Sick Day

Hello, everyone. I’ve been slacking a bit lately with regards to my blog, but before you seize the boiling tar and feathers, I shall explain. I’ve been devoting a lot of time this month to preparing for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, as I realised with panic that November is nearly upon us. So I have been scribbling ideas for characters, plot and interviewing people in the know in order to get something which resembles an outline before I begin. As a result, I have not been concentrating on my short stories, and for that I apologise.

Today, I would like to share with you a story which I wrote quite recently. I wrote and submitted it to a competition and although it didn’t get anywhere with it I am still quite pleased with how it turned out. The prompt was the first line: “I took a deep breath and knocked on the door…”

I hope you enjoy it, and I will have finished my next story in time for next Thursday.  Thank you for you patience.

P.S. Are any of you lovely lot taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? If you are, please let me know. Maybe we could be writing buddies!

Sick-Day

“I took a deep breath and knocked on the door-”

“Hang on a sec, why did you do that?”

“Excuse me?”

“You knocked. You said you could hear your wife moaning, so why did you knock?”

“I…don’t know. I suppose…I didn’t want to see them…at it. It was bad enough hearing what they were doing, let alone witnessing it. I suppose I wanted them to…stop.”

“Okay, Mr Carling, please continue.”

“Well, they stopped. There was silence on the other side of the door, followed by panicked whispering. She’d have had no idea that I was home as I wasn’t due back until the evening.”

“Why were you home early, Mr Carling?”

“I’d been sent home. I hadn’t felt well that morning and I probably shouldn’t have gone in at all, to be honest. But I’m rather proud of my unblemished record, you see. I’d not taken a single sick day in four years until that morning.”

“Rather convenient, wouldn’t you say?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I just find it quite strange that the one day you come home early in four years just happens to be the day your wife is playing around.”

“What are you insinuating, detective?”

“Nothing yet, I’m just remarking on the facts as they appear.”

“Then would you kindly let me finish before you begin your accusations?”

“I’m not accusing you of anything, Mr Carling, please continue.”

“Hmph. Well, I stood outside the door with my hand raised above the handle, but I couldn’t go in. I knew that I’d caught her but I couldn’t will myself to enter that bedroom and face her. I suppose…I don’t know! I knew that if I saw her in that situation then our marriage was over! I didn’t want to have to admit that…”

“I see…then what did you do?”

“I turned around and I left the house.”

“Do you remember what time that was?”

“I left work just after nine-thirty and arrived home at about ten-fifteen. I left the house probably ten minutes later.”

“Where did you go?”

“I don’t really know, I just got into my car and drove around. There was too much going on in my mind, I barely remember any of the places I drove to.”

“Barely is not completely, so could you please tell me the places you remember?”

“Erm…I drove back towards my place of work. I suppose that was by force of habit. Then, erm, I carried on into the city. I remember passing Marble Arch…later on I drove past the Stoop in Twickenham. That’s all I remember.”

“Can anyone vouch for you? Anyone who may have seen you?”

“I don’t know! Umpteen thousands of tourists, maybe! Like I said, I didn’t know where I was going! Although…I did stop at service station and buy a sandwich…I think it was near Gatwick…then I just drove and drove until I ended up back at the house.”

“Okay, we can have our staff check into that, thank you. What time did you return home, Mr Carling?”

“It was nearly half-past three. I remember looking at my watch and wondering how the time had flown.”

“Alright, then what happened?”

“Well, I was still in a bit of a daze, although by that point it may have been because of my illness. I’d calmed down a great deal, though, and I felt ready to talk to Jacqueline.”

“Mhmm. What next?”

“I took out my keys and walked to the front door. I remember thinking that it was odd that it was ajar, but I put that down to my state of mind when I’d let in the morning. That was when I saw the footprints…the bloody footprints.”

“Go on, Mr Carling. Please.”

“I…stared at them…it was as if my mind wasn’t working. I followed the prints backwards, across the hallway and up the stairs. There were…smears…on the banister and on the walls. I followed them to my bedroom door and…and…”

“I know this must be difficult, Mr Carling, please take your time.”

“Thank you…I approached my bedroom, seeing bloody handprints on the opposite wall, and I felt cold. I was so frightened…I pushed open the door…that’s when I saw the body.”

“What did you see, Mr Carling? Your first thoughts, please.”

“I saw…golden hair matted with blood…a torso lying on the floor with legs still in the bed…I saw blue eyes staring out at me, accusing me…”

“Was there anything else you noticed about the crime scene? Anything at all, this is very important.”

“I…I saw the bat…”

“The bat?”

“Yes…I bought a baseball bat and kept it under the bed…for protection…it was lying on the carpet covered in…Christ, remembering it makes me want to vomit!”

“Thank you, Mr Carling, we’ll move on now. How long was it before you called the police?”

“Hmm? Oh, possibly five minutes, no more than ten. I just couldn’t take my eyes from the body…it sickened me but I couldn’t look away…that strong, athletic frame drenched in blood…”

“I see. Well, I believe that is all we require from you for now, Mr Carling. We will contact you if we need any further information. Unfortunately, your house is still a crime scene so I will ask that you do not return there for the time being. Is there a relative or a friend you can stay with?”

“Yes…my brother lives at the other side of town. About half an hour’s drive from here.”

“That’s good. Feel free to use our phone to contact him. We will-“

“Detective, what about Jacqueline? I…I can’t believe that she…”

“I have my best officers out there looking for her, Mr Carling, we’ll find her. In the meantime I’m going to have another officer escort you to your destination and remain nearby. We can’t be too careful at this stage.”

“I understand…thank you, detective.”

“You’re welcome, Mr Carling, and thank you for your cooperation.”

 

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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/Death Vision

Today’s story prompt was provided by JustAnotherTeenager over at Solitary Haven. The prompt was to write about characters who know that they are going to die, but not how they will die. I thought this was quite an interesting one so I dived right in. I ended up gravitating towards a fantasy story this time, which I’m always happy to to be writing. Thanks, Teenager! 🙂

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

P.S. If anyone would like to suggest a prompt for me to use in the coming weeks, please feel free to let me know via the comments section. I am using any and all prompts, so don’t be shy!

P.P.S. I currently have enough prompts lined up for four more weeks, so don’t be dismayed if I don’t use one of yours right away. I will get round to it, I’ve got a list and everything!

 

Death Vision

By Adam Dixon

“I remember the day you were born like it was yesterday,” the old man said, his rheumy eyes misting over. “You certainly gave your mother a hard time! Ten hours of labour and nothing the witch-doctor did seemed to make you want to hurry up! Ah, but you were always a stubborn one!”

“That’s great, dad, now will you give me a hand, please?” The young woman was painting an intricate warding spell on one of the bare walls of the small room. The paint was blood red and bold against the grey plaster. The old man sighed and placed the jug of water he was carrying on the windowsill. He leaned down and picked up a brush, completing the warding with ease. The room was not ventilated and the pungent, nauseating smell of the paint was strong. It didn’t help that it was so warm in the room, either, and the old man began to feel dizzy. The woman regarded the warding and nodded, brushing a loose strand of blond hair from her eyes.

“Great, thank you!” she said with relief. “You always had a better eye for these things than me.”

“Your mother taught me the difficult ones,” the man replied, rubbing the small of his back. The woman poured herself a glass of water and drained a huge gulp through a straw before picking up her paintbrush again.

“I’m going to miss you, Jennifer,” the old man said, his eyes brimming with tears. “I wish it didn’t have to be today.”

“Dad, it doesn’t!” Jennifer turned on the old man. She had a wild look in her eyes borne of desperation and determination. “I’m not going to die today, stuff what the doctor says!”

“Jennifer, I know it’s hard to accept,” the old man said, resting his hands gently on her shoulders. “Believe me, your mother and I barely accepted it ourselves, but the witch-doctor is never wrong. He tasted your blood the day you were born and we’ve known ever since. Why fight it?”

“Why not?” Jennifer retorted, glaring at her father. “I can do so much good in the world, so why shouldn’t I try to stay alive? Because some blood-drunk freak had a vision twenty-four years ago?”

“That’s exactly why, Jennifer, and you know it!” the old man said. “The witch-doctor’s Death Vision is never wrong, and it’s been that way for centuries! In a way, it’s a blessing to know when our lives are due to be over, that’s what your mother always said.”

“Yes and you didn’t try to save her either,” Jennifer said, shrugging off his hands and returning to her painting. The old man stared at her, deeply hurt.

“Your mother knew that her time was near, just like I did,” he said, his voice quivering. “We knew since the day we first met, but that didn’t change anything. In fact, she always said that it encouraged her to enjoy every day as much as she could. I was grateful to know that she wouldn’t suffer the indignities of age, something which you ought to be grateful for as well.”

“Well I’m not,” Jennifer replied, dabbing at her new warding. It was a powerful one, the strongest defensive spell she knew. “I want to grow old, I want to have that chance. Anyway, mum didn’t know the exact day like I do. You don’t know the exact day you’re expected to die, either!”

“That’s down to your rare blood type, my darling” the old man said, smiling. “It’s as if the universe singled you out as someone special and allowed the witch-doctor to be more precise! Come on, Jennifer, please don’t be like this. I…don’t want my last memory of you to be of us having an argument.”

“Dad, it’s not going to be your last!” Jennifer said in exasperation. The old man looked at his feet, his face the picture of misery. After a few minutes of listening to Jennifer muttering to herself, he approached her and pulled her into an embrace.

“Goodbye, my darling,” he said, smiling through his tears. “Be at one with Our Magic again, and I will join you soon.” Jennifer dropped the paintbrush, splashing her leg with red paint as she hugged him back. She broke down and began sobbing in earnest.

“Oh, dad, I love you,” she whispered. “But I’m not going anywhere without a fight!” The old man rubbed his weathered cheek against her smooth one, savouring her warmth and the wetness of their mingling tears. He pulled away and cupped her face with his hand, nodding and gazing into her eyes.

“I love you too, Butterfly,” he said. “I’ll be with you and your mother again soon.” Jennifer squeezed his hands tight and stepped back, drying her eyes on her sleeve.

“You’d better leave now, anyway,” she said quietly. “I’m about to set up a Circle and I don’t want you to get hurt.” The old man nodded again and moved towards the door. He shuffled past the threshold and took a lingering look at Jennifer as she began sprinkling a large sack of herbs around the room. She glanced up and winked at him.

“See you tomorrow, dad.” Her smile was weak. The old man smiled back sadly and closed the door. He sighed and leaned his back against it, suddenly feeling older than ever. Knowing that the day had been coming for years didn’t make it easy now that it had arrived. He stood listening to Jennifer casting spells and chanting incantations until the light faded. He fought the desire to enter the room and keep her company, warding spells be damned. But he did not. He became dimly aware of his knees aching and of his back sliding down the door frame…

He awoke sitting on the cold wooden floor with his knees bent and his joints as stiff as a rusty bike chain. He groaned and heard bone and cartilage creak and scrape together as he struggled to get up. His knees, hips and back cracked as he stood, dragging a rare expletive from his lips. He rubbed his body, fuming at its betrayal and thanking the universe for his wife’s early death. The thought stopped him in his tracks. He turned and faced the door, his heart heavy as he noted the silence behind it. He turned the handle and pushed it open, knowing what he would see. The room was colder than it had been the night before, and the stench of paint was gone. Lying in the centre of a huge circle of herbs, salt and animal bones was his Butterfly. Jennifer was dead.

The old man approached the corpse slowly, paying no mind to the crunch of the scattered detritus as he stepped on them. They were useless anyway, the spells would have died with the user. A mixture of scents assaulted his nose, some bitter, some sweet and others sour, but he barely noticed them. He fell to his knees, ignoring the fresh, angry waves of pain which lashed out from his bones. He looked at Jennifer’s beautiful, pale face and noted with relief that there was no trace of pain etched into her features. He hadn’t wanted her to suffer. He glanced over to the jug of water he had brought her the night before and saw that it was empty. He nodded.

“You drank it all,” he said, smoothing Jennifer’s hair from her face. “Good girl. I hoped you would do…it would have made it quicker.” He knelt over Jennifer’s body and gazed at her through hot tears.

“I love you, Butterfly.” he said. He took comfort in the fact that he wouldn’t live past the end of the year and so would have very little time before he joined her. He didn’t regret what he had done; the witch-doctor’s prediction had been fulfilled and everything was correct in the universe. Just as it had always been.

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 5

Day 5 is here! With it comes my next prompt from Kate, and once again it is a brilliant one. Today’s word is “EFFERVESCENT”. You probably reacted the same way I did: a raised eyebrow accompanied by an appreciative nod. An excellent suggestion which stumped me for a little while. An idea formed once I decided to think slightly outside the proverbial box, and a sinister little narrative formed in my head.

So, consider that a brief disclaimer. THIS ONE IS DARK! Based on true events, too.

Here’s what I came up with.

EFFERVESCENT

By Adam Dixon

It’s just like the fizz from a glass of champagne, that’s all. John tried to fix that thought into his head as he continued pouring and the hissing filled his ears. Yes, just like champagne. The lovely, crisp bubbles that make it such a wonderful drink. What’s that word that fellow from the golf club used to describe it? That’s right, ‘effervescent’. Capital word, that one. I must use it more often! Beastly chap, though. Must avoid him in the future…

John continued holding the image in his mind as the noise from the within the oil drum intensified. It served the dual purpose of distracting him from what he was doing as well as motivating him to keep going. Think of the bubbly, John old boy, that’s the ticket! He also daydreamed of the next few meetings at Cheltenham and Ascot, and he noted that it wouldn’t be long until the Derby came around again, either. He could almost smell the cigarette smoke in the stalls, almost hear the excited babbling of the commentator and the thundering of hooves…

Eventually, the smell became unbearable and John was forced to vacate his workshop. The putrid odour of burning flesh had crept past the barrier of his gas mask, stinging his nostrils and making him heave. At least he’d finished pouring the acid this time; he was certainly becoming very efficient with his tasks. This time it had all been so easy! Well, practice makes perfect, Haigh old boy! John smirked behind the mask and moved away from the drum, scooping up the valuables he had liberated from the corpse. Mrs Durand-Deacon had certainly been a decadent old crone; he held in his hands three jewel-encrusted gold rings, a beautiful pearl necklace and a Persian lamb fur coat. He had, of course, relieved her purse of its contents as well and to the merry tune of several pound notes and a handful of shillings. A fine haul, indeed!

John placed his hoard into his attaché case before straightening up and steeling himself for his final task. He marched back to the drum and picked up its heavy lid. He paused for a moment, taking a final look upon the old widow. With her ludicrous hair style and claw-like false nails, Olive Durand-Deacon looked as ridiculous in death as she had done in life as far as John was concerned. He was aware of the strange new fashion trends which had sprung up once the war was over, but he couldn’t see that particular one catching on. People had better things to spend their money on, what with rationing still in place! Better things, like champagne…

John curled his lip contemptuously before slamming the lid down. He dusted his hands off, enjoying the squeak his rubber gloves made as he did so. He’d return in two days and poor, dotty Olive would be just a drum of sludge, waiting to be poured onto the adjoining patch of ground outside his workshop. The rains would then come and wash away every last trace of her. He’d try to make the money last a bit longer this time; he had gotten rather reckless with the capital he’d gained from the deaths of the Hendersons…

John unlocked the doors to his workshop and strode out into the street, pulling his mask off and breathing in deep lung-fulls of the chilly February air. The air cooled the sweat on his brow and the damp patches under his arms; moving the old crone had been hard work despite her short stature. Moving the dead weights was always the most strenuous part. He stood for a moment, ridding the smell of the burning woman from his nostrils and methodically removing his gloves and apron. As he did this he thought about all the places he would be visiting shortly with Durand-Deacon’s money in his pocket. First and foremost, he would be paying his pawnbroker a call. The rings alone ought to fetch a fine price! John thought gleefully. He’d checked them once he was out in the light to make sure that he hadn’t damaged them; he had been forced to pry them from the dead woman’s swollen fingers with his teeth. They were perfectly alright, sparkling gaily in the meagre winter sun. John smiled and walked to his car, whistling a merry tune as he did so. My thanks to you, dear departed Olive! John thought as he started the engine. I’ll raise a toast to your memory very soon! With that, John stepped on the accelerator and drove back in the direction of London, feeling very pleased with his afternoon’s work.

 

A – Z Challenge Day 3

Third day of the April Challenge already! Blimey, I think it ought to slow down a bit!

Today’s word was once again provided by the wonderful Kate, and the word is “CONCUBINE”. Again, this is a great suggestion and not at all what I was expecting as a prompt, but it began to spark ideas in my brain almost right away. The idea which caught the kindling was that of ancient Greece and their penchant for concubines, and I was able to coax it into a blaze.

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

CONCUBINE

By Adam Dixon

Cassandra stood at the foot of the marble steps leading up to the palace, closing her eyes to better feel the breeze on her skin. She tilted her head back, enjoying its cool fingers caressing her hair. It had been a long journey from Troy and she was grateful to be back on dry land. She had had some misgivings about travelling to Mycanae, and her main concern had been its queen. Queen Clytemnestra had been awaiting the return of King Agamemnon, and she would surely not be pleased to learn that her husband would be bringing home another woman. Cassandra was Agamemnon’s concubine and had borne him twin sons during the Trojan campaign, but she was essentially just a trophy. Worrying over the queen’s reaction to the news had given Cassandra dozens of sleepless nights during their voyage and she had prayed to all the gods of Olympus that they give her the courage to face her. However, to her great surprise Clytemnestra seemed to already know about her. She welcomed Cassandra to Mycanae warmly and immediately offered her a place to bathe before the feast. Cassandra had been taken aback and had declined with what she hoped was the proper degree of humility. She had remained behind as the King was escorted inside his palace, preferring to collect herself before following him.

As she stood enjoying the breeze, she began to feel as if she were being watched. She opened her eyes and saw a tall, lithe man leaning against a pillar not ten feet from where she stood, staring at her with an unsettling look on his face. Cassandra felt her skin crawl and she cleared her throat loudly before turning towards him. She did not know him, but she recognised him by his description; his cold blue eyes, hooked nose and curled blond hair marked him as Aegisthus, the former ruler of Mycenae. Cassandra wondered why he was there in the first place, since Agamemnon and his brother had jointly forced Aegisthus from the throne years before.

“Good day to you, my lord,” Casssandra said nervously, bowing her head slightly. “I do apologise, I thought I was alone.”

“No apology is necessary, my lady,” Aegisthus replied coolly, his eyes gliding along Cassandra’s hips and thighs. “I am merely taking some air before the celebrations begin. You are the King’s prize, are you not?”

Cassandra frowned and adjusted her robe. She disliked having his eyes all over her, it made her feel unclean.

“I suppose I am at that, my lord,” she answered curtly, hoping she didn’t sound too brusque. Her grip on the politics of Mycenae was slight and she didn’t know how powerful this man was. She would tread carefully.

“To the victor go the spoils,” Aegisthus quoted with a sneer. He stood up straight and flexed his fingers. Cassandra had been around soldiers enough to recognise it as a pre-combat technique, performed almost without thought.

“Tell me,” Aegisthus stepped towards Cassandra, a terrible gleam in his eyes. “Are the rumours surrounding you true? Are you truly a Seer?” Cassandra took a step backwards, moving away from the stairs and back towards the shaded garden.

“They are…my lord,” she said hesitantly. “Mother Hera gifted me with Foresight, although its usefulness has been overstated, I fear.”

“Curious…” Aegisthus took another step closer, scratching at his chin thoughtfully. “I heard that your Talent is often ignored, and at the detriment of those who do so. Is that true also?” Cassandra grew fearful at this line of questioning, and attempted to change the subject.

“So, the King prepares for his feast,” she stammered, looking down at her sandals. “It promises to be a great event, with no expenses spared by the Queen on food and wine.”

“Hmm? Oh…yes,” Aegisthus seemed irritated by the deflection. “The Queen intends to provide a welcome which the King will never forget. It will go down in history, mark my words!” He gave a low chuckle which chilled Cassandra to the bone. As she stood wondering what to say next, a Vision sprung upon her without warning. As though through a blood-tainted window, Cassandra saw the King emerging naked from his bath with Clytemnestra holding a towel nearby. As Agamemnon steps forward, Clytemnestra tosses the towel over the King’s head. The King roars in surprise, for the towel has been weighted down at its corners, blinding and trapping him. A heartbeat later, Aegisthus runs forward from behind a screen wielding a sword which he plunges into the King’s chest. Agamemnon’s screams echoed in Cassandra’s ears and the present world flashed back into sight, the Vision leaving her weak and breathless. She fell to her knees, gasping and looking up at Aegisthus in horror. The man watched her, his smiling growing ever wider as Cassandra’s fear rose like a black flower in her heart.

“Guards!” She spluttered hoarsely. “Guards, help! A traitor is among us! Protect the King!” Aegisthus descended the stairs in four quick leaps and struck Cassandra hard with his fist. She fell onto her back and the world swam as her mouth filled with blood.

“It’s too late, my little whore!” Aegisthus snarled, wiping his knuckles on his tunic. “The events are already in motion and you cannot stop them! Enjoy your last moments whilst you can, for the Queen has plans for you!” He spat in Cassandra’s face before bounding back up the stairs and disappearing into the palace.

Cassandra groaned and struggled to sit up. Her vision was blurred and her limbs were weakened from her Vision. She attempted to call the guards again, but her voice would not obey her. She wept bitterly as she realised that nobody would believe her anyway. Nobody ever believed her…

Minutes later a cry of alarm was raised within the palace, and then the fighting began.

A Dangerous Man

A Dangerous Man

By Adam Dixon

 

Cold swamp water splashed and rippled as the angel fought against his bonds. It was useless; the spells etched into the chains around his wrists were ancient and beyond his power to overcome. His arms were stretched out and the chains were tied to strong trees on either side of the bank; he could feel his tendons stretching to near breaking point. His wings were broken, his feathers matted with blood. He recognised the area and knew that he was somewhere in New Orleans, Louisiana. He looked up at the figure crouching at the bank.

“What can you possibly gain from doing this, human?” he asked, his voice still strong despite his treatment. “Binding and torturing an angel of the Lord is not something a wise man should attempt!”

“I’m not a wise man, angel. I’m a dangerous man,” the figure responded in a gruff voice. “Acknowledge the difference and despair.” He chuckled at his remark, sounding pleased with himself. He stood up and a long coat settled around him like a shroud. He was a short man with broad shoulders and large, thick hands. In the near-darkness not a lot could be observed, but the angel could make out greying hair and the glint of a pair of spectacles on his nose. The angel could sense the dark power emanating from the man, it distorted the air and clung to him like tar.

“You have kept me here for two full days,” said the angel. “Is there something you seek to accomplish by binding me so? I demand to know the reason for my imprisonment!”

The man on the bank regarded the angel for a few moments, before pulling a revolver from one of his coat pockets. In a quick, fluid motion, he cocked the barrel and fired. The angel cried out in pain as the bullet smashed into his left shoulder. Blood splattered across his face and he moaned as the muscle beneath tore from the tension. Sinews stretched and ligaments groaned audibly. He gasped and clenched his teeth as he fought the darkness creeping into his vision.

“You’re in no position to make demands, angel,” the man replied, cocking the revolver again. “I suggest you get that into your thick skull, or you will regret it.”

“Why are you doing this?” the angel cried, his voice wavering. For two days he had kept his resolve firm, safe in the knowledge that his prayers would be answered and his escape would be assured, but now it was beginning to crack.

“Curiosity,” the man replied. “I already know how to kill you, but where’s the fun in that? I wanted to experiment a little, figure out what makes you squirm.” The man grinned in the darkness.

“The Lord Almighty is not without mercy, human,” the angel said, trying to fight the fear that gripped him. “If you release me now and repent, you may yet save your soul.” The man threw his head back and laughed. The sound echoed through the swamp, bouncing off the trees in nightmarish cacophony.

“Now that’s funny!” the man said. “Really, that’s rich! Thanks, but my soul is beyond saving, no matter how forgiving your God may be. Personally, he can shove his forgiveness where the sun don’t shine, ‘cos I’ve stabbed, shot and strangled my way through the last thirty years and I’m not planning on stopping soon. Oh, it’s been so much fun!” The man laughed again, uncocking his revolver and spinning it on his finger.

“I’ve killed more people than I can count; I gave up trying years ago. But unfortunately, being untouchable started to get a bit stale after a while.” He stopped spinning his revolver and jammed it back into his coat. The angel could almost feel the fire coming from the man’s eyes, and he barely suppressed a shudder.

“You saw something when I touched you, angel.” The man sounded excited. “When I held your wrists to put the chains on, you groaned in your sleep and your eyes flickered. You saw something about me, didn’t you? What was it? Tell me!” The angel shuddered and lowered his head.

“I saw…visions,” he said, narrowing his eyes. “They contained you…grappling with the monstrous denizens of the night, and killing them…occult females with fire in their hands and blackness in their hearts…spectral beings and fanged men…” His eyes widened and his head shot up. “What is this, human? What in the name of the Almighty have you been doing?”

“Expanding my targets!” the man said, his voice feverish with glee. “I needed to find the thrill from killing that I’d lost, and lemme tell ya, it’s worked a treat!” He broke off, laughing and clapping his hands together.

“That’s where you come in, my feathery friend!” he continued. “You’re the jackpot I’ve been working towards! The big prize, wrapped up and all mine!” The angel began to tremble in his bonds. He could sense the twisted glee within the man and his heart grew cold with fright.

“Oh, human,” the angel whispered. “How low the Devil has brought you in his unclean grasp…”

“Let’s get one thing crystal clear…” the man’s voice had an unpleasant edge to it. There was a small splash as he leapt nimbly into the fetid swamp. The angel watched with rising panic as the man waded steadily towards him. The ooze stained the man’s dark coat as it rose above his waist. As he moved closer, three alligators who had been sampling the strange blood in their waters fled the area in terror. The man stood before the angel, the moon reflecting faintly in the lenses of his spectacles. He reached into his coat and withdrew a thin cylindrical object. Slipping one hand behind the angel’s neck he stepped in very close; it was like an embrace between lovers. The angel gasped in pain as the man pressed the object against his lower abdomen. It was sharp, oh so sharp!

“The Devil has no power over me, angel,” the man rasped, staring into the angel’s terrified eyes. He pressed harder and the sharp object pierced the angel’s flesh. He screamed in pain and a wild look of understanding passed over his face.

“You have it! This cannot be!” he stammered, horrified. “You possess the Holy Lance!” The man chuckled and looked down at the object in his right hand. It was the remnants of an ancient lance, the wooden shaft darkened with age but the bronze point still wickedly sharp. It slid from the angel’s skin smoothly, and he admired the blood which trickled down it in crimson rivers.

“Yes, the fabled Holy Lance,” he said with amusement. “Also known as the Spear of Destiny, if you’re feeling dramatic. Or even Lancea Longini, if you’re feeling pretentious.” He cackled and pushed the blade back into the angel’s side. The creature roared in agony, struggling desperately against his chains.

“How?” the angel asked through gritted teeth. “The Lance has been hidden and guarded for a millennia! How have you come to possess it, mortal?”

“Let’s just say that I gave its guardian a compelling reason to give it up,” the man said, a maniacal gleam in his eyes. He drove the spear-point even further into the angel, who gave an ear-splitting screech. Drenched in sweat and breathing laboriously, the dying creature raised his head to glare at his tormentor.

“God damn you, mortal,” he spat, fury clearly visible along with the horror in his eyes. The man grinned once again, his pink tongue darting across his lips.

“God can’t touch me, angel,” he whispered in his ear. “Nobody can.” With that, he withdrew the Lance from the angel’s side and buried it in his chest. The angel’s scream was unearthly in pitch and volume, causing the very air around them to hum and vibrate. A brilliant white light shone forth from his torso and illuminated the swamp. It lasted perhaps two seconds before it faded, leaving the man blinking. A rainbow of colours danced before his eyes in an aura surrounding the angel’s body. Once it had dissipated, he withdrew the bloodied Lance and stepped back to admire his handiwork. The angel’s wings had vanished, the skin on his shoulder blades was seared black and the smell of burnt flesh stung the man’s nostrils.

“Hmmm, now that’s interesting,” he muttered. He used the Lance to lift the angel’s face and studied it for a moment. It was odd how human it looked in death; it looked like any of the hundreds of men he had extinguished. He felt a little bit disappointed, but his excitement was so intense that he didn’t care.

“I definitely have to kill some more of these guys,” he said with glee. “I haven’t felt a rush like that in decades!” He chuckled and let the angel’s head fall. Reaching into another pocket he pulled out a golden key and unlocked the chains around its wrists. The angel fell into the water and floated away, face down. Wading back to the bank, the man pocketed the Holy Lance and began humming to himself. As he walked off into the night, the alligators slipped back into the water and swam towards the offered meal.

 

 

Fair Emma

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.

No response. Jackie glanced up the street in both directions. Satisfied that there was not another soul nearby, she knocked again, more firmly this time.

“Mary, let me in!” She called, her voice just above a whisper. She hesitated when she heard no movement from within.

“Come on, Ginger, let me in.” ’Ginger’ was the pet name affectionately given to the house’s occupant by the other working women, so Jackie was fairly confident that using it would help. Sure enough, soft footsteps approached the door and the coat draped across the broken window pane twitched. A moment later the door was opened, and Mary stood peering out uncertainly, dressed in her nightclothes. Mary blinked in surprise as she registered who it was.

“Oh, it’s you, Jackie! My, what a surprise you gave me! I though you was that drunk fella comin’ back! What brings you here at this time? Come in, come in.” She stepped to one side, allowing Jackie to stride past the threshold. It was dark inside, as there was only one candle lit. Once inside, Jackie turned to face Mary, who was bolting the door. The bolt was on the outside of the house, and Mary was reaching through the broken window pane to draw it. Jackie took a moment to study her. Also known as “Fair Emma” by her clients, Mary was young, attractive and buxom. She had fallen into poverty and then onto the streets for a living because life was cruel and uncaring. Jackie certainly didn’t care; it was like that for everybody, and it was only work, after all.

“Don’t mind me, love. Can’t be too careful these days, can we?” Mary offered, fiddling with the bolt. “Not after those poor girls have been done over, God have mercy on ‘em.”

“No, we certainly can’t.” Jackie replied, and casually removed the long knife from inside her cloak. She held it loose in her right hand, her intense stare fixed at the back of Mary’s head. The woman chattered on in her charming Irish way as she struggled with the rusty bolt, but Jackie just let the noise wash over her in a muffled haze. She could see a good section of Mary’s neck exposed as she leaned over with her head cocked to one side. The pale, recently-cleaned skin seemed to call to her, and she could almost smell the blood rushing through the veins and arteries within. Her breathing became shallower and her eyes glazed over. Her knife hand twitched, and she began to creep forwards.

“Oh, this bleedin’ thing!” Mary huffed, quite frustrated with her lack of success. “I’ll have the landlord’s guts for this! How’s a woman ‘sposed to feel safe in her own home, I ask you?”

Jackie didn’t answer, but took another step towards her. Her free hand reached out and hovered just behind Mary’s left ear. So close, thought Jackie, her excitement reaching almost painful heights. She edged closer still…

“There!” Mary declared triumphantly, standing up straight as she slammed the bolt home. She planted her hands on her hips, a satisfied grin on her face.

“Nice and safe now! No wrong-un’s gettin’ in ‘ere tonight, eh, Jackie?” She chuckled at the joke and turned around. Her eyes widened as Jackie’s hand clamped around her mouth and the raised knife fell.

Two hours later, Jackie staggered through the dark streets of London, her rapture so intense that it made her unsteady. She leaned against a brick wall in an alley for a moment, trying to collect her dazed thoughts. She was dimly aware that the clothes she was wearing were not her own. That’s right, she thought dreamily, these are Mary’s clothes…I burned mine as fuel for the grate; there wasn’t enough light…. Just as well, considering all the blood. Oh, but she had been brutal! She didn’t know why she had gone so far this time, as Mary was no different from the previous women. Perhaps it was because this time it had been private, with no chance of a witness and no chance of being disturbed? Or perhaps it was simply because Mary was young and attractive, and life had not yet succeeded in dampening her good spirits. Possibly. It didn’t matter, regardless, Mary was dead and the beast within Jackie was slumbering once again, satisfied with another active night.

Jackie wondered what the newspapers would make of the attack once Mary was discovered. It would be one hell of a story, and the press would undoubtedly link it to the string of recent murders around London. Jackie giggled as she thought of how close they had come with their headlines before, but that their misconception would ensure her safety. As far as London was concerned, the monstrous Jack the Ripper will have claimed another life and was still at large. Jackie straightened and walked briskly through the morning mist. Oh yes, the Ripper had indeed been hunting that night, and she had loved every second of it.

A Selfish Thing to Do

A Selfish Thing to Do

By Adam Dixon

 

  I peered through my binoculars at the house on the hill. It was a simple detached house with large front windows through which I could see the old woman. She was as I remembered her from the previous week: white haired, bespectacled and bent almost double from arthritis. She was wearing a similar dated floral dress with a grey cardigan over it. I watched her impassively for a few minutes, observing her movements around the house. She got out of her straight-backed leather chair and tottered off into the kitchen to make a cup of tea; I could almost hear the creaking of her joints as she did so. She then resumed her place on her chair, and once I was satisfied that she would remain there I put my binoculars down and picked up my rifle.

I marked the old woman through the telescopic sight and adjusted the elevation knobs accordingly. She was just over two hundred yards away, and there was only a slight breeze ruffling my hair as I lay there and took aim. Conditions were almost perfect. I waited whilst the woman drank her tea; there was no reason to rush. Once she had placed her cup on her table I squeezed the trigger. The muffled rifle coughed and the bullet punched through the glazed windows effortlessly. The old woman jerked back in her chair, green upholstery turning crimson in an instant. Her head fell forwards onto her chest, almost as if she had fallen asleep. Satisfied, I stood up and began disassembling my rifle. My final target was dead.

I returned to the Institution later that afternoon. I relinquished my equipment to the reception staff and strode calmly through the corridors. After a few minutes walking I reached the door to the holding cell. It was reinforced and painted an emotionless white, just like the walls surrounding me. After punching in the security code I let myself in. The original target was slumped over at a table, flanked by two guards dressed in black suits. I nodded to them briefly, and without a word they exited the room. After a few moments of complete silence, the man raised his head to look at me. He was a short man in his forties, with a bulbous nose and a receding hairline. His face was haggard and there was torment in his eyes. That was good.

“They’re all dead.” I said, answering his unvoiced question. The man whimpered and squeezed his eyes shut, covering his face with his hands. Wretched sobs began to wrack his body as he sat there, and I simply watched him with disinterest.

“Why?” He managed to croak, his hands still shielding his eyes.

“You know very well why,” I said, slightly irritated by the question. “They had to die because you made a scene in that café last week and drew attention to yourself and me. If you had simply stood up and co-operated, this business could have been handled with the desired tact and discretion. You know how the Institution operates; we couldn’t risk any of those civilians recognising us at a later date.” I paused for a moment, letting my words sink in.

“I’m sure you will agree,” I continued. “That it was a selfish thing to do on your part. Their blood is on your hands.”

“Fuck you!” The man slammed his fists onto the table, glaring at me through tear-filled eyes. “I didn’t kill them! That was you, you cold-hearted murderer! There were children in that cafe!”

“Yes, four of them,” I replied matter-of-factly. “There were also three pensioners present, as well as the families of said children. A total of eleven civilians as collateral damage due to your outburst.”

“What was I supposed to do, just leave with you and let you kill me?!” The man spluttered, waving his arms about. I sighed at the moronic question.

“Yes, Mr. Clarke, that is precisely what you were supposed to do. However, because you decided to create a spectacle out of it, those unfortunate witnesses had to be silenced, and at great inconvenience to myself, I might add.” I allowed myself a token smile. “However, eleven targets within a week is something of a record in the Institution, I believe. Perhaps I should be grateful for the challenge.”

The man stared at me, incomprehension slapped across his red, snot-covered face.

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