Aiden’s Decision #Fortnightly Fiction

Hi everyone. Here is my latest story for my new feature, “Fortnightly Fiction”. Now, before any of you smart arses point it out, I am aware that it’s been more than a fortnight since my last story. The reason for that is that my organisation skills are terrible! I am working on that, though, so please bear with me for the time being. I’ll get back to forming a proper writing schedule once I’ve finished giving myself the required lashes.

This prompt came from the lovely Ruth over at Image & Word , and it was a tough one. In short, it was:

‘What kind of man walks out on his newborn son?’

Wow. I knew this one would be difficult to write but I gave it my best shot. I hope I’ve handled this delicate subject with due care and sympathy. Thank you, Ruth, for providing me with such a challenging and thought-provoking prompt.

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

P.S. If you would like to get involved and offer me a story prompt to use in the future, please feel free to do so in the comments section.

 

Aiden’s Decision

By Adam Dixon

 

The grey day matched Aiden’s mood. He was sat in a cramped aisle of Victoria Coach Station with strangers and their suitcases stacked either side of him. Club-footed pigeons hopped about underneath his seat, as much a part of the scenery as the bland walls. The mingled smells of sweat, dust and stale pastries hung in the air; it never changed.

Aiden had tried to avoid looking at his reflection in the grimy windows. He didn’t want to be reminded of how wrinkled his brow was, or how his hair was turning grey. Aiden sighed and tried to stretch out his legs. He kicked a garish purple suitcase by accident and murmured an apology to the woman sitting next to him.

“Oh no, it was my fault!” the woman said, her plump cheeks reddening as she dragged her suitcase aside. “I should’ve watched where I was puttin’ it! My old mum always said I didn’t have no death perception!” The woman laughed, and Aiden gave a pained smirk at her mistake. He wondered which of them was the stupid cow who got that wrong. As the woman settled back into her seat she glanced over again.

“You’re travelling light,” she said, indicating Aiden’s lack of luggage. Aiden nodded. The woman’s smile faltered, but she pressed on.

“Goin’ all the way?” she asked cheerfully.

“Yeah, I’ve got friends in Aberdeen,” Aiden replied. Not that it’s any of your business, he almost added. The woman sighed in appreciation.

“Oh, I love Aberdeen!” she said, showing the dimples on her cheeks as she smiled. “My old mum came from there, an’ we used to pop back to visit my auntie. You by yourself?” The woman looked around expectantly.

“Yes,” Aiden said, feeling his eye throb. “I’m alone because I walked out on my girlfriend today.”

Aiden felt a glow of satisfaction as the woman’s face registered his words with shock. Her mouth fell open and Aiden folded his arms and turned away from her. His smug delight was momentary, and he soon returned to his stupor.

As he sat, he replayed parts of the earlier phone call he had had with his sister. Suzie had been livid.

“Are you fucking mental?” Suzie had screeched. Aiden had winced and held the receiver at an arms-length.

“No, Suze, I’m not,” he had replied firmly. “I’ve been thinking about this for a long time.”

“But, Ade, why now? What about your son?” Suzie had demanded. Aiden had closed his eyes and groaned in the confines of the phone box.

His son.

“I…I can’t do it, Suze,” he had stammered, bracing himself against the plastic window with a trembling arm. “I thought I could but…I can’t.” Suzie had fallen silent, and Aiden’s scalp had prickled with sweat.

“You’re not like him, Ade,” Suzie had said at last. “You’re nothing like him.”

“But what if I am?” Desperation had lent weight to Aiden’s voice. “You weren’t there when Karen left Mikey with me that afternoon! It was going fine until he spilled his juice on the carpet, then I…I shouted at him, Suze. Just like dad.” Aiden could almost sense Suzie’s shock. He took several deep breaths and wiped the back of his hand across his damp brow.

“That doesn’t mean anything,” Suzie had replied, but she sounded shaken.

“Yes, it does,” Aiden had insisted. “It was the rage, Suze. It was there, just like the old man.” He had lifted his leg and unconsciously stroked the old, puckered scar across the back of his thigh.

“But that still doesn’t mean-“

“And like his dad!” Aiden interrupted, flushed with anger. “There’s a pattern, for fuck’s sake! I won’t let it carry on!”

“But what about Melanie?” Suzie had changed tactics. “She’ll be all alone! Christ, she’s not even named him yet!” Aiden had sighed, scrunching his face tight.

“She’ll be okay, Suze,” he had said.  “She’s got Deb and Jack to help out. They’re not old yet, and they’ll be brilliant grandparents. I’ve left her all my savings, and I’ll send more once I’m settled.”

“And what about me?” Suzie had asked. She was desperate then. “When will I see you again?”

“I don’t know,” Aiden had answered, squeezing the bridge of his nose. “I’m so sorry.”

“Ade,” Suzie’s voice had cracked then, and Aiden’s heart had torn in half. “Ade…don’t do this. It’s not right.” Aiden added two more coins to the machine before he replied.

“I know,” he said, tears leaking from his closed eyes. “But I’m doing what’s best for Mel and the baby. Tell her I’m sorry.”

Aiden was jerked from his reverie by a surge of movement around him; the coach to Aberdeen had arrived. The weary strangers were on their feet, edging forwards to form a haphazard queue by the doors. As Aiden stood, the woman with the purple case barged past him, shooting him a brief, venomous look. Aiden ignored her and pulled his ticket from his pocket before he stepped through the door and into the cold morning air.

The coaches were lined up along the forecourt, grumbling as their engines ticked over. The drivers were frowning as they inspected tickets, apparently eager to be off. You and me both, Aiden thought, but he stopped as he joined with his queue. He was still, one hand holding his ticket as the would-be passengers filed past him. He was shouldered and nudged, but barely registered the muttered apologies offered to him. He stood, staring ahead with his mouth twisted.

What about his son?

Aiden felt as if he stood on a precipice, not the worn tarmac of the coach station. He felt as if he was teetering, that his future hung on a hair’s breadth of space. He thought of Melanie, how she’d still be in recovery and wondering where he was. He thought of the little boy whose face would remain a mystery to him. His body wavered, hanging over the edge.

“’Scuse me, sir!” called a gruff voice. An overweight, bored-looking man in a high-visibility jacket was glaring at him. “You on for Aberdeen?”

Aiden looked at the man, then at the ticket in his hand. He stared at it for several seconds.

“Yeah, one to Aberdeen,” he said at last. The man inspected it with a quick glance and nodded.

“On you get, then,” he said, his expression unchanging. Aiden took a deep breath and climbed on to the coach.

The coach was packed full of people, and the air inside it was close and warm. Aiden sat in the only remaining seat in the centre of the vehicle, next to an old man with a flat cap and faded cords. The man was already snoring, and he smelled strongly of whisky. It seemed that he’d be out for much of the journey, which worked for Aiden. The driver boarded and surveyed his meagre empire with his ever-present frown before squeezing himself behind the steering wheel.

The coach coughed into life and pulled away from the dreary station. A pitiful whimpering broke through the muted chatter. A young woman with red hair was rocking a baby girl in her arms, hushing her softly but to no avail. The baby began to cry in earnest, and several passengers groaned aloud. Aiden sat and listened to the wailing, letting it pierce his heart as well as his ears. Rain began lashing against the windows, mirroring the tears which trickled down Aiden’s cheeks. The coach rolled onwards. He had made his decision.

 

If you would like to get involved in Fortnightly Fiction, please feel free to suggest a prompt in the comments section. I’ll do my best to do your ideas justice!

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com.

Follow me on Twitter @ADixonFiction.

Don’t forget to buy your ticket for The Bloggers Bash on 19th May 2018! For more info, click here

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Chorus #Fortnightly Fiction

Hello, everyone. Today marks the beginning of my new venture, Fortnightly Fiction, in which I will write a short story once every two weeks using a prompt provided from one of my readers. As my explanatory post suggests, I aimed for January and missed, but I’m still making the leap. As most of you know, simply starting is the hardest part!

My first prompt comes from Geoff Le Pard. Geoff apparently wanted to give me a hard time right from the start and so suggested this head-scratcher:

“You wake from a dream in which you are in front of an audience and not wearing any trousers to find you are indeed without trousers. The genre is Greek Tragedy, and the setting is on a cruise ship.”

Right…thanks, Geoff! I do so love a challenge, and so I dived right in. I didn’t quite follow the prompt exactly, but I covered the main points. I had a lot of fun with this one, and although it made me want to tear my hair out at times, it was incredibly enjoyable as an exercise.

Here is my attempt to answer the challenge. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Chorus

By Adam Dixon

 

Gary woke up bathed in sweat as the last vestiges of his dream faded away. He panted as if he really had been running through a garden and he almost checked his ankles for dew droplets.  He felt panicked and exhilarated, but all he could remember was the slapping of his bare feet on the grass and a chill on his legs.

“That bloody dream again,” Gary said, closing his eyes against his hangover. He swung his legs from his bunk and ran a hand through his greying hair. The dream was probably a glimpse of his youth, but he couldn’t remember much about those days. He always woke from it wondering why he hadn’t been wearing any trousers. The gentle rocking of the cruise ship upset his senses as he staggered into the bathroom. His mouth tasted sour, like old whiskey. He glanced in the mirror and noted with distaste the wrinkles gathering around his eyes.

“You’re getting too old for this,” he said.

Gary emerged a few minutes later, wrapped in a towel and cradling his head. Moving hurt and he cursed himself for getting carried away. He pulled on a clean white shirt and hunted for a pair of jeans. He frowned when he couldn’t find any in his wardrobe.

“I could’ve sworn…” Gary turned to look in his suitcase. Still no jeans, and none of his evening trousers were there either. Even his shorts and swimming trunks were missing.

“What the hell?” Gary struggled to order his thoughts. He upturned his suitcase and spilled its contents onto the bed. As he rifled through his clothes, his fingers closed around a piece of paper. It was a note, written in delicate, precise script. It read:

‘Mister Reynolds. I have your belongings. Follow the trinkets from your past.’

Gary stared at the note in confusion. It was then that his hangover Voices spoke up in their shrill, musical tones. They sounded like eager dramatic amateurs.

“Look! The drunkard has made another enemy!”

“Alas, will he ever learn?”

“He deserves no pity!”

“Shut up!” Gary held his temples and forced the Voices into silence. He must’ve told somebody at the bar about his dreams. Fantastic.

Gary emerged from his cabin wearing his towel around his waist. He was relieved that the corridor was empty as he knocked on the opposite door. He’d at least be able to borrow some trousers and save some embarrassment. He put on a charming smile as he waited. There was no noise from behind the door. Gary frowned and knocked louder. Still nothing.

“Must be at breakfast,” Gary said. There was no answer at the next door, nor at the five others he tried afterwards.

“Hasn’t anyone on this ship heard of a lie-in?” As he turned the corner, something glinted. There was a silver flute lying on the navy carpet.

“What the hell?” He was alone and hadn’t heard anyone passing by. The flute was light and cool against his fingers. Gary recalled that he’d gone out with a flute player many years before.

“What was his name, now?” Gary wondered. “Dark hair, mole on his neck, nice legs…” He noticed an engraving on its side and the penny dropped.

“Daniel…” Gary whispered in shock. On the flute was a short message – “Daniel, play like the angel you are.” Daniel’s flute had been a gift from his grandmother. He stared at the instrument.

“How the…” he began but trailed off. His spinning head slowed enough for him to recall a stinging memory. He saw Daniel’s anguished face, one hand outstretched as he strode away from their table. Gary remembered Daniel begging him to reconsider and his heart recoiled from the sudden shame. His Voices chose that moment to return with vigour.

“You were cruel to so crush his hopes!”

“Daniel! Poor, sweet Daniel!”

“The first of many hearts you broke!”

“Shut up!” Gary growled, his anger flaring as he quashed the Voices. He gave the flute a lingering glance before tossing it back onto the carpet. He hadn’t thought of Daniel for twenty-five years and he didn’t appreciate the reminder. Finding a specific flute was too elaborate for a simple prank. Gary began to feel unnerved and started hammering on the next cabins.

Suddenly, one of the doors swung open with a slow creak, revealing the luxury room within. It was large, tasteful and it smelled of clean linen, but it was empty. Gary threw his hands up in frustration, then he noticed something on the bedside. He stepped inside with a feeling of trepidation and saw a golden, heart-shaped locket which glinted in the weak light from the port hole. He recognised it, and ran his fingers across the smooth, aged metal as he tried to place it in his memories. Unclasping it revealed two photographs. One showed an attractive, plump woman with a bright smile and curling hair. The other showed a grey-haired man with dark, brooding eyes and a neat goatee. Gary chuckled as he made the connection.

“Bloody hell, it’s Deb and Luke!” he said. “My god, they were fun! Not the first time I’d slept with a woman to get to her husband, either!” The return of his Voices interrupted Gary’s amusement.

“He prayed on their lust and still he laughs!”

“To cuckold them both…for shame!”

“Not the first defiled union, there were others…”

Gary felt a sudden panic flood his system as a half-formed image entered his mind. It was just a silhouette, but his subconscious screamed at him to stay blind to it. Gary banished the Voices with difficulty and was left staring at the locket with wide eyes.

“Shit…”  An unfamiliar sense of guilt settled in Gary’s stomach. Deb and Luke hadn’t stayed married for long after his interference, and Gary had melted from their lives with his usual ease. He wondered with sadness what had happened to them.

“This is ridiculous!” Gary was suddenly angry. “Where’re my bloody trousers?” He stomped from the cabin and slammed the door. He was breathing hard and he could smell alcohol in his sweat as it trickled down his forehead. It was eerie how empty the corridor was when the ship usually bustled with life. Steeling himself, Gary continued walking.

The corridor stretched on and Gary found himself thinking about the ghosts from his past. Gary didn’t consider himself to be a bad person, but he was uncomfortable with facing those memories. He’d been wild in his younger days, but he was single and comfortably mundane now. He was a maths teacher, for goodness’ sake! He trudged on with his towel gripped tight.

As he neared the end of the corridor, Gary squinted at the final door and approached it with dread trickling through his limbs. Once close, Gary could see that there were two photographs pinned to the door. One showed a young girl of around six with blond hair and a scattering of freckles across her nose. The other showed a woman who could only be her mother, also blond and showing a playful smile. Gary stood with his jaw set, willing his brain to work.

Suddenly, he understood.

“Oh, Christ!” Gary raised his hands to his mouth. Everything made sense now, the trinkets, the slow mosaic of shame, the dream without trousers…

“Layla,” Gary whispered, brushing trembling fingers against the girl’s smiling face. He couldn’t recall her mother’s name, but he had only caught a glimpse of her as he had fled from the bedroom. The startled girl had watched, agape, as he had lumbered through to the back door. In his haste, Gary had dropped his clothes as he had burst into the garden. He had been naked except for this shirt as he had run through the wet grass to make his escape.

“Dean…” Gary said in strangled voice. “Dean Stevenson…” The silhouette he had glimpsed earlier warped into focus in his mind, revealing a handsome, middle-aged man with long black hair and a sad smile. Gary could remember the panicked realisation on Dean’s face as he woke up to find Gary in his bed and his wife returning home from her night shift. True to form, his Voices returned.

“Ah, now he remembers!”

“Yet more debauchery!”

“For shame! Shame!”

The Voices howled like a vengeful chorus, paralysing him. He leaned a hand on the door to steady himself, but it shifted and opened. Gary blinked, fearful of what might lay beyond. There was a figure seated within, draped in darkness. A rhythmic hissing and whooshing sound filled the room.

“Are you…” Gary’s voice was timid. “…my clothes?” There was a scoff from the darkness, and another figure approached.

“Still thinking of yourself? Typical Gary!” the voice was female. Gary remained outside the threshold as a woman stepped into the light of the corridor. She was around twenty-five, tall, blond, and plain, with eyes which seemed older than her years. Gary shuddered as he saw the identifying freckles on her nose.

“Layla…” he croaked.

“We meet again,” Layla sneered. The hatred in her eyes was staggering.

“I… I’m sorry,” Gary offered, hearing the hollowness of his words despite his sincerity.

“Oh, not yet,” Layla replied, stepping back into the shadows. There was a fumbling sound and a bedside lamp illuminated the room. A man in his sixties sat in a wheelchair, his frail body hooked up to a drip, with tubes snaking from an oxygen canister into his nostrils. His dark eyes were orbs of sorrow floating above a dusting of freckles. Gary’s heart froze; it was Dean.

“Dad tried to kill himself after mum left him,” Layla said, her words dripping with malice. “She won custody and he had nothing left.” Layla stroked Dean’s face affectionately, her fingers rasping across his stubble. “The train didn’t kill him, but he may as well have died. He’s been like this for nearly twenty years, and all because of you.” Layla stood and took a purposeful step. Gary’s mouth worked as he tried to form a response. Layla seized something from the bed and thrust it into his hands. Gary staggered and glanced down to see a pair of black trousers. They were discoloured with age, but he knew in his heart that they were the pair he had left behind that fateful morning. The same pair which were missing from his dreams.

“A souvenir of the day that ruined our lives,” Layla spat. “I hope it was worth it!”

Gary clutched the trousers to his chest, unaware that the towel had fallen around his ankles. His knees trembled, and his throat was dry. He looked into Layla’s terrifying, rapturous eyes and then at Dean’s. Dean was blinking as tears made river downs his cheeks.

“Tell me how I can make this right!” Gary cried in desperation. Layla looked at him with contempt.

“Bit late for that, isn’t it?” she replied. She rested a hand on Dean’s shoulder. Gary stared at the two of them, his eyes wide.

“Please!” he said as he took a step into the cabin. “There must be something I can do…you must want something from me!”

“I only wanted to make you face your past,” Layla said, her voice hard and cruel. “I wanted to make you suffer as you remembered. That’s enough for me.” Layla suddenly shoved Gary with unexpected strength. He staggered back through the threshold and fell sprawling onto the carpet. Gary stared up at the door in disbelief as it was slammed in his face. He lay there, stunned, and unaware that the passengers had finally begun to return. Most gave him no more than a fleeting, confused look, and some ignored him outright. Nobody wanted to know what the half-naked man on the floor was crying about.

Whatever it was, they decided as they entered their cabins, it was probably his own fault. Why else would be caught without his trousers on?

 

 

If you would like to get involved in Fortnightly Fiction, please feel free to suggest a prompt in the comments section. I’ll do my best to do your ideas justice!

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com.

Follow me on Twitter @ADixonFiction.

Don’t forget to buy your ticket for The Bloggers Bash on 19th May 2018! For more info, click here

The Soldier in the Wood #writephoto

Prompt provided by Sue Vincent. Follow the link to read more posts inspired by her photography.

The Soldier in the Wood

By Adam Dixon

The soldier spluttered into full consciousness, tasting coppery blood on his lips. Agony rippled through his body and he closed his eyes against it. The sweat on his brow felt cool and the air he sucked in in ragged gasps was moist and fresh. He cracked an eye and took in his surroundings. The woodland was quiet, the mixing of dull earth and green leaves providing a false sense of peace. The sun peeked through the leaves of a nearby tree like a curious child, but its cheerful rays didn’t reach him.

The soldier had seen many woods but somehow this one seemed to be the most beautiful. He snorted at the thought and coughed, spraying crimson droplets from his mouth. His leather jerkin creaked as he lifted a hand from his hip. His palm was wet and scarlet and the jagged tear in his side was nauseating. He groaned as he recognised the wound to be fatal. The cavalry charge had cut through them like butter, he’d never stood a chance. He remembered crawling off the field into woods, but he couldn’t remember collapsing against the tree.

He hawked and spat a mouthful of blood into the trees before removing his leather cap with trembling fingers. His brown hair was plastered to his forehead with sweat. He couldn’t remember where he was, or who he was fighting for. Was he in France? Spain? Scotland? His mind ached as he tried to think, and he soon gave it up. It didn’t matter anyway, he was done for. The bright green foliage blurred, and he forced himself to sit up, groaning as his side flared with pain. The bark of the tree was rough against his back, but he was grateful for it. It was sturdy and reliable, just as he had been for five years as a mercenary.

He could still hear the battle raging on nearby. The clash of steel on steel, the cries of wounded men and the screeching of horses shattered the peace of the woods. He guessed that his side had lost the battle, judging by the weight of the enemy’s charge. They’d come to finish him soon. It was a shame he’d dropped his sword.

The soldier wondered if God would forgive his sins. Every nation he had taken employment from claimed to have God on their side, and whilst they had been winning he had considered that to be proof enough. But now? He’d spent his short life killing and whoring, and he had little to show for it. No wife or family, and no real friends. He’d lived by the sword and he was going to die by it. Still, at least it was pleasant in the wood.

The muted clatter of hooves on soil announced his doom. The eager sun was blocked as a man in bright, blood-stained armour came into view, riding upon a magnificent white steed. The quality of the man’s armour and the banner draped over his horse signalled he was a noble. The soldier sighed and closed his eyes. He was tired, and his body was growing numb with cold. He heard the man dismount and followed by the harsh scraping of a drawn sword. The wood smelled of life now that his death was near, and he loved it for it.

Still, he wished he hadn’t dropped his sword.

 

Follow me on Twitter @ADixonFiction.

 

 

 

Don’t forget to buy your ticket for The Bloggers Bash on 19th May 2018! For more info, click here

Fortnightly Fiction – A Call for Prompts!

Hi everyone! As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I’m going to be launching a new feature on my blog. Just like my previous ‘Fiction Fursday’ posts, I am looking to write stories with your input! I will write, edit, redraft and post one short story every two weeks for your enjoyment (I hope!) and your scrutiny.

What I will need from you, dear readers, is writing prompts. They can be in the form of first/last lines, a particular theme you would like to see, a suggested point of view, or even just one word to get the cogs turning. I’ll welcome any suggestion of genre, too, so please feel free to give me something tricky! Please note, I will draw the line at anything unsavory, such as extreme erotica or gore. Just as a heads up!

This process has worked very well for me in past, both in my April A-Z Challenge in 2016 and my ‘Fiction Fursday’ posts, and it gave me a tremendous sense of achievement as I was regularly writing and receiving feedback. Of course, I will also be adding stories from within my own mind-palace from time to time, as I can’t let you lot take all the credit!

I’m currently looking to begin in January 2018 with six prompts, which will take me into the middle of March. If I receive more than I need then I’ll simply file them away for future use, especially if they are good ones! My aim is to stay ahead of the game by keeping to a strict schedule this time around, as it’s high time I got this blog organised!

As always, I will aim to keep the stories around the 2000 word mark or less. If any are likely to go over by a large amount then I’ll consider splitting the story into parts. Also, anyone who suggests a prompt which I use will be acknowledged and linked in to the blog post. I’d be extremely grateful for any suggestions and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can come up with together!

Thanks, everyone!

 

Image credit to pixabay.com. 

Here are a few of my ‘Fiction Fursday’ short stories, to give you a flavour of the excellent prompts I have received in the past. 🙂

A Crisis In Alexandria

Flossy’s Chance

The Boy and the Oak Tree

Dark Side Debriefing

The Animals’ Advice

Death Vision

 

The Triumphant Return! Update on blog and plans.

Hello, everyone! So, since my last post approximately ten years ago I’ve been busying myself with projects which have nothing to do with this blog, the main culprit being NaNoWriMo. During November, I found that I was only able to do the challenge justice at the expense of everything else. Long story short, I completed the challenge and now I can get my head in the right space for blogging once again!

Excuses aside, I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog and what I can do to get motivated to post more regularly. As some of you may know, I previously ran a feature called ‘Fiction Fursday’, in which I wrote short stories each week using prompts provided by my friends in the blogosphere. I intend to start up a similar feature in the New Year, but this time I will give myself a fortnight rather than one week, as I will be less likely to burn myself out over it, as I ultimately did before. I will still be searching for prompts from you wonderful people on WordPress and beyond, but crucially I will get organised and plan ahead.

If any of you have read Shelley Wilson’s fantastic new book ‘How I Motivated Myself to Succeed’ you’ll know that she emphasises the importance of organisation and forward-planning, and I fully intend to take that advice. Obviously, some of you may already know this and I’m just late to the planning party, but it is a eureka moment which couldn’t have come soon enough! Shelley’s book has inspired me to knuckle-down and think about ways to keep my blog moving and my content flowing, and I am very grateful to her for that. I have also been recalling the kind words of encouragement and useful criticism I have received from my readers over the last two years, and this has also given me the push I need to get going again.

There will be further posts this month which will cover my new features in more depth, so watch this space! Until then, thank you all so much for your support and as always, thank you for reading!

 

You can find Shelley’s book on Amazon here. Give it a try!

Image credited to pixabay.com.

The Need for Sleep

I wrote this story for the ‘Hour of Writes’ competition a few weeks ago. If you haven’t heard of Hour of Writes then I recommend you pay the site a visit. The idea is simple: the theme is set each week and participants are encouraged to write a story, poem or non-fiction piece based on it. A timer is set for one hour, and away you go! Each participant must read and mark three pieces of submitted work in order for their own to be considered for the prize, so it has a real community feel to it.

The theme for that particular was ‘Live the Dream’. Here is what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy it.

 

The Need For Sleep

By Adam Dixon

The weak morning sunlight trickled into the hotel room, promising a day of brightness and warmth. For Tomasz, the day could not seem any brighter than it already was. He reclined against the plump pillows on the large bed as the breeze from the open window raised pleasant goose-bumps on his arms. He selected a piece of warm, crispy bread from the tray on his knees and held it up to Justyna’s lips. Justyna, glowing from happiness and from their recent love-making, giggled and opened her mouth to accept the offering. She had never looked so beautiful and Tomasz fell in love with her all over again. Justyna crunched the bread and poked around on the tray for a moment. She lifted a piece of sausage and wriggled closer. The bed sheets she had gathered around her fell away, revealing her naked body for an instant before her raven-coloured hair covered her breasts. She placed a hand delicately on Tomasz’s chest and raised the other to his mouth. Tomasz breathed in the scent of the meat, detecting the sweet herbs added to flavour it. His stomach rumbled and Justyna laughed, bird-like and full of life.
“Eat, my love,” Justyna said, smiling sweetly. Tomasz stared into her pale blue eyes and opened his mouth. He relished the rich, succulent flavour of the meat almost as much as the feeling of Justyna’s fingers on his lips and on his chest. Desire awoke within him again and he gently cupped her face. He leaned forwards and moved his face towards hers…

A bell sounded, piercing and urgent. Tomasz awoke with a start and immediately cried out in despair.
“No! Not again!” he wailed, covering his eyes with his hands. Tears coursed down his leathery, wrinkled face and fell to the floor. The bell rang again impatiently.
“Oh, Justyna!” Tomasz moaned as he swung his weary legs from the warmth of his single bed. He could still taste the sausage on his tongue, and her fingertips still lingered on his lips… Tomasz dressed quickly in a simple shirt and trousers, shoving his feet into his reliable old boots. He stood and gazed at himself in the small, grimy mirror on his bedside table. His rheumy eyes took in the image of an old man, crumpled and heartbroken. His eyes strayed to his left arm and he sighed. He hadn’t removed the Artifact; he detested that part almost as deeply as waking up. He unclasped the leather binding as swiftly as his arthritic fingers would allow before pulling it away. He winced as the sharp stud pulled free from his flesh, dripping blood in a thin crimson river down his forearm. Tomasz wrapped a simple bandage around the wound before shrugging on a battered overcoat. The bell rang again as he tucked the Artifact into a secret compartment next to his bed. Tomasz swore.
“I am coming, you cretin!” he said through clenched teeth. “You had better have a lot of work for me today, I wish to sleep for longer tonight!” He patted the unassuming wooden panel hiding the Artifact for reassurance, then he shuffled out of his tiny room. His employer awaited.

“Tomasz, what the hell kept you?” the mage demanded, his ridiculous green eyebrows arching in annoyance. Tomasz bowed, causing his back to crack audibly.
“My apologies, Master Aleksander,” he wheezed. “I must have overslept.”
“This is happening too often, old man!” the mage snapped, crossing his arms in his voluminous golden sleeves. “Honestly, if you ever came to your senses and ask for proper payment I would dismiss you and hire someone younger!”
“Do not fear, Master Aleksander,” Tomasz said with practiced humility. He glanced up with a sad smile. “All I require is for my tasks to be exhausting and for somewhere to sleep once they are complete. Nothing more.” Aleksander eyed Tomasz with distaste. The man had been using the Artifact again; he positively reeked of the ancient magic. Aleksander shuddered at the idea of using fresh blood to awaken a spell, it was almost medieval. For a moment, Aleksander’s coldness evaporated. If only he could find a way for the Artifact to work with magically-induced sleep…that would give Tomasz a bit of an easier time…if he could just- but no, Aleksander did not have time to waste researching such frivolities.
“Good,” the mage said stiffly, regaining his poise. He jerked a poultice-stained thumb towards a set of wooden stairs. “I have twelve barrels of healing potions which need decanting into the one-hundred-and-twenty flasks you will see in the cellar. They have already been laid out, and they will each need to be stoppered and labelled. Do not spill a single drop, Tomasz, it is expensive stock!”
“Right away, sir!” Tomasz said eagerly. “I do apologise once again for my lateness. I will make it up to you, I promise.” With that, he hurried off to the cellar steps and descended into darkness. Aleksander frowned after him. He was almost certain that the old man was thinner than before. He looked almost skeletal.
“You’re not eating properly, are you?” Aleksander mumbled. He shook his head; he had no time to care about the whims of an old labourer!
“Bah! If he wishes to tread this path, so be it!” he said to himself. “I’m not his keeper! I’ll not interfere!”

Tomasz fell asleep almost as soon as his head hit his pillow that night. He had willed his aching, fatigued body back to his claustrophobic room and had attached the Artifact as soon as he could. The brief sting followed by the unnatural throbbing as the magic leaked into him did not prevent him from slipping away quickly. His eyes opened within a dream almost right away. He looked down at his hands. They were old and wrinkled, so it was not a dream of younger times. A shame, but it couldn’t be helped. He glanced around him, and his heart sank in his chest.
He was in a hospital. Sterile white walls surrounded him on all sides and the reek of stale urine and futile disinfectant invaded his nostrils. A corridor stretched out in front of him, and at the end of it was a single bed. On it lay a shape which he couldn’t quite make out, but he knew it was Justyna.
“No, not this one…” he croaked, closing his eyes tight and willing himself to wake up. The offensive odour grew stronger and he heard a weak voice call his name.
“Tomasz? Tomasz, where are you?”
“Justyna!” Tomasz opened his eyes and lurched forward as a strangled sob escaped his lips. His footsteps boomed on the floor, echoing loudly around him and lancing into his ears like daggers. He staggered into a run, seeing the bed moving closer, but slowly, oh so slowly!
“Tomasz? Tomasz, are you there? Tomasz…I’m frightened…”
“I’m coming, my love!” Tomasz called desperately. “I’ll not leave you!” Tomasz hauled himself along the corridor, his old legs protesting and his chest tightening painfully as his breathing came out in short gasps. After what seemed like hours Tomasz reached the bed. It was a simple affair, just a thin mattress on top of a bench, but that was all the space the hospital had been able to provide them with at the time. The Plague had spread so quickly…
“Tomasz?” Justyna tried to raise herself in the bed, her wasted arms trembling with the effort. Her once-radiant face was gaunt and discoloured by the consuming disease, and the light in her beautiful eyes was dim. Tomasz gently lowered her back down and took both of her hands. He forced a smile and blinked away tears as he fought to catch his breath.
“I am…here, Justyna,” he said. “I will…always be…here,”
“Oh, Tomasz, I hurt so,” Justyna said miserably. Her back arched and she winced in pain. Her bony fingers gripped his weakly, and Tomasz felt her wedding band slide up a few millimeters at the movement.
“It’s alright, my love,” he wheezed, leaning down to kiss her cheek. It was so cold, and so thin. She even smelled wrong, like the disinfectant on the floors. Tomasz’s lips trembled as he kissed her and he fought to the urge to cry out in despair. Instead he whispered in Justyna’s ear.
“I love you, Justyna,” he said, channeling all of his passion into the words. “Gods, I love you so much…”
“I love you too, Tomasz,” Justyna said, cradling his head with her arms. They clung to one another in silence, neither knowing what to say. Tomasz wished he could do something, anything for her.
“Tomasz, will we see the Grand Budapest again?” Justyna asked, breaking the oppressive silence with a faint voice. Tomasz choked down a sob; the Grand Budapest was the hotel where they had spent their honeymoon.
“I think so, my love,” he whispered. “You just need to get better first. The doctors will make you strong again, you’ll see.”
“Oh, that’s good,” Justyna said, lying back down with her eyes closed. She wore a smile, and Tomasz smiled as well. Justyna’s breathing became less labourious, and she appeared to relax. Tomasz still held her hands in his, and felt the tears splashing on to them. He opened his mouth to speak to her…

The bell rang sharply. Tomasz was jerked awake and ran a hand across his wet cheeks.
“Oh, Justyna,” he said, shaking his head and groaning. He sat up and pulled away the Artifact, not caring that the blood spattered onto his pillow. He stood and dressed himself, preparing for the next day of work. He stared into the mirror once again, and then staggered off. He sincerely wished for a better dream that evening…

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.

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.

 

Kerry, the Writer

I have written this story as part of Esther Newton’s weekly challenge, Monday Motivations. I have particiated a couple of times in her challenges but haven’t put the stories on my own blog. This week’s task was to write a story or poem on the themes of “Sleep”, “Misery” or “Gold”. I had a go at incorporating all three, and I hope you enjoy what I’ve managed to come up with; I’m sure that all of you writers out there will identify with it!

I’m looking to get involved in more fiction challenges hosted by my friends on WordPress, as they are always a lot of fun and work wonders when I’m stuck for inspiration!

I’ll have a longer story to post soon, once I’ve finished editing. Here’s hoping that this offering will be enough until then. Thanks for reading!

 

Kerry, the Writer

By Adam Dixon

 

Kerry stared at the blinking cursor on her screen, her jaw working and her eyes narrowed. It was taunting her, that cursor, and the half-empty page, too. They knew she was tying her brain into knots over her next paragraph and they just waited, smug and superior. Kerry hated them. She rubbed her temples, groaning with fatigue. She blinked her dull brown eyes rapidly and took a long swallow of the cheap energy drink she had purchased on her way home from work. The too-sweet, slightly chemical flavour rushed down her throat, leaving her grimacing with the bitter aftertaste. The acrid smell of the sweeteners clung to her lips like moss to a cliff face. She didn’t like them, but they worked faster than coffee and she needed to stay awake.

“Kerry? Why are you still up?” Kerry started and twisted in her chair, looking sheepishly at the speaker. Jodie stood bleary-eyed in her pink dressing-gown, her raven-coloured hair in the disarray of sleep and her small hands barely containing an almighty yawn. Her face scrunched up and the glow from the naked lightbulb highlighted her freckles and dimpled cheeks. Kerry loved her when she looked like that.

“Hi, babe,” Kerry said. She frowned and bit her lip. “I, erm, didn’t wake you, did I?”

“No, you didn’t,” Jodie said, leaning against the door frame, and glancing around the spare bedroom. It was a tiny space, but Kerry had quickly claimed it with her desk, chair, laptop, book shelf and stacks upon stacks of notepaper which bore her spidery handwriting. Jodie took it all in with disinterest borne from familiarity.

“It’s gone twelve, Kerry,” Jodie continued, trying to look stern; Kerry refrained from smiling at the attempt.  Instead she brushed a wayward blond curl from her eye and tapped the desk three times with two fingers. That was her habit whenever she was stuck with her writing.

“You’ve got an early start again tomorrow,” Jodie continued, folding her arms.

“I know, I know,” Kerry said, wringing her hands in her lap. She tugged at her jogging bottoms and adjusted her hoodie. “I just need to keep on going for a bit, I won’t be much longer. Promise.” Jodie sighed and shook her head in bewilderment. Kerry closed her eyes and held back a long sigh. Jodie didn’t understand, not really. Nobody close to her did; they were all wonderful and supportive in their own way, but they were not creatives. They couldn’t understand what drove her to write, even late at night when the loathsome alarm clock grinned from the wrong side of midnight.

“Alright then,” Jodie said in a resigned voice. “Just don’t wake me up when you do come to bed, ‘kay?”

“’Kay,” Kerry said, turning back to her screen and back to the mockery of the blank page and the cursor. She heard Jodie close the bedroom door and listened for the muffled creaking of their bed. I suppose I could go to bed, Kerry thought with longing. I’m exhausted and some sleepy cuddles sound great right about now… Kerry sat up straight and gritted her teeth, annoyed at her lapse in discipline. No, she needed to write, damn it! She placed her hands above the keyboard, her digits poised and ready. But nothing came. Kerry’s shoulders slumped and she laid her forehead on the desk, feeling defeated.

Why am I even trying? Kerry thought for the umpteenth time. I can’t figure out what to write next and everything I do write is crap anyway! Why do I even bother? She lay there in her silent despair, unmoving, for several minutes. She turned her mind this way and that, considering where next to take her characters and how to put the words on to a page before an idea hit her like a thunderbolt. She sat bolt upright, the straight edge of her desk imprinted across her forehead. It was an angle of her storyline that she hadn’t considered before, but maybe… Hardly daring to breathe, Kerry began to type the first sentence. Then she wrote the next, doing so with care as the idea began to struggle upwards, like a delicate flower moving towards the sunlight. After the third sentence, the idea blossomed.

Just like that, Kerry had it. She smiled a warm, excited smile and began typing with gusto; her second wind was guiding her along and she didn’t dare try to stop it. The wonderful feeling of relief and happiness flowed through her, like liquid gold coursing through her veins; she was more energised than if she had downed five of her cheap cans of pop! She wiggled her toes inside her slippers and an involuntary giggle escaped her pursed lips.

“I did it, babe!” Kerry whispered excitedly, clambering into bed and holding Jodie close half an hour later. “I found my golden words!”

“Mmm!” Jodie protested, wriggling. “I asked you not to wake me up…” Kerry smiled in the darkness, alive with the rush of her success. Jodie didn’t understand, but that didn’t matter. Whatever she had written was bound to be sub-par by that point, but the idea had been captured and fixed in her mind. The flow of gold through her fingertips had revived Kerry’s flagging courage and she felt as if anything were possible. She was a writer, and that is what it was all about!

Undead Dating – Collaboration!

Hello everyone! Back in June, which already seems like a lifetime ago, I attended the Blogger’s Bash in London and met some fantastic bloggers and writers. One such blogger was Steve, who with whom I clicked right away. Steve’s blog, Talk About Pop Music, is great fun and provides some well-informed information about a a variety of successful pop songs. I’d thoroughly recommend a visit! Anyway, we got chatting and Steve suggested that we collaborate in the future. I was happy to take him up on the offer.

Steve’s suggestion was that I write a short story based on the lyrics of a song of his choosing. He chose “Here in my Heart” by Al Martino, which interestingly was the very first UK Number One!  The subject matter of my story is perhaps not what most people would think of when hearing Mr Martino’s dulcet tones, but I enjoyed the way it unraveled for me regardless. I’m going to post it on my below but please do visit Steve’s blog for the original post and for some pop music entertainment! Cheers, Steve, I’m excited to finally work with you!

 

Undead Dating

By Adam Dixon

Horatio Brudenell-Cavendish shambled across the half-destroyed streets of Brighton, his undead heart heavy in his chest. He raised his head to watch the dark, churning thunderclouds and the flames dancing across the sky. Before he had perished in a drunken accident in 1756, he hadn’t expected his afterlife to be lonelier than his mortal existence, but here he was, reborn into a world where humans had been utterly vanquished with no-one to talk to. His black thoughts and self-deprecation had pursued him into this new awakening, and he doubted that this time he could end it so effectively.

“Oh, Lord, what a cruel joke you have played upon me!” he said, staring with dry, withered eyes at the terrifying flashes of light and fire which lit up the sky. “Was I so detestable to you in life that you must punish me so in death? Am I never to be loved?” The last sentence Horatio whispered, the sound barely audible and barely escaping the confines of his ruined throat. He saw the now familiar sight of hundreds of undead staggering across the remainder of the town and ignored them. He would not speak with them, and why should he? They were probably still rabid from the looks of them, and he had no desire to spend his time with such brutes. He dragged his feet aimlessly until he stood before a burned shell that was once a modern church. Even the holy places hadn’t escaped divine justice, it seemed. His sad eyes caught sight of a bright, cheerful poster which proudly announced that “The Brighton Undead Speed-dating Service is operating once again!”, and would take place at eight o’clock that evening on Brighton Pier. Horatio stared at it for a few moments before sighing and heading off in the direction of the pier. He had little hope of finding someone to spend eternity with, but he couldn’t allow himself to give up completely. Besides, he’d see Elsie again, and that alone was worth it. With that thought in mind, he smoothed the creases of his dirty waistcoat and tightened his frayed, mud-covered tie as best he could and pressed on.

***

The dating hall took place in the remains of the old arcade on Brighton Pier. Horatio still wasn’t certain he knew what an arcade was, but judging by the strange, oddly-coloured machines guarding the perimeter of the room he thought it must have been a forbidding place. The Pier had mostly survived the End Times, but everything past the hall had been destroyed and fallen into the ashen sea. The putrid odours of rotten and burnt wood hung heavy in the air, wrinkling noses which ought to have been used to it by now. The harsh wind screamed around the room from the gaping maw at the end of it, and coupled with the rough splashing of the waves it made it difficult to hear what was being said.

“So, have you been to one of these nights before?” the werewolf seated in front of Horatio asked in a loud growl. Horatio nodded, a greasy lock of black hair falling across his mottled forehead.

“Yes, I have tried my hand at these evenings thrice now,” he shouted, trying to sound interested. His eyes kept flicking back towards the zombie who stood at the door, watching the proceedings like a proud mother. Despite the disfigurement caused by her reanimation, Horatio thought she was beautiful. Her clothes, which had been in the ground a far shorter time than Horatio’s, were the brightest garments in the hall, regardless of the mud stains. Elsie Cartwright was like a shining beacon to a man adrift in a storm.

“Can’t’ve been much of a hit with the ladies, then!” the werewolf barked, shaking her great snout. Horatio’s attention snapped back to her and he forced a smile.

“Evidently not,” he said with a sigh. The werewolf cocked her head and gazed at him, a strange look coming into her yellow eyes. Horatio fidgeted, wishing the bell would ring again and signal the end of their three minutes together.

“Can’t think why, though,” she said, her pink tongue lapping at her chops. “You’re more interesting than most of the groaners I’ve met. Better looking, too.” The wolf huffed and turned away in embarrassment and Horatio grimaced. In life he had been tall, dark and handsome, but in death he was just as repulsive as everyone else.

“Ahh…well, thank you, madame, you are most kind,” he said, wondering whether or not he should return the compliment. The wolf certainly looked expectant. As he struggled for something positive to say about her, the bell rang.

“Oh, time’s up!” the werewolf said reluctantly. “Nice meeting you. Don’t be a stranger, now!” She gave what Horatio assumed passed for a wink. He smiled back and nodded politely, thanking her for her time. Standing up, he shambled over to the neighbouring table and approached the next eager face. The hall became animated as several others did the same, albeit rather slowly. The participants were obliged to endure an extra two minutes of “walking time” as the zombies present took a while to change tables. Horatio felt as if it would be a very long night. He looked up at Elsie as he sat down in front of his next “date” and she smiled and waved at him. Horatio felt his undead heart soar and he smiled back. He then forced himself to focus his attention on the newest bag of hideous in front of him and resolved to wait to speak to Elsie. She would be much more agreeable company, he was certain, and he would feel better for hearing her voice.

“’Ello ‘andsome!” the zombie in front of him leered. It had one good eye and its jaw was hanging by a few rotted threads of sinew. Horatio wasn’t sure if it was male or female, but he suspected that asking such a question would not start their meeting in the most positive light. Just another hour and a half, Horatio¸ he thought to himself, then you may speak with Elsie. Steeling himself, Horatio began conversing with his next “date”.

***

“I beg your pardon, Miss Elsie,” Horatio began once the “dating” had finished. “May I help you in any way?” He had managed to politely decline the werewolf’s offer of a night-cap without causing offense and had waited with impatience as the undead made their snail-like progress back to town. Horatio had taken a deep breath and shuffled over to Elsie. She turned to look at him and smiled.

“Oh, hello there, Horatio!” she said with genuine pleasure. “That is very kind of you! Yes, if you don’t mind, I could use a hand clearing away the tables. I’ll be here all night by myself, you see.” Horatio nodded, knowing all too well the limitations of their reawakened bodies. He set to work aiding her and worried over what to say. I must begin a conversation, damn it! He thought to himself with irritation. Why am I such a damnable bore? A bolt of lightning darted across the sky and struck a building somewhere in town, a tremendous crash filling the air a moment later. Still Horatio was mute.

“Any luck tonight?” Elsie asked, saving him from the awkward silence.

“Not especially, Miss Elsie,” he replied, spreading his arms wide. “Perhaps I am not good enough for the creatures of this new world. I daresay that I wasn’t much of a man for my betrothed in my former life, either, being a drunken scoundrel.”

“Oh, rubbish! I’ll not have you sayin’ that!” Elise chided, swatting him lightly on his shoulder. “You’re a strapping figure of a man, or at least you were, an’ anyone can see that! You’re a fair deal more agreeable than most of the folk from your time an’ all! An’ from my time, too, as it happens. My old hubby never spoke to me the way you do.” Horatio blushed, feeling what little blood he had left rise to his face. Elsie had died in the 1930’s, and she had lived a life destined to be frustrated by social barriers. They had become greatly reduced when compared to Horatio’s time, but they had not progressed enough for a strong-willed woman like Elsie.

“You have my thanks, Miss Elsie,” Horatio stammered. “Have you…have you had any potential…suitors?” he asked her, afraid of the answer but needing to know. Elsie looked at him and a shy smile crept across her face.

“Actually, there was a charming ghostly fella who spoke to me tonight,” she said. “I know it’s not my policy to get involved but he was ever so nice. He was a Frenchman who died whilst visitin’ the area centuries ago. Very polite an’ not at all high-an’-mighty, much like yourself, Horatio! I think I might like to see him again.” Horatio felt panic flood his body and he was struck dumb by the feeling. Come on you, fool! His mind screamed at him. It is now or never!

“Miss Elsie, I…” Horatio began, chewing at his lower lip. It tasted awful and the shock of it made him forget his embarrassment. “I wonder if you would consider spending some time with me instead?” Elsie paused during folding a chair.

“With you, Horatio?” she said, her eyebrow rising and her mouth opening slightly. Horatio cleared his throat and continued.

“Yes, I understand that it is somewhat improper of me,” he said, smoothing the front of his half-rotten suit jacket. “But, you see, I have been…in love…with you for some time now.” Horatio looked at Elsie with sincerity in his eyes. Elsie’s eyes widened and her hand flew to her breast.

“Miss Elsie, since I have reawakened I have been so alone,” he said, stepping towards her. “My heart is lonely, and my soul although it be damned cries out for a companion. I…wish to spend the rest of my unnatural life with you, Miss Elsie. You would complete me.” Horatio trailed off, surprised by his tenderness and feeling the beginnings of panic returning. Oh, Lord, what if she denies me? He thought with desperation. I will die all over again! Elsie stood watching him, her undead eyes blinking rapidly. The wind howled around the arcade in a mocking laugh and the pier creaked ominously as if it were about to collapse. Horatio almost wished that it would.

“Oh, Horatio,” she whispered. “You do have a way with words! Any girl would be lucky to hear them!”

“Miss Elsie, I will give you my arms gladly if only you will restore this blackened, un-beating heart of mine,” Horatio said, reaching out a wasted, green-hued hand. Elsie laughed and seized it, gripping it tightly and beaming like an angel. Horatio felt his shoulder groan and worried that he might live up to his promise in a more literal fashion than he had intended.

“Horatio, you’ve said enough pretty words,” Elsie said, gazing into his eyes. “We’ve time enough for those and more besides! Truth be told, I’ve not had eyes for anyone else since you first walked in here. I’ll share your arms an’ give you mine also, you silver-tongued charmer!” Horatio felt his spirit dance and his heart suddenly flutter in his chest like a phoenix arising from ashes. He had never felt so happy, even in his mortal days. Elsie took his other hand and smiled at him.

“But let’s take it slowly, shall we?” Elsie said with a sly wink. “No need to rush when we’ve got all of eternity before us!”

“No, indeed not, Miss Elsie!” Horatio said, his own face breaking into a wide smile. He ignored the unnerving creak as his jaw stretched and he stared deep into Elsie’s eyes. Happiness, I have found you at last! he thought. Perhaps the new, dead world would not be so bad after all.