An Update & a Reblog!

Good evening, all! Happy Hallowe’en and have fun with your ghoulish night of tricks, treats and stuffing yourself to the eyeballs with sweeties!

Now, some of you may have noticed that I have been a bit lax recently with my blog. Whilst my inactivity saddens me, it is mainly due to the fact that I have been gearing up to take part in this year’s National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo for short) and that has taken up a large portion of my writing time. Because of this, I have been unable to pen a horror story for this evening, but I will instead provide the link to a short story I wrote back in April, entitled “Unreal“. In fact, I wrote this piece as part of a different writing challenge, which was actually undertaken as a warm-up to Nanowrimo! I hope that it will suffice and that you enjoy reading it if you haven’t already.

I have a small pile of completed stories, both new and old, which I will be posting throughout November, as well as providing updates on my Nanowrimo progress as I slog through it. I apologise in advance for the lack of routine, and I will get straight back on to working on my ‘Fiction Fursday’ stories in December, which I am thrilled to say have been quite successful!

Enjoy your evening, one and all, and if any of you are getting involved in Nanowrimo , please get in touch!

 

UNREAL
By Adam Dixon

Jack could hardly believe the realism of the game. As soon as he pulled down the visor-screen he could almost swear that he was standing in a meadow during the height of summer, rather than sat in his ergonomic gaming chair in his draughty South-London flat. He could nearly feel the grass tickling his feet and taste the pollen in the air. The box containing the virtual reality system boasted “A gaming world so real, it’ll leave you drained!” It certainly was visually impressive.

“Wow,” he whistled in appreciation. “Pretty good start!” He glanced down at himself and marvelled at the physique of his chosen character. He gazed in wonder at a bare torso covered with rippling, solid muscle and saw equally strong legs supporting him. He almost whooped in delight. He was just like Conan the Barbarian!…

Click here to read on, if you dare…

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I Survived the A – Z Challenge

It has now been a full week since I completed the A – Z Blogging Challenge for this April. Being relatively new to blogging it was the first time I have taken part and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I set myself the task of writing a posting a short story for each day, with the word count set between 500 and 100 words. To make it even more fun, I wanted to include some of my new friends on the blogosphere and beyond and so I invited anyone who reads my blog or follows me on social media to suggest a prompt word for the letters I would be using. This turned out to be a great success as many lovely people chipped in and helped me out!

I stumbled a bit during the last few days, but I managed to pull it all together and complete my final three stories on the last day of April. It was quite demanding having to write even a very short story every day around my full-time job, but it was eye-opening as well. It showed me that if I have a set goal and I put pen to paper every day then I can achieve a lot in a short space of time. Although the stories were mainly thought of on my bus journey into work, preliminary notes scribbled on my lunch break and then written out in full once I’d finished work, I still managed to produce a variety of tales which my readers found engaging and interesting. I tried to avoid the more obvious connotations of each word and strove to come up with something which would surprise my readers. I ended up writing fictional pieces about a lonely dog, a calculating murderer, a perverted stone imp, a Dickensian double-act, a swarm of militant wasps and an invigorating love-affair, just to mention a few.  It’s given me a whole new confidence in my writing ability and my time management. I plan to print out these stories soon, so that I will have physical proof of the roughly 23,400 words I wrote in just one month…if that won’t drive me forwards with my writing, then I don’t know what else will!

If you’d like to revisit some of my stories, here are the links to the blogs and also links to the amazing people who helped me out.

A – ABANDONED (Niki’s Simple Life)
B – BOMBASTIC -(Kate McClelland)
C – CONCUBINE (Kate McClelland)
D – DRAGOON (Kate)
E – EFFERVESCENT (Kate)
F – FRAGILE (Kate)
G – GARGOYLE (Kate)
H – HESSIAN (Kate)
I – INKLING (Kate)
J- JACKASS (Kate)
K – KARMA (My partner in crime, Samwise)
L – LEGERDEMAIN (Sakina Hussain)
M – MALEVOLENT (Esther Newton)
N – NORTH (Sakina)
O – OVERCOMPENSATE (Sakina)
P – POLYGAMY (My younger brother and great sport, Ben Kenobi)
Q – QUISLING (Geoff Le Pard, the man who inspired this Challenge)
R – RANCID (My dear old Mum-well, not THAT old, obviously!)
S – SAUSAGES (My work colleague, Sarah)
T – TORRID (Mum)
U – UNREAL (Geoff)
V – VACUOUS (Esther)
W – WASTED (My work colleague, Jamie)
X – XENOPHOBIA – (Viki Allerston)
Y – YURT (Viki)
Z – ZANY (Viki)

Thank you to every single one of you who read my stories and gave me feedback. You’re all brilliant, wonderful people! Alas, I have been a blogger far too short a time to post among such excellent and admirable hobbits!

 

How did your own A – Z Challenges go? Let me know in the comment section!

A – Z Challenge Day 26

It’s finally here! The final story for this April’s Challenge! I can hardly believe that it’s over, it has been a fantastic month! I’ve really enjoyed taking part and I am rather impressed with myself for managing to write as often as I did. I’ve had a couple of stumbles along the way, but I’m here on the last day with my twenty-sixth short story so I am pretty bloody pleased with that!

This prompt is once again from Viki, who has been a fantastic help. The word she chose to end my Challenge is “ZANY”. I don’t know about you lot, but whenever I hear that word I automatically think of Dr. Seuss and his wacky creations! My idea for a story is significantly darker than the friendly Cat in the Hat, just as a warning!

Anyway, here is my final story for this April. Thank you to everyone who has been following my progress and a bigger thank you to everyone who has found the time to give me feedback on my stories. As a side-note, my previous story which I uploaded earlier today was my 50th post since starting out WordPress, which I am really pleased about. Thank you, everyone, for helping me to keep doing what I love.

ZANY

By Adam Dixon

Rosie heard the music before her sister did. It filtered into her dreams, the beautiful, haunting melody of the simple pipe dissipating her innocent imaginings like a breeze through smoke. She allowed it to gently caress her senses and pull her slowly towards wakefulness. Once awake she lay still in the darkness, listening to the lonely pipe calling to her very soul. After a few minutes, Anna begin to stir in the bed next to hers and soon they were staring at one another in excitement.

“It’s him!” Anna breathed, smiling sleepily. Rosie nodded and sat up. Her neatly-trimmed brown hair was in disarray and she had been dribbling as she slept. Wiping her freckled face clumsily with the back of her hand Rosie got out of bed and hurried over to the window. Anna joined her a moment later, jittery with nervous anticipation. They stared out at the fields beyond their village, trying in vain to spot the source of the music. They could not, and Anna looked at Rosie expectantly. Being the Big Sister, it was Rosie’s job to make the decisions when Mummy and Daddy weren’t around. Rosie drew herself up to her full height of four feet two inches and assumed an important pose.

“Well, Anna, we’ll have to go and find him!” She said, nodding for emphasis. Anna gasped and clapped her hands together.

“Oooh, we’re going to have an adventure!” She yelped, bouncing up and down. Rosie clamped a hand over Anna’s mouth, eyes wide as she listened to the sounds of the house. She could hear nothing from their parent’s room, only the distant playing of the pipe.

“You need to keep quiet, Anna,” she whispered, removing her hand. “We can’t wake Mummy and Daddy up! They wouldn’t let us go and see him!”

“But we promised!” Anna replied, pouting. “We promised the Colourful Man that we would come and visit him if he played his pipes! Mummy and Daddy always say that we should keep our promises!”

“Yes, they do,” Rosie agreed, putting on her slippers and searching for Anna’s. “But they wouldn’t like it if they knew we were doing it at night time! Give me your feet, Anna, you need to put these on. Find your coat, too, it will be too cold for just a nightie outside!”

Rosie and Anna busied themselves for the next few minutes as they gathered provisions for their exploit. Soon, they both had coats, slippers and woollen hats on, and Anna held a plastic bag containing a packet of crisps each and half-empty bottle of fruit juice which they had saved for a midnight snack. Rosie put the spare blankets and pillows under their bedsheets just in case their parents looked in on them. It was unlikely, but she judged it to be a good idea nonetheless.

“Right!” Rosie stood, hands on hips as she observed Anna and the bedroom. She smoothed down her stubborn hair with her hand before attacking Anna’s darker curls with a brush. “Off we go then! Make sure you tiptoe past Mummy and Daddy’s room, Anna, and watch out for the creaky steps on the stairs!” Anna nodded eagerly, brimming with excitement. The two girls carefully moved through the house and down the stairs, unlocking the front door and stealing out into the night. The low amber glow from the few streetlights guided their way as far as the edge of the village, and from there Rosie used her Barbie torch to light their path. She held onto Anna’s hand tightly, whispering to her that the Colourful Man would be so pleased to see them.

***

Less than a mile away, hidden in the nearby wood, the Piper stopped playing. He knew that the girls would reach him soon, his pipe’s magic always saw to that. He stretched his arms and legs out as he sat on the tree stump, scratching his long white beard and yawning. His colourful robes were dulled by the darkness but he would still be easy to spot because of them. The children had been captivated as he had put on his ridiculous act for them at the village fete, jumping, twirling and juggling for them. He even told nonsensical stories in order to make them laugh and had howled along with them like a wolf. They enjoyed his clownish persona, and they always wanted more. He would wait until their parents were distracted before whispering into their ears that they would be able to play together again if they only promised to come to him when he played his pipe. The children readily agreed, completely ignoring the “Stranger danger” ethos that their parents had drilled into their heads. They were just as gullible now as they had been a century ago.

The Piper didn’t know why he had lived for so long, but he suspected that it had something to do with his diet. He grinned as he sharpened his skinning knives with a whetstone; young children were simply so nutritious!

 

A – Z Challenge Day 25

Here is my second post for today. Two down, one to go!

This prompt comes again from the very helpful Viki, and the word is “YURT”. I have only heard this word a scant few times and always uttered by my slightly posh friends when they were indulging in the baffling practice of “glamping”. So, armed with thoughts of double-beds in fields, I began writing. Thanks for the prompt, Viki!

Here’s what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy it.

YURT

By Adam Dixon

“Isn’t this lovely, darling?” Jackie said, beaming as she spun round and round inside the yurt. “Look at the carpets, aren’t they beautiful? Oh, and the fire-pit is amazing! Look at this bed, it’s stunning and huge! This is better than I’d hoped!”

“But you saw all of this on the website,” Peter said, amused. He was carrying their suitcase in one hand and a list of suggested items for their stay. It was a long list for a weekend, he thought.

“Yes, but now that I’m here, it all seems even more wonderful!” Jackie insisted, bouncing on the balls of her feet in excitement. Their infant daughter, Lily, giggled as Jackie jostled her around. She had caught the infectious joy pouring out of her mother and was beaming up at her with her brown eyes wide with delight.

“Careful, my love,” Peter warned gently. “You’ll bring up Lily’s breakfast if you’re not careful! That’d be a terrible way to start this break!” Jackie laughed and stopped bouncing.

“Sorry, Lily, sweetheart!” Jackie nuzzled Lily’s nose. “Mummy just got a bit over-excited about our lovely home for the next three days! Isn’t it gorgeous?”

“Wassat?” Lily asked, gesturing around her with one of her pink hands. Her blond curls waved as she twisted in Jackie’s grip.

“This, Lollipop, is a yurt,” Jackie crooned, stroking Lily’s hair. “It’s a lovely big tent based on ancient Mongolian design, and it’s for lovely families like us to have a relaxing, comfortable holiday!”

“It was your mother’s idea, Lollipop,” Peter grinned and tickled Lily’s ear. “She wants to try out this “glamping” nonsense and so we’re now essentially staying in a hotel room in the middle of a field!”

“Peter! That’s not true!” Jackie said, a petulant look on her face. Peter had always found that expression beautiful on Jackie; the way her lips curled at the edges plumped them out almost seductively, and the way her small nose wrinkled made his heart soar. He chuckled and kissed Jackie’s forehead, breathing in the flowery scent of her skin.

“I’m only teasing, love,” he said winking at her. “The yurt is lovely, and the orchid outside is stunning. I can’t wait to watch the sun set with my two favourite ladies.” Jackie’s face softened and her smile was dazzling.

“Oh, yes, that will be wonderful!” Her eagerness had returned in an instant. Lily mumbled and gestured towards the floor. Jackie obeyed and settled her onto the Persian-style carpet, the pattern of which seemed to captivate her. She sat tracing the pattern with her hand, gurgling happily and swinging her curls.

“This will be a fantastic trip, Jackie,” Peter said, slipping his arm around Jackie’s waist as they watched Lily play. Jackie leaned against him, laying her head on his chest and taking his hand. She played with his wedding ring absent-mindedly as they stood there. The yurt was spacious despite the large double bed in the centre and the cot alongside it. It was tastefully decorated in purples, maroons and yellows, with a luxurious chez-lounge on one side facing a small wood stove on the other. It looked cosy, comfortable and inviting.

“I wish mum could have seen this,” Jackie said, half to herself. “She would have loved it…” Peter gave her hand a squeeze.

“I know, my love,” he said, sighing into Jackie’s hair. “But try not to think about that while we’re here. She’ll be well looked after, Susanna and Derek will be visiting her more often whilst we’re away, too. She’ll be fine.”

“I know, I know,” Jackie replied, closing her eyes. “I just can’t help thinking that I shouldn’t be enjoying myself whist she is in that dreadful place, that’s all.”

“It’s hardly dreadful, Jackie,” Peter chuckled. “The staff are very good and she never has any trouble with the other residents. But you need a break from it all, you know that. You already do too much for her, so do yourself a favour and focus on enjoying this break. Do we have a deal, Mrs DeWalt?” Jackie smiled and looked up at her husband.

“I suppose we do, Mr DeWalt,” she laughed and offered her lips for a kiss. Peter obliged, and soon the small family were settled in to their new dwellings, happy and ready to enjoy themselves. They shelved their worries and concerns for the moment and embraced the world of “glamping”.

A – Z Challenge Day 24

The final day of this April’s Challenge is here, and I’ve got some catching up to do! Unfortunately, I have stumbled at the last hurdle this week and I will need to post three stories in order to complete the Challenge properly. But fear not, for I intend to pick myself up and sprint to make the finish!

I’m starting by uploading Thursday’s story, which was prompted by one of my email followers. The lovely Viki Allerston suggested “X” for “XENOPHOBIA”, and I think it’s a great word in such a restricted letter group! Unfortunately, this word is very relevant to the world today and so I wanted to treat with a degree of care. I have plans to explore this subject another day with a less restrictive word count, but I have come up with a short story which addresses it in the meantime. Thanks for the prompt, Viki!

Here’s what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy it.

XENOPHOBIA

By Adam Dixon

The good-natured chatter within the tavern hushed as the dark-skinned man wearing a turban walked in. He stopped as dozens of pairs of eyes turned towards him, most with open hostility. He gulped, took a deep breath and strode up towards the tavern keeper. The man ordered a drink in his rough accent and the other patrons reluctantly turned back to their own, grumbling to their companions about the “damn foreigners”. Two men seated close to the door glanced at one another and shook their heads.

“That was a close one, Rek” the first man said, stroking his waxed moustache. “It’s a good thing he isn’t armed or one of those fools at the back might’ve jumped him!”

“He is armed, Jarol,” the second man replied, gesturing towards the stranger with his mug of ale. He was taller than his friend, with a shiny bald head and a bushy beard. “He has a dagger hidden in one of his boots and another one up his sleeve. These are dangerous times, my friend.”

“By the Gods! I know I’ve been away for a while, but things are worse here than I could have imagined!” Jarol exclaimed. “It’s a sorry state of affairs when a man must come secretly armed in order to have a drink! And all because he is from the Eastern realms!”

“It is,” Rek agreed, patting the scabbard of his short-sword. “But there’s more to it than simple dislike. The Easterners have been causing tensions in these parts for decades but the High Lords won’t acknowledge it. The Northmen don’t appreciate the way that Easterners have been muscling in on trade and housing since they settled, but the Easterners do nothing to aid their cause. They strut around villages in large gangs, intimidating all but the bravest or the most foolish of the natives. It’s rather unusual to see an Eastern man come into a tavern alone, actually. Naturally, many Northmen have become embittered and are crying out to ‘reclaim their land’ from these ‘invaders’.”

Reclaim?” Jarol grimaced in disgust. “Invaders? What do these Northmen think their ancestors were doing in the Eastern realms a century ago, taking in the scenery? That is ridiculous!”

“It is, but keep your voice lowered, my friend,” Rek said quietly, turning to glare at the men in the tavern who had begun to pay attention to them. The men lowered their heads before his stony gaze. “These Northmen are fiercely proud, and arrogant. Do not make the mistake of questioning their ire in public.”

“You’re right, I’m sorry,” Jarol said, nervously glancing around the room. The other men had returned to their conversations, but they seemed to be keeping their ears open.

“It’s happening in my homeland, too,” he said, looking at his ale sadly. “The Southern Province used to be so accepting, so united once the Divide broke down. Alas, twenty years later and the liberators have become our new jailors! My own family had its farmland seized by the new lords and we were all but forced to move north. We don’t have as many issues here, but we are still seen as second-class citizens, even if it’s done politely.”

“It’s such a tragedy that your land couldn’t remain united, it was such a wonderful time to be alive when the Divide ended.” Rek’s mood was sombre.

“It truly was, wasn’t it?” Jarol smiled and his eyes clouded as he became lost in his memories. “We were all cheering, Southerners of all colours and creeds clasping hands and dancing together, sharing music and food. Brothers and sisters at long last! But now…the Divide is back, simply in disguise, coaxed back by ancient prejudice and grudges.” He sighed dejectedly and took a long swallow from his mug. His friend simply nodded, frowning.

“The trouble is,” Rek began, gesturing around the tavern. “Ordinary folk don’t understand what’s happening to their lands, but they are always eager to pin the blame on somebody else. Here, it is the Easterners, and in the Southern Province it’s your kind. We seem to have lost the ability to live amongst each other peacefully.” He stopped as some of the men began loudly talking about the turbaned stranger in aggressive voices. The man sat at the bar, keeping his head low and trying to ignore their comments. The big man stood up.

“Come on, friend,” he said. “Let’s go and sit with that fellow and give him some company. Perhaps he’ll appreciate another drink and a way to shut those braggarts up.” The Jarol nodded, also rising.

“Yes, that’s a fine idea,” he responded with a smile. “The world may have forgotten how to be friendly, but you and I certainly haven’t! Let’s help the poor fellow out.” So the two men strode over to the frightened Eastern man and made his acquaintance. The man was initially suspicious and then greatly relieved at their presence, gesturing happily at the stools next to him. The men sat, and the other patrons looked on in dumb silence.

A – Z Challenge Day 23

It is Day 23 and today’s word comes from another one of my work colleagues, Jamie. As it happens, Jamie is my supervisor, which makes his suggestion all the more amusing. His prompt is the word “WASTED”, and judging by the grin on his face when he suggested it I knew exactly what kind of story he was hoping for!

Well, I had a bit of a think and came up with an idea that I really like. It’s been partially inspired by my thought process for each word during this Challenge, and I hope you enjoy it. Thanks again, Jamie!

WASTED

By Adam Dixon

“Settle down, class!” the stern-faced robotic teacher commanded. She was fully seven feet of gleaming chrome with stern feminine features carefully painted on to her “face”. She had even had glasses added to complete the academic effect. The babbling group of forty children quietened to a murmur before reaching complete silence. It was a young class as most of the children were between five and seven years old. The teacher surveyed the room with her highly-attuned sensors and confirmed that every pupil was concentrating.

“Your English Language class will now begin,” the teacher buzzed as she spoke, turning towards a large metal disc set into the floor. It looked very much like a polished version of the manholes that used to lead into sewers during the last millennium. The teacher stretched out a shining arm and the disc began to glow. A cone of light erupted from its surface, creating a shimmering image of the word “WASTED”. The teacher turned to face the children.

“Today’s lesson will consider adjectives, and we will begin with this word: wasted. Listen to how it is pronounced and repeat after me. WASTED.” The class dutifully repeated the word back to the teacher. She nodded and waved at the disc again. The image shifted, and in the blink of an eye transformed into a high-definition image of an industrial skip which was filled with half-eaten sandwiches, water bottles and sweets. The children began to talk and gesture at the image, but were silenced by a sharp glance from the teacher.

“Now, here we see an example of the formal use of the word. Please note that the inclusion of this ancient device known as a “skip” is purely for your amusement. This collection of partially-eaten food demonstrates that potential nourishment has been wasted. There was no need to throw it away as there was plenty left to eat. What do we call this kind of behaviour, class? Please reflect on our previous lessons on adjectives.” A few of the children shouted out their answers.

“Juvenile!”

“Ungrateful!”

“Greedy!”

“Shitty!”

The teacher strode over to the desk at the front of the class and pressed one of forty red buttons spread out across it. There was a sharp buzzing sound and a small, ginger-haired boy yelped and leaped out of his seat, rubbing his rear. The rest of the class burst out laughing, jeering and pointing at the unfortunate youth.

“Be advised, Macolm, that whilst your use of the word ‘shitty’ can be considered correct, you are not permitted to use curse words in this classroom.” The teacher said, her painted face aimed at the boy.

“Sorry, miss…” Malcolm mumbled, carefully sitting back down. His classmates stopped laughing and paid attention, afraid that they would be punished next.

“Good,” the teacher said, moving back to the holo-disc. “This word can also refer to an action, a fitting example being Malcolm’s wasted effort at answering my question.” The class sniggered and Malcolm hung his head. The teacher waved at the disc and the image warped and was replaced once again. In place of the wasted food, there stood the image of a badly emaciated woman. Her skin was stretched across bones which could be seen easily even at the back of the class and her gaunt face was skull-like. She glanced up at the class and her long black hair moved away from her face, revealing a chilling smile. A few of the children gasped and four of them started crying. The teacher ruthlessly buzzed the sobbing youths until they held back their emotions. They sat trembling, enduring the wretched image in order for the lesson to continue.

“This is another example of the word wasted,” the teacher continued as if nothing had happened. “In this sense, it refers to the body of this woman; it has shrivelled and become very weak through lack of nourishment. This was a common problem among the people of the early twenty-first century due to the “Size-Zero” phenomenon in fashionable society, as you will recall from your History lessons.” The image of the woman gazed around the class with haunted eyes and raised a hand towards them. This time several more children began to cry and the teacher was forced to change the image more quickly. The hologram shifted and a tall, reasonably healthy-looking man replaced the skeletal woman. His face was slack, his movements were clumsy and he wore a ludicrous smile on his face. He hiccoughed, belched and laughed every few seconds, clutching a half-eaten kebab in one hand and an almost-empty bottle of beer in the other.

“Here, we have an example of the informal use of wasted,” the teacher droned on. “This man has been rendered incomprehensible and unbalanced through severe intoxication: therefore, this man is wasted.” The man giggled and dropped his glasses. As he bent down to retrieve them, he also dropped his kebab. Swearing loudly, he leaned down further and performed a crab-like shuffle as he tried to decide which of his belongings needed saving first. Before he could reach a decision, he fell on to his hands and knees and promptly vomited on to the floor. The hologram was very sophisticated, recreating every image in stunning detail. The horrified children screamed as one as the very real-looking vomit spread towards their desks. The teacher frantically waved her arms and the image faded.

“Silence, class!” She ordered, stabbing the shock buttons at random and ignoring the shrieks they caused. “It was merely a computer-generated image and nothing to become agitated about! Please sit quietly so that we can move on to our second adjective of today, the word SCARY!”

The children wailed collectively and the robotic teacher tutted. She was running out of buttons!

 

A – Z Challenge Day 22

It’s Day 22 of this April’s Challenge, and my prompt comes once more from the lovely Esther Newton. Esther has suggested some brilliant prompts in the past which have helped me write guest posts for her, something which I hope to do again very soon. The suggested word is “VACUOUS”. This is a great word which had me stumped for ages! I was beginning to worry about whether or not I’d have something to write at all, but this afternoon something clicked and I hashed out my thoughts during my lunch break. Thank you, Esther, for such a creative and brain-busting prompt!

Here is what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy it. 7

P.S. Just in case you are interested, you can find stories aided by Esther’s prompts here, here and here. Shamless plug, sorry!

VACUOUS

By Adam Dixon

“I can’t do this anymore, John,” the sleek, blond woman said, her voice quivering as she knelt beside the young man seated in a wheelchair. She took his hand with both of hers and began to sob. The man had his head lowered, looking defeated. He slowly raised his head to look at her, and his face was oddly blank.

“Sandra…” he began. “I don’t-“

“NO NO NO!” A shrill voice bellowed from the audience. Startled, the couple glanced in the direction of the outburst. A short, bald man wearing a pink shirt and enormous glasses was striding towards them, his expression the picture of exasperation. He stopped in front of them, his arms folded and clutching a sheaf of papers tightly. As he tapped his foot on the wooden floor of the stage, the sharp thuds echoed around the empty theatre space. He looked wired, and he stank of coffee.

“Mr Smith,” he started, running his hand along his cheek and sighing. “How many times must I tell you that this is perhaps the single most important moment in your character’s life? Sandra’s inability to take care of him after his illness sends him spiralling into loneliness and despair, which then leads to his malevolent actions later on.” He began leafing through the pages in his grip, pulling an expression of mock concentration. After a moment he shook his head and declared with frustration:

“Now, I don’t believe that it says in this script that John should be an expressionless, emotionless block of wood, although I could be mistaken! Why can’t you put a bit of feeling into this scene, for God’s sake!”

“I’m sorry, mate,” the man Smith replied, irritated. “I’ve already told you that I’m not a very good actor.”

“That much has been made abundantly clear!” The man in pink responded, almost hysterically. He turned to the woman, who was adjusting her blond wig and looking uncomfortable.

“Jackie, could you please try to bring something useful out of Keanu Reeves, here? Just for me?” The man pleaded. Jackie shrugged her shoulders.

“Dunno what you think I can do, Max,” she said sounding annoyed herself. “He’s pretty wooden. I don’t think he’s acted much in his life.”

“I haven’t, that’s what I’m saying!” Smith argued, rising from the wheelchair. “I don’t know what you thought I could bring to this production when my brother is the real actor!”

“Yes, Jerome would have performed exceptionally,” Max nodded, looking sad. “It’s a terrible shame that his accident occurred so close to opening night.”

“Look, I know I’ve only been asked to fill in because I look like him, but surely this is a bit much?” Smith said, waving his arms in exasperation. “I can’t act for shit! Surely you have another guy who can play this part well enough?”

“I have several “guys” who could do it, of course,” Max said, speaking slowly and carefully as if to a complete moron. “But I need Jerome Smith! If not him personally then I need his likeness. I’ve never come across anyone so suited for the part purely based on looks! I consider it a miracle that the boy can act as well!”

“Yeah, halle-fucking-lujah,” Smith grumbled. “But Jerome is in hospital, so you’re stuck with me. I dunno why you’re giving me such a hard time, I’m doing this as a favour to Jerome and by extension a favour to you, so don’t push it!”

“Alright, alright!” Max held up his hands in resignation. “I will endeavour to hold back a bit with my criticisms, but there are many! I suppose we’ll just have to see how you do with a bit of practice! Now, Jackie, from the top, if you please?” He stormed off-stage and slumped back into his folding chair. Jackie cleared her throat and knelt down beside the chair, motioning impatiently for Smith to sit. Smith muttered darkly to himself as he complied.

“Dunno why the grumpy sod is taking it all so seriously,” he mumbled. “It’s only an amateur production, for fuck’s sake!”

“I can’t do this anymore, John,” Jackie said, back in character. She gazed up at him with actual tears in her eyes. Fuck me, she’s good!  Smith thought, impressed. He raised his head slowly and looked into her eyes.

“Sandra…” he said, trying hard to convey emotion. “I don’t know how you can leave me like this…after all I’ve done for us…”

Max covered his face with his hands and groaned. The boy was utter shite; he’d never seen anyone with such a vacuous expression! He may as well have been carved from a tree!

“We’re doomed!” he whispered sadly, not bothering to watch the rest of the performance. He knew it was going to be a car-crash, anyway.

A – Z Challenge Day 20

I’m a day late with this one, for which I apologise. I was determined to keep on track with these posts but I found myself exhausted after work yesterday. I attempted to write my story yesterday evening but I decided to stop as I was reluctant to force a story just for the sake of posting it on the correct day. So, with my excuses out of the way you can all put down your pitchforks!

Today’s word (or yesterday’s) comes again from the matriarch of my childhood. As I’ve said, my Mum has been keen to help me with this Challenge wherever she can and has done so by providing me with another fantastic suggestion, and it is “T” for “TORRID”. I had a few ideas spring to mind with this one, although I suspect it may have come about due to my Mum reading trashy literature… who knows!

Anyway, here is what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy it and I promise to stay on track for the final week!

TORRID

By Adam Dixon

Deidre reclined on the rumpled bed sheets and smoked a cigarette out of the hotel window, shivering as a gust of bitter wind found its way into the room. She gazed up at the grey sky and eyed its pregnant rainclouds with disinterest. The predicted storm was approaching and soon London would be subdued and miserable beneath its influence. Deidre, however, would not be. On the contrary, she was happier that dreary afternoon than she had been for months, and it was all thanks to Sam.

Deidre’s life had taken a turn for the worst two years previously, and it began on that fateful evening of July 2014 when her husband left her. Deidre had believed that her marriage was a happy one; she had been happy, at least. Derek had been a good husband, if a little on the quiet side, and their lives together had been functional and affectionate. Not enough, it seemed, to ensure Derek’s happiness. He had simply packed his bags that evening and left, leaving a shocked Deidre alone with her disbelief and her tears. As the months and the divorce proceedings wore on, Deidre slipped further and further into a pit of self-loathing and despair. She believed herself to be hideously unattractive, outwardly detestable and inherently unlovable. She was nearly fifty and having been in a relationship for more than two decades she had lost any and all knowledge of how to be single. She wallowed in her own misery, expecting to die in a world where nobody would give her a second thought. Then she met Sam.

Sam came into her life like a burning torch thrust into a dark cave. It was as if the world had regained its colour and the cruel bastard of a deity who wielded the paint had had a change of heart. Deidre had met Sam in a café the morning after her work’s Christmas party. Deidre had gone along out of a sense of obligation and had sat alone in a corner drinking steadily as she remembered previous, happier Christmases. The next morning as she sat nursing a massive hangover in her local Costa, a beautiful, engaging individual had approached her. Sam had been at the party the night before and was likewise dealing with a sore head and so suggested they sit in mutual misery. Deidre hadn’t the energy or the gumption to protest and so the two began talking. Despite their obvious age-gap, Deidre found Sam to be a wonderful, intelligent person who was also respectful, pausing to let Deidre speak whenever she found the courage to do so. Sam was funny too; Deidre had almost forgotten what it was like to laugh before that morning. They parted having exchanged numbers and promised to meet again the next morning. Mystified, Deidre had actually gone about the rest of her day with a smile on her face, bollocks to the hangover!

It didn’t take long before Deidre and Sam were meeting regularly over coffee and soon that moved on to lunch breaks together and the occasional drink at the end of the week. Deidre found herself opening her heart to her new friend, pouring out her feelings of worthlessness and her worries about her future. Sam had held her hand as she had sobbed, offering soothing words and companionship. Through her tears, Deidre had looked into Sam’s gorgeous face and suddenly they were embracing. Quite naturally, yet still surprisingly, they began their affair. It was an affair due to Deidre still technically being married, but it also posed one other, significant problem: Sam was her boss’ partner.

Back in the hotel room, Deidre sighed and glanced at herself in the mirror. She had never liked the sight of herself naked; she thought that she had far too many flabby parts and stretch marks collected through years of obesity to actually be attractive. Sam had never once complained, even going as far in the other direction as calling Deidre beautiful on several occasions. Despite her rational mind telling her otherwise, Deidre did feel beautiful with Sam. She felt beautiful and free…and guilty. Life had surprised her by making her boss a cuckold…she certainly hadn’t seen that coming!

The bathroom door opened behind her and bare feet padded on the carpet. Deidre exhaled the last drag of her cigarette and tossed the butt out of the window.

“You do realise that this can’t continue, don’t you?” Deidre asked sadly, afraid of the answer. Sam didn’t respond but instead moved silently around the bed. A pair of hands gently cupped Deidre’s chin and raised her head up. Deidre’s morose brown eyes locked with the most dazzling green eyes she had ever seen.

“Hush now,” Sam whispered sweetly, caressing Deidre’s cheek. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, not before. Now kiss me, you old worrywart!” Sam pressed her lips against Deidre’s, and her lover’s eyes closed. The two women embraced passionately, oblivious to the rain which began to hammer against their window.

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!”

 

A – Z Challenge Day 18

Today’s suggestion comes from my dear old mum! Yes, yes, I know, it’s not very rock and roll to get Mummy Dearest involved one’s projects, but personally I couldn’t give a monkey’s about that! My mum has given me plenty of encouragement with my writing and I am very pleased that she wanted to help me out directly this time. Also, I’m not very rock and roll anyway, so nothing changes!

Anyway, today’s word is “RANCID”. One can only speculate where this suggestion came from…I do hope it’s not a character association! I like the word a lot and decided to use it today. Thanks again, Mum!

Here’s what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy it.

RANCID

By Adam Dixon

Tobias squinted up at the midday sun and cursed the torturous sphere with every ounce of vehemence he could muster. Even the stone block he was sitting on was warming up, much to his dismay. He lifted a bony hand to his face and wiped the remnants of a rotten tomato from his left eye, wincing as he felt a tender spot on his cheek.

“That must be from the potatoes the washer-women were throwing,” he muttered to himself. “Damn good shot, that one! Nearly bowled me over!” He looked down at himself and sighed in resignation. He was covered from head to foot with an array of interesting and disgusting detritus, some of which could be readily identified. He could see that tomatoes, onions, potatoes, apples and even turnips had been pulverised against his arms and body, making him slick with stinking, sticky juices. Almost all of them had been rotten, which was something of a blessing because the few unripe projectiles among them had left him battered and bruised. Tobias attempted to make his legs more comfortable, but the wooden stocks clamped around his ankles gave him no such freedom. He supposed that he should be grateful that he hadn’t been placed in the pillory instead; at least he could mostly shield his head this way.

“How I long for the days of greater acceptance!” Tobias cast his dejected expression Heaven-ward once again. “Oh Lord, why must I be humiliated so? I did no harm to anyone with my antics! It was only a dress…” He trailed off into silence miserably. With all the great strides men were making in science, technology and enlightenment theory it baffled Tobias that an old man deciding to wear women’s clothes in his own house could cause such an uproar. There was no need for all this, surely! At least the villagers had retired for the afternoon…

Tobias glanced up as he heard giggling and approaching footsteps. He saw three local boys, none of them more than seven years old, creeping steadily towards him carrying dirty sacks over their shoulders.

“Oh, what fresh terrors await me, now?” Tobias cried aloud, causing the boys to stop suddenly. They were about ten feet away from the stocks and for a moment they looked doubtful over their purpose. However, this hesitation was quickly dispelled when the largest of the three dropped his sack and plunged a hand into it. He pulled out a suspicious brown substance and tossed it right at the helpless Tobias. It was not a particularly good throw as it hit him in the thigh, but no sooner had it made an impact the other two boys were following suit. As they flung double-handfuls of the stuff at Tobias he realised with horror and disgust what it was. It was manure!

“You little wretches! You stop this at once!” he roared, flinging his arms in front of his face. “By the Lord Almighty, if I weren’t trapped in here I’d give you such a thrashing! STOP!”

The boys began laughing uproariously, continuing to pelt the impotent Tobias as he bellowed at them. When they had exhausted their ammunition they stood still, staring in wonder at their accomplishment. Tobias was covered in steaming brown muck, his fury so intense that he was incapable of coherent speech. He waved his arms about madly, shaking off bits of manure as he did so. The boys ran off laughing, slapping each other on the back and congratulating themselves for a job well done. Tobias lowered his arms and looked at himself again. He was appalled by the sight and had never felt so humiliated.

“All for a bloody dress!” He managed to squeak out once his throat had loosened a little bit, his eyes wide and his breathing heavy. After a few minutes he had calmed down enough to feel miserable again, so he slumped forwards, resting his filthy head in his filthier hands.

“Oh, Lord!” he groaned. “It will take me days to wash out the smell!” He looked up at the sky again, his face scorched by the sun. “I don’t suppose there is any chance of a spot of rain soon?” He asked hopefully. As he stared upwards, he heard more footsteps approaching. The three young boys were coming back, and they were puffing and panting as they supported a large bucket between them. A pale yellow liquid slopped to and fro as the bucket swung with their movements. Tobias almost laughed!

“Oh, but what a big mouth I appear to have!” he said as he braced himself. He only hoped this day would end soon!