A – Z Challenge Day 16

Today’s story prompt comes from my younger brother, Ben. I should start off by commending him for his restraint, considering the words I was certain he would suggest for “P”!

The word he has picked was pleasantly surprising, as well as quite interesting. Today’s word is “POLYGAMY”. I was initially toying with the idea of writing something dark surrounding this topic, as there are unfortunately several real-life horror stories which I could have drawn inspiration from. However, I decided that I would ignore that impulse for today and come up with something a little more light-hearted. This one has a sci-fi feel to it, too. Thanks again, bro!

Here’s what I came up with. I hope you enjoy it.

POLYGAMY

By Adam Dixon

“Come on, John, just one more drink!” Samuel pleaded, holding tight to John’s coat as he stood up. “Just one more! I…don’t want to go home yet…” Samuel looked down at his friend, meeting his green eyes and seeing something very close to desperation within them. He sighed and sat back down.

“Alright, Sammy,” he relented, “But only one more; I’ve got a meeting in the morning and I’m not facing those androids with bloodshot eyes and beer-breath! They’ve been programmed to detect alcohol in the air now, so I’d have no chance at hiding it!”

“Right, right, just one!” Samuel beamed his gratitude and waved at a passing Server. The mechanical man turned its expressionless face towards their table and strode over, buzzing and whirring as it lifted its heavy metal legs.

“YES, SIRS, HOW MAY I ASSIST?” It looked and sounded almost exactly alike the four other Servers in the pub. The two men wouldn’t have known if they had been served by this particular model before, they were so similar. Samuel raised two fingers in front of the Server’s front sensors.

“We’ll have two more beers, please,” he commanded. “Add the cost to my tab. My code is 080292.”

“CERTAINLY, SIR,” the droid replied, bowing awkwardly before moving in the direction of the bar. They could hear its internal fans from ten feet away. Samuel and John sat in a comfortable silence as they waited for their drinks. The pub was designed to look and feel just like a typical public house from the previous century, complete with wooden tables and chairs and blackboards denoting the prices of various drinks. No-one present knew who J.D. Wetherspoon was, but apparently he had owned several such places. They looked presentable enough, in a dated kind of way, and at least the booze was cheap. It smelled faintly of sweaty feet, but neither man knew if that was intentional.

“Thanks, Johnny-boy, I really appreciate it,” Samuel said as the droid returned with their drinks. The beer was a luminous green and the head on them was a mottled white. The two men clinked their glasses and each took a deep mouthful.

“So, this polygamy thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, eh?” John asked with a wry smile. Samuel grimaced and took another long swig.

“You can say that again, my friend!” he responded, wiping foam from his lips with the back of his hand. “I understand now why it used to be illegal! So many problems every single day!”

“There must be some good things, though?” John ventured. “One thing springs immediately to mind…”

“Oh, forget it!” Samuel waved his hand dismissively. “My sex life isn’t much better for it, and mostly because I’m too exhausted from dealing with them during the day! Even then it’s not like I’m settled on that score. Of course they aren’t always going to be willing to get in the sack, and there is nothing quite as soul-destroying as being rejected by three women in one night…” John burst out laughing and tried vainly to disguise it with another mouthful of beer.

“Yes, go on! Laugh it up!” Samuel sighed. “I can see the funny side, honestly. I just can’t bring myself to laugh at it!”

“I’m sorry, Sammy,” John said, his mirth fading. Samuel only nodded. The two men sat in silence once again, listening to the buzz of conversation as men, women and cyborgs chattered to one another or spoke into their surgically-attached headsets.

“You know, I think our forefathers had it much easier,” Samuel spoke up after a short while. “They mostly married for love rather than business. I mean, look at me: I’ve married three times, strictly for business arrangements and I’m not any happier for it. I’ve become very successful, of course, but I’m stuck in dumps like this every night because I can barely bring myself to go home to my business partners! That’s not living, surely?” John was about to respond when two shrill voices cut through the ambience of the pub.

“SAMUEL! THERE YOU ARE! COME HOME THIS INSTANT!”

“I KNEW WE’D FIND YOU IN THIS PIT AGAIN!”

Everyone in the building stopped what they were doing and turned to look at the two angry women who had burst in through the large front doors. One was older, tall and bony, and the other was young, short and plump. Both were fairly attractive and both wore masks of fury and contempt. Samuel groaned aloud.

“Speak of the Devils and they shall appear!” he said resentfully, lifting his beer and downing the last couple of mouthfuls. John didn’t quite know what to say, merely sitting and staring into his half-finished beer. Samuel clapped him on the shoulder as he stood to leave.

“This is one of the perks, I suppose,” he said, with a forced smile. “My wives are quite old-fashioned; they’d rather march in here to embarrass me personally instead of calling me on my headset! Looks like my second wife has stayed at home…that can’t be a good sign…Anyway, I must be off. See you around, Johnny-boy, and wish me luck!” John nodded and grasped Samuel’s wrist.

“Good luck, Sammy,” he said, smiling at Samuel with sympathy in his eyes. Samuel cleared his throat and strode over to greet his wives. John could still hear them chiding him as the thick doors closed behind them. He raised his pint to his lips, contemplating his friend’s pitiable position. He grimaced as he finished the green dregs.

“You may be right, Sammy,” he muttered to himself. “Our forefathers did have it easier: they had better marriages and better beer!” He left a tip for the android and made his own way home, happily and gratefully alone.

A – Z Challenge Day 15

Week Three of the April Challenge has began, and that means a fresh batch of stories from Yours Truly! Today’s prompt comes again from Sakina, and her word is “OVERCOMPENSATE”. Now, I think you’ll agree that this is a right good ‘un, and I had fun working with it!

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

OVERCOMPENSATE

By Adam Dixon

“Oi, Gaz! Over ‘ere, mate!” The stocky, bald man called from one side of the road to the other, waving his arms eagerly.  A tall, muscular man in a tight red vest and shorts turned round and frowned from behind his sunglasses. The first man waved again and the second’s face broke into a grin.

“Bazza! ‘Ow are you, my son?” the second man shouted back. Neither of them showed any intention of crossing the road.

“I’m all good, mate, cheers!” Bazza declared, thrusting his hands into the pockets of his tracksuit. “Just popped out to the bookies. I reckon my luck’s turnin’ today! ‘Ow about you?”

“Yeah, I’m alright, mate!” Gaz replied, shrugging. “Same old same old, innit?”

“Too right, mate!” Bazza nodded sagely. He gestured towards the gleaming silver car parked a few feet from Gaz.

“That ain’t your motor, is it, Gaz?” he asked hopefully, shouting over the noise of the mid-morning traffic. “I ‘eard through the grapevine that you’d got another one.” Gaz’s grin widened and he switched to a causal pose, cocking his head nonchalantly.

“Oh, that? Yeah, mate, I bought ‘er last month! She’s a beauty, ain’t she?” Bazza’s eyes widened and he whistled in appreciation.

“Fuck me, mate, she’s gorgeous! Second-‘and?”

“Nah, brand-spankin’-new, mate!” Gaz was almost bursting with pride. “Fresh outta the factory, almost! Set me back a fair bit, but I thought ‘fuck it, why not?’! You only live once!”

“True, Gaz, true!” Bazza laughed, unconsciously raising himself to his full height. “Convertible too! I bet your bird loves it! What’s ‘er name again? Sally? Sandy?”

“Suzie,” Gaz’s smile fled and with it his cock-sure composure deflated. “Me an’ Suzie ain’t together no more…things didn’t work out.” Their conversation was cut short as a freight lorry thundered past them, blocking their view of one another.

“Oh. Sorry to ‘ear that, mate,” Bazza said, as quietly as his shouting would permit. Gaz cleared his throat and puffed out his chest, shrugging one shoulder and curling his lip before he spoke.

“Ah, it’s alright,” he replied loudly, waving his hand. “She was draggin’ me down anyway! Too much baggage on ‘er, I’m well shot of all that now!”

“Glad to ‘ear it!” Bazza shouted. He fumbled for something else to say as the traffic continued past them.

“Well, you’re lookin’ pretty trim these days, anyway!” He exclaimed. “You’ve gotten well hench since I last saw you! What’s your secret?”

“Oh, well I’ve been ‘ittin’ the gym, ain’t I?” Gaz brightened, flexing his arms and sounding pleased. “Yeah, I’ve got some spare time now that me an’ Sooz are finished, so I figured I’d get pumpin’!”

“Yeah, gotcha, mate!” Bazza replied enthusiastically, rubbing his own arms sheepishly. “Been meanin’ to get goin’ with that myself, but I can’t seem to find the time.”

“You should, mate, it’ll sort you right out!” Gaz insisted. “You should use them protein shakes an’ all! They taste like shit but they really ‘elp you bulk up quick! I’ve been ‘avin’ to beat the birds off with a stick since I’ve been goin’!”

“Yeah, I bet you ‘ave, mate!” Bazza joined in with Gaz’s laughter, despite knowing that it wasn’t true.

“Anyway, I’d better get goin’, mate,” Gaz shouted, raising an arm in farewell. “I’ve gotta see a bloke about a dog an’ then I’m off to the gym. Nice seein’ you again, let’s ‘ave a drink some time!”

“Sounds good!” Bazza called after him, smiling and waving. “Nice to see you too, mate! Take care of yourself!” Bazza lowered his arm and took a final glance at Gaz’s new car. He sighed and shook his head before walking off down the street.

Two young women seated outside a nearby café watched Bazza as he shuffled past them, muttering to himself about the cost of gym memberships. They looked at each other with bemused expressions.

“Well, they obviously wanted everyone on the street to hear them!” the brown haired lady laughed and fiddled with the spoon on her tray. Her blond friend grinned and lifted her steaming decaf latte to her lips.

“I know, right?” she replied, blowing on her drink. “What d’you make of those two, anyway?”

“Oh, they seem harmless enough,” the brown haired lady shrugged, lifting her own coffee. A mischievous smile crept across her face.

“Although they’re definitely overcompensating for something!” Their laughter pealed out into the morning, unheard by Bazza or Gaz as they went about their days. Perhaps that was for the best.

A – Z Challenge Day 14

We’re past the halfway point of this April’s Blog Challenge! Hooray! Let’s keep the momentum going and keep enjoying ourselves!

Today’s word was suggested once again by my Twitter pal, Sakina, and the word is “NORTH”. Now, this word has proven to be deceptively simple, as it didn’t lend itself to any solid story ideas right away! I needed to sit and think for a while, so well done, Sakina! A sneaky choice!

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

NORTH

By Adam Dixon

“How can I explain it?” the scruffy man spread his arms across the bar, tapping his calloused finger on the wood as he frowned in concentration. The other patrons of the tavern droned on behind him, chatting away about their labours that day and how good it was to sit by the warm hearth.

“Listen, you’ve heard of birds flying south for the winter, right?” The barmaid nodded, her fair hair sweeping across her forehead. “Well, it’s like that for me, only it’s in the opposite direction and winter never ends.”

“Plus, you’re not a bird!” The barmaid laughed, winking at him as she brushed her hair from her eyes. The man smiled sadly and nodded once. He lowered his head and gazed thoughtfully at his drink as if he could divine some answers from its depths. The barmaid’s smile faded as she watched him. He was a strange one, there was no doubt about that, but there was something appealing about him as well. Whilst the whole world was mired in uncertainty, here was a man who actually had a purpose.

“So, you really don’t know where you’re going?” She asked, looking at him seriously. The man glanced up, his kindly blue eyes matching hers.

“I’ve got no idea, miss,” he shrugged, opening his palms in resignation. “Since I asked that wizard to help me find my happiness, I’ve felt something tugging at me, urging me to get moving, and always to the north. All I know is that I have to keep going. Maybe I’ll know once I get there, but who can say?” He scratched at his beard for a moment before lifting his tankard and draining his drink. The floor creaked and groaned as he pushed his stool back and stood upright, smiling at the barmaid once again.

“Well, I’d best be off, miss,” he said, plucking his drooping hat from the bar and placing it on to his head. “The lonely road calls!”

“Wait!” the barmaid called as he moved away. He stopped and glanced back, surprised. The barmaid felt herself blush as she fidgeted with her apron. She didn’t know why she had called out to him, but something had compelled her to.

“You could stay here, you know,” she began nervously. “I mean, we might be able to clear a space in the hay loft for you…erm, maybe you could sleep down here? Sometimes the mistress lets the regulars do that, if they’ve drunk too much to stand…” She trailed off into an embarrassed silence. The man stood watching her, smiling.

“Thank you, miss, for the kind offer,” he said, bowing his head and placing a hand on his heart. “But I think your lack of room tonight is another sign that I need to keep moving. That poxy wizard didn’t plan on making this easy for me, it seems!”

“Oh,” the barmaid was crestfallen. “But, what about bandits? We get lots of reports every day about them causing trouble outside of town, especially at night!”

“I’ve got nothing to offer them, miss,” the man chuckled. “Look at me! I’m wearing a battered old coat, I haven’t shaved in days and my boots are nearly worn out; any bandits marauding along the road will take one look at me and realise that I’m not worth the bother!” He laughed heartily, and the barmaid couldn’t help but smile too.

“Besides,” he continued, a far-away expression crossing his face. “I don’t think that wizard gave me this opportunity only to see me die at the hands of petty criminals. No, I believe I’ll be just fine. Thank you all the same, miss. You have a good night, now.” He turned away from the barmaid and strode towards the door.

“Farewell, sir!” the barmaid shouted to him with tears in her eyes. “I hope you find your happiness!”

“Aye, me too, miss,” the man waved but did not turn back. He opened the door to the tavern and disappeared into the cold, windy night. The door slammed shut behind him, and the barmaid felt tears rolling down her cheeks.

A – Z Challenge Day 13

Today marks the half-way point of this April’s Blogging Challenge. It’s come around bloody quick, I must say! It’s been great fun taking part, and although I’m not as on top of it as I would like to be, I’m enjoying reading the posts of other bloggers who are involved. Geoff’s and Lindsay’s in particular are proving to be very interesting reads! I’ll do my best to better follow the work of others during the second half of this challenge. If any of you here on WordPress can suggest a blog which I may not have come across yet, feel free to let me know!

Today’s word was suggested by the wonderful Esther, a lady who spends a hell of a lot of time inspiring and encouraging wannabe writers like myself! Go check out her blog if you’re a writer, you won’t regret it! Esther’s prompt is the word “MALEVOLENT”. A fine word and one which to my mind conjures images of cloaks and daggers, of contemptuous sneers in the dark and unspeakable deeds inflicted on the unwary. I was stumped for a short while on this one, but I have come up with something which I hope fits the word in an interesting way. I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks again, Esther!

MALEVOLENT

By Adam Dixon

“I say we take a stand!” Number Twelve insisted, bristling with anger. “Just because they are bigger than us doesn’t mean we should let them push us around!” He addressed the gathering once they had all returned from their foraging expeditions. The haul was meagre at best and they had lost at least six of their number to the enemy this time.
“I agree.” Number Forty nodded. “I’m sick and tired of them and their smug superiority complex. Size isn’t everything! It’s time we brought them down a peg or two.” A smattering of voices were raised in approval and several individuals present fidgeted as they began to pay more attention.
“They fear us; that much is evident.” Number Nine said, rousing himself from a deep thought. He had survived longer than most, and so his words were taken very seriously. “In fact, it is laughable how much distress even one of us can cause them if we get too close! We should exploit this to our advantage.”
“Yes, good idea!” Number Twelve replied with excitement. He wandered around restlessly, the paper floor rustling slightly under his weight. “We ought to hit them where it hurts; to be most effective we should target their young! Experience shows that they are very afraid of us, more so than the older ones.”
“That’s true.” Number Nine said, cocking his head to one side. “Personally, I enjoy the idea of chasing after the children! They will flee like startled rabbits, heehee! Their screeching will be hilarious!”
“Very true, my brother!” Number Forty sniggered. “It will be pleasing to hear it! But we must not let our sport distract us from our vengeance; we must attack any and all of the elders who may seek to protect their young.”

“Attack? You lot?” Number Seventy laughed aloud, and the other females joined in. “You lot can’t do much more than get in the way! Attack them my striped thorax!” The males grumbled angrily, their enthusiasm ebbing away in response to the jibe.

“They may still be of use, my sister,” Number Seventy-three added, flicking her legs enthusiastically. “Our adversaries can’t tell any of us apart, so they won’t know which of us carry the real threat! The smallest of swarms will be enough to terrify them, even if there are only a handful of sisters among them!”

“Hmm, that’s a good point, sister,” Number Seventy stopped laughing and appeared thoughtful. “Very well, this is action both sexes can be a part of! Let’s be about it, then, whilst we are all in agreement!”
“The young ones will have more of the sweet food, too! We can bring food back to the nest! The Queen will be thrilled!” Number Twelve shouted, his excitement peaking. His mood was infectious and soon several buzzing voices were raised in agreement.
“Hmmm, I hadn’t thought of that…” Number Seventy said with a hint of lust in her eyes. “Yes, we can do that, too, but as a secondary objective. Our primary objective should be to spread panic and fear.”

“PANIC AND FEAR! PANIC AND FEAR! PANIC AND FEAR!” Dozens and dozens of voices filled the stuffy air inside the nest, and soon the swarm was on the move. One by one, males and females left the safety of their home and travelled with purpose towards the nearest enemy dwellings. They were outnumbered and outgunned, but that wouldn’t stop them. They wanted to inflict pain and fear and by the wings of the Queen they would do so!

The nearest such place was a short journey away. A tall man and his pretty wife sat in their garden, enjoying the warm rays of the late summer evening. Their two children played in a paddling pool, splashing each other and roaring with laughter. A pitcher of sweet fruit juice and four half-filled glasses stood on a table nearby. The clumsy giants were content for the moment, blissfully unaware of the army of wasps which were about to descend upon them…

A – Z Challenge Day 12

Day twelve of this April’s Challenge and my suggestion for today comes from one of my Twitter followers. Sakina Hussain and I have only been following each other for a short while, but she has given me some great encouragement with my writing and was kind enough to provide me with a few suggestions for this Challenge.

The word she suggested for today is “LEGERDEMAIN”.

Yes, that’s right, LEGERDEMAIN. She went right ahead and slapped me with a word I had never heard of before! Kudos to you, Sakina!

After looking it up I decided that I would use it, and this is what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy it.

LEGERDEMAIN

By Adam Dixon

“Ahh, but good, sir, a magician never reveals his tricks!” The old man flashed a broad grin at the bemused businessman and winked at his wife. Sweeping off his garish feathered hat and bowing low, he looked up at the assembled crowd.
“Would anyone else care to test the finesse of my fingers?” He asked dramatically. “I may look old and indeed I feel it during these cold winter months, but my dextrous digits are just as nimble and and eager as when I was a lad! How about you, sir? Perhaps you and your friend there would care to challenge me? Or you, madame? May I say what a fine coat that is? It is such a privilege to be entertaining a person of high quality this morning! Alas, no offence intended to my other guests, of course!” The small crowd gathered around him chuckled at the joke and a few of them agreed to test his skill.
“He can’t possibly win every time,” one man in a suit whispered to his lady friend. “Just watch, my darling, I’ll show the old fellow up!” The woman giggled and nuzzled him in encouragement.
Unbeknownst to them, a little girl who could scarcely have been more than ten years old moved among the crowd like a wraith. The girl was constantly surprised at how easy it was to distract people in the city. Here she was with her blond hair shining like a beacon amidst a sea of greys and browns, yet no-one saw her as she delved into their coats and purses. All it took was one charismatic old geezer with a silly hat and a few sleight-of-hand tricks and she could pilfer their valuables as easily as breathing. Of course, she had to have quick hands herself in order to do so, so at least the old man’s teachings had been worth the time.

The crowd oohed and ahhed as the old man made cards and coins disappear and reappear under the hats of his spectators. They cheered loudly when he began juggling first three balls, then four, then six, then eight and so on until their jaws hung low and their eyes were trapped following the whirling spheres. That trick was also a signal to the young girl; it was his final performance, so she had better hurry up. She swiftly stole a few more handfuls of coins and pound notes before backing off and striking up the same awed expression of those around her. Not a moment too soon, either.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you have been an excellent crowd!” The old man panted as he bowed low and flung out his hat, neatly catching all the falling balls in it one after the other. The crowd gasped and applauded, and the man bowed lower still.

“Thank you, thank you! You are most kind!” The man exclaimed, beaming at his audience. “I shall be performing for your pleasure here again for the following two mornings, so be sure to inform your friends and relatives!” The people were murmuring amongst themselves good-naturedly as they began to disperse, and not one of them noticed how light their pockets were. The young girl walked away slowly and turned the street corner. A few minutes of walking led her to a small churchyard, and she stood reading the cracked gravestones as she waited for the old man. She closed her eyes and breathed in the moist air of the morning, tasting flavour the old earth which wafted up to her nostrils.

“Well, how did we do this time?” The girl opened her eyes to see the old man standing next to her. She never heard the wily old sod approach and she had given up trying.

“Quite well,” she responded flatly. She held out the bulging pillow case containing her hoard and frowned as he snatched it away. After leafing through its contents and nodding, the old man looked up at her sharply.

“Can I trust that you’ve not squirreled some coins away about your person?” he asked suspiciously. She shook her head, knowing full well that it wouldn’t be enough. The girl didn’t blame him, really. One thief could never fully trust another. The old man seized her with his bony fingers and subjected her to the humiliation of forcing her mouth open to peer under her tongue and down her throat, as well as lifting her ragged clothes to check her undergarments. Such a display was indecent to say the least, and not at all befitting an older gentleman in Victorian society, but they were alone there and the girl was powerless to resist. Satisfied, the man released her.

“Mmmhmm, good,” he said, stooping to pick up the dropped pillow case. “You’re doing wonderfully, my dear, and I shall pay you your share once I have counted this up properly. You stick with me and we shall both be rich!” He cackled and strode away, not bothering to wait for her to reply.

The girl sighed and rubbed her arms where his fingers had gripped her. He still had strong hands for one so old, strong as well as fast. A small smile crept along the girl’s lips as she opened her palm to reveal a beautiful golden pocket-watch. It belonged to the old man, and he had coveted it ever since he had stolen it from a passing politician. The girl would sell it that afternoon and the man would simply believe that he had lost it somewhere.

“Your fingers are still quick, old man, but not as quick as mine!” The girl grinned to herself as she walked back towards the market. One day she wouldn’t need the old man anymore, and that day was fast approaching.

A – Z Challenge Day 11

Day eleven is here! It’s strange to think that we’re nearing the half-way point of this April’s Blogging Challenge, and even stranger to think that I’ve actually written ten stories before this one!

Anyway, today’s word comes from my very own proof-reader/second-pair-of-eyes/ideas-bouncer-offer/hand-holder/constant-source-of-encouragement, my partner, Sammi. Or, as I prefer to call her, Samwise! Today’s word is “KARMA”, and this gave me a bit of trouble to begin with. Initially I thought “great! I can write something about good and evil deeds and have some kind of mighty cosmic force balancing them out!”, but then I quickly realised that I had no idea how to write such a thing! After a little while of staring at a blank page , this is what I came up with.

Thanks again, Samwise!

KARMA

By Adam Dixon

Ping!

Karma looked up from her calculations and glanced at her computer screen. She’d received an email from one of her agents in the land mass currently known as Great Britain. She opened it, scanned it briefly and tutted.

“Hmmm…Mr Jones, you naughty little man!” she muttered under her breath. “Leaving the poor woman with two kids and no job, eh? Well, I’ve got the very thing for you…” She began typing, forwarding the email to her good friend and work partner, Death.

“This one’s been especially bad this time. He clearly has no stomach for commitment or hard work. I’d suggest bowel cancer. Let me know what you think!”

Karma pressed SEND, knowing full well that Death would respond in the affirmative. He almost always agreed with her on these matters, not least because it spiced up his day. She cleared her throat and adjusted her glasses before looking down at her calculations once again. She had been working out the scale upon which divine justice needed to be issued to European politicians based on their actions over the last two decades. It was proving to be quite tricky, as not all of them were crooked or uncaring bastards, but enough had been that it called for some serious punishment. She realised that it was something that she would have to build up towards, and she had an idea how to get the ball rolling. She reached for her office phone and dialled her receptionist.

“Percy, my dear, would you please send Pity in for me? Thank you!” Karma smiled as she sat back in her chair. Perception was the best receptionist she had ever had, and they had worked together for aeons now. He always knew which cases needed her direct intervention and made sure that the flow of celestial traffic into her workspace was one-way. After a few moments, the door opened and a tiny, meek-looking being shuffled inside.

“Come in, Pity! Have a seat, dear,” Karma smiled and gestured towards the empty space in front of her desk. She always said that, regardless of whom she was addressing. It was an example of her strange sense of humour.

“Hello, Miss Karma,” Pity mumbled, holding one of her arms nervously. “How can I help you today?”

“Well, dear, I have rather a big job for you,” Karma tapped a few buttons on her keyboard and wheeled her chair over to the printer as it began to whir. Collecting the ejected pages she turned back to Pity and showed them to her.

“Do you know who these men and women are?” She asked. Pity pushed her long hair from her eyes and scrutinised the images. She nodded.

“Yes, Miss Karma,” she replied quietly. “They are members of the current European governments. Such a shame, they have very difficult jobs…”

“Indeed, but they have made several mistakes and the cosmos demands balance,” Karma knitted her long fingers together and stared at Pity over them.

“I would like you to influence the various media organisations around Europe. Their reporters need to begin to pity these specific individuals so that the stories they release will reflect this. I trust you can have that done within the month?” Pity looked up at Karma, her soft face creased in confusion.

“Well, yes, of course I can, Miss Karma,” she said. “But, may I ask why?”

“Oh, I suppose so,” Karma replied, sniffing. “These men and women have built their careers on strong public images, and in doing so have trampled on many people, both their governmental peers as well as the people they serve. I need to bring them all down a peg or two before their individual punishments can be put into place. Does that satisfy you?”

“I…yes, Miss Karma…” Pity answered, fidgeting. “But, erm, wouldn’t this be a job better suited to Hate?”

“Pfft, no!” Karma waved the suggestion away as if it were a bothersome fly. “Hate will certainly become involved later, but for now a subtle touch is needed. These people do not need to be reviled just yet, they need to be pitied! Their public’s trust in them needs to be shaken not with a barrage of anger but with simple doubt and even understanding! They need to be seen as fallible humans and therefore not fit for their lofty positions, and that is why I require you to plant the seeds. Now, we have wasted enough time discussing this, off you go, dear! I expect to see firm results before next month!”

“Yes, Miss Karma,” Pity replied sadly. She bowed her head and trailed out of the office. Karma shook her head in irritation. Pity was a good worker, loyal too, but she was often a hindrance with her warped sense of morality. Yes, people got hurt when Karma did her work, and yes some of them even died, but she was doing the universe a service. Why did Pity have to overcomplicate everything? Besides, it was a fine balancing act; those who were wronged or helped others during their lives were due a bit of compensation and so Karma saw to that as well. It was all part of the job and Pity would do well to remember that. Karma pressed the call button on her phone again.

“Percy? Be a dear and send me up one of Gluttony’s special muffins, would you? I need the sugar today!”

“Well, I would, Karma, but you ate the last one yesterday,” came Perception’s amused reply. Karma could almost hear the smirk on his face. She pressed the button, an angry frown creasing her forehead.

“Well then, you’ll have to bring me that one you’ve hidden in your desk, won’t you? Don’t think I didn’t see it, Percy, I see everything! Now hop to it!”

Outside the office, Perception sighed and rummaged in his desk for the muffin. Karma’s behaviour didn’t bother him, he knew better than most that she could be a real bitch.

A – Z Challenge Day 10

It’s the tenth day of this April’s Blogging Challenge and sees the final prompt from Kate’s dazzling sequence! Thanks for all your help, Kate, you’ve suggested some wonderful and often taxing prompts and through them I’ve written stories which I am quite pleased with!

Today’s word is “JACKASS”. Now, this one really gave me a hard time! I just couldn’t think of anything that I liked the sound of, or anything that didn’t sound obvious or cheesy. However, I’m not one to throw in the towel so I put several thinking caps on and came out with something I’ve deemed worthy of this Challenge. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks again, Kate, you rock!

JACKASS

By Adam Dixon

Lawrence sat in his cell, lost in his thoughts. Introspection was all he had to while away the long hours of his imprisonment, but thankfully he was an expert at it. He sat on the edge of his bed in his orange overalls, caressing his broad, scarred knuckles with his huge hand as he stared into space. He wasn’t feeling sorry for himself, he knew why he was in prison; it was to be expected when you killed a man, after all. No, Lawrence was reflecting on the events that had led up to the man’s death and wondering where it could have been prevented. A few moments stood out, and Lawrence saw with the clarity of hindsight what an emotional fool he had been.

Lawrence had always been emotional, ever since he could remember. It came with growing up as a large male in a backwards, masculine society. He was often cajoled and ridiculed for his size when he was a child, with the other children and their parents sniggering and calling him “Bigfoot” and “Ape-boy”. He thought that it would end when he grew up and became a man, as his size offered him prodigious strength and intimidation. To his dismay he found that it had had the opposite effect as the men around him felt the need to prove themselves against him, usually with their fists. They would seek to provoke him wherever he went, attempting to find a weak chink in his armour. Because of his size they thought he was stupid and that he could be riled up with ease, but Lawrence rarely gave them the satisfaction. He knew how to control his emotions, especially his rage. Rage was an emotion he knew well, they were almost like old friends and he found its fiery presence strangely comforting whenever it welled up inside him. It made him remember that he was human, despite what the idiots threatening him would insist. But that night, he couldn’t control it.

There you are! C’mon, you big fucker, you! Fight me!”

The man’s voice echoed in Lawrence’s ears as he replayed the events of that night in his mind. It was one of the thugs he had thrown out for being too drunk at the bar, and by the looks of things he was still angry and wanted to settle a score. He’d stood in front of Lawrence’s car, an already beaten-up Ford which was now sporting two flat tyres and a smashed windscreen. The man wore an idiotic sneer, his eyes bloodshot and daring him to make a move. He wasn’t small, but he wasn’t as big as Lawrence either. Exactly the kind of man Lawrence was forced to tangle with on an almost daily occurrence. He had stared at the drunk for a moment before turning around and walking off. The guy wasn’t worth it, he’d walk home.

You deaf and stoopid? Fight me!

The man had staggered after him, yelling abuse and waving his fists. He’d had a small group of buddies with him who were jeering and shouting encouragement. Lawrence had kept walking, doing his best to shut out the man’s voice by concentrating on the sound of his footsteps on the gravel. He breathed in the humid air of the summer evening and pushed on.

Fight me, you big ape! Or are ya scared?

The man’s friends had howled with laughter at that one, praising their friend for his bravery. It was an oldie but goodie, Lawrence supposed. It rarely bothered him though, he actually found it funny too. As if he’d be afraid of a lowlife like that? The man probably couldn’t string a coherent sentence together without injecting a curse word! Lawrence strode on, feeling rage’s familiar fingers snaking up his chest. He had it under control.

C’mon you fuckin’ oversized jackass!

Lawrence didn’t know why that word had made him snap. Perhaps it was because his father, also a big man, had often called him that as a child. Perhaps it was simply the final straw laid upon his back following his resistance to everything before it. Or perhaps it was the breath-taking lack of imagination the man had displayed in choosing it, who knew? All Lawrence did know was that because of that word a man was dead and it was his fault.

Lawrence grimaced and looked down at his hands. Those large, strong hands which served drinks at a cocktail bar and had carefully turned the pages of countless books. The same hands which were always gentle when shaking another hand or touching a woman. The same hands which had gripped the thick neck of a grown man and lifted him from his feet as he struggled and choked…those same hands had crushed the life from another human being…

All it had taken was one word. Two syllables had cost Lawrence his liberty and in a few short hours also his life. Lawrence wondered whether or not he should have accepted the man’s invitation for a fight back in the bar, or even in the first instance outside. He would have easily bested him, and his lick-spittle cronies wouldn’t have had the gall to get involved. He could even have called the police and had them move the man on, rather than having him hang around until closing time. So many ways he could have avoided this outcome…

When the time came, Lawrence stood and walked out of his cell and down the hallway in dignified silence. He was flanked by a large group of prison guards, all of them on high alert should the ape-man decided to make a run for it. Lawrence would show them. He wasn’t an ape, he was a man, a good man. He’d just had enough one day, that’s all…

A – Z Challenge Day 9

Today sees the beginning of another week in the April A-Z Challenge! I’m both excited and terrified at the prospect of writing six more stories in six days, so let’s get started!

Today’s word comes once again from the inestimable Kate. Now, I know you’re all getting sick of hearing about her wonderful contributions, but don’t worry, she only has one more after this! I for one, am extremely grateful for her help as she has suggested a dazzling sequence of words for my challenge this month. Today’s word is no exception, as it is “INKLING”. Another one to give me pause, but I eventually came up with an idea which I think works quite nicely.

I hope you enjoy my latest supernatural tale.

INKLING

By Adam Dixon

“Welcome, dearly-beloved, one and all,” the bald, skeletal chaplain began as he stood behind his lectern. “I invite you tonight to join me in celebrating the life of Harold Fisher, and in welcoming him into his next one.” Constable Nicola Macmillan was sat on a pew, frowning. An odd choice of words; she had never heard the chaplain start a funeral service that way before and it only deepened her feeling of unease. Something had disturbed her ever since she had driven to the funeral home and entered the small chapel, something she couldn’t quite put her finger on. She had thought that it was due to her intruding on the service in order to conduct her investigation, but she knew that it was more than that.

“Indeed, Harold’s life among us was a rich one,” the chaplain continued. “Rich not in terms of wealth, but rich in the love and respect of those who knew him well. Even those who did not have the pleasure of knowing Harold personally were impressed by his character, his charm and his wit.” There came a few approving nods and smiles from his audience. It all seemed normal, but there were aspects of the service which didn’t sit right with Nicola. Firstly, it was late for a funeral as it was past ten o’clock in the evening, and secondly that there were so few people present. It was only a sleepy little town and the librarian’s death had been widely mourned, but only twelve residents had bothered to pay their respects. Something was amiss, but what? Shortly after sitting down, Nicola had put her finger on the transmitting button of her walkie-talkie. As long as she held it, the station would hear what was going on. She was probably being paranoid, but still…

“Ah, but he was a wonderful man, of that I’m sure we are all agreed,” the chaplain smiled, gesturing towards the open coffin with his bony arm. Harold Fisher was laid out in a beautiful mahogany casket and he looked very fine for a corpse. His iron-grey hair was swept back from his high forehead and his mouth showed a ghost of a smile. In fact, he looked as if he were merely sleeping. Whoever had seen to the preparation of his body had done a sterling job, even hiding the terrible wound that poor Harold had sustained to his neck before he died. It had been a nasty one, and Nicola had been the officer who had been sent out once he had been found. Nicola was always being called out for animal attacks in the forest near the town; something was out there and it was dangerous. Looking at Harold’s remains, Nicola shuddered. He looked too good, almost…

“A wonderful man who touched the lives of everyone around him before his untimely passing, but tonight is not a time for grieving, dear friends, but rather a time for exaltation!”  The chaplain’s eyes gleamed and he leaned forwards, peering into the faces of his audience. “Harold’s old life has come to an end, but tonight, his new life will begin! Brothers and sisters, let us bid Harold welcome!”

“WELCOME, HAROLD!” All twelve people stood up and raised their arms towards the coffin. Nicola was astounded and confused, and suddenly afraid. She pressed her finger on the button so hard it hurt. Wide-eyed, she followed the gaze of the residents and stared at the coffin. After what seemed like hours, but was more likely a few tense seconds Harold moved! His face twitched. It was unmistakable: his lips pulled down in a grimace and his eyebrows knitted together. Nicola blinked. She must have imagined that! The next thing to happen dispelled any doubts and brought forth a scream from her throat. Harold sat up.

The congregation and the chaplain cheered loudly, rushing forward to help Harold as he got unsteadily to his feet. Nicola stood up and made to run from the chapel, but two large men intercepted her. They were grinning at her with fangs! Nicola screamed again and tried to change direction, but was stopped short by old Mrs Quinn who had appeared out of nowhere. The dotty, white-haired old dear smiled at her, and Nicola watched in horror as her gleaming white dentures were forced from her mouth by two sharp fangs, yellowed with age, slipping down from her gums. Strong hands seized Nicola and she was carried screeching towards the newly-risen dead man. Harold Fisher looked confused as he laid eyes upon her, but when his nostrils flared and he caught Nicola’s scent, something else crept into his eyes. It looked like the hunger of a starving beast.

“Go on, Harold!” The chaplain cried, revealing his own razor-like incisors. “Give in to your urges and accept our offering! You are one of us now!”

Harold’s eyes widened and all trace of hesitation fled. He gave a guttural roar and sank his teeth into Nicola’s neck. She screamed, thrashing against the hands which held her as her own hot blood poured down her body. She flung her arms up and tried to beat her attackers off. It was no use. The life began to fade from Nicola and soon she was weakly convulsing as Harold clumsily drained her.

Constable Macmillan? Do you read me? Over!”

“What’s that?” The chaplain snapped, looking at his congregation suspiciously.

Repeat, Constable Macmillan, do you read me? Are you alright? Over!”

“Oh, I see…” the chaplain sighed as he wrenched Nicola’s walkie-talkie from her belt. As he held it, the crackling voice spoke again.

Remain where you are, back-up is on-route! Over!”

“Well, well,” the chaplain said with a hideous grin. “I do believe that we shall all be feasting tonight!” He began to laugh as he and the rest of the townsfolk moved to hide either side of the chapel doors. Soon, the wailing of approaching sirens could be heard, and their collective excitement rose.

A – Z Challenge Day 7

I can’t believe it’s Day Seven already! My word today is “GARGOYLE”, once again suggested by Kate.

This one was fun to write. I began wondering what it would be like for the gargoyles if they were alive and what they would do to pass the time. I had to remind myself of the difference between “gargoyles” and “grotesques” before I did so, mind you!

Anyway, here is what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy reading it.

GARGOYLE

By Adam Dixon

It was a wet, miserable Wednesday morning in London, and as usual everyone was scurrying about the vast city with nothing but themelves in mind. It’s not that they didn’t care about the world and other people in it, it was merely that that kind of morning always succeeded in making the most cheerful of people recede into his or herself. With their consciousness sheltering in their skulls like turtles in their shells and their tunnel-vision modes activated, nobody was paying much attention to anything except avoiding the many large puddles dividing the pavement. But they should have been paying attention, and they should have been looking towards the rooftops, for the gargoyles were certainly paying attention to them.

“How about that one?” The Bearded Man said around the rainwater which was trickling out from his open mouth.

“Which one?” Several irritated voices answered at once. There were roughly two dozen other gargoyles within range of sight, clinging to their respective buildings and issuing forth the contents of their gutters. None of them could move, of course, so they needed the Bearded Man to be more specific.

“Oh, yes, my apologies,” the Bearded man mumbled sheepishly. “The woman in the bright red raincoat just passing by the Lloyd’s bank on the corner. Can you see her? She’s on my left.”

“I see her!”

“Target confirmed!”

“That’s an affirmative!”

“Wait, I can’t see her!”

“She’s by the entrance to the Tube now, moving towards the Nandos!”

“Oh yes, I see her now!”

“Good,” Bearded Man said, pleased. “Well, what do you think?”

There was a slight pause as the gargoyles thought for a moment. The rain fell more heavily, dancing a merry pattern on their stone features.

“Well I think that she is going to the library!” The Bearded Man announced proudly. “She is wearing glasses and she is carrying a large pile of books in that plastic bag, I’m sure of it!”

“No she isn’t!” scoffed the Rearing Lion from the other side of the road. “It’s got food in it! She’s probably just carrying around her lunch for this afternoon. She’s going to work, probably in one of the offices.”

“I think she’s goin’ to stop at the theatre,” the Grinning Imp asserted. “She looks like the thespian type to me.”

“Balderdash!” The Bearded Man said, incredulous. “Look, she’s going straight past it!”

“I mean the other theatre, you pigeon-fouled buffoon!” laughed the Grinning Imp. “That one’s only for the cheapos of the city, and judgin’ by her shoes she can afford to go to the more up-market one down the street!”

“Wait, I can’t see any fancy shoes!” the Stunned Dragon shouted.

“You can’t bloody see anythin’, you’ve got an eye missin’!” The Grinning Imp cackled. More voices filled the minds of the gargoyles playing the game, all eager to put forward their interpretation of the unsuspecting Londoner. In the end, the Screaming Man guessed correctly: the woman had walked into an infant’s school at the far end of the street. She was probably a member of staff or a mother dropping off a forgotten packed lunch. Screaming Man was very pleased with himself and made it known, whilst Rearing Lion grumbled that he had at least been right about the packed lunch.

“Oi, Crouching!” the Grinning Imp shouted telepathically. “You never made a guess. What’s up with you?”

“I’ve got more interestin’ things to look at!” came the Crouching Imp’s sniggered reply. That particular gargoyle was set facing a particularly grim-looking block of flats, so naturally the others were curious to know what he had been so preoccupied by.

“There’s this couple on the sixth floor,” the Crouching Imp chuckled. “They’ve left their curtains open an’ let’s just say that they’re havin’ a better mornin’ than most of this lot on the street!”

“Oh, you utter cretin!” the Bearded Man said in disgust. “Avert your eyes, for the sake of dignity!”

“Hey, I didn’t tell them to leave their curtains open, did I?” the Crouching Imp protested. “Besides, I can’t avert my bloody eyes, can I?”

“Oh, you lucky sod!” the Grinning Imp was very amused by this. “You’ll ‘ave to give me all the saucy details later on!”

“I should think not!” the Bearded Man shouted, eliciting a burst of laughter from various gargoyles who were listening in.

“Oh, shut it, Beardy!” the Crouching Imp snorted. “You get on with your bleedin’ game, I’m doin’ just fine over ‘ere!”

“Fine, I think I will!” the Bearded Man huffed with an air of contempt.

“Right…” the Rearing Lion began awkwardly. “Erm…what about that one, then? The fellow in the brown suit with the small umbrella? He might be a teacher as well!”

“Who, him? Nah, he looks more like a journalist!”

“Don’t be silly, look at his briefcase! He must work for the Council!”

“The Council? With that tie?!”

So the game continued on into the morning, with the gargoyles happily protecting their buildings from the worst of the rain. It was not a complicated game, but it served to pass the time.

 

A – Z Challenge Day 6

It’s Day Six of the April Challenge and that means another story! Hold the applause until the end, please!

Today’s word comes again from the lovely Kate, and it is “FRAGILE”. An interesting word which gave me a few ideas right away, although most of them concerned fragile mindsets or fragile bodies. In the end, I went for something a little different but which I’m sure everyone can relate to!

Here’s what I came up with, and I hope you enjoy it.

Brief note: just a quick reminder to any readers from Across the Pond that it is legal to consume alcohol in the UK from age 18, although I’m sure that the Europeans on the mainland find that laughable!

FRAGILE

By Adam Dixon

Darren cautiously opened one eye and immediately regretted it as the blurred room spun before him. The safe retreat of sleep was unreachable and as he became more fully awake he was welcomed by all the accompanying pain of a hangover; his head pounded along with his heartbeat, his mouth felt as dry as a baked sandal and his neck ached. To top it all off, he was still fully-clothed. Fantastic. A hell of a start to the day. Darren rolled over carefully and the movement tore a groan from his throat.

The door to his bedroom burst open, hitting the wall with an almighty crash and Darren’s father, Mike, stood glowering in the doorway.

“GOOD, YOU’RE AWAKE!” He strode into the room, deliberately stomping his slippered feet on the wooden floor. He slammed the door behind him and made the room shake. Darren clutched his head with both hands and wriggled down under the bedclothes for protection. Mike seized them and yanked them from Darren’s weak grip easily. Darren lay in the foetal position, wincing at every roar and step from Mike.

“OH NO YOU DON’T, YOUNG MAN!” Mike moved purposefully towards the closed curtains. Darren yelped as he realised what he was doing.

“Dad, don’t!” he rasped desperately. “My head…”

“I DON’T GIVE A TOSS ABOUT YOUR BLOODY HEAD!” Mike threw open the curtains, letting a blinding beam of afternoon sunlight crash into Darren’s face like a tsunami against a cliff. Darren squealed and tried to shield his eyes. Mike stood watching his son’s torment, towering over him with both hands on his hips.

“Dad…why?” Darren managed to hiss, turning away from the man who had betrayed him.

“Why? You’re askin’ me why?” Mike said, his eyebrows knitting together in an angry “V” below his forehead. “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA OF THE CRAP YOU GOT UP TO WHEN YOU GOT HOME THIS MORNIN’?”

“Dad, please, stop!” Darren spluttered. “I can’t think straight, my h-“

“GOOD! THEN THIS IS THE BEST TIME TO REMIND YOU!” Mike swivelled and began loudly pacing the bedroom. Every step sounded as if a hammer was being swung against Darren’s skull from the inside.

“First of all, you got home FOUR HOURS later than you initially said!” Mike began, waving his arms for effect. “Your mum was worried sick! Just ‘cos you’re eighteen now doesn’t mean you don’t have to send her an update every now an’ then!”

“Secondly, you woke the bloody dog up when you tripped in through the door at FOUR O’CLOCK IN THE BASTARD MORNIN’! He started barkin’ like there was a bloody murderer comin’ in! Woke everybody up, includin’ half the bloody street! I’ve only just finished apologisin’ to them all!”

“Oh, crap…” Darren moaned. “Dad, I’m so sor-“

“SHUT IT, I’M NOT FINISHED!” Mike interrupted, thrusting an angry finger at his son.

“Not only did you embarrass me at stupid-o’clock in the mornin’, but you then decided to go upstairs an’ use the loo. Your mum followed you to make sure you were alright, only she found you our bedroom…YOU HAD YOUR TROUSERS ROUND YOUR ANKLES AN’ YOU WERE PISSING IN OUR LAUNDRY BASKET!”

“Oh, fuck!” Darren covered his face with his hands again. Mike nodded furiously.

“’Oh fuck’ indeed, Darren, you bloody piss-’ead!” He growled. “You gave your mum a good eyeful when she tried to stop you, too! A couple of things to note there! One, that it’s nice to see that at least you’ve taken after Yours-Truly in that department, and two, WHERE THE HELL DID THAT TATTOO COME FROM?!”

“Tattoo?” Darren was nonplussed. “I didn’t get a tattoo!”

“WELL SOMEBODY DREW THAT BLOODY LIGHTNIN’ BOLT ON YOUR ARSE!” Mike screeched. His voice was becoming hoarse and his face had turned an interesting shade of crimson. He raised his calloused hands to his temples and massaged them, taking deep breaths. Darren felt himself changing colour too; he was probably covered pink with shame, perhaps in contrast with his green gills.

“…An’ then,” Mike finally continued, speaking slowly and carefully. “You walked into the bathroom an’ flushed the bloody toilet!”

There was a tense silence in the room as Mike and Darren stared at one another. The corners of Mike’s mouth twitched once. Twice. A brief ripple of hysterical laughter racked Mike’s body, and Darren couldn’t help but laugh too. Soon they were both laughing uproariously despite the noise and the action bringing fresh waves of pain searing into Darren’s skull.

“Son, you are a flamin’ idiot sometimes,” Mike said fondly, wiping his eyes. “But I needed to shout at you while you’re feelin’ like death, it’s the only way to teach you a lesson. My old man did it to me when I was your age, an’ I never came home that drunk ever again!”

“Ok, Dad,” Darren mumbled. “Cheers, I ‘spose. I’m really sorry about this morning.”

“I know you are, mate,” Mike said, turning to walk out of the door. “But not as sorry as you’ll be once your mum gets hold of you! She’s outside waitin’ for her turn!” With that he wrenched open the bedroom door and Darren recoiled in horror as a livid woman stormed in. His petite, usually cheerful mother seemed to have been replaced by a raging demon! Mike darted out of the room and closed the door behind him, his smug laughter filling the hallway.

Oh God, thought Darren, Please kill me now! He closed his eyes and braced himself for his next onslaught.