Post-Bloggers Bash Update

Hello, everyone.

It’s been over a week since I attended the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards in London, and it has also been over a month since my last post. My apologies for slacking, because as usual I’ve swamped myself with projects other than writing for the blog. However, as expected the Bash inspired me and I feel the need to write a short follow-up to it and to inform you of the changes I will be making to this blog.

First things first, a massive thank you to the Bash committee, Sacha, Ali, Geoff and Hugh for once again forcing a group of introverts to leave their desks and interact in real life. There was very little squirming or embarrassment, but rather an abundance of laughter, swapped stories and new friendships being forged. In all, it was a resounding success. Every single person I spoke to was incredibly interesting and each had their own take on blogging and what it meant to them. I received some touching compliments and encouragement regarding my own efforts as well as some practical advice which I will be acting on from today.

The first piece of advice I will take is not to beat myself up about the infrequency of my posts in recent months. I both admire and loathe those of you who can write consistently and well for your blogs, but I am not part of that elite group. I need more time to edit and rewrite my work so that I am happy enough for it to be put online, so I need to chill out and recognise that my readers don’t want me to rush. Thank you to all of you wonderful bloggers at the Bash for spelling this out to me, as apparently I needed to hear it.

Secondly, I will be providing links to my previous stories in new posts. If I have an older story which is similar, I will link to it. Sounds obvious, right? Evidently not, as it hadn’t occurred to me before! This is something I will whole-heartedly get behind, as anything which brings fresh eyes to my older stories is a winner to me!

Finally, I will start posting fiction from other blogs on here very soon. There is a wealth of excellent writers of fiction on WordPress, many of whom encourage and inspire me every time I read their work. So, expect to see some great work from other writers in the coming days, courtesy of this fiction addict!

That just about rounds it up for me today. Thank you to all my followers for your patience and your kind words. Thank you to the new friends I made at the Bash for listening to me waffle on about story writing and actual following me afterwards! I hope to remain worthy of your interest.

WordPress informed me that I have been blogging for two years now, and I can scarcely believe it! Here’s to the next year, and watch this space for exciting new things!

 

P.S. – Please do check out the list of bloggers who attended the Bash, as seen below. I must admit that I pinched this list from another more diligent blogger. I am far too lazy to create my own, so I must apologise for the blatant steal! Check them out anyway, they are all such excellent and admirable hobbits!

But I Smile Anyway

Shelley Wilson

Willowdot21

Graeme Cumming Dot Net

If Only I Could Read Faster

M J Mallon Author (Kyrosmagica)

BlondeWriteMore

SC Skillman

SaylingAway

A View From My Summerhouse

Allie Potts Writes

Journey To Ambeth

My Dad Is A Goldfish

E. De Sousa

Julie Lawford

Sun In Gemini

Alex Raphael

Ellenbest24

Elena Peters

Inside The Mind Of Davy D

Lance Greenfield

Smorgasbord – Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Icy Sedgwick

The Gay Stepdad

Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride

Rereading Jane Eyre

BOOKSTORMER

Image & Word

Melanie Roussel

Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo

Suzie Speaks

My Chestnut Reading Tree

Jot to Jot

The Need for Sleep

I wrote this story for the ‘Hour of Writes’ competition a few weeks ago. If you haven’t heard of Hour of Writes then I recommend you pay the site a visit. The idea is simple: the theme is set each week and participants are encouraged to write a story, poem or non-fiction piece based on it. A timer is set for one hour, and away you go! Each participant must read and mark three pieces of submitted work in order for their own to be considered for the prize, so it has a real community feel to it.

The theme for that particular was ‘Live the Dream’. Here is what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy it.

 

The Need For Sleep

By Adam Dixon

The weak morning sunlight trickled into the hotel room, promising a day of brightness and warmth. For Tomasz, the day could not seem any brighter than it already was. He reclined against the plump pillows on the large bed as the breeze from the open window raised pleasant goose-bumps on his arms. He selected a piece of warm, crispy bread from the tray on his knees and held it up to Justyna’s lips. Justyna, glowing from happiness and from their recent love-making, giggled and opened her mouth to accept the offering. She had never looked so beautiful and Tomasz fell in love with her all over again. Justyna crunched the bread and poked around on the tray for a moment. She lifted a piece of sausage and wriggled closer. The bed sheets she had gathered around her fell away, revealing her naked body for an instant before her raven-coloured hair covered her breasts. She placed a hand delicately on Tomasz’s chest and raised the other to his mouth. Tomasz breathed in the scent of the meat, detecting the sweet herbs added to flavour it. His stomach rumbled and Justyna laughed, bird-like and full of life.
“Eat, my love,” Justyna said, smiling sweetly. Tomasz stared into her pale blue eyes and opened his mouth. He relished the rich, succulent flavour of the meat almost as much as the feeling of Justyna’s fingers on his lips and on his chest. Desire awoke within him again and he gently cupped her face. He leaned forwards and moved his face towards hers…

A bell sounded, piercing and urgent. Tomasz awoke with a start and immediately cried out in despair.
“No! Not again!” he wailed, covering his eyes with his hands. Tears coursed down his leathery, wrinkled face and fell to the floor. The bell rang again impatiently.
“Oh, Justyna!” Tomasz moaned as he swung his weary legs from the warmth of his single bed. He could still taste the sausage on his tongue, and her fingertips still lingered on his lips… Tomasz dressed quickly in a simple shirt and trousers, shoving his feet into his reliable old boots. He stood and gazed at himself in the small, grimy mirror on his bedside table. His rheumy eyes took in the image of an old man, crumpled and heartbroken. His eyes strayed to his left arm and he sighed. He hadn’t removed the Artifact; he detested that part almost as deeply as waking up. He unclasped the leather binding as swiftly as his arthritic fingers would allow before pulling it away. He winced as the sharp stud pulled free from his flesh, dripping blood in a thin crimson river down his forearm. Tomasz wrapped a simple bandage around the wound before shrugging on a battered overcoat. The bell rang again as he tucked the Artifact into a secret compartment next to his bed. Tomasz swore.
“I am coming, you cretin!” he said through clenched teeth. “You had better have a lot of work for me today, I wish to sleep for longer tonight!” He patted the unassuming wooden panel hiding the Artifact for reassurance, then he shuffled out of his tiny room. His employer awaited.

“Tomasz, what the hell kept you?” the mage demanded, his ridiculous green eyebrows arching in annoyance. Tomasz bowed, causing his back to crack audibly.
“My apologies, Master Aleksander,” he wheezed. “I must have overslept.”
“This is happening too often, old man!” the mage snapped, crossing his arms in his voluminous golden sleeves. “Honestly, if you ever came to your senses and ask for proper payment I would dismiss you and hire someone younger!”
“Do not fear, Master Aleksander,” Tomasz said with practiced humility. He glanced up with a sad smile. “All I require is for my tasks to be exhausting and for somewhere to sleep once they are complete. Nothing more.” Aleksander eyed Tomasz with distaste. The man had been using the Artifact again; he positively reeked of the ancient magic. Aleksander shuddered at the idea of using fresh blood to awaken a spell, it was almost medieval. For a moment, Aleksander’s coldness evaporated. If only he could find a way for the Artifact to work with magically-induced sleep…that would give Tomasz a bit of an easier time…if he could just- but no, Aleksander did not have time to waste researching such frivolities.
“Good,” the mage said stiffly, regaining his poise. He jerked a poultice-stained thumb towards a set of wooden stairs. “I have twelve barrels of healing potions which need decanting into the one-hundred-and-twenty flasks you will see in the cellar. They have already been laid out, and they will each need to be stoppered and labelled. Do not spill a single drop, Tomasz, it is expensive stock!”
“Right away, sir!” Tomasz said eagerly. “I do apologise once again for my lateness. I will make it up to you, I promise.” With that, he hurried off to the cellar steps and descended into darkness. Aleksander frowned after him. He was almost certain that the old man was thinner than before. He looked almost skeletal.
“You’re not eating properly, are you?” Aleksander mumbled. He shook his head; he had no time to care about the whims of an old labourer!
“Bah! If he wishes to tread this path, so be it!” he said to himself. “I’m not his keeper! I’ll not interfere!”

Tomasz fell asleep almost as soon as his head hit his pillow that night. He had willed his aching, fatigued body back to his claustrophobic room and had attached the Artifact as soon as he could. The brief sting followed by the unnatural throbbing as the magic leaked into him did not prevent him from slipping away quickly. His eyes opened within a dream almost right away. He looked down at his hands. They were old and wrinkled, so it was not a dream of younger times. A shame, but it couldn’t be helped. He glanced around him, and his heart sank in his chest.
He was in a hospital. Sterile white walls surrounded him on all sides and the reek of stale urine and futile disinfectant invaded his nostrils. A corridor stretched out in front of him, and at the end of it was a single bed. On it lay a shape which he couldn’t quite make out, but he knew it was Justyna.
“No, not this one…” he croaked, closing his eyes tight and willing himself to wake up. The offensive odour grew stronger and he heard a weak voice call his name.
“Tomasz? Tomasz, where are you?”
“Justyna!” Tomasz opened his eyes and lurched forward as a strangled sob escaped his lips. His footsteps boomed on the floor, echoing loudly around him and lancing into his ears like daggers. He staggered into a run, seeing the bed moving closer, but slowly, oh so slowly!
“Tomasz? Tomasz, are you there? Tomasz…I’m frightened…”
“I’m coming, my love!” Tomasz called desperately. “I’ll not leave you!” Tomasz hauled himself along the corridor, his old legs protesting and his chest tightening painfully as his breathing came out in short gasps. After what seemed like hours Tomasz reached the bed. It was a simple affair, just a thin mattress on top of a bench, but that was all the space the hospital had been able to provide them with at the time. The Plague had spread so quickly…
“Tomasz?” Justyna tried to raise herself in the bed, her wasted arms trembling with the effort. Her once-radiant face was gaunt and discoloured by the consuming disease, and the light in her beautiful eyes was dim. Tomasz gently lowered her back down and took both of her hands. He forced a smile and blinked away tears as he fought to catch his breath.
“I am…here, Justyna,” he said. “I will…always be…here,”
“Oh, Tomasz, I hurt so,” Justyna said miserably. Her back arched and she winced in pain. Her bony fingers gripped his weakly, and Tomasz felt her wedding band slide up a few millimeters at the movement.
“It’s alright, my love,” he wheezed, leaning down to kiss her cheek. It was so cold, and so thin. She even smelled wrong, like the disinfectant on the floors. Tomasz’s lips trembled as he kissed her and he fought to the urge to cry out in despair. Instead he whispered in Justyna’s ear.
“I love you, Justyna,” he said, channeling all of his passion into the words. “Gods, I love you so much…”
“I love you too, Tomasz,” Justyna said, cradling his head with her arms. They clung to one another in silence, neither knowing what to say. Tomasz wished he could do something, anything for her.
“Tomasz, will we see the Grand Budapest again?” Justyna asked, breaking the oppressive silence with a faint voice. Tomasz choked down a sob; the Grand Budapest was the hotel where they had spent their honeymoon.
“I think so, my love,” he whispered. “You just need to get better first. The doctors will make you strong again, you’ll see.”
“Oh, that’s good,” Justyna said, lying back down with her eyes closed. She wore a smile, and Tomasz smiled as well. Justyna’s breathing became less labourious, and she appeared to relax. Tomasz still held her hands in his, and felt the tears splashing on to them. He opened his mouth to speak to her…

The bell rang sharply. Tomasz was jerked awake and ran a hand across his wet cheeks.
“Oh, Justyna,” he said, shaking his head and groaning. He sat up and pulled away the Artifact, not caring that the blood spattered onto his pillow. He stood and dressed himself, preparing for the next day of work. He stared into the mirror once again, and then staggered off. He sincerely wished for a better dream that evening…

Update – One Thing at a Time

Hello, everyone.

It has been a while since my last post, and I realise that the frequency of my posts has dropped in recent months. There is a very clear and simple reason for this, and that is that I am taking on too many projects at once.

I am quite ambitious with my writing, and I like to keep myself busy with some project or another every day. However, I have come to realise that I am spreading myself too thin when I should be concentrating fully on each project as it deserves. Too often I am making myself anxious because I haven’t found the time to work on a new story for my blog, or wasting time being concerned that it must play second fiddle to my novel writing, or my writing course, or my competition hopefuls. My writing should be enjoyable, as it was when I began posting on this blog, and not the source of stress that it is rapidly becoming.

I have had a long think about all of this, and I have decided to cut myself some slack. It sounds daft and obvious, I know, but it has taken a while for me to realise that it is okay to do so. I want to keep this blog up and running, as it has helped me grow in confidence and ability since I first made the plunge, and I genuinely feel as if I am part of a vibrant, exciting online community. I have made some wonderful acquaintances on WordPress, and some of you I have had the great pleasure of meeting in the real, unedited world, too! I do not want to put and I end to that, but I need to let myself breathe and not worry too much. I will continue to write fiction for this blog, but it may not be very frequently, as I have other scintillating projects which will require my attention. This blog will remain my refuge, my sanctuary if, and when, I start to become buried again. I hope it will not happen too often.

Thank you to every single one of my followers and even to those who casually stumble across this blog. Your comments and feedback keep my feet on the ground whenever my head is in the clouds!

Have any of you had, or are having, similar problems to this? I’d love to hear from you, not least because it will prove that I am not alone! Until next time, thanks for reading!

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/The Second Sun

Hello, everyone! This is it, as of today I’m commiting to bringing back my “Fiction Fursday” segment! It was short-lived previously, as for a number of reasons I got side-tracked and lost the flow, as well as motivation if I am completely honest. However, whilst I was keeping up with it I had some excellent contributions from my friends here on WordPress as well as from friends and family who follow my blog.

Here are just a few of the projects I completed before if you would like to take a look:

A Crisis in Alexandria The Animals’ Advice, Stonefur the Mighty, The Boy and the Oak Tree, Flossy’s Chance

I was really pleased with all of the resulting stories and I’ve been eager to start it up once again. So here goes!

If any of you wonderful bloggers and followers would like to suggest a prompt for me to use in the coming weeks, please feel free to leave it in the comment section below. It can be anything from a single word, a first/last line or even a detailed description of a story you would like me to attempt. I’ll take on any challenges, so don’t be shy!

Today’s prompt comes from a good friend of mine, Matt. He suggested that I write a sci-fi story in which a person is woken from cryogenic stasis in the future by robots, and that the world is unrecognisable from being superheated. He also added that the robots can only thaw out one human per year. Well, that was quite a lot to go with and I’ve eagerly accepted the challenge. I hope you enjoy what I was able to come up with. Thanks again, Matt!

 

The Second Sun

                                                                       By Adam Dixon                      

Genevieve felt the heat first. The intense, unrelenting heat melted the cocoon of ice which enveloped her, leaving her gasping and recoiling from the glare of the sun. She fell from a metallic pod onto her knees. The impact jarred her bones and she grunted in pain.

“Argh…burns!” she managed to splutter, her jaw yielding reluctantly after years of inactivity. The muscles in her arms creaked as she lifted them to shield her face. The image of a vampire shying away from the first rays of dawn filled her mind and she almost laughed. As soon as the water had evaporated from her skin she began to feel slick with sweat. She ran both hands through her grey-dusted, curled red hair and probed her face with her fingertips. She felt her petite nose and her proud chin, as well as the tiny holes in her ear lobes. She felt the skin of her face, noting the slight wrinkles with disdain. Her vanity had endured, it seemed.

Welcome back, Miss Genevieve Peers,” a flat, emotionless voice said from nearby. Genevieve tried to open her eyes but the strong sunlight forced them shut once again.

“Argh! Where…am I?” she said, grimacing in pain as she stood on trembling legs. “Who are you?”

Number 2217 of the Sentinels,” the voice replied. “You are at Cryogenic Station Seven, in the area once known as Richmond-upon-Thames, London.

“Richmond…” Genevieve repeated, struggling to remember. “Yes…Yes! The Cryo-Station by the Palace!” She smiled in triumph and opened her eyes at a squint. Number 2217 was just as she recalled the Sentinels; impressive and impassive. Standing at six feet tall, the robot was humanoid in form and covered in what looked like black scales. The ‘scales’ were solar panels, ensuring that the Sentinel could function indefinitely in the sunlight. It had two arms and two legs, and a head displaying two eye slits and a speaker for a mouth; a simple outward design which belayed the complex circuitry beneath. Genevieve sucked in air through her nose, and was surprised to register a scorched smell like burnt toast. She gazed about her, searching for familiar landmarks. She got a nasty surprise.

“What…what happened here?” she said in disbelief. The area had changed beyond recognition. The houses of the borough were gone, as were the busy roads, the lampposts and any sign of human habitation. There were far more trees than she recalled and they rose into the air like behemoths of foliage and bark. The soil beneath her bare feet had a coarse quality like sand and shifted as she moved. She staggered forwards a few steps under the shade of a gigantic oak, hoping to catch a glimpse of Hampton Court Palace. There was nothing but trees where it had once stood.

The arrival of the Second Sun increased the temperature of the Earth by several degrees,” Number 2217 stated. “Human constructs were eroded long ago and nature has reclaimed the planet.

“Reclaimed…” Genevieve breathed, staring about her in confusion. “No…surely not…is nothing left?”

Nothing man-made, only for Cryogenic Station Seven and the Sentinels,” 2217 replied. Genevieve was stunned.

“But…” she began, scratching at her curly red which was dusted with grey. “But… there were hundreds of Cryo-Stations across the world…. how long have I been frozen? What year is it?

It is the year 3035 A.D. You have been in cryogenic stasis for one thousand and fifteen years. All other Cryogenic Stations have been destroyed.

“One thous-“ Genevieve felt faint. She had known that she would likely be kept frozen for a great number of years, but the reality was unbelievable. She searched for something to say as her groggy brain tried to process the information.

“I…I still feel cold,” she said, rubbing her crossed arms. “How can I feel cold when it’s so damn hot?” She looked down and noticed for the first time that she was naked. She flushed with embarrassment and anger. “Number 2217, bring me something to cover myself with!”

“Clothing is illogical in the current climate,” 2217 said. “The effects of the cryogenic procedure will remain for several days. It has occurred in every Thawing thus far.

Genevieve brightened, standing up straight. “Of course, there will have been others before me! Very well, Number 2217, take me to them. I wish to speak with the leader and see how I may begin my new life. By the looks of things, I won’t be needed for my business acumen right away!” Genevieve smiled at her joke and looked at the Sentinel expectantly.

Impossible,” 2217 responded. “There are no other humans here. You alone have been Thawed, as our orders dictate.

“What? Don’t be absurd!” Genevieve narrowed her eyes, waving a hand at the robot. “Take me to the human settlement!”

“Impossible,” 2217 repeated. “You are the sole conscious human on the planet.

“Do you mean that the others are still frozen?” Genevieve frowned.

There are twenty-seven thousand, four hundred and twenty-three humans remaining in stasis at Cryogenic Station Seven.” 2217 replied. “There is only power available to Thaw one human per calendar year. The remaining power must preserve the stasis pods.

Genevieve looked around at the desolate landscape, finally registering the robots’ words. The sole conscious human

“No, that can’t be right,” Genevieve shook her head, her curls bouncing. “You said there were others before me, what happened to them?”

You are the fifteenth human from Cryogenic Station Seven to be Thawed.” 2217 replied. “Your predecessors did not survive.

Genevieve felt as if she had been slapped in the face. She stood still, staring at the Sentinel with her mouth agape and sweat trickling down her face and body. “Then…what will happen to me? You’ll keep me alive, won’t you? You must do, it’s what you were created for.”

You are no longer a concern of the Sentinels,” 2217 said. “Our duty has been performed. You are to be ignored as soon as this conversation ends.”

“Don’t be ridiculous!” Genevieve barked; incredulity eclipsed her fear and she welcomed the distraction. “You’re programmed to protect human life!”

Sentinels are programmed to ensure that intelligent life will prosper,” 2217 replied. “It has been concluded that human life will not survive on Earth. It is a waste of resources to aid you, but we do not possess the knowledge to override our programming. A robotics expert is required for the Sentinels cease the Thawing procedure indefinitely.

“You want to…cease the procedure?” Genevieve was horrified. “But then human beings will die out! You can’t do that! This is our planet! You are our creations!”

It is the logical conclusion,” 2217 said. Genevieve felt sick as the cold, ruthless part of her brain which had served her so well in her previous life acknowledged the statement.

“But how is it that you can still operate under these conditions?” Genevieve asked, hope creeping into her voice. “Surely you ought to melt, or your circuits would overheat, or something! If you’ve managed to survive then maybe a human can overcome the heat as well?”

Our bodies can withstand much higher external temperatures and are unaffected by the lack of humidity.” 2217 responded.  “Human beings cannot expect to survive the highest temperatures for longer than one day.

“But…but what about the shade?” Genevieve cried, desperation raising the pitch of her voice.

The heat of the air is still too great,” 2217 said. “You will perspire at a rate which will not allow fluids to pass through your body in time to replenish it.” As if to confirm his statement, the sweat on Genevieve back, face and breasts began to evaporate, steaming slightly in the shade. Genevieve’s head swam and she swayed on her feet.

“Wont’ you even fetch me something to drink?” she demanded. “I’m dehydrating as we speak!”

It is a waste of resources to aid you.” 2217 said again. “Your predecessors collected rainwater. It is suggested that you attempt to do the same.” Genevieve bit her lip as a furious retort died on its way up her throat. She looked up at the clear, blue sky and searched in vain for a dark cloud. She saw only two vast orbs of white-hot light hovering high above the world.

“So…you’re saying that I’m screwed, right?” Genevieve said, looking at the Sentinel with tears in her eyes. She yearned for the barest hint of compassion in her stoic companion. She received none.

You will certainly die after the winter has passed. At present, you have a fifteen per cent chance at survival for the remaining two months of winter.” Genevieve burst into angry, hysterical tears and began to wrench at her hair.

“THIS ISN’T RIGHT!” she wailed, stamping her feet. “I WAS ONE OF THE CHOSEN! This was to be a new beginning, the start of a new human empire, damn it! I’m not supposed to die like this!”

It is recommended that you cease crying as soon as possible,” Number 2217 said, its emotionless voice was a stark contrast to Genevieve’s despair. “It is a waste of bodily fluids.” With that it turned around and began to move away, towards the gaping, dry channel which used to be the River Thames. A cluster of Sentinels were digging in the dusty earth.

“Wait! Wait!” Genevieve said, stumbling after 2217. She moved out of the shade of the giant trees and felt her flesh seared by the two suns. She hissed and stepped backwards, her wide eyes taking in the angry red skin on her chest and shoulders; a vampire, indeed!

“You can’t just leave me here!” she screamed, clenching her fists and waving them after the retreating robot. “I need water! How am I supposed to eat? This is murder! COME BACK HERE, YOU MURDERER!” But the robot did not. It walked on, its shining solar panels glinting in the sun and mocking Genevieve’s delicate skin. Genevieve stood quivering with pain and impotence.

“So that’s it then?” she whispered, tears flowing down her cheeks. “It’s all over…I’m going to die here…” Genevieve Peers gazed around the unfamiliar, tropical landscape with its colossal foliage, its sandy ground and its cruel sunlight and she wept despite the warning. She wept for the world, she wept for the humans who would follow her, and she wept for herself. Overhead, the two suns blazed down on Earth like sadistic children cooking ants under a magnifying glass, and they had spotted their newest plaything.

 

Kerry, the Writer

I have written this story as part of Esther Newton’s weekly challenge, Monday Motivations. I have particiated a couple of times in her challenges but haven’t put the stories on my own blog. This week’s task was to write a story or poem on the themes of “Sleep”, “Misery” or “Gold”. I had a go at incorporating all three, and I hope you enjoy what I’ve managed to come up with; I’m sure that all of you writers out there will identify with it!

I’m looking to get involved in more fiction challenges hosted by my friends on WordPress, as they are always a lot of fun and work wonders when I’m stuck for inspiration!

I’ll have a longer story to post soon, once I’ve finished editing. Here’s hoping that this offering will be enough until then. Thanks for reading!

 

Kerry, the Writer

By Adam Dixon

 

Kerry stared at the blinking cursor on her screen, her jaw working and her eyes narrowed. It was taunting her, that cursor, and the half-empty page, too. They knew she was tying her brain into knots over her next paragraph and they just waited, smug and superior. Kerry hated them. She rubbed her temples, groaning with fatigue. She blinked her dull brown eyes rapidly and took a long swallow of the cheap energy drink she had purchased on her way home from work. The too-sweet, slightly chemical flavour rushed down her throat, leaving her grimacing with the bitter aftertaste. The acrid smell of the sweeteners clung to her lips like moss to a cliff face. She didn’t like them, but they worked faster than coffee and she needed to stay awake.

“Kerry? Why are you still up?” Kerry started and twisted in her chair, looking sheepishly at the speaker. Jodie stood bleary-eyed in her pink dressing-gown, her raven-coloured hair in the disarray of sleep and her small hands barely containing an almighty yawn. Her face scrunched up and the glow from the naked lightbulb highlighted her freckles and dimpled cheeks. Kerry loved her when she looked like that.

“Hi, babe,” Kerry said. She frowned and bit her lip. “I, erm, didn’t wake you, did I?”

“No, you didn’t,” Jodie said, leaning against the door frame, and glancing around the spare bedroom. It was a tiny space, but Kerry had quickly claimed it with her desk, chair, laptop, book shelf and stacks upon stacks of notepaper which bore her spidery handwriting. Jodie took it all in with disinterest borne from familiarity.

“It’s gone twelve, Kerry,” Jodie continued, trying to look stern; Kerry refrained from smiling at the attempt.  Instead she brushed a wayward blond curl from her eye and tapped the desk three times with two fingers. That was her habit whenever she was stuck with her writing.

“You’ve got an early start again tomorrow,” Jodie continued, folding her arms.

“I know, I know,” Kerry said, wringing her hands in her lap. She tugged at her jogging bottoms and adjusted her hoodie. “I just need to keep on going for a bit, I won’t be much longer. Promise.” Jodie sighed and shook her head in bewilderment. Kerry closed her eyes and held back a long sigh. Jodie didn’t understand, not really. Nobody close to her did; they were all wonderful and supportive in their own way, but they were not creatives. They couldn’t understand what drove her to write, even late at night when the loathsome alarm clock grinned from the wrong side of midnight.

“Alright then,” Jodie said in a resigned voice. “Just don’t wake me up when you do come to bed, ‘kay?”

“’Kay,” Kerry said, turning back to her screen and back to the mockery of the blank page and the cursor. She heard Jodie close the bedroom door and listened for the muffled creaking of their bed. I suppose I could go to bed, Kerry thought with longing. I’m exhausted and some sleepy cuddles sound great right about now… Kerry sat up straight and gritted her teeth, annoyed at her lapse in discipline. No, she needed to write, damn it! She placed her hands above the keyboard, her digits poised and ready. But nothing came. Kerry’s shoulders slumped and she laid her forehead on the desk, feeling defeated.

Why am I even trying? Kerry thought for the umpteenth time. I can’t figure out what to write next and everything I do write is crap anyway! Why do I even bother? She lay there in her silent despair, unmoving, for several minutes. She turned her mind this way and that, considering where next to take her characters and how to put the words on to a page before an idea hit her like a thunderbolt. She sat bolt upright, the straight edge of her desk imprinted across her forehead. It was an angle of her storyline that she hadn’t considered before, but maybe… Hardly daring to breathe, Kerry began to type the first sentence. Then she wrote the next, doing so with care as the idea began to struggle upwards, like a delicate flower moving towards the sunlight. After the third sentence, the idea blossomed.

Just like that, Kerry had it. She smiled a warm, excited smile and began typing with gusto; her second wind was guiding her along and she didn’t dare try to stop it. The wonderful feeling of relief and happiness flowed through her, like liquid gold coursing through her veins; she was more energised than if she had downed five of her cheap cans of pop! She wiggled her toes inside her slippers and an involuntary giggle escaped her pursed lips.

“I did it, babe!” Kerry whispered excitedly, clambering into bed and holding Jodie close half an hour later. “I found my golden words!”

“Mmm!” Jodie protested, wriggling. “I asked you not to wake me up…” Kerry smiled in the darkness, alive with the rush of her success. Jodie didn’t understand, but that didn’t matter. Whatever she had written was bound to be sub-par by that point, but the idea had been captured and fixed in her mind. The flow of gold through her fingertips had revived Kerry’s flagging courage and she felt as if anything were possible. She was a writer, and that is what it was all about!

Out of Retirement

Merry Christmas, everyone! 😀

 

Out of Retirement

By Adam Dixon

 

“Voila! What do you think, mon ami?” The old reindeer turned at the sound of the cheery voice, his legs creaking and his back threatening to cramp up. He lifted his shaggy white head at the newcomer as he stepped in through the door and into the tiny cabin. A large old man dressed in green cloth grinned and turned his flabby jowls towards the roaring fire. The orange and gold light flickered across his clean-shaven face.

Well, Pierre, I didn’t realise you had quite so many chins,” he replied, sending the thought with a mischievous wink. The old man’s smile faded and he huffed, flopping his bulk down on a nearby armchair.

“Oh, you are a scoundrel!” he declared “Ah, but you are right, of course!” There was a small wooden table next to his armchair and upon it stood a bottle of wine and two clean glasses. Pierre uncorked the bottle and helped himself.

“So, the big night is upon us again, no? It comes around so quickly!”

Yes, it does,” the deer nodded. “I still get the old feelings of anticipation, you know. I suppose they never go away, even after retirement. How long as it been now?

“Twenty-five years for me,” Pierre replied. “And I believe that it will be twenty-two for you. Mon Dieu, how time flies!”

Hard to believe that the new Santa is the second one after you,” the deer said. “And the Rudolph is the third after me. We seem to be getting through them these days. Pity about Seamus, he was a wonderful Santa.

“Oui, he was,” Pierre said sadly. “But a bit too fond of whiskey, in the end. He shouldn’t have drank so much before flying through that Pacific storm…such a shame…and that was three years ago now, no?”

Yes, that’s right. Still, the new Santa appears to be finding his feet,” the deer sent. As soon as he had finished speaking, there came a knock on the door. A moment later an elf poked her head inside, an expectant look on her face. The cold night air rushed in and disturbed the fire, sending shadows dancing around the room in a panic.

“Evening, sirs,” she said, curtseying as she stepped inside. The small bells on her tall, pointed hat jingled. “Santa would like speak with you. He’s a bit nervous about tonight, I think.”

“Speak of the devil!” Pierre said with a broad grin. “Wiggles and I are not up to much, please send him in!” The elf curtseyed again and left the cabin. The reindeer growled and glared at Pierre.

Why do you insist on calling me that?” he sent.

“It is your name, is it not?” Pierre asked, pouring out an extra glass of wine as he refilled his own.

That’s not the point, you know I hate it!” Wiggles sent, scowling. “That was the hardest part about retiring, having to lose my first decent name…” Before Pierre could begin laughing in earnest, the door to the cabin swung open again. Another very fat man strode into the room, resplendent in his red-and-white clothing and shining white beard. His dark face was creased in happiness as he walked over to Pierre and seized his hand.

“Pierre! Ça me fait toujours plaisir de te voir!” he said with enthusiasm. Pierre smiled at the compliment and nodded towards Wiggles.

“And to you, mon ami! But let us speak in English for the sake of our valued steed, yes? He is not intelligent enough for two languages!” Pierre yelped as Wiggles bit him on the hip.

I have a working understanding of the language, you fat fool!” Wiggles chided. “Half a century of listening to you wail your old songs gave me that much at least!

“Those are ballads of great beauty and skilled composition, I’ll have you know!” Pierre said with a laugh, rubbing his hip. “Now, what can we do for you, dear Emmanuel? May I offer you some wine?” The man in red smiled and spoke up, stroking his beard with his fingers.

“Nah man, I’d better not,” he said slowly, sampling the less familiar words with care. His accent was thick and exotic for the North Pole. “Pierre, I don’t like the take-off, man. Reindeers are all ready, but I’m the scared old goat! Ya both helped me last Christmas, an’ so could…could ya come an’ see me off this time? I’d be grateful.” Emmanuel’s eyes moved imploringly between Pierre and Wiggles. It was Wiggles who spoke first.

Of course, Emmanuel!” the reindeer sent, shooting Pierre an eager look. “The fat fool and I were just discussing the old times, as it happens. I think we both miss the job more than we’d like to admit.” Emmanuel’s grin split his beard in unequal halves and he nodded with vigour.

“Oh, thank you, thank you!” he said with excitement. “I bet you do miss it, man! It’s the best job I ever had! The kiddies are so happy in the mornin’, an’ I get to make it happen! An’ seein’ Haiti again always brings me joy!”

“Oui, that is wonderful!” Pierre said with longing in his eyes. “I am envious, Emmanuel. I would love to see Lille again…to be frank, I would love to see the world again, but I am too old to travel away from here now.” Emmanuel seemed struck by a thought and he cocked his head to one side.

“Maybe not, man,” he said slowly. “Ya should come with me! Both of ya! Think about it, man! Up in the sky again, feelin’ the wind in ya hair and hearin’ those sleigh bells jinglin’!” Pierre’s eyes widened and Wiggles was too taken aback to say anything.

“Emmanuel, that is a magnificent idea,” Pierre replied, choked. “I didn’t realise just how much I missed that creaky old bucket and the stink of the reindeer blowing in my face until this evening. I’d love to do it all one more time!”

Eloquent as always,” sent Wiggles. “You can count me in, as well, Emmanuel! That is if the Grand Elf sees fit to let us, and if we can get the ‘creaky old bucket’ off the ground with you both in it!

“Aha, you a cheeky one, man!” Emmanuel said, grinning from ear to ear. “Come, come! Let’s go an’ speak with him right now!”

***

The Grand Elf was an old being who radiated knowledge and wisdom. His small face was cracked and creased by innumerable lines from innumerable years on the earth, and his long white beard trailed the floor in twin lines behind him. Standing in the large, decadent Grand Cabin, supported by two young elves who held him at the elbows, he looked hard at his audience. Despite their own long lives and their familiarity with him, the trio were struck dumb with awe at the elf. They fidgeted before his gaze, scuffing their feet on the floor and clearing their throats as he pondered their question.

“This…is most irregular,” the Grand Elf rasped. His voice sounded like sandpaper scraping across a wooden toy. “There is no precedent for a former Santa Claus and Rudolph taking part in Christmas Eve so long after the termination of their duties. Why should I allow it?”

“Master Elder, sir,” Emmanuel began, wringing his hands together. “I’m still scared about the take-off, an’ I could use the help.”

“The elves working here can provide ample instruction,” the Elder wheezed, frowning.

“I know, sir, but I would feel much better to have my friends with me,” Emmanuel pressed. “An’ also, they wanna fly again! You’d be doin’ them a great favour, too!”

“Hmm…” the Grand Elf mused, rubbing his chin with a trembling, time-withered hand. “It is not simply a question of missing the journey into the sky, but of the magic of Christmas. Do these two still hold that magic close, I wonder? Or has it faded with the decades of inactivity?”

“Tch! Don’t be silly, man!” Emannuel said, affronted. He was immediately contrite. “’Scuse me, sir! I mean, of course the magic is still there. These two are walkin’ Christmas spirits!”

“I would ask them the question and not you, young man,” the Grand Elder said with a stern frown. Emmanuel blinked at the comment but held his tongue.

“Sir, I don’t know where I ought to begin,” Pierre said with confusion. “I… Christmas has always been special to me, and I tried to spread my happiness every year when I was living in France. I helped charitable organisations feed the homeless and visited the elderly in my younger days….” Pierre trailed off, thinking. The Grand Elder stood in silence, waiting. Pierre gulped and continued.

“But I must talk to you about the work itself…I still remember the first time I was given the honour of being Santa…” Pierre stared into the distance with a smile on his face. “Mon Dieu, it was fantastic! To wear those wonderful clothes, to see the world with sturdy animals and the starlight to guide me…. incredible! But…but most of all I loved to imagine the smiles on the faces of the children on Christmas morning. Ah, the rosy glow of happiness! The cheer in their eyes! The laughter and the love! That, to me, is the real joy of Christmas!”

Pierre is right,” Wiggles sent. “It’s been a long time since I was a foal, but I have spent every year since trying to make humans happy. The children and the old, the merry and the glum, they all deserve to be joyful at Christmas. Serving mankind as Rudolph for forty years has been the highlight of my life. I’ve never been happier, and I still want to spread my happiness across the world with my friend Pierre.

“We did it together, mon cher ami,” Pierre said with great affection. He laid a meaty hand on the old reindeer’s head. Wiggles nuzzled Pierre’s hand and bleated fondly. The love between the two friends was palpable and one of the Grand Elder’s aides sniffed loudly. The other dabbed at her eyes. Gradually, the air inside the Great Cabin became warmer and seemed to shimmer around Pierre. The fat man laughed in delight as he flexed his tingling fingers, his eyes growing wide as soft, white sparks danced along his skin. His belly shook as he laughed, the happy, rich sound booming around the room as he sparkled with light. Next to him, Wiggles began to croon in the back of his throat, bucking his legs and shaking his head. He squeezed his eyes shut, snorted twice and then sneezed. As he lifted his head, a crimson light shone around his nose, lighting up the astonished onlookers. His face looked as close to a bright smile as a reindeer could get. Bathed in the light from the two friends, Emmanuel clapped his hands together and bounced up and down, his bulk making the floorboards creak.

“You see! You see! They’ve still got it!” he said, his wide smile threatening to burst from his face. “What did I say, man? I told you!”

“Yes, this is quite a display!” the Grand Elf said, beaming through his own beard. “The magic of Christmas is still strong within you both! Excellent, excellent! I see no reason for you not to accompany Santa, if you are both able. Blast the irregularity, it is Christmas!” Emmanuel seized Pierre’s hand in both of his and pumped it vigorously.

“Oh, Pierre, my heart sings for you!” he said, still bouncing on his heels. “This will be the best Christmas ever!”

“Oui, mon ami,” Pierre said, sharing the excitement with tears in his eyes. “It certainly will! Now, I must prepare! I will need my old suit, my old hat and my old boots! Oh non, will I still fit into them? I have gained so much weight since then…Oh, Mon Dieu, why did I decide to shave today of all days?” Emmanuel burst out laughing as the old man hurried off towards his own cabin, muttering to himself and fretting about the cold night air. Wiggles shook his great head and sent his amusement to Emmanuel.

That old fool never did have the best timing!” the glow from his nose waved merrily as he laughed. “Now, I’d best get ready myself. See you on the runway, Santa!

“Not soon enough, Rudolph!” Santa answered with a wink. Wiggles scampered off, feeling as happy as a foal at feeding time. What a wonderful Christmas it was going to be!