter three of them into submission before stopping to catch my breath.

The last two do not seize the opportunity to exact revenge. Instead they stoop and tend to their stricken comrades, pleading with me to stop as they accept defeat.

I am magnanimous in victory. I take a knee, retrieve one of the operational phones from the asphalt, and give them the group shot they were looking for. Enjoy your holiday.

FLASH FICTION: “SHIT MONSTER”

My life is shit.
I mean… Godzilla, all the Godzillas in fact, even the awful ones.
King Kong. The Kraken. Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy.
The Werewolf, The Wolfman, whichever one you prefer.
All these guys; now they were monsters.
But me?
Jesus, talk about the short, feces-encrusted end of the stick.
Allow me to set the scene, or at least a scene, if I may.

You’re driving along a winding country road in the small hours, in heavy rain, when your car breaks down.
Of course, it does. That’s how these things go. We all know that.
No other cars pass for ages, your phone has no signal, blah blah blah.
Against your better judgment, but right in line with what seemingly sane people do in these situations, you leave the warmth and safety of your car and decide to go looking for someone who can help. Or a phone. Or someone who can help by giving you a phone.
To keep dry, you leave the road and take to the cover of the trees.
Obviously.
You come across a path.
Hey, it might lead somewhere, right?
Oh, and it does.
It leads you right into the lair of a creature the likes of which you could never have imagined, not without the help of mushrooms.

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FLASH FICTION: “SERENITY”

Serenity

Somewhere close, way too close behind them in the traffic, a horn honked.
Twice.
“That wasn’t what I think it was, was it?” said Beth.
Kevin shifted in the driving seat. “Jesus. Couldn’t have been.”
Beth killed the radio.
Kevin checked his mirrors.
They chanced glances left and right, looking at the occupants of the vehicles around them. Their expressions were all fixed with the same disbelief, the same incredulity.
The same fear.

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SUNDAY BRAIN DUMP 03|12|17

What’s caught my eyes, ears and attention this week? What’s made me think, want to write, and maybe made me want to do both differently?

Quotes? Sure. Wilde, Jobs, Einstein. All the usual suspects have made some lasting ones. But there are some good one-liners in this find on Pinterest. Especially The Riddler’s. Sharp.

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WHAT AM I UP TO?

Good question.

Ever picked out the perfect colour to paint your kitchen, the perfect suit to wear to your brother’s wedding, the perfect couch to go in the corner of your living room, and been perfectly happy with them, only to realise some days, weeks or months later that you made a rash decision and they’re not so perfect after all?

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FLASH FICTION: “THE CLEANER”

The supervisor got into the elevator without a word, leaving Megan slack-jawed on the fifth-floor landing, the mop slowly sliding from her grasp.
Surrounded by glass walls, the eyes of all the self-obsessed ants sitting at their desks in the open plan office beyond were on her, crawling all over her like even smaller, hungrier insects, desperate to know what had been said. As if seeing her gorilla of a supervisor pointing his finger in her face for the last five minutes with his other hand on his considerable hips, as if he were her father scolding her, didn’t give them enough of an idea.
It was partly her own fault this had happened.
But mostly theirs.

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FLASH FICTION: “WAKE-UP CALL”

Cold. Unbelievable cold. So cold it burns. I lift my head from what I first think is my pillow and find myself looking at the shape of my face in the snow. A perfect mold. Of a man I do not recognize. I prop myself up on my elbows and touch my face. It’s numb, feels like it’s buried beneath an inch-thick, freezing rubber mask. I push back and work up to my knees. Jesus Christ, I’m naked, every inch of my body shivering and caked in snow. Not the fluffy shit you romanticize about at Christmas. This stuff is crystallized, sharp, and cuts into me like thousands of microscopic shards of glass as I stretch.

Everything is white. I wait for color to arrive into my vision, like what I’m seeing is the first few seconds of switching on an old TV set, but it doesn’t come. I get to my feet, uneasy, like a newborn deer, and survey my surroundings. Nothing but flat land for miles in any direction. No horizon, no mountains, no buildings, no nothing. Just white. And scrub. Crappy grass, weeds and random I-have-no-idea-what-it-is vegetation wherever I look.

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THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN BEFORE WITH ALL THE GIFTS AND A DRAGON TATTOO

Whatever I write next, that’s what it’s going to be called. Regardless of whether there’s even a girl in the story. Or a human for that matter. Never minds trains, gifts or tattoos of mythical fire-breathing beasts. I have to imagine that at some stage in the publication process, a version of this exchange sometimes takes place:

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IT’S OKAY TO GO WHERE MAN HAS GONE BEFORE. ONCE YOU GO A DIFFERENT WAY.

I was about a quarter of the way into writing a new novel when I made a stomach-churning discovery.

With the second half of The Walking Dead Season 4 beheaded and Season 1 of The Strain with a stake through its chest, I desperately needed a new TV show to get my teeth (pun not entirely unintended) stuck into. Having nothing left in my To-Watch folder, I wandered off for a browse around the online shelves, where I came across a French TV series called The Returned.

Interesting.

That particular title (one couldn’t honestly say it was in any way unique) was one I had toyed around with for my book. Hmmm. What were the odds?

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