Fiction Fursday/Reblog

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

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

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

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

 

Pride and Seagulls

By Adam Dixon

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

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

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

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

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Fiction Fursday/The Second Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Second Sun

                                                                       By Adam Dixon                      

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fiction Fursday/Lost Fairy (Continued)

Today’s story was prompted by my fellow blogger and friend, Nathalie from arwenaragornstar. Nat wrote a thought-provoking story back in August called Lost Fairy, and when I stated my desire to know how it ends, she suggested that I find out and use it as my prompt. I thought this was a wonderful idea and I was excited to be writing with such vibrant, ponderous material. Thanks again, Nat, and I hope I’ve done your story justice!

Please check out Nat’s story before reading mine. It’s rather good! I hope you enjoy what I’ve been able to come up with as well.

P.S. If any of you would like to suggest a prompt for me to use on another Thursday, please feel free to do so by leaving a comment. I’ll give anything a try! Thanks again for visiting.

 

Lost Fairy (Continued)

By Adam Dixon

The fairy sat upon the low concrete wall and watched the humans with sad, green eyes. How they moved to and fro with such haste! It was as if stopping to take a deep breath and relax would ruin their rigid plans for the day. Not that they would want to, as the air was heavy with pollution. It made her feel dirty inside and outside and she flicked her once-shimmering wings in disgust. The humans hurried over to their cars and darted away into distance, adding to the unclean air. She didn’t see a single smile. What a cold, uncaring world to exist in.

The wind blew stronger as time wore on, snatching at her hair and wings. The fairy shivered and pulled her legs up under her chin. A distant rumble of thunder confirmed her fears but she didn’t have the will to fly away as the first raindrops fell. In all of her years the fairy had never felt so wretched and she wept bitter tears.

The fairy didn’t know how long she had sat upon the wall when she became aware that something had changed. She wearily lifted her head and saw a young boy watching her from the window of a car. The car was sat idly in a parking spot just outside the supermarket. For a long moment her blank, disbelieving expression mirrored that of the child’s. Then, scarcely daring to believe it, the fairy raised her arm and waved. It was a pathetic movement, just a slow gesture from left to right, but it had the effect of dropping the boy’s jaw to his lap. The shining screen of his tablet was forgotten as he pressed his hands and face against the glass, eyes boggling. The fairy found his reaction amusing and invigorating. She began to feed off of the boy’s amazement and drank it in like it was nectar. Her wings fluttered and she began to feel hope rekindling in her breast.

“Oh, sweet little boy,” she whispered, a smile touching her lips for the first time in what seemed like decades. “Aren’t you magnificent!”

The child was captivated. His open mouth revealed a missing tooth at the front and his cheeks were smooth and healthy. His brown eyes gleamed with excitement and the fairy rejoiced at the sharp burst of life that it granted her. The fairy beckoned, projecting her relief and assuring him of her good-will. The boy hesitated for the barest of moments before dropping out of sight. The car door clicked and swung open and the boy peered out of the car with one scuffed plimsoll on the ground. He wanted to go to her, but he was anxious about the driving rain. The fairy stood up on wobbling legs.

“Come closer, sweet child!” she called, her voice less musical than she remembered. She had been away from the Forest for too long, it seemed. “Do not be afraid!” The boy paused for a moment longer before leaping from the car and hurrying towards the fairy. The rain lashed down, spotting his white polo-shirt with grey splotches which consumed the fabric like a virus. His feet splashed in puddles and were soaked through but the boy did not seem to mind. He shook rain from his short, frizzy hair and smiled playfully at the fairy, who grinned back. He approached her wall and stood before her, his eyes drinking her in.

“Hello there,” the fairy said. She pushed her wet hair from her eyes and blinked water from her lashes.

“Hi,” the boy said. His voice was breathy with wonder and his hands twitched by his sides. “Are you a pixie?”

“No, child, I am not a pixie,” the fairy said, chuckling at the mistake. She had never been so thrilled to be called a pixie before! “Although they are very like me, and I expect that I currently look like one.” She gestured at her dirty dress with a sigh. “I am a fairy.”

“A fairy?!” The boy’s eyes grew impossibly wide and an open-mouthed grin spread across his face. It was a delight! The fairy shivered in appreciation. “Like in my books? Like Tinkerbell?”

“No, no, sweet boy, Tinkerbell is a pixie!” the fairy laughed. “There is a world of difference, but that is a lesson for another time. Please tell me, what is your name?”

“I’m Ayo,” the boy replied. He stood still, fiddling with the hem of his shirt. “I didn’t think fairies or pixies were real.”

“Oh, we are real, Ayo. I am proof of that, aren’t I?” The fairy turned around in a full circle, fluttering her diaphanous wings as she did so. The movement sent rainwater cascading gracefully over them, with the amber of a streetlight reflecting in them for a moment. Ayo gasped at its beauty.

“You’re so pretty…” he breathed. The fairy laughed and her soul lifted at the sound.

“Thank you, Ayo!” she replied, suddenly feeling shy. “You are very kind to say so! Tell me, why are other children not like you?”

“What do you mean?” Ayo frowned and scratched his head.

“The other children cannot see me,” the fairy said sadly. “Neither can the adults. They all seem so…distracted. Nobody smiles and they are all in such a hurry.”

“I dunno,” Ayo said, shrugging his shoulders. “Maybe they don’t have time to see fairies and pixies.”

“But you have time,” the fairy said eagerly. “That makes you different. That makes you special.” Ayo fidgeted, but he was pleased with the compliment.

“I hoped you were real,” Ayo said, glancing up at the fairy again. “Everything is more fun if magic is real!” With those simple words, the fairy found her former strength returning. She stood up on her tiptoes, lifting her face to the sky and hardly feeling the fist-sized raindrops driving against her delicate features. The boy’s words sent a warm, happy feeling oozing through her veins like a river being fed by streams.  She closed her eyes, sighed and spread her wings to their fullest. She felt radiant and alive.

“Are you okay?” Ayo was alarmed, and he reached for the fairy before stopping himself. The fairy opened her eyes and looked him, resplendent in her joy.

“I am well, dear child,” she said, her voice as sweet and delicate as birdsong. “And I have you to thank. Bless you, Ayo.” Ayo looked relieved and was about to reply when a sharp, angry voice sliced through the air.

“Ayo! Get back in the car, you naughty boy!” Ayo jumped and turned around with a guilty look on his face. The fairy saw a large, attractive woman with the same frizzy hair as Ayo standing by the open car. She clutched four shopping bags laden with provisions and her car keys, and she looked furious.

“But Mama, I saw a f-“ Ayo began sheepishly.

“AYO! GET. IN. THE. CAR!” There would be no excuses. Ayo’s shoulders slumped and he sprinted back towards his mother, stealing a glance over his shoulder. The fairy smiled and raised a hand in goodbye. Ayo waved back and clambered into the car. Both he and the car seat were soaked from the rain, and his mother was not at all happy.

“Ayo, what were you thinking?” She was saying as she dabbed at his face and hair with tissues from her handbag. “Look your shoes, and the car! Oooh, you are a naughty boy, sometimes!” She pulled the door shut with a snap, muffling Ayo’s protests. The fairy felt a pang of regret at having gotten the boy into trouble, but she also sensed no ill-will from his mother. She was merely concerned at having found her little one wandering alone during a shower. She could sympathise, as she had her own children to hurry back to.

“Thank you, dear Ayo,” she whispered as she beat her wings. She could almost see the myriad of flowers of the Enchanted Forest; she could almost smell their perfume and feel the grass tickling her toes. She sighed and took flight, spiralling into the air higher and higher and laughing as she soared with the wind. She was going home!

 

 

 

Fiction Fursday/Re-blog

I’m afraid to say that I have failed this week in my commitment to writing a new story. I’ve just started a new job and things are still up in the air from my recent move. These are terrible excuses and I am a hypocrite for citing them as they shouldn’t have stopped me from writing, so for that I apologise. I even had a great prompt from the lovely Esther Newton work with, but I still managed to slack off.

However, I still wanted to post something, so I have decided to give an older story a dusting off this week. Last year, I wrote a story which I was very pleased with called “Fair Emma“. Some of you may have read this story already, but those of you who are new to my blog may not have come across it. I enjoyed writing it immensely and got a positive response from those who read it. I will leave a link to the original post and the first two paragraphs below, if you are interested in reading it. I hope you enjoy if you do.

Again, apologies for the lack of fresh material. I will be back on form next Thursday, I promise!

 

Fair Emma

By Adam Dixon

The streets of Whitechapel were deathly quiet that night. The street lamps were sparse and their feeble glow barely penetrated the November mist. There were shadows on every corner, and in one of them lurked a solitary, patient woman. Jackie stood motionless, her eyes on the small lodgings across the street. Standing on street corners had become a familiar occupation of hers of late, but she was not there for her trade. A fellow night-worker was completing a transaction with a client, and they had entered the small house less than half an hour ago. She stood calmly, her gaze boring into the wooden door just yards in front of her.

Soon, a man staggered outside, cursing loudly as he caught his foot on the door frame. He almost tripped, but somehow managed to remain upright and wobbled off into the night, belching out a bawdy song and chuckling to himself. After a few minutes the street was silent once again, and Jackie slowly approached the house. It was in a state of disrepair, with the door a little off its hinges and one of the panes of glass broken in the window next to it. Raising a gloved hand, Jackie knocked softly on the door.

Here is the link to the original post. Thanks for reading!

P.S. I just realised that I wrote this story in order to be featured on Esther’s blog! What a strange coincidence!

 

Fiction Fursday/A Crisis in Alexandria

 Today’s story comes from a suggestion by Geoff Le Pard. Geoff suggested that I write a story featuring a known historical figure who is attempting to deal with a crisis. This ended up being a very intersting idea, and I decided to take a bit of creative liberty and write a short alterntive history piece. 

I hope you enjoy what I have been able to come up with. Thanks again  Geoff! 

P.S. If anyone would like to offer me a prompt for another week, please let me know in the comments. Thanks! 

 

A Crisis in Alexandria

By Adam Dixon

The time had come. Alexandria had fallen and Egypt was under Roman control. The muffled, distant sounds of marching and shouted orders could be heard outside the palace. Cleopatra cursed the pompous Octavian with all of her fury. How dare he treat her this way? Tucked away in her own palace like some precious ornament, guarded by one of his pets! It was a disgrace and an affront to all of the Gods! Indeed, the heathen had strayed too far this time, as all knew that the Pharaoh of Egypt was a living God herself…

A God, perhaps, but still a defeated one. Cleopatra was forced to recognise that fact. Her grand plans for Egypt and her Ptolemaic dynasty had crumbled around her, leaving her choking in its dust. Even her unions and alliances with Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius had not been enough. She had been cast aside by the politicians of Rome like an empty flagon; the toga-wearing, wine-addled old men had branded her a traitor once Antonius had fallen from favour. Octavian had wasted no time sending his troops to her shores, and for once even Antonius’ skills as a general had not been enough to keep her safe. Now Antonius himself was dead and Cleopatra faced humiliation back in Rome as part of Octavian’s Triumph. This was a crisis beyond which she had ever faced, but a solution had presented itself nonetheless.

“Your Excellency, it is time,” Iras, her maidservant urged, pulling Cleopatra from her thoughts. Cleopatra looked at the prone woman and nodded.

“Let us proceed, then,” she replied, her voice calm and steady, never betraying the unease which gripped her heart. Another servant, Charmion, flowed up to her and began to remove Cleopatra’s clothes. Her exquisite robes of state were as light as they were beautiful, and all who gazed upon the wearer knew of her power. They slipped from her sun-bronzed body and left her standing naked before them, the coolness of the room raising goose bumps on her skin. Bearing children had had its consequences, but Cleopatra was fortunate to have retained her sensuous figure. Octavian, infuriatingly, had been able to resist her charms; Cleopatra knew that if she had been younger this would not have been the case. Once she was stripped, Charmion helped Cleopatra to dress in the simple garb of a common Egyptian woman, hiding her face with a scarf and tucking her lustrous dark hair into it. A third maid, young and beautiful, stepped forward and looked expectantly at Cleopatra’s feet. Even when dressed improperly her servants knew it was not wise to look upon a Pharaoh directly.

“Dress her,” Cleopatra commanded, watching with a mixture of emotions as her servant was helped into her gorgeous robes. The girl was radiant despite her low birth, reminding Cleopatra strikingly of herself. That was good, that was the desired effect. Once she was dressed, Iras completed the look by placing Cleopatra’s ornate diadem atop the woman’s head, and Cleopatra almost gasped as it caught the evening sunlight in its dazzling perfection. By the Gods, was that how flawless she had looked whilst wearing it? If so, it was little wonder that she inspired the awe of her people!

“You are certain that the fool Epaphroditus is not at his post?” Cleopatra demanded. The woman Charmion bowed her head and spoke to her toes.

“Yes, Excellency,” her reply was meek. “My sister has him adequately… occupied.” Cleopatra nodded. If there was one thing she knew about Romans it was that they were rarely impervious to the allure of Egyptian women.

“You did not tell her what is afoot, as I commanded?”

“No, my Pharaoh. She knows not what we plan…”

“Good,” Cleopatra said, turning away from the pain in the girl’s face. She could not waver now!

“Everything is in place. Lie down and proceed as planned.” The imposter nodded and glided over to the divan. She lay down on the cushions, taking a moment to delve her fingers into them and enjoy the luxury. Cleopatra allowed it. After all, the woman would never have known such decadence, and the Gods knew that she deserved it. The woman glanced at the goblet on the marble table next to her and reached for it with a trembling hand. She lifted the heavy golden vessel, watching the dark purple liquid slop to and fro as she fought to keep her hand steady. The rich, sweet aroma of the wine filled the room as it was disturbed, with the pungent scent of deadly opiates lurking beneath. Iras and Charmion each took identical goblets and raised them to their lips, their faces white and their eyes on the ground. Cleopatra understood their fear. It was all she could do to hold her tongue and not beg them to stop. Instead, she addressed them in a regal tone.

“Loyal servants, you may gaze upon me,” she said, spreading her arms wide. The women gasped as one, their eyes remaining on the floor.

“I shall not harm you,” Cleopatra continued, her voice strong and commanding. “Look upon me and know that I am grateful to you.” Hesitantly, and with excruciating doubt the three women looked up at Cleopatra. Their eyes were full of fear, but also of pride. They were proud to aid their queen in such a way. Cleopatra felt her own pride swell her chest and dampen her eyes. By the Gods, those women were strong! Egypt could never fall if lowly servants possessed such bravery! Cleopatra smiled with an air of finality and nodded. The three women returned the nod and drained their wine as one.

The potion took effect immediately. The women gasped and spasmed, their goblets crashing to the floor. They clutched their stomachs and groaned, squeezing their eyes shut. Then they were still. Iras and Charmion fell to the floor, their young bodies slapping the polished stone and sending a jarring sensation up Cleopatra’s spine. Her imposter lay on her back, her features relaxed and her posture reclining. In death she looked beautiful, as flawless as any Pharaoh before her. Cleopatra touched a hand to her mouth and realised that she was weeping. That was only right, for those women deserved the tears of a God. She took a deep, shuddering breath and surveyed the scene with cold eyes. Everything had gone according to plan. There was only one detail left to secure.

Picking up a woven basket filled with figs, Cleopatra probed here and there with a gentle hand. Soon she felt movement beneath the fruit. Steeling herself, she plunged her hand into the basket and pulled out a wriggling, angry serpent. The asp was as dark as night and hissed and spat within her grasp. Cleopatra grimaced and tossed the snake towards the corpse of her servant. The asp opened its mouth and latched its fangs onto the woman’s breast, twisting its scaly body as it clung to her. Cleopatra observed it with a mixture of revulsion and excitement. Now her plan would succeed! Now her legacy was guaranteed!

Wiping the tears from her cheeks Cleopatra made to leave the chamber. She paused at the gilded door, listening. Satisfied that her guard was absent she pushed the door open and stole from the palace like a thief in the night. She left her home behind and made for the ocean, where her daughters had procured a ship for her. It was most undignified to flee in this manner, but she had done it once before. The Gods only knew what was in store for her now, but she had ensured that history would not forget her.

Fiction Fursday/The Animals’ Advice

Today’s Fiction Fursday story was prompted by my wonderful blogger friend, Kate. Kate gave me a flurry of excellent prompts during my A-Z Challenge in April, so I knew that she’d suggest something brilliant for my new weekly project! Her suggestion was for me to write a story where a bloke who is down on his luck sneaks into a zoo and tells the animals about his problems. I loved the idea from the start and was excited to get writing! Here is what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy it.

Also, if any of your would like to suggest a prompt for me for my Ficiton Fursday posts, feel free to do so in the comments. It could be a single word, a first/final line or even a theme. Use your imagination and to kick-start mine!

The Animals’ Advice

By Adam Dixon

“She just wouldn’t listen to reason,” Bob sighed, taking a slow swig from his beer can. “She wouldn’t listen, then she left me…just walked out the door…haven’t seen her in four weeks now…” Bob lowered his head as a tear forced its way through his closed eyes. “Oh, Xena, what am I going to do?” Bob looked pleadingly at the sleek lioness in her enclosure. She sat as still as a statue, watching him with amber eyes and flicking her tail to and fro as he spoke.

“You come here at this hour, disturbing my rest, in order to spout this drivel?” she replied. The noise came from within Bob’s head rather than issuing from her mouth and her voice was cold and calculated. Bob fidgeted on his perch on the wall above her.

“Erm, yes…” he replied, feeling sheepish. “I was hoping you might have some advice for me. You know how to deal with your mate and his pride so I figured that you might have an insight I could use.”

“I care less about your trivial relationship problems than I do about tasting your warm flesh, human,” Xena growled, licking her lips. Bob shuffled further away, for once grateful for the iron bars ringing the enclosure.

“It is merely an instinct, human, take no offence,” Xena said with a lazy swish of her tail. “Nothing personal, although I must insist that you take your problems elsewhere. I require sleep or else I shall be cantankerous in the morning; the cubs will not enjoy that. Good evening to you.” With a regal bowing of her head, the lioness turned and gracefully walked away. Bob sat watching her, marvelling at the strong muscles and beautiful fur whilst at the same time feeling quite put-out.

“Yeah, whatever then, princess,” he muttered as he shuffled further into the zoo. He gulped at his beer as he wandered, enjoying the cool breeze and shade offered at night. He had been working there during the sweltering heat of the daytime, guiding packs of sweating tourists around to gawk at the basking animals, making him grateful for the drop in temperature. Gravel crunched under his boots as Bob approached another cage, this one filled with trees and wooden climbing frames. He sat on a wooden bench next to it, cracking open another beer.

“Hello? Anyone home?” he called. There was a rustling of movement within the trees and a dark human-like face ringed with white fur peered out at him. Bob waved.

“Evening, Scamp,” he said. “Aren’t you up a bit late?”

“Could say the same to you! Heehee!” The gibbon replied playfully. Bob raised his can.

“Touché!” He said, and took a long swallow. Sighing, he watched as Scamp swung up to a stronger branch in order to converse with him comfortably.

“Scamp, where’s Ursula?” Bob asked. “I thought you two were always together?”

“Not tonight, she’s resting with our young,” Scamp grinned, his throat-sack enlarging and shrinking as he laughed. “They gave her a good run-around today and now they’re all exhausted! Works for me! Heehee!” Bob smiled and shook his head. Scamp’s voice echoed in his head more resonantly than the other animals, and Bob assumed it was due to their evolutionary closeness. Scamp leaned closer from his high perch, gazing down at Bob. He lifted a horned finger and pointed.

“Say, Bob…could I have one of those?” Scamp asked hopefully. Bemused, Bob pulled a beer can from his pack and tossed it up into the tree. Scamp leaned backwards and caught it deftly, whooping in delight. He snapped open the ring-pull and cackled as foam erupted over his hand. Leaning further backwards he splashed beer down his face and chest as he gulped noisily. He balanced precariously on the edge of the branch for a few seconds before sitting upright once more. Scamp barked a quick laugh and belched.

“Ahhh, thanks! Heehee!” Scamp imitated Bob’s salute, tilting his raised can and nodding. Bob shook his head again.

“That’s alright, I suppose,” he replied, chuckling. “I just hope the guys at security aren’t watching! They didn’t mind letting me in at this hour but they’d have something to say if they saw me giving alcohol to the attractions! Technically you’re a minor, too, so I’d be in loads of trouble!”

“Our little secret then! Heehee! Why are you here, anyway?” Scamp asked, hanging from a branch one-handed as he sipped more beer. “Don’t we get enough of your ugly mug during the day? Heehee!”

“Woman troubles,” Bob admitted. “You’re always happy with Ursula, Scamp. What d’you reckon I should be doing?”

“You could try singing for her, that’s what I do,” Scamp replied, leaping back on to the branch and rubbing his throat-sack with pride. “My Ursula has always enjoyed my singing. Or if that doesn’t work, find another male to fight and prove your worth that way! Rip his fur out and toss him in the bushes with his bottom smacked! Heehee!”

“Hmm…well I can’t sing and I doubt there’s anyone relevant I could beat up,” Bob frowned. “It doesn’t really work like that with humans, anyway.”

“Can’t help you then, sorry!” Scamp laughed and crushed the empty can in his hand. He raised his arm and threw it, whooping with glee when it bounced off the side of Bob’s head.

“Heehee! Gotcha! Can I have another one?”

“No, that’s enough for you,” Bob said flatly, standing up to leave. “I’ll see if anyone else can help me.” He trudged off down the winding path, feeling more and more like he was wasting his time. Why should the animals have any kind of helpful advice to give me? Bob thought, cross with himself. They don’t know how humans behave! After a few minutes, however, Bob found himself leaning over the edge of another enclosure, chatting with a beautiful male peacock.

“So what do you think I should do, Narcissus?” Bob asked after he had explained his situation. He was watching the blue bird strut around and flick his gorgeous feathers to and fro.

“Well, what I would suggest, darling, is that you flaunt your natural beauty to win her back!” the peacock said eagerly. “Flaunt it, darling! Flaunt it shamelessly! Show her what she is missing!”

“Erm…okay,” Bob was unconvinced. “The thing is, I don’t really have a lot of natural beauty to flaunt. The moles and the receding hairline hardly make women swoon, and I can’t say I had better luck when I was younger. My parents were a bit on the plain side, you see.”

“Oh, daaaarling! That is unfortunate!” Narcissis crowed with genuine sympathy. He fanned his own natural beauty for effect. “Then I simply don’t know what to suggest! That course of action always works for me! See how stunning I am! What female could possibly resist?” He spun his feathers with a flourish, sighing with delight as the radiant colours flashed in the night sky. Bob sighed too and thanked the peacock, leaving him to prance about as he walked on. He began to wonder if he should just go home and drink his remaining beers in solitude, but he knew that he wouldn’t. I don’t want to be alone anymore, Bob thought miserably.

Bob came to a wider cage near the end of the park and gazed at the impressive shapes moving around within it. Two elephants were sleeping peacefully in the centre of the cage, a great bull elephant and his calf. The baby, who was nearly as big as Bob, was snuggled up against her father with her small trunk draped over his neck. Bob felt a pang of regret as he stroked the cold, oppressive bars of the cage. The cruelty of their fate upset him profoundly.

“I’m sorry you’re in here…” he whispered.

“The fault is not yours, young man,” a kindly voice said in his head. “Do not assume the guilt for it.” Bob glanced towards another shape as it moved closer to him. The baby’s mother was massive and beautiful, her intelligent brown eyes meeting Bob’s without fear or hesitation.

“I know, Maggie” Bob replied, scratching the back of his head. “But it doesn’t make me feel any better about it, especially not since I’ve been moaning about my life all evening. I don’t have it this bad! Stupid, selfish bastard that I am! At least I’m free!”

“Oh, you needn’t feel too bad, Robert,” Maggie said, her eyes creasing with amusement. “You help us in your own way through your Gift. If you did not come and talk to us all during the day, I am sure we would all have gone beserk by now. Do not be too hard on yourself, my dear.”

“I suppose so,” Bob replied, feeling slightly better. He turned to look at the sleeping baby once again.

“She is growing so fast, Maggie!” He breathed, his eyes widening and a wondrous smile creeping across his face. “Soon she’ll be as big as you are!”

“Oh, hopefully not too soon!” Maggie chuckled. She looked at Bob seriously, her large ears flapping as she frowned.

“Now, Robert, tell me,” she began firmly. “What is all this about you moaning about your life? What is the matter?”

“Oh, that,” Bob scratched his head again nervously. “I…erm…my partner left me. She doesn’t…erm…She wants to get married.”

“Well, that sounds like wonderful news!” Maggie exclaimed. “Why has she abandoned you? Is this how you usually operate? I don’t understand human couplings, I’m afraid.”

“No, it’s not the usual way…” Bob replied, feeling ashamed. “I…erm…it’s my fault. I told her…that I don’t want to get married.”

“I see,” Maggie’s expression became stern as she moved closer to Bob. Her great head moved to within inches of his, separated by the iron bars of the cage. “Why ever not, Robert? Do you not care for her?”

“Yes! Of course I do!” Bob said, hurt by implication. “I love her dearly! I can’t imagine life without her! I don’t want a life without her!”

“Then why do you hesitate?” Maggie asked, holding Bob’s gaze. Bob was flustered as he found himself unable to answer the simple question.

“I…she…oh, I don’t know!” He cried, throwing his arms in the air. “It’s just not something that has ever meant much to me as a concept, that’s all!”

“But it seems to mean a great deal to your partner,” Maggie said, twisting her trunk as she spoke. It was almost like a shrug. “Perhaps you need to consider whether your indifference is more important than your mutual happiness. Take myself and Rameses for example.” She swung her trunk and gestured at her slumbering mate. “Rameses was a wild one, that’s for certain, and he never considered having children before I explained to him how important it would be to me. Putting his pride behind him was the best decision he has ever made; he adores our little one and he would give his tusks for her in a heartbeat.” Maggie turned her gaze back towards Bob. “You must think about what course of action will make you and your partner the happiest. Make your decision soon, whatever it may be, before you regret it.”

Bob rested his forehead against the cool bars of the cage and reached his arm through to stroke Maggie’s trunk. It was thick and strong but full of warmth. Just like Maggie, Bob thought.

“Thank you, Maggie,” he said, tears filling his eyes. “I’ll do that. You are very wise, you know that, right?”

“Oh, it has been implied!” Maggie chuckled and tenderly wiped an escaping tear from Bob’s cheek with the end of her trunk. “But you do not reach my age without learning a thing or two about life! Now off you go, Robert. The dawn will soon come and I daresay that you have a female to speak to.” Bob straightened and wiped his eyes.

“Yes, I suppose I do,” he replied, smiling. “Bye, Maggie. I’ll see you soon.” Maggie raised her trunk in farewell before moving back towards her family. Bob strode back the way he had come, feeling lighter than he had felt in days. Maggie’s words had lifted a great weight from his shoulders and her simple probing had unlocked answers he had kept barricaded deep in his heart. He glanced up at the lightening sky, breathing in the cool scent of the approaching morning and looking forward to the day ahead. He knew what he was going to do. As he passed the Ape Section, Bob whistled and tossed his final beer can into the trees. Scamp the gibbon caught it and his surprised laughter rang out across the zoo, and Bob laughed with him.

 

Fiction Fursday/Stonefur the Mighty

Today sees my first proper Fiction Fursday attempt! This story was suggested by Jason over at Aethereal Engineer. Jason is a brilliant writer of short fiction so of course he sent me away last week with a fantastic idea. He suggested that I write a story with fantasy elements in it but set it in a world with technology or culture no further advanced than the Neolithic period. I realised as I was halfway through writing this that I was more than likely being influenced by Jason’s own epic story, The Old Man of the Elder Trees, which is a brilliant read. This realisation gave me pause but I decided to finish it nonetheless. I hope that doesn’t mean I’ve cheated!

Anyway, it was great fun to write a fantasy story again and I hope you all enjoy what I came up with. It’s a bit longer than my recent stories but I hope it’s exciting enough to keep your interest! Pop by next week for another Fiction Fursday, and if you’d like to suggest something for me to write about in the coming weeks then please write it in the comments section.

Stonefur the Mighty

By Adam Dixon

Winter’s fingertips had started to brush the land, signalling its rapid approach. Jeb shivered as a bitter wind swept through the trees, rustling the leaves and snatching at his hair and beard. He and his brothers moved through the forest as one, their bare feet treading silently upon the grass. The four men were clothed only in hide loincloths to maximise their freedom of movement; they would need to be very fast that day. Jeb hoped that the green daub the Shaman had provided would mask his scent as he had promised. He and his brothers were covered in the sticky mixture, giving them the added effect of camouflage whilst they hunted. Their quarry still had sharp ears so stealth was necessary too, but any advantage offered to them had been seized upon.

Jeb’s brothers each carried a spear made from a sturdy tree branch with a sharpened flint blade tied to it. Jeb carried the only bow and his quiver contained just four arrows. The blades and arrowheads had been fashioned over the course of two days, requiring patience and multiple attempts before success. The experience had served as a stark reminder that their people were not hunters anymore and that cultivating the earth and raising cattle had softened their warrior’s edge. No matter, they had skill enough to do what was needed that day. Jeb grimaced and hoped that the Shaman would hold up his end of their bargain; this was dangerous work for mere promises.

They soon reached the clearing they had been guided towards. A stream flowed through the forest to the north, meandering around a pile of rocks and fallen trees. Lying upon the largest trunk at a distance of one hundred paces was the biggest wolf Jeb had ever seen. It was as tall as a horse and as wide as a bull, its lithe muscles visible beneath its white-flecked grey fur. Jeb stared, transfixed by the beauty of the animal and by the icy fear which caressed his limbs. He had never seen a Great Wolf before and he was humbled and scared. He instantly regretted his task but shook it from his mind with grim determination and held his fear at bay. This needed to be done. Stonefur the Mighty must be brought down that day.

Jeb signalled to his brothers with one fist raised, not taking his eyes from the resting wolf. He saw them fan out in different directions to form a rough semi-circle around the beast. Jeb noted with appreciation that their limbs were poised and ready and their eyes were alert. He knew they were prepared for whatever may happen. Offering a silent plea to the gods and goddesses to watch over them, Jeb signalled again and crouched down. Stocky Horeb and slender Orrin moved forwards, no longer muffling their steps. Jeb notched an arrow to his bow and pulled the string back, sighting the beast along the shaft. The men advanced fifteen paces before the Great Wolf looked up. Its yellow eyes glared across the clearing at the two humans, noting their raised spears. Stonefur growled deeply as a warning and raised itself up on its powerful legs, preparing to spring. Jeb released his held breath and fired.

As the bowstring snapped Stonefur’s eyes flicked towards the sound. It tried to leap from the trunk and out of the line of fire but Jeb’s aim was true and the arrow buried itself in the Great Wolf’s shoulder. The beast bellowed in fury and landed on the ground as blood welled up and stained its fur. Roaring it tensed its hind legs and bounded towards the humans. The events of the next few seconds seemed to pass in slow motion. Jeb blew a shrill note and Horeb and Orrin ran off in opposite directions. His third brother, Jonas, charged forwards and hurled his spear. Again Stonefur attempted to dodge the attack but was caught by surprise. The hefty projectile slammed itself into the wolf’s side as it twisted mid-charge, the force of it knocking it back a step. Another furious roar rang out into the forest, causing nearby birds to take off from their perches in fright. Jeb fired another arrow as the wolf turned towards the now unarmed Jonas, causing only a superficial wound in Stonefur’s left ear. This bought his brother enough time to draw his flint axe from his belt. Usually that axe would be used to chop firewood, but its purpose was far more dangerous that day. Jeb whistled again and Horeb and Orrin drew their arms back for a throw. Their spears flew across the clearing, both finding their mark. Stonefur yelped and whimpered, blood pouring from wounds in its right hind leg and left shoulder. It was still in the fight, though, dislodging the offending weapons as it leaped towards Jonas. Jeb’s next arrow flew over Stonefur’s head and he watched in horror as Jonas was rammed to the ground. The man screamed and tried to ready his axe, but Stonefur was upon him and crushed his head with one snap of his jaws. With fangs painted crimson with blood Stonefur turned to face the archer. Jeb fired his final arrow, dropping the bow as it flew and snatching up his own axe. The arrow launched itself into Stonefur’s chest, forcing a pained roar from its mighty throat.

Jeb rushed forwards, yelling at the top his lungs. Stonefur bound towards him with terrible speed. Jeb waited until it had launched itself into the air before diving forwards into a roll. He felt the wolf’s gigantic frame pass over him, his feet touching the hard muscle in its stomach as he spun. He came out of the roll in a sprint and dashed towards his brothers. Stonefur skidded to a halt and turned, panting. Its eyes flicked between the three men as they approached with their axes drawn and determination in their faces. Jeb noted that its haunches were trembling and his eyes were misting over; it was shaken and the loss of blood was slowing it down. Stonefur shook its head and growled, seeming to become drowsy. Jeb and his brothers began to spread out. The wolf backed up towards the trees, its growls and warning snaps becoming weaker. It glanced at the thick forest and seemed to make a calculation. Before it could make a run for it Jeb and his brothers charged, screeching as they swung their axes at the beast. Stonefur roared and lunged at Jeb, who leaped back nimbly before driving a fierce blow home. His axe bit deep into Stonefur’s solid shoulder and the thin blade snapped. Jeb backed off, holding the now-useless weapon raised. Stonefur’s yellow eyes met Jeb’s and an understanding flickered between them; the wolf was acknowledging defeat. Jeb felt his chest constrict as a wave of compassion and deep respect welled up inside him. Horeb and Orrin continued to rain blows on to the dying wolf, who collapsed with a thud, blood matting its fur. Once it fell the two men also backed away, exchanging glances with Jeb. Jeb raised a hand to them.

“It is done,” he panted. “We need fight no more, my brothers.” The two men nodded, and Orrin ran back to Jonas. He knelt before the dead man, tears leaking from his eyes and soaking into his beard.

“Poor Jonas,” he said, his voice croaking. He turned his face away from the crushed remains. “He was always too keen to fight. At least his sons can be proud of him now.”

“Aye, brother, that they can,” Jeb said softly, still watching Stonefur. He felt sorrow at Jonas’ death but he felt the need to honour his killer. The wolf’s golden eyes had closed and its breathing was becoming shallow. Jeb knelt down beside its great head and laid a hand on its snout. Stonefur twitched at the contact but did not open its eyes.

“You fought well, Great One,” Jeb said. “It was our honour to do battle with you this day.” A weak growl issued forth from Stonefur’s throat and then it lay still. Stonefur the Mighty was dead.

***

Later that day as the sun lowered itself into the embrace of the horizon, Jeb made his way up a steep mountain slope. He had scrubbed the green daub from his body and was dressed in his hides and furs to combat the chill in the air. He carried a heavy blood-stained sack made from skins over one shoulder and a shallow clay bowl in the other. Crimson blood slopped to and fro as he walked but Jeb was careful not to spill a single drop. After walking a good distance the ground began to level out and Jeb stopped to rest. Gazing around him he noted the height he had reached; he could see the tops of trees from the forest and distant smoke rising from his tribe’s dwellings. Jeb dropped into a crouch and closed his eyes, meditating on the events of the day.

“You have returned, tribesman,” a thin voice spoke. Jeb opened his eyes and saw that the Shaman had appeared in front of him. He stood up cautiously, wondering how the man always managed to move without a sound. The Shaman was very old, that much was immediate and obvious. His hair and beard were grey, a feature which awed Jeb as not even his grandfather had lived to see his hair change colour so completely. The man’s limbs were still strong, but he showed signs of arthritis and carried a gnarled staff to aid him as he walked. His green eyes were still sharp and intense, reminding Jeb of the keen awareness of the hawk. He was dressed in loose animal skins and bracelets made from bone rattled on his wrists.

“I have, Wise One,” Jeb said, stepping forward. He placed the blood-filled bowl on the ground before the Shaman’s feet before reaching into the sack. Using both hands, Jeb lifted the massive head of Stonefur the Mighty from within, grunting with the effort. To his surprise the old man dropped his staff and lifted it from Jeb’s hands as if it were no heavier than an infant. The Shaman stared down at the Great Wolf’s remains, a wild light touching his eyes and an unpleasant smile creeping across his face.

“Oh, tribesman, you have done me a great service today!” The Shaman rasped, his voice charged with emotion. “This wolf has plagued my waking thoughts for nearly twenty years! A good fight he gave you, of that I am certain!”

“He did, Wise One,” Jeb said flatly. “My brother, Jonas, died during the fight. At nine-and-twenty his final days were approaching, but he was a good man, brave and strong.” He left the accusation hanging in the air. The Shaman ignored it. Jeb sighed and shrugged.

“Now that it is done, I must ask you something, Wise One,” Jeb said. “Why did you require our aid to vanquish the Great Wolf? Surely your magic would have been sufficient to bring him down?” Again, Jeb aimed the accusation carefully. The Shaman snorted and glanced up at him, scorn in his eyes.

“Fool! Of course it would!” he snarled. “But the beast and I had an accord! We were never to directly oppose one another, not that it is your business to know such things! You required aid for your people and I required the death of the Great Wolf, there is nothing else to say.”

“As you say, Wise One,” Jeb replied wearily. “I have kept my end of our bargain and now I beg that you keep yours.”

“Yes, yes, of course I shall!” The Shaman scratched his beard in irritation, supporting the huge head with one hand. “My word is my honour, as it is for you. Come to my dwelling, tribesman Jeb, and bring the blood with you.” Jeb scooped up the bowl and trotted after the Shaman, who was talking to the bloody remains he approached a hidden cleft on the mountainside.

“Ahh, I finally have you, Stonefur! Heehee, but you have given me the run-around all these years! Heeheehee! If only you had stayed with me instead of insisting that you be with ‘your kind’! We could have accomplished so much together! You foolish old dog, you!” Jeb walked on in silence and thought about poor Jonas. He had little desire to speak with the old man who had demanded so much from him. He wanted this ordeal to be over so he could return to his wife and children. The Shaman squeezed through the cleft and moved into darkness. Jeb followed, pressing his chest against a wall of stone in order to keep moving. The stone was cold and jagged, ripping Jeb’s clothes and nicking his skin as he pressed on. After several claustrophobic minutes Jeb emerged into a wide opening within the mountain, blinking as a burning torch appeared by his head. As Jeb shielded his eyes and allowed them to adjust he became aware of the Shaman muttering somewhere nearby. He squinted through the amber glow and saw the old man crouched by a fire-pit, the blackened ashes of a small fire piled inside the stones. The Shaman was pouring the blood of Stonefur onto the mound in sprinkles, chanting and moaning in an alien language. Jeb moved away from the torch on the cave wall and watched the Shaman with interest. Suddenly, the Shaman thrust out a hand.

“Give me your necklace,” he commanded. Jeb hesitated. The necklace he wore boasted the fangs of several wolves and bears connected by a length of twine, each one coloured differently with age. It was a necklace which had been added to and passed down through the male side of his family for six generations.

“Give it to me, man!” The Shaman barked, his sharp eyes glaring at Jeb. “Lest you wish me to stop and let the wolves rip your tribe apart this winter!” Jeb tore the necklace from around his throat and tossed it to the Shaman. The man caught it deftly and continued his chanting. He placed the necklace on to the blood-soaked ashes reverently, waving his bony fingers in weird movements over it. Without warning the mound caught fire, ashes and all, with a bright green flame leaping up to the low ceiling of the cave. Jeb’s brain told him that it was impossible but his eyes grew wide as he watched. He set his jaw tightly as the trophies of his ancestors blackened as the dancing flames licked them, tasted them. The Shaman went on chanting from his crouched position, his eyes closed and his voice low. A pungent smell filled Jeb’s nostrils as the Shaman worked, forcing him to cover his nose with his hand. Ten minutes passed and the flames flickered away to nothingness. The necklace had joined the ashes. The Shaman rose to his feet.

“It is done,” the old man said solemnly. “The spell I have cast will keep the wolf packs and bears away from your dwelling throughout the winter, no matter how hungry the beasts become. They will wither and starve rather than invade your lands. Your tribe will be safe.” Jeb released a breath he didn’t realise he had been holding.

“Thank you, Wise One,” he said, bowing low. “My tribe and I are forever in your debt.”

“No, you are not,” the Shaman said bluntly, staring at the smouldering ash pile. “We made a bargain and both sides were kept, there is no debt. Now, please leave me. I wish to be alone.” Jeb nodded and retreated back the way he had come. As he left the darkness of the tunnel and stepped out into the fading light of the evening, he chanced a peek over his shoulder. The cleft in the mountain had disappeared; he would not be able to locate the Shaman again. Jeb shrugged and began the long walk back to his family. A great weight was lifted from him and he felt happy in the knowledge that his family would be safe. They would bury Jonas that night and continue their existence unmolested by the hunger of wild beasts. As he walked, Jeb whispered a prayer for the Great Wolf Stonefur the Mighty, and bade the gods treat him and his brother as warriors in the afterlife. They deserved that much.

Fiction Fursday/ Brick Wall

Hello everyone! As some of you may have noticed, I recently celebrated reaching 100 followers. I’m still very excited about this news and thrilled that so many people have enjoyed my scribblings thus far. I wanted to find a way to write more regularly on my blog, as I am always writing but not finishing work very quickly. I feel like I need something to focus my creativity, a bit of pressure to get the cogs turning in my head. I’ve been following some wonderful bloggers for a few months now and if they can manage to write a blog post every day whilst juggling their own busy lives then I can at least write one short story every week!

So, from today I am launching a weekly project which I have very cleverly named “Fiction Fursdays”, and I will require a bit of help. Upon completing the A-Z Challenge set during April, I found that prompts from other bloggers not only fired up my imagination but also helped me to feel part of the wider blogosphere. So, I’d like to request that you lovely people send me suggestions for my Fiction Fursdays! I’ll take on board every suggestion given and store them away for the upcoming weeks. This will not only give me a big group of stories to be getting on with but it will also provide me with a DEADLINE for each of them. I seem to work quite well when a deadline is set so I think this will be a good move for me!

So, if any of you would like to propose a story for me to write about in the upcoming weeks, go right ahead! I solemnly promise to give each and every suggestion a bash, regardless of the genre or narrative style etc. Anything you think I can tackle or would like to see me attempt to write just let me know. I’m very excited about this! I’ll be posting a short story which I wrote a while ago underneath this main post, which will then be the first and (hopefully!) last “Fiction Fursday” short I put up here.

Sorry for the rambling, but I wanted this post to convey my excitement and eagerness to get started! I do hope you’ll honour me with a suggestion, whoever you are! Of course I will give a shout-out to anyone who suggests something to me.

Now that that’s out of the way, here is a piece of flash fiction I wrote few months ago for a competition. Sadly it wasn’t placed, but it was fun to write. I hope you enjoy it.

Brick Wall

By Adam Dixon

John padded into the kitchen, blinking at the morning sunshine. He scratched his unkempt hair, followed by his bare stomach as it growled audibly. ‘What to have for breakfast?’ he thought, casting his eyes lazily across the room. He shuffled towards the fridge and wrenched it open, examining its contents. ‘Hmm…bacon and eggs, maybe?’ he pondered. ‘Nah, not today. Cuppa tea, though.’ He took out a bottle of milk and put the kettle on. The clip-clop of shoes on tiles announced her arrival. He didn’t turn around.

“John, we need to talk,” her quiet voice floated into the kitchen. John plonked a tea bag into his mug and began opening cupboards. ‘Hmm…cereal? Frosties or Coco Pops? Hmmm…

“Things…haven’t been going well between us for a while now,” she continued hesitantly. She took a step into the kitchen, placing a small pink suitcase next to her smart black heels. “I feel like we can’t talk to each other properly anymore. Do you know what I mean?” John took out the box of Coco Pops and looked at it briefly before he put it back.

“I think…I think we should have some time apart,” she persisted, speaking quickly. “You know, to think about our futures…because I don’t know if I can do this anymore.” Her voice cracked slightly as she spoke. John poured boiling water into his mug and hummed to himself as he added the milk.

“John? Are you listening to me? This is important!” John continued humming. ‘Actually, bugger it, I will have bacon and eggs!’ John smiled triumphantly and fished about in the fridge once again.

“John? John! Why won’t you say anything, for Christ’s sake?!” Her heeled shoe stamped down on the tiles. A single tear followed it, splashing onto the white marble. John cracked two eggs into a glass bowl and began to whisk eagerly, still humming softly.

“I can’t believe you…how can you stand there and make fucking breakfast while I’m suffering over here? Is this why Jenny left you? And Suzie?” John stopped humming. He paused for a moment mid-whisk, before scraping a generous lump of lard from the packet and into the frying pan. The humming resumed. There came a long, exasperated sigh from behind him.

“I don’t know why I bother. I loved you, John, but I can’t talk to a brick wall. I’ll send someone round for the rest of my things.” There was a hopeful pause before she picked up her case and clip-clopped out of the room. A moment later the front door slammed.

John scratched his stomach and added bacon to the frying pan. He began whistling as his breakfast started to come together, and the mouth-watering smell of bacon and scrambled eggs filled the kitchen. ‘Oh yes’, he thought cheerfully, ‘today is going to be a good day!’