Fiction Fursday/Reblog

Today’s story comes in the form of a shameless re-blog of my own material. Some months ago, (EIGHT, to be exact! Where the bloody hell does the time go?!), I wrote a story which was all about my beloved Brighton. This week’s choice is mostly a cop-out because I wanted to post something and have nothing ready, and partly because I miss Brighton so. It’s been more than six months since I moved up north and I haven’t thought about it much, but this week has found me strangely reflective and a bit sad to have left that lively, vibrant place behind. Still, I hold it dearly in my heart and will return very soon; I have a particular friend who lives there whom I owe a beer or five, for one! She knows who she is…

Anyway, here is an extract from a fun little story, “Pride and Seagulls”. It made me smile and cheered me up to re-read it; I hope it interests you enough to follow the link and that you enjoy it if you do.

P.S. If you would like to suggest a story for me to write in the coming weeks, please feel free to let me know in the comments section. I will take on any genre and any prompt!

P.P.S. In reaction to the changes in my life and my ambitions, I have been giving some serious thought to the future of this blog. I will explain all in a post very soon. Watch this space!

 

Pride and Seagulls

By Adam Dixon

“I’ve always wondered why that worship that one,” said Waark the seagull, wiggling his scruffy feathers. “I mean, what’s so special about him anyway?”

“You sure it’s a he?” Kai-Kai replied as he dug his beak into his wing. “I’ve always thought it was a female.” He shuffled to adjust his balance as a gust of wind nudged him sideways.

“Nahh, can’t be!” Waark scoffed, but he still cocked his head for a better look. From their vantage point on the roof of the American Express Community Stadium the two gulls had a very good view of the whole building. They were scrutinising the gigantic image of a seagull in flight which decorated one of the walls facing the freshly-cut pitch, the same gull which was depicted onto several rows of plastic seating. They stared at the image in silence for several minutes.

“No, it’s definitely a male!” Waark said triumphantly.

Fiction Fursday/Pride and Seagulls

Time for my weekly story once again, and this time the prompt comes from the brilliant Viki Allerston. Viki has been following me via email and has been very encouraging towards my story writing. A few weeks ago Viki suggested that because I currently live in Sussex I could write a story about the great annual celebration which is Brighton Pride. She also suggested that I include the American Express Stadium, the home of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club and the stomping ground for many a proud Brightonian. I thought this was a wonderful idea and have crafted a fun tale from the idea. Viki also suggested a few other Brighton landmarks, but I will use those for another story. Thanks, Viki!

Oh, and as you may have noticed, I have included my own Brighton motif…the mighty seagull! I hope you all enjoy my story.

P.S. If any of you would like to suggest a story for me to write in the coming weeks, please feel free to let me know by leaving a comment. I’ll give anything a go!

P.P.S. Just a quick note to say that I won’t be posting a story next Thursday as I will be getting a sexy tan/burning to a crisp in Cyprus. I’ll still read your wonderful blogs though!

Pride and Seagulls

By Adam Dixon

“I’ve always wondered why that worship that one,” said Waark the seagull, wiggling his scruffy feathers. “I mean, what’s so special about him anyway?”

“You sure it’s a he?” Kai-Kai replied as he dug his beak into his wing. “I’ve always thought it was a female.” He shuffled to adjust his balance as a gust of wind nudged him sideways.

“Nahh, can’t be!” Waark scoffed, but he still cocked his head for a better look. From their vantage point on the roof of the American Express Community Stadium the two gulls had a very good view of the whole building. They were scrutinising the gigantic image of a seagull in flight which decorated one of the walls facing the freshly-cut pitch, the same gull which was depicted onto several rows of plastic seating. They stared at the image in silence for several minutes.

“No, it’s definitely a male!” Waark said triumphantly. Kai-Kai flapped his wings in annoyance.

“I’m tellin’ you, it’s a female!” he said. “Not a very good likeness, I’ll admit, but it’s definitely a female.”

“Well, whatever it is, it hasn’t done anything to deserve the attention it gets,” Waark replied. “The humans worship the blooming thing! They even have its image on their clothes! They come here in their thousands to pay respect to it, and why?”

“They think she blesses their ball game,” Kai-Kai suggested. “Makes sense to me. They must think she’s some Game Goddess or somethin’.”

“Perhaps…foolish humans!” Waark cawed with amusement, shaking his head and hopping from foot to foot. His stomach growled again; it must have been almost twenty minutes since he last ate.

“Why are we still here? There’s a mass gathering towards the ocean today which we need to take advantage of!” Waark said. Kai-Kai looked at him eagerly.

“Mass gathering? Brilliant!” He screeched in delight. “I love it when loads of ‘em come out! Grub for everyone!” The two gulls took to the skies, gliding towards Brighton.

***

“Sweet Doughnuts, there’re a lot of ‘em today!” squawked Kai-Kai a couple of hours later, dodging around a car decorated with multi-coloured flags.

“You’re not wrong!” Waark agreed, scanning the packed seafront for his next morsel. He rode a light breeze and perched on a railing overlooking the seafront. The beach at Brighton was heaving, crammed full of humans who were whooping with delight and charging to and fro in excitement. The streets were just as crowded, with brightly-coloured garments and flags being waved with wild abandon. The usual smells of the seafront were present such as the greasy waft of fish and chips, the salt in the air and the varied scents of dozens of human bodies, but today they were greatly magnified.  Voices were raised in cries of happiness, surprise and pleasant intoxication; the humans were having a wonderful day.

“It’s that time of year again,” Waark said, his beady eyes following a group of cheering men who were dressed only in golden tights. “The Day of the Colours, my old mum used to call it. The humans make a great fuss out of it and flock here from miles and miles away. I think it’s something to do with the males of their species.”

“Yeah, I think you’re right,” Kai-Kai said, watching two elderly men tottering along the beach holding hands and smiling. “Not sure what they’re celebratin’ but it looks like they’re havin’ a blindin’ day!”

“So are we though!” Waark giggled, shaking his feathers and belching. “I’ve lost count of how many chips I’ve managed to snatch! I even got some of that sticky pink stuff from a child on the pier! Oh, but it is divine! Come to mention it, I think there’s still some stuck on my leg…”

“Yeah, it’s been a bloody good day for it!” Kai-Kai said. “I’m stuffed! Although, I could always fit in something sweet…” Without warning Kai-Kai leapt into the air and swooped towards a group of teenagers. The group, three males and two females, all shrieked and ran for cover, dropping the bag they were sharing onto the pebbles. Kai-Kai screeched in triumph and began shredding the paper with his sharp beak. His delicious prize was revealed: five and a half sugar-coated doughnuts, still warm from the oven. Kai-Kai wasted no time and neither did his fellows. Within seconds a flock of gulls had descended, jostling and fighting one another for the contents of the bag. The noise of the competing gulls was terrific, and Waark watched it with great amusement. Less than a minute had passed before the sugary treats had been devoured with not a trace to be found on the beach. The flock dissipated slowly, with Kai-Kai flapping up to sit with Waark once again.

“Ahhh that worked like a charm!” He laughed, his beak coated in a fine layer of sugar. “Shame those others turned up when they did, they must’ve been watchin’ me!”

“Never mind, you got some,” Waark was distracted, turning to watch the bustling town once again. A procession of large vehicles passed by, each one boasting feathers, banners, streamers and flags of vividly bright colours and filled with ecstatically waving humans. Music was blaring from speakers mounted on several of the vehicles, with their scantily-clad passengers dancing and gyrating with glee. The crowd gathered on either side of the road shared the joy of the passengers, returning their waves, blowing kisses and shouting their support. Males were embracing other males in their dozens, pressing their faces together lovingly and caressing each other’s hands and cheeks. It was a curious environment permeated with deep feelings of happiness and acceptance.

“I wonder about this day, you know,” Waark said thoughtfully. “I don’t understand what they are yelling about or what this all means, but it seems like a happy occasion. What do you think?” Kai-Kai raised his wings in the seagull-version of a shrug.

“I dunno,” he said. “Don’t care that much, to be honest. As long as they bring the grub I’m up for any crazy human ritual!” Waark shook his head.

“I had figured as much,” he said, half-amused and half-disappointed. “I’m inclined to agree with the sentiment, but I love the vibes the humans are giving off today. It would almost be enough to experience it without any food on offer.” Waark and Kai-Kai exchanged a glance in silence before bursting out into squawks of laughter.

“I said almost!” Waark said, flapping his wings and chuckling. “Come on then, my greedy friend! I spy a loosely-held bagel! First one to it gets it for himself!” The two birds took to the skies, their cries echoing those of a hundred nearby gulls on the beach. As they pursued their feast, the people of Brighton continued to dance and drink and frolic and celebrate their day. Once again Pride in Brighton was a triumph for everyone.

 

Paintings of the Past

This is a story I wrote a couple of weeks ago for the lovely Esther Newton’s Guest Post. She kindly provided the prompt for me and this one was a joy to write. It seemed to flow from my mind to and on to the page more so than some of my more recent efforts. So thank you, Esther!

 

 Paintings of the Past 

By Adam Dixon

Joe opened his eyes and looked around the room; where the hell was he? He was standing in a long hallway with white walls, wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts. He blinked a few times to make sure that he was awake. He was, and with a clear head and calm stomach too, which dispelled his second idea that he must be drunk. He turned his head and stared down the corridor. It was a very long one and he could barely make out the end of it from where he was standing. All he could see was a crimson carpet running along the floor like an elongated blood stain and what appeared to be a series of paintings or photographs hanging on both walls. He glanced behind and saw only another blank wall blocking his path. He scratched his head in confusion and tried to figure out what had happened.

“JOSEPH PEEL, PLEASE MOVE ALONG. THE GATEKEEPER AWAITS,” a clear voice boomed from above. Joe almost jumped out of his skin and cast about to and fro, seeking the cause of the noise. He saw nothing but the walls and carpet. After calming down a bit Joe concluded with a degree of satisfaction that he must, in fact, be dreaming after all and that by approaching this Gatekeeper the dream would reach its conclusion. He would then wake up in his over-priced but stylish flat in Brighton and wonder at the significance of it for a moment before getting on with his day. Maybe it would even feature in some of his writing in the future. Regaining his dignity, Joe took a deep breath and began to stride down the hallway.

The objects mounted on the walls were all paintings. Joe knew little about art but he appreciated the realism of each one. They all boasted a central image of a man or woman staring off into the distance surrounded by a snapshot of their lives. One showed a tall, bearded white man wearing blood-spattered armour standing amidst several fallen soldiers, the cross of Saint George proudly displayed on a flag behind him. Another depicted a white woman on a wooden stage, gesturing wildly as an audience gazed at her with rapt attention. Another saw an Asian woman wearing colourful clothing watching a fierce battle with horror and sadness. Joe noticed that the paintings appeared to be displayed in chronological order in terms of their historical period. He rather enjoyed the grotesque painting of what surely must have been a victim of the infamous Vlad the Impaler in Russia. The suffering of the naked, bleeding man was exquisitely and disgustingly detailed. The painting of a primitive black woman protecting her children from a white man with a rifle was as inspiring as it was horrific. After half an hour of walking and not paying complete attention, Joe walked into a solid wooden desk and stubbed his toe.

“Ahh, bugger it!” he yelled, bending over to grasp the injured digit and hopping about in fury.

“Oh dear, that is most unfortunate!” a woman’s voice tutted sympathetically. Joe ceased hopping and looked up. He had reached the end of the hallway. A small, plump woman with a kindly face was seated behind the offending desk, her soft brown eyes gazing at Joe with concern.

“Are you alright, Joseph? I really ought to have said something, but I saw how engaged you were with the Artwork! Oh dear, silly old fool that I am!” The woman was about sixty, with curly silver hair and wearing a practical woollen cardigan over a simple green dress. Her voice was friendly, if a little bit high-pitched, and Joe found himself liking her instantly despite his situation.

“Erm, that’s alright,” he replied, unsure what to say. “So…are you this Gatekeeper, then?”

“I am indeed, Joseph!” The woman clapped her meaty fingers together in delight and beamed at him. “I am your Gatekeeper and I must say that it is a pleasure to see you again!”

“Erm…right,” Joe gingerly set his foot down and stood up straight. “So, what happens now? Are we going to have a tea party or something until I wake up?”

“I don’t follow you, Joseph,” the Gatekeeper frowned. “There won’t be a tea party, although I could have prepared one if I knew that’s what you would have wanted. You won’t be waking up either, I’m afraid. Well, not like this, anyway.”

“Oh…kay…” Joe scratched his head again. He looked behind the woman. There were two doors set against the sterile white walls, both just as plain and unassuming. The way out, perhaps?

“I wouldn’t approach the doors just yet, dear,” the Gatekeeper said, reading his intention. “Not before I tell you about them first. I always forget that you won’t remember the last time!”

“What last time? How do you know me? You’re just my imagination, a figment of my subconscious!” Joe was becoming annoyed. “I know I shouldn’t’ve eaten that bloody stilton! Look, just say what you need to say and let me wake up. I’m a busy man, I haven’t got time for this!”

“The dead have an eternity in this Waiting Room, Joseph Peel,” the Gatekeeper said solemnly.

“The dead? What the hell are you talking about?”

“You are dead, Joseph,” the Gatekeeper said with regret in her voice. “You died on Wednesday 3rd of May 2016 A.D. You are currently approved for Resurrection in 2030.” Joe stood dumbfounded, staring. After a moment he began to chuckle, running his hand across his face.

“That’s not bad, actually!” he said, grinning. “Although I’d have thought that my subconscious would’ve come up with something a bit more exciting. Maybe that’s why my first books haven’t sold! Haha!”

“Joseph, I am not jesting,” the Gatekeeper leaned across the desk and looked intently up at him. “You died at four thirty-two A.M after your lit cigarette dropped from your fingers and onto a pile of discarded writing paper. Your flat went up in flames a few minutes later. Your severe inebriation prevented you from waking up in time to save yourself.” Joe stood still again.

“You…you must be joking,” Joe stammered. “I can’t be…dead…I was only-“

“Thirty-seven years old,” the Gatekeeper interrupted, glancing at a sheaf of note papers in her hand. “You were unmarried, living in Brighton, England and you were working as a freelance writer. I know all about your life, Joseph. This life and all of your previous lives, too. Did you enjoy the charming paintings of them? There are quite a few now!”

“Previous lives…” Joe’s face scrunched up in confusion. “Are you trying to tell me that I’ve lived as those men in the paintings that I’ve just walked past?”

“No, Joseph, that’s not what I am saying,” the Gatekeeper said with a frown. “I am trying to tell you that you have been ALL of them, both the men and the women. Every single painting you wandered past before reaching me is a depiction of the person you once were, during a single stage of Resurrection.”

“Resurrection…”

“Yes, Resurrection, Joseph,” the Gatekeeper sighed. “It really is unfortunate that you don’t remember all of this when you come through here. It’s rather tedious having to explain it all over again! Simply put, Joseph, your soul has lived forty-seven lives throughout its existence and it is my duty every time you die to guide you onto your next Rebirth. Understand?”

“I…” Joe was lost for words. He scratched his head, a look of defeat creeping across his face. “I’m…dead….but…it’s not fair! I was finally getting somewhere with my life! My book sales were picking up and I’d started dating again! Why now?”

“Life is rarely fair, my dear,” the Gatekeeper said sadly, cocking her head to one side. “After doing this job for a few millennia you’d see that, too. You’ve had much worse luck in previous lives, if that makes you feel any better? You were wrongly accused of murder in Texas in 1843, for example; you were hunted down and lynched by the townsfolk! It’s shocking that they would even do such a thing to a woman back then…”

“No, it doesn’t make me feel any bloody better!” Joe cried, slamming his fist down on the desk. The Gatekeeper jumped, her curls bouncing and her pearl necklace jostling around her throat.

“Come now, Joseph! There was no need for that!” she said, adjusting herself crossly.

“Like I give a toss!” Joe retorted. He began to pace before the desk, stomping his feet deliberately.

“Why now? What’s the point?” he said, half to himself. “Why let me die in 2016 if I’m not due for Rebirth or whatever until 2030? Surely I could’ve lived until then!”

“Then you would have come here slightly older but no less annoyed for it,” the Gatekeeper replied, folding her arms across her chest and leaning back in her chair. “Now, Joseph, you must make a decision. You have two choices: to spend an eternity in this hallway with nothing but these walls and paintings for company, or accept what has been planned and be Reborn once again. To do so you need only open the door on the left. I know which one I would choose, given the opportunity.”

“What about the other door?” Joe rounded on the Gatekeeper. “What if I choose the door on the right?”

“That door…” the Gatekeeper’s tone and expression was grave, “is where Death awaits. If you walk through that door, Death will embrace you and He will reap your immortal soul. Your death that time will be final; no more Rebirths, no more lives to lead. It will be the End.” Joe shivered, hugging himself against the chill which passed through him.

“Do…do many people choose that door?” he whispered. The Gatekeeper shrugged.

“Some,” she admitted. “But not many. Most find the very idea too awful to contemplate.” Her expression revealed what she thought of that option. “You do not have to make your decision right away, but if you delay for too long then I will assume that you do not wish to be Reborn and I shall leave you here. By all means take a few moments to think it over. I shall wait.”

Joe’s mind whirled with emotion as he tried to make sense of everything he had learned. He raised a hand to his eyes and wandered back down the hallway aimlessly. He thought about his life, or the one he remembered at least, and longed to return to it. He felt crushed by the weight of his misfortune. Life really had been improving! Sure, he’d never have become the next Stephen King, but he was all set to make a halfway-decent living from his writing.

“A bloody house fire! How could I have been so stupid?” Joe groaned, recalling the countless instances when he had glanced up at his broken fire alarm and reminded himself to get it fixed. Maybe it was natural selection at work…

Joe opened his eyes and saw that he was standing in front of a ghastly scene. The painting before him showed a man lying on the back of a wooden cart with a dozen other corpses, all emaciated and riddled with disease. A village was burning in the distance, with a line of identical carts moving out from its gates. Joe was repulsed by the scene and suddenly grateful that he couldn’t recall this particular fate.

“Okay, I’ve made my decision.” Joe said, looking at the Gatekeeper with a pained expression. The Gatekeeper nodded and looked at him expectantly.

Joe straightened and took a deep breath. He stepped past the desk and with a trembling hand he opened the door on the left.

 

A – Z Challenge Day 19

We’re approaching the end of the third week of this April’s Blogging Challenge, and I can hardly believe that it will all be over next Saturday! Well done to everyone who is taking part this year, I’ve seen some brilliant themed blog posts from some fantastic writers. Let’s keep the momentum going until the end!

Today’s word comes from my colleague, Sarah. Working in a cafe can be a bit dull sometimes, but not when you’re working with someone like Sarah! She is a great laugh and she was keen to offer me a suggestion for my Challenge when I had a few letters missing. Her prompt for me is “SAUSAGES”, which came about after she rescinded her original word which I believe was “SEX”. I don’t think that the former was a serious suggestion, anyway, and for that I’m extremely grateful and relieved!

Here is what I was able to come up with. Thanks again, Sarah!

SAUSAGES

By Adam Dixon

“Well, Mrs Warburton, we’re almost done,” Becky said, smiling as she flipped through her the pages of her notepad. “There are just a couple of details which I need to run through with you.” Becky’s efficient, somewhat scruffy handwriting spread across the pages to the underside of her hand and her fingers in a mess of black ink. She scratched her pierced nostril and left an inky smear behind. Finding the page she was searching for she scanned it, reaching for her now-cold cup of black coffee.

“Right, here we are!” Becky took a sip and glanced up at her interviewee. Mrs Warburton was in her early forties, slim and rather attractive with her natural-blond hair cut short. She was sitting up straight with her elbows on the small table, looking around the café with an air of contempt.

“I still don’t know why you insisted on meeting me here,” Mrs Warburton sniffed, nursing her pot of peppermint tea. “You do realise that the owners of this company don’t pay their taxes, don’t you? Nor do they pay their bean farmers properly; it’s nothing short of modern slave labour! And of course they waste milk by the lorry-load in here…those poor baby cows deprived of nourishment for the sake of an overpriced latte…”

“Erm…yes, Mrs Warburton,” Becky pressed on, the feeling of bemusement returning for the umpteenth time that morning. It was becoming quite familiar.

“You said that you’ve lived here in Brighton for many years and-“

“It’s Hove, actually,” Mrs Warburton interrupted. Becky paused and altered her notes, inwardly rolling her eyes.

“Okay, Hove, then,” Becky continued. “And you have been frequenting that particular restaurant in Brighton for more than two years now. Is that correct?”

“That’s what I told you, young lady. I’m not in the habit of repeating myself unnecessarily.”

“Sorry, I’m just double-checking the facts first.” Becky felt herself blushing under the woman’s steel gaze. She busied herself by reading her notes more carefully. “So, you believe that this incident was deliberate? Part of a prank?”

“I do, indeed,” Mrs Warburton folded her arms and lifted her chin haughtily. “And I think it is disgraceful that a vegan restaurant of such high-esteem should number such juveniles amongst its staff!”

“Quite so, Mrs Warburton,” Becky smiled sympathetically, hoping it would disguise the smirk which had arrived an instant before it. She adjusted her thick glasses with her inky fingers

“You’re sure that it couldn’t have been a mistake? A mix-up with one of the orders?”

“Young lady,” Mrs Warburton’s stare turned the air around her to ice. Becky was surprised that her breath wasn’t misting before her eyes. “I am not a fool, and I sincerely hope that none of the workers in that kitchen are foolish enough to ‘accidentally’ add pork sausages to a meal they have no purpose being a part of! There shouldn’t have been a single sausage in the whole building, for God’s sake!”

“Of course, of course,” Becky raised her hands defensively, her brown eyes wide. “Like I said, I’m just double-checking here.”

“Well, there really is no need,” Mrs Warburton huffed. “You appear to have listened to what I have told you and managed to dictate it well enough, so I believe that is all you shall require. I would like to leave this ghastly place now, if you don’t mind. I can’t stand the smell of those cheese toasties!” She shuddered dramatically, twisting her mouth into a snarl. Becky smiled and stood up, holding out a hand.

“Well, thank you very much for your time, Mrs Warburton,” she said warmly. “I do hope that your case goes well.”

“It ought to,” Mrs Warburton replied, giving Becky’s hand a limp squeeze. “Veganism is finally getting the respect it deserves these days, due in no small part to you young people. That is why I agreed to be interviewed by you and your Student Union; I usually wouldn’t involve myself with trivial university newspapers but I believe that my story will strike a chord with the more open-minded pupils. At any rate, I must go. Goodbye, Rebecca, and thank you for the tea.” With that, Mrs Warburton buttoned up her long coat and strode out of the café with her head and chin held regally high.

Becky sat down and took a moment to process the events of her morning. Mrs Warburton was undoubtedly one of the oddest people she had ever met, let alone interviewed. She felt rather sorry for the legal professionals who would have to deal with her!

“Still, it was quite a good prank!” she said to herself, chuckling as she flicked through her notes once again. Her stomach rumbled and Becky wanted a fresh coffee anyway, so she stood up and approached the counter. She perused the menu for a few seconds before she broke into a grin. Oh yes, she knew exactly what she fancied!

“Good morning, how may I help you?” the smiling barista at the counter asked her. Becky thought she might recognise him from one of her lectures.

“Hi, I’d like a medium Americano, please,” Becky answered, still grinning. “And I could murder a sausage sandwich!”