Fiction Fursday/A Crisis in Alexandria

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

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

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

 

A Crisis in Alexandria

By Adam Dixon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

A – Z Challenge Day 26

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

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

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

ZANY

By Adam Dixon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

 

A – Z Challenge Day 21

Day 21 is here, and that means it’s the final week of this April’s Challenge! I’m surprised, relieved and somewhat saddened by the prospect of it all being over so soon! Today’s story is a bit late because I have been working late today, which has required me to write on the go and almost exclusively on my phone, which is something I haven’t done before. Quite a tricky but rewarding experience, I must say!
Anyway, today’s suggestion comes from the brilliant Geoff Le Pard
, who, as I have previously mentioned, is largely responsible for inspiring my theme for this Challenge. Geoff suggested the word “UNREAL”, which I am delighted to say really forced me to think hard. I discarded several ideas before I settled on this one, and I hope I have done it justice. Thanks, Geoff!

UNREAL
By Adam Dixon

Jack could hardly believe the realism of the game. As soon as he pulled down the visor-screen he could almost swear that he was standing in a meadow during the height of summer, rather than sat in his ergonomic gaming chair in his draughty South-London flat. He could nearly feel the grass tickling his feet and taste the pollen in the air. The box containing the virtual reality system boasted “A gaming world so real, it’ll leave you drained!” It certainly was visually impressive.

“Wow,” he whistled in appreciation. “Pretty good start!” He glanced down at himself and marvelled at the physique of his chosen character. He gazed in wonder at a bare torso covered with rippling, solid muscle and saw equally strong legs supporting him. He almost whooped in delight. He was just like Conan the Barbarian!

“Oh man, this is gonna be good!” Jack squeaked, lifting and flexing his limbs for a better inspection of his new physical prowess. He felt powerful and confident, making his character strut around the deserted meadow with a deliberate swagger. It all seemed so real, even down to the dull thud of his character’s rough leather boots on the soil. The only aspect which reminded Jack that he was in a game was the Head-Up Display fixed permanently in his sight just above his left eye. It displayed a full green health bar, as well as currently empty weapon and potions slots. In the centre of his vision was a flashing red timer counting down from one minute, urgently informing Jack that the “FIRST WAVE”  was approaching.
“Hmm…weapons…” Jack muttered, casting to and fro. He spotted a large, double-headed axe leaning against a nearby fence. Brimming with excitement, Jack ran over to it and curled his massive right hand around the haft. As he tensed to lift it, the resistance astonished Jack. It even felt heavy!
“Fuck, this is awesome!” Jack exclaimed as he took a few practice swings with the axe. It made a low whooshing sound as it cleaved through the air and threatened to overbalance him. That didn’t matter, he’d get the hang of it in time. As he moved around the meadow with the axe held high the red timer hit zero. Almost instantly Jack heard savage snarls behind him. He spun around to see three terrifyingly life-like wolves running towards him. Yelping, Jack held the axe at the ready, somewhat comforted by its weight.
“Come on, then!” He shouted, planting his feet and squaring his shoulders. He felt braver than he had ever been as Jack the nerd. He was Conan, and he wasn’t scared of some stupid wolves!
The first wolf attacked, leaping through the air with its razor-sharp fangs seeking Jack’s throat. Jack swung the axe in an awkward sideways motion with all of his new might. His axe slammed into the wolf, sending shock waves up his arms. He felt faint as he heard bones snapping and the wolf howling in pain. Wow, this is a bit too real! Jack thought, his emotions caught somewhere between joy and horror.
Swinging the axe twice more he felled the other two wolves like trees. As he stood panting, he noticed that the red timer had started up again; the “SECOND WAVE”  was on its way.
Jack spent the next hour battling various enemies as the timer stopped and restarted. Wolves, bandits, fellow barbarians and even armoured knights fell to his mighty axe as Jack grew in confidence and determination. He was astounded by the VR’s attention to detail; he saw every sickening laceration, every grimace of pain and and every look of terror on his enemies faces. He continually had to glance up at the HUD in order to remind himself that he wasn’t in mortal danger at every turn. He experienced the full impact of the VR’s sophistication when a knight stabbed him through the arm. Pain radiated from his wounds and his forearm grew slick with blood. His health bar decreased by a third and Jack felt a portion of his energy disappear with it. He screamed and almost threw off his visor-screen in a panic. Instead, he despatched the knight and stood trembling, reminding himself firmly that it was only a game. A damned realistic game, but still a game. None of it was real.
Jack was becoming exhausted by the “SEVENTH WAVE”, and he was pounced upon by a huge bear during the “EIGHTH WAVE”. He was forced the ground under the weight of the beast, choking on a mouthful of its reeking fur. The bear tore into Jack’s throat and he screamed again, marvelling at the heightened sensation of pain he was experiencing. As the bear’s jaws opened and closed, Jack felt his strength ebbing away. The virtual meadow began to grow dark as Jack’s health bar emptied. The last thing Jack thought before he died was wondering what the loading screen would look like. He wasn’t sure if he would hit “CONTINUE”. He’d had enough for one day…
Back in Jack’s flat, the vampire Lucius reluctantly finished his feast. He withdrew his own very real fangs from Jack’s throat and stood back, wiping fresh blood from his chin and admiring his handiwork. The overweight, heavily-acned corpse that had once been Jack sat slumped in the preposterous gaming chair, its skin pale and its face contorted in agony.
Lucius laughed as he contemplated how easy hunting was becoming these days. One could always find loners like Jack who would jump at the chance to test out a prototype gaming system, no matter how dodgy it all seemed. Lucius removed the visor-screen from the corpse’s head and collected the controllers and power outlet. Before he left, he turned back and took one last look at the very real, very dead man. He grinned and strode out of the flat. Virtual reality: just another way to turn the vulnerable into the delicious!

A – Z Challenge Day 17

 

 
image

Today’s prompt comes from the brilliant Geoff Le Pard. Geoff has written some very interesting posts about London during this challenge, and he has been kind enough to provide me with two prompts for mine. The theme for my own challenge has been heavily influenced by Geoff, as he wrote a short story every single day last November for NaNoWriMo. I was astounded to learn of this feat and have been inspired to have a crack at something similar ever since!
Geoff’s suggestion for today is “QUISLING”. This is a great word which I have only come across a few times and it presented a fun challenge. Thanks again, Geoff!

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

QUISLING

“You would bite the hand which feeds you, woman?” Captain Siper asked as he stared at Alesia over the top of his clasped fingers. The inside of his command tent was cramped with the huge wooden desk and two burly guards flanking him. The air inside was stuffy and smelled of sweat and leather. Alesia shrugged, irritated by the question.

“That is why I am here, is it not, captain?” she replied, folding her arms and raising her chin. “The people in this village have done nothing good for me in the last year.” Her angular face was held with pride despite the dirt covering it. Captain Siper found this behaviour extraordinary.

“So it would seem,” he said slowly. He leaned across his desk, splaying his hands over the rough maps of the surrounding area as he peered into Alesia’s face.

“Tell me, woman, is there any truth to the rumours my men have heard about you?” He asked, an unpleasant smirk curling his mouth. “They have learned that you were once a respected woman within the village, and a favourite of the local lord, no less. They also learned that you were tossed aside like a soiled blanket once a fairer, younger maiden was made ready for said local lord! Could this be the reason for your traitorous scheme?”

Alesia’s eyes blazed with fury and her breathing quickened. Oh, how she would love to hit him right in his smug, self-satisfied mouth! She stood straighter and her voice was cool as she answered him.

“They are not quite true, captain,” she said, narrowing her eyes at Siper’s stoic guards. They were watching her with same alertness as a fox would watch a rabbit.

“I was indeed favoured by the local lord, as I was once his mistress,” she continued. “But that time has passed, as you may have deduced by my slovenly appearance. I was not “tossed aside” as you so delicately put it, but there was another woman embroiled in my fate and that was the lord’s wife. She has seen fit to wield her influence on these simple-minded villagers, and suffice it to say my fortunes have declined of late.”

“Yes, that much is quite obvious!” Captain Siper barked a short, cruel laugh. Alesia sniffed but maintained her composure.

“Well, will you accept my help or not?” she demanded. “I know that your leader desires this village for its strategic position along the trade routes and you know that the villagers won’t let you take it without fierce resistance. I can help you minimise the losses on your side considerably.”

“Perhaps we don’t require any aid, hmm?” Captain Siper sneered at Alesia, who was beginning to loathe the oily little man. “Our numbers are enough to flatten that miserable village and put every man within it to the sword. We know this and the villagers know it, too.”

“Whilst that is true, you must also realise that it will not be so simple,” Alesia said, with a wry smile of her own. “The villagers have vowed to burn the entire place to the ground if it seems as though your army will succeed. They would rather see their homes burn than fall into your hands. I can help you prevent this from ever being a possibility.”

“Go on,” Siper said, his smile vanishing. Alesia allowed herself a moment of silent triumph.

“I know the schedule of each and every man who will be on sentry duty over the next week,” she said. “In three nights’ time I shall open the main gate for you, so that your men may enter the village under the cover of darkness. You can then occupy it from within and do whatever you will with it and its people.”

“How will you get the gate open if there will be men guarding it?” Siper’s tone was scornful as he sized Alesia up. She was tall and slight, with small hands and feet; she was not a figure which inspired physical prowess in any way. Alesia merely laughed at the implication.

“Oh, captain,” she said, shaking her head and grinning. “If I only ever know three things about men, they are that they believe all women are weak, unthreatening and desperately attracted to them. There will be one guard on duty that evening, a dullard called Thom, who most certainly thinks those things of me. Simply put, I shall kill him and open the gate. Understand?”

“And how, pray tell, would you benefit from this betrayal, woman?” Siper asked, his expression guarded but interest gleaming in his eyes. Alesia approached his desk, and leaned closer to the captain’s face. Her grey eyes were alight with ambition.

“I would benefit by being permitted to rule the survivors!” she replied, as if it were the most obvious question in the world. “That is my condition! I will allow you entry to the village if you will grant me control once it has been tamed.” Siper gave another bark, this time sounding relieved and astonished.

“By the Gods, I like you, woman!” He chuckled. He stood up and extended a gauntleted hand towards Alesia. “On my honour as a man of the Empire, it shall be done as long as you uphold your end of the bargain!” Alesia grasped the offered wrist and shook it.

“Then it is done,” she said, holding his gaze with intensity. “Assemble your men outside the main gate in three nights’ time. The way shall be clear.” She moved towards the tent flaps, but paused as a guard lifted the canvas.

“One more thing,” she said quietly, looking over her shoulder. “I’d like it if you could capture the lord and his lady alive, and then bring them to me. I have…plans…for the two of them.”

“My lady, consider it done!” Siper gave a mocking bow. Alesia exited the camp and stole back to the sleeping village with the captain’s laughter ringing in her ears.

 

 

A – Z Challenge Day 13

Today marks the half-way point of this April’s Blogging Challenge. It’s come around bloody quick, I must say! It’s been great fun taking part, and although I’m not as on top of it as I would like to be, I’m enjoying reading the posts of other bloggers who are involved. Geoff’s and Lindsay’s in particular are proving to be very interesting reads! I’ll do my best to better follow the work of others during the second half of this challenge. If any of you here on WordPress can suggest a blog which I may not have come across yet, feel free to let me know!

Today’s word was suggested by the wonderful Esther, a lady who spends a hell of a lot of time inspiring and encouraging wannabe writers like myself! Go check out her blog if you’re a writer, you won’t regret it! Esther’s prompt is the word “MALEVOLENT”. A fine word and one which to my mind conjures images of cloaks and daggers, of contemptuous sneers in the dark and unspeakable deeds inflicted on the unwary. I was stumped for a short while on this one, but I have come up with something which I hope fits the word in an interesting way. I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks again, Esther!

MALEVOLENT

By Adam Dixon

“I say we take a stand!” Number Twelve insisted, bristling with anger. “Just because they are bigger than us doesn’t mean we should let them push us around!” He addressed the gathering once they had all returned from their foraging expeditions. The haul was meagre at best and they had lost at least six of their number to the enemy this time.
“I agree.” Number Forty nodded. “I’m sick and tired of them and their smug superiority complex. Size isn’t everything! It’s time we brought them down a peg or two.” A smattering of voices were raised in approval and several individuals present fidgeted as they began to pay more attention.
“They fear us; that much is evident.” Number Nine said, rousing himself from a deep thought. He had survived longer than most, and so his words were taken very seriously. “In fact, it is laughable how much distress even one of us can cause them if we get too close! We should exploit this to our advantage.”
“Yes, good idea!” Number Twelve replied with excitement. He wandered around restlessly, the paper floor rustling slightly under his weight. “We ought to hit them where it hurts; to be most effective we should target their young! Experience shows that they are very afraid of us, more so than the older ones.”
“That’s true.” Number Nine said, cocking his head to one side. “Personally, I enjoy the idea of chasing after the children! They will flee like startled rabbits, heehee! Their screeching will be hilarious!”
“Very true, my brother!” Number Forty sniggered. “It will be pleasing to hear it! But we must not let our sport distract us from our vengeance; we must attack any and all of the elders who may seek to protect their young.”

“Attack? You lot?” Number Seventy laughed aloud, and the other females joined in. “You lot can’t do much more than get in the way! Attack them my striped thorax!” The males grumbled angrily, their enthusiasm ebbing away in response to the jibe.

“They may still be of use, my sister,” Number Seventy-three added, flicking her legs enthusiastically. “Our adversaries can’t tell any of us apart, so they won’t know which of us carry the real threat! The smallest of swarms will be enough to terrify them, even if there are only a handful of sisters among them!”

“Hmm, that’s a good point, sister,” Number Seventy stopped laughing and appeared thoughtful. “Very well, this is action both sexes can be a part of! Let’s be about it, then, whilst we are all in agreement!”
“The young ones will have more of the sweet food, too! We can bring food back to the nest! The Queen will be thrilled!” Number Twelve shouted, his excitement peaking. His mood was infectious and soon several buzzing voices were raised in agreement.
“Hmmm, I hadn’t thought of that…” Number Seventy said with a hint of lust in her eyes. “Yes, we can do that, too, but as a secondary objective. Our primary objective should be to spread panic and fear.”

“PANIC AND FEAR! PANIC AND FEAR! PANIC AND FEAR!” Dozens and dozens of voices filled the stuffy air inside the nest, and soon the swarm was on the move. One by one, males and females left the safety of their home and travelled with purpose towards the nearest enemy dwellings. They were outnumbered and outgunned, but that wouldn’t stop them. They wanted to inflict pain and fear and by the wings of the Queen they would do so!

The nearest such place was a short journey away. A tall man and his pretty wife sat in their garden, enjoying the warm rays of the late summer evening. Their two children played in a paddling pool, splashing each other and roaring with laughter. A pitcher of sweet fruit juice and four half-filled glasses stood on a table nearby. The clumsy giants were content for the moment, blissfully unaware of the army of wasps which were about to descend upon them…

A – Z Challenge Day 11

Day eleven is here! It’s strange to think that we’re nearing the half-way point of this April’s Blogging Challenge, and even stranger to think that I’ve actually written ten stories before this one!

Anyway, today’s word comes from my very own proof-reader/second-pair-of-eyes/ideas-bouncer-offer/hand-holder/constant-source-of-encouragement, my partner, Sammi. Or, as I prefer to call her, Samwise! Today’s word is “KARMA”, and this gave me a bit of trouble to begin with. Initially I thought “great! I can write something about good and evil deeds and have some kind of mighty cosmic force balancing them out!”, but then I quickly realised that I had no idea how to write such a thing! After a little while of staring at a blank page , this is what I came up with.

Thanks again, Samwise!

KARMA

By Adam Dixon

Ping!

Karma looked up from her calculations and glanced at her computer screen. She’d received an email from one of her agents in the land mass currently known as Great Britain. She opened it, scanned it briefly and tutted.

“Hmmm…Mr Jones, you naughty little man!” she muttered under her breath. “Leaving the poor woman with two kids and no job, eh? Well, I’ve got the very thing for you…” She began typing, forwarding the email to her good friend and work partner, Death.

“This one’s been especially bad this time. He clearly has no stomach for commitment or hard work. I’d suggest bowel cancer. Let me know what you think!”

Karma pressed SEND, knowing full well that Death would respond in the affirmative. He almost always agreed with her on these matters, not least because it spiced up his day. She cleared her throat and adjusted her glasses before looking down at her calculations once again. She had been working out the scale upon which divine justice needed to be issued to European politicians based on their actions over the last two decades. It was proving to be quite tricky, as not all of them were crooked or uncaring bastards, but enough had been that it called for some serious punishment. She realised that it was something that she would have to build up towards, and she had an idea how to get the ball rolling. She reached for her office phone and dialled her receptionist.

“Percy, my dear, would you please send Pity in for me? Thank you!” Karma smiled as she sat back in her chair. Perception was the best receptionist she had ever had, and they had worked together for aeons now. He always knew which cases needed her direct intervention and made sure that the flow of celestial traffic into her workspace was one-way. After a few moments, the door opened and a tiny, meek-looking being shuffled inside.

“Come in, Pity! Have a seat, dear,” Karma smiled and gestured towards the empty space in front of her desk. She always said that, regardless of whom she was addressing. It was an example of her strange sense of humour.

“Hello, Miss Karma,” Pity mumbled, holding one of her arms nervously. “How can I help you today?”

“Well, dear, I have rather a big job for you,” Karma tapped a few buttons on her keyboard and wheeled her chair over to the printer as it began to whir. Collecting the ejected pages she turned back to Pity and showed them to her.

“Do you know who these men and women are?” She asked. Pity pushed her long hair from her eyes and scrutinised the images. She nodded.

“Yes, Miss Karma,” she replied quietly. “They are members of the current European governments. Such a shame, they have very difficult jobs…”

“Indeed, but they have made several mistakes and the cosmos demands balance,” Karma knitted her long fingers together and stared at Pity over them.

“I would like you to influence the various media organisations around Europe. Their reporters need to begin to pity these specific individuals so that the stories they release will reflect this. I trust you can have that done within the month?” Pity looked up at Karma, her soft face creased in confusion.

“Well, yes, of course I can, Miss Karma,” she said. “But, may I ask why?”

“Oh, I suppose so,” Karma replied, sniffing. “These men and women have built their careers on strong public images, and in doing so have trampled on many people, both their governmental peers as well as the people they serve. I need to bring them all down a peg or two before their individual punishments can be put into place. Does that satisfy you?”

“I…yes, Miss Karma…” Pity answered, fidgeting. “But, erm, wouldn’t this be a job better suited to Hate?”

“Pfft, no!” Karma waved the suggestion away as if it were a bothersome fly. “Hate will certainly become involved later, but for now a subtle touch is needed. These people do not need to be reviled just yet, they need to be pitied! Their public’s trust in them needs to be shaken not with a barrage of anger but with simple doubt and even understanding! They need to be seen as fallible humans and therefore not fit for their lofty positions, and that is why I require you to plant the seeds. Now, we have wasted enough time discussing this, off you go, dear! I expect to see firm results before next month!”

“Yes, Miss Karma,” Pity replied sadly. She bowed her head and trailed out of the office. Karma shook her head in irritation. Pity was a good worker, loyal too, but she was often a hindrance with her warped sense of morality. Yes, people got hurt when Karma did her work, and yes some of them even died, but she was doing the universe a service. Why did Pity have to overcomplicate everything? Besides, it was a fine balancing act; those who were wronged or helped others during their lives were due a bit of compensation and so Karma saw to that as well. It was all part of the job and Pity would do well to remember that. Karma pressed the call button on her phone again.

“Percy? Be a dear and send me up one of Gluttony’s special muffins, would you? I need the sugar today!”

“Well, I would, Karma, but you ate the last one yesterday,” came Perception’s amused reply. Karma could almost hear the smirk on his face. She pressed the button, an angry frown creasing her forehead.

“Well then, you’ll have to bring me that one you’ve hidden in your desk, won’t you? Don’t think I didn’t see it, Percy, I see everything! Now hop to it!”

Outside the office, Perception sighed and rummaged in his desk for the muffin. Karma’s behaviour didn’t bother him, he knew better than most that she could be a real bitch.

Surveillance

The prompt for this story was provided by Esther Newton. I have had the pleasure of writing for her a few times now, and it has always been rewarding. Check out her blog at https://esthernewtonblog.wordpress.com/

Surveillance
By Adam Dixon

image

Dorothea hummed to herself as she folded her clothes and placed them into a suitcase on her bed. She straightened up and adjusted the towel wrapped around her head as it started to teeter to one side. Her damp skin smelled of luxurious bath salts beneath her silken dressing gown and her dark hair was enriched with the expensive creams and shampoos. As she brought the wayward towel under control she glanced at her reflection in the full-length mirror by her wardrobe. Dorothea was pleased with what she saw; she still looked twenty-five despite being almost a decade older and her blue eyes had lost none of their seductive gleam. She winked at herself and smiled demurely. Turning back to her suitcase she nodded in satisfaction and zipped it up carefully. She moved towards the bay windows of her bedroom and reached out to draw the curtains.
She froze. There was a black car parked in plain view outside and a man was sat behind the steering wheel, staring at the house. Dorothea blinked a couple of times and took a careful step closer to the window. The man was of medium height, somewhat scrawny-looking even from such a distance and he had a mop of ginger hair. The sunglasses perched on his beak of a nose were unnecessary in the dark street and they gave the man a sinister appearance. The man was looking directly at her bedroom window, and as Dorothea approached it his face broke into a grin. He raised a pale hand in a mock salute. Dorothea swore under her breath.
The phone on her bedside table rang, making Dorothea jump. Annoyed at her reaction, she strode barefoot across her shag-pile carpet towards it. A moment later, her mobile phone rang from its resting place on her bed. Dorothea stood for a few moments and listened to them ring. It amused her to hear the two phones sounding their distinct calls and competing for her attention, it was as if she were a doe between two warring stags. Well, if a stag ever sang “Spice up Your Life” by the Spice Girls, that is. She smiled and picked up the house phone.
“Hello, Dorothea Wilson speaking,” she answered smoothly.
“Evenin’, precious,” a man’s voice replied, high-pitched and cheerful.
“Detective McClean, what a pleasant surprise,” Dorothea said, lifting the handset and moving towards the window. The detective gave her a cheery wave with his free hand, holding his mobile to his ear with the other. Her own mobile continued ringing behind her, filling the room with cheesy pop music.
“Now, Detective, this is bordering on harassment,” she said, returning the wave lazily. “I know you were following me this afternoon and you are still hanging around. Surely you have a wife to go home to?”
“And miss a chance to keep an eye on you?” the detective grinned as he leaned back against his seat. “’Sides, she’ll have some trash on the box anyway, like that stupid sitcom with those losers in New York. Honestly, I’d rather just sit here.”
“Well then, colour me flattered,” Dorothea said, setting the handset down on the windowsill. She perched her rear next to it, lifting her leg to give her balance. Her dressing gown slipped and exposed her leg up to her thigh. She noted with the detective fidgeting in his car and smirked.
“Am I under investigation, Detective?” She asked. “You released me yesterday, so is there a reason that you’re keeping me company this evening?”
“Oh, maybe,” the detective replied. “But that’d be tellin’, wouldn’t it? For now let’s just call it surveillance.”
“Surveillance?” Dorothea repeated as she peered up and down the street. It was empty: the occupants of the highly desirable detached houses would be snoring in their beds by now. “Are you still on the clock then, Detective?”
“Nope, not this time, precious,” McClean flashed a toothy smile from below his thin moustache. “The boss won’t grant me any more overtime. Can you believe that?”
“Tragic, I’m sure,” Dorothea glanced back over her shoulder as her mobile stopped ringing. She stood gracefully and sauntered back to the bed to pick it up.
“Now, where are you off to, precious?” McClean said in mock disappointment. “You’re not gettin’ bored of me already, are you?”
“Perish the thought, Detective,” Dorothea answered sarcastically, smiling to herself. She flipped open the silver Motorola with her free hand. One missed call and one text message from the same number. She read the text.
R we gd 2 go? Boat will b ready in 30 mins. D x

Dorothea closed her eyes and sighed in resignation. She quickly thumbed a reply.
Fraid not. McClean outside. Will try again 2moz. Luv u x

“Why the sigh, precious?” McClean squeaked in her ear. “I’m not keepin’ you from anything, am I?” His voice had a mocking tone to it which tempted Dorothea to hang up. Instead she glided back to the window and smiled down at the detective.
“Of course not, Detective, I simply feel for your poor wife. All alone tonight because her husband would rather survey another woman. It’s almost sordid.”
“Yeah, almost,” McClean chuckled, and Dorothea could feel his eyes on her curves. “But don’t worry about my old lady, precious. She’ll have the brats keepin’ her company tonight. That’s if they’ve bothered to come home, anyway. Either way she’ll be fine, so I’ll just sit tight and keep an eye on you for a while.”
“Lucky me,” Dorothea replied sarcastically.
“Yep, it’s just like the lottery, ‘cept it’s free,” McClean leaned forwards in his seat, staring intently up at Dorothea’s window. They stared at each other in silence for several minutes. McClean’s smile faded and was replaced by a stony expression.
“I know what’s goin’ on, Mrs Wilson,” he said, the cheery persona slipping from his voice like a dropped mask. “Not the whole thing, I’ll admit, but I’m certain that I’m pretty darn close. You’re too smart to give anythin’ away but I’m on to you. I know your husband is contactin’ you, and I intend to keep an eye on you ‘til we catch him.”
“I’m sure I have no idea what you are talking about, Detective,” Dorothea said calmly, holding back the panic she felt with practiced ease. “I haven’t heard a word from David since the morning of the theft, as I told your department this afternoon. If I knew where he was I would inform you immediately.”
“Yeah, course you would, precious,” McClean replied, sneering. “’Cos you’ve got absolutely nothin’ to gain from keepin’ him hidden from us, do you? Nothin’ at all…’cept for those millions of dollars he got away with, o’ course. You’d be like that crook’s wife from the Great Train Robbery they had over in Britain in the 60’s…just without the messy divorce later on, I’m sure.” He barked out a laugh, clearly pleased with the comparison.
“Well this is all very amusing, Detective,” Dorothea allowed her voice to betray her irritation this time. She absent-mindedly caressed her diamond engagement ring and golden wedding ring with her left thumb. “But it is getting late and I have had a long day.”
“Sure you have, precious, sure you have,” the jovial tone was back as McClean slouched in his seat. “You must be all worn out, I know my boys at the station can be pretty darn rigorous with their questionin’. Maybe you should get some shut-eye and try to forget the whole thing. Don’t worry, ole Marty McClean’ll keep watch tonight!” He cackled down the phone and Dorothea wished she could reach an arm through it and throttle the smarmy bastard.
“Glad to hear it, Detective,” she said, pulling the curtains closed with calm, controlled movements, shutting out her view of the policeman and his black car. “Goodnight.”
“G’night, precious. I’ll be seein’ you again soon.” The line went dead as McClean hung up. Dorothea sat down on her bed in silence for a few minutes, allowing her brain to tick over this new problem. Eventually, she picked up her mobile phone and sent another text.
D, McClean knows something. Might need 2 b taken care of. B careful. Luv u x

Dorothea then removed the SIM card from her phone and snapped it in half. She replaced it with a brand new one from a stash of them in her desk drawer before turning off the light. Outside her house, Detective McClean smiled and sipped on a flask of strong black coffee as he maintained his lonely vigil.
***
Three days later, David Wilson sat in his spacious yacht and read a text message from an unknown number.
D, McClean gone, thnk God. R u ready? Luv u x

David hesitated, his thumb hovering above the keys. He took a deep breath and replied.
Gr8! All set, just w8in 4 u. Luv u 2. D x
David put his phone into his pocket, a faraway look on his rugged, handsome face. A cough from the man seated in front of him jerked him from his reverie, rattling the cuffs on his left hand.
“So, what’s the deal, bucko? Did she bite?” Detective McClean leaned forwards, his eyes bright with anticipation.
“Yes, she did,” David replied, staring at the beautiful wooden flooring of the cabin. His arm was handcuffed to a railing and he kept flexing his fingers in agitation.
“Well, doggone it if that’s not the best news I’ve heard since my old lady said she was goin’ on a diet!” McClean grinned, sitting back against the plump pillows of the cabin bunk.
“I’m pleased to hear it, Detective,” David said, flashing McClean a black look.
“So was I, she was gettin’ a little too fond of those Wendy’s burgers,” McClean replied, still grinning. “Anyhoo, now all we’ve gotta do is sit tight an’ wait for the Ice Queen to show up. Johnson!” McClean barked a name, and a moment later a swarthy uniformed policeman poked his head into the cabin.
“Yeah, Detective?” He answered quickly.
“Get your ass in the boat next to us an’ keep your eyes peeled for Mrs Wilson,” McClean ordered. “The moment she turns up an’ comes in here I want you outta there quick an’ blockin’ her escape. Think you can handle that?”
Yeah, I can handle it, sir,” Johnson answered, wincing at McClean’s mocking tone.
“That’s great,” McClean replied, waving him off. “Now get to it! An’ stay outta sight, for the love of God!” Johnson retreated into the morning sunshine, and McClean turned his smug grin on David once again.
“He’s a real peach, that one,” he said. “Not much upstairs, but he’s one reliable cop.”
“Fantastic,” David replied, fidgeting in his chair. “Did you really need to cuff me so tightly, Detective?” He asked, glowering at McClean. “I’ve done everything you’ve asked of me, surely I deserve better treatment.”
“You deserve whatever I decide you deserve, bucko,” McClean said, a threatening edge creeping into his voice. “I wanted you to sing and you went full Pavarotti on me, but that doesn’t make you anythin’ more than a dirty, double-crossin’ thief, so shut your yap or I’ll forget about our deal and let you serve your full sentence!”
“Alright, alright!” David sighed and slumped in his chair.
“Good,” McClean said, smiling again. He tucked his hands behind his head and gazed up at the ceiling. “It was pretty stupid of you to leave the boat, Mr Wilson. You musta known that the whole county’d be lookin’ for you.”
“I needed to eat,” David shrugged. “I wasn’t expecting to be waiting for Dorothea more than a day.”
“Well, thank the good Lord for sharp-eyed shopkeepers, huh?” McClean chuckled and shook his head. “I can’t wait to see the look on Mrs Wilson’s face when she walks in!”
David did not reply, and before long Dorothea appeared. McClean was not disappointed: the look on her face was priceless.