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…

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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 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.