A – Z Challenge Day 26

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

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

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

ZANY

By Adam Dixon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

 

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A – Z Challenge Day 18

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

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

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

RANCID

By Adam Dixon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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