Before my Heart was Cold

The cellar was cold, musty and seemed more cramped with every visit. Not thirty seconds had passed since Carl had descended the creaking staircase, but it already seemed like an hour. A single fluorescent tube flickered above, throwing shadows across the room. The gentle plinking of Alisa’s piano drifted into Carl’s ears and he shivered; the melody was mournful, the minor chords chosen with care to amplify his pain. He tried to ignore it as he unscrewed the heavy cap and checked the oil level. It was low, so he lifted the jerry can and carefully poured in the pungent liquid; he had loved that smell, once upon a time.

“You’re back early,” Alisa stated, not turning her head. “Two weeks to the day I last saw you, minus three hours, seven minutes and twenty-eight seconds.” She was seated in front of Carl, facing the old, dusty piano.

“Yeah,” Carl said and as he put aside the empty can. He replaced the cap and rested his hand on the cool metal surrounding it as if to transfer some warmth into it.

“You always do that,” Alisa said, her voice lifeless. The vibrations tickled his fingers through the metal.

“Can’t help it, I guess,” Carl said. He stepped back to get a better look at her, adjusting his thick glasses on his beak of a nose. With sad eyes, he examined the metal plate which covered the back of Alisa’s head and went on to form her entire left arm. He still marvelled at the workmanship; it looked so real, with only a light rusting at the elbow giving its material away. He couldn’t even see the myriad of wires and tubes which lay beneath. It was exceptional, and unnerving.

“Do you like this song?” Alisa asked, still looking at the piano. Carl moved beside her as her fingers deftly swept across the yellowed keys. The song was heart-wrenching and tightened Carl’s chest.

“It’s beautiful, Allie,” he whispered. “But it’s so sad. I don’t think I can bear it for long.”

“Interesting,” Alisa said, slowing her playing but not stopping. “I feel nothing. I remember being moved by music before my heart was cold.”

“You were, Allie,” Carl said, a grimace twisting the corners of his mouth. He hated it when she said that. “You used to love how music made you feel, even when you couldn’t play very well.”

“I play better now,” Alisa stated.

“Yeah,” Carl admitted. “You’re a hell of a lot better…but there’s no joy in it anymore.”

“Joy.” Alisa stopped playing and turned around. Carl winced as her face came in to view, more than half of it covered by a plate of metal. Her eyes were still the same pale blue, but her freckles only covered her right cheek and the laughter had vanished from her once jovial face. Her button nose was gone, replaced by a shaped metal ridge; a dreadful substitute in Carl’s opinion. Her lips no longer smiled, but instead hung like a grey horizon above her chin. In the absence of the piano Carl could make out faint whirring and ticking sounds echoing from within Alisa’s body.

“Joy.” Alisa repeated, her grey tongue clicking against her teeth. “Curious. My name is derived from the Hebrew word for joy. I think my parent chose it on purpose.”

“I wouldn’t know, Allie,” Carl shrugged, feeling deeply uncomfortable.

“Joy…there was no joy after you changed me.” Alisa said, looking straight at Carl. She shifted her heavy feet, making a dull thud on the cellar floor. The chains which snaked around her ankles gave a dull rasp at the movement.

“You all regret it now.” Her voice was cold, just like the rest of her.

“Allie, stop it,” Carl pleaded, reaching for her shoulder. He shivered as his hand touched steel and a chill ran up his arm.

“My injuries were fatal, but you decided that I shouldn’t be allowed to die,” Alisa pressed on in her sterile tone. “It’s a strange to think of it, especially when most people wouldn’t force a cherished pet to stay alive when they are suffering. It was selfish.”

“Allie, don’t talk like that!” Carl snapped. He faced her with as much courage as he could, forcing himself to look into her dull eyes. “You were everything to us! To me! We couldn’t let you slip away like that! We…needed you here…I needed you.”

“Not like this,” Alisa replied, her eyes boring back into Carl’s. “Nobody wanted this, and that’s why I’m here, out of sight and out of mind. You’re the only one who still comes back.” Carl was silent and his jaw worked as he tried to think of something to say. Before he could, the thing that was once Alisa spoke again.

“You’re lonely, aren’t you, Carl?” Carl was startled and took another few moments to answer.

“Yeah…I am,” he confessed at last. “I hoped…I thought things would get better…but I ought to look after you. It’s the right thing to do!” He spoke with more confidence than he felt.

“Five years is a long time when something is hopeless,” Alisa said, turning back to the piano. The mournful music resumed once again. “Visiting me is illogical and it causes you pain. It won’t be long before even you stop coming down here to change my oil. When that day comes I will be allowed to die.”

“Allie, I’ll not abandon you!” Carl insisted, despite the horror he felt growing inside him. Alisa’s words frightened Carl because he had been considering doing just that for months. It was not a thought he entertained with his full attention, but circled the edge of his consciousness like a hawk waiting for the right moment to strike. Nothing escaped Alisa anymore, and the hawk had been circling lower.

“Perhaps,” Alisa said, her fingers moving over the aged keys. “It won’t matter to me either way.” Carl’s shoulders slumped and his heart grew heavy in his chest. He still loved Alisa, or the memory of her, at least. He could remember the warmth of her face when it was pressed against his, how her lips and her tongue had tasted, and how musical her voice used to be. He remembered how he used to stand and watch her play the piano, positioned in much the same way as he was at that very moment, studying her fingers as they danced and smiling at her eagerness. He had almost been driven mad with the thought of losing her, and had jumped at the chance to save her life. If only he had known…

Carl wandered back to the stairs leading up to the main building, gazing up at the open door and the bright sunlight which beckoned beyond. He watched Alisa play for a few minutes and then began to ascend. He paused at the threshold of the door, holding the handle in a shaking hand.

“Bye, Allie,” he said, his feeble voice cracking. “I…I love you,”

“Goodbye, Carl,” Alisa said. Cold. Precise. Inhuman. Carl closed the door with tears streaming down his cheeks. His heart thundered within his chest, even as it broke with shame. Sobs racked his body as he turned a key in the lock, and the piano stopped playing.

 

 

Follow me on Twitter @ADixonFiction.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

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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

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.

Cracked Head

Hello, everyone 🙂 I wrote this story a few months ago, using a first line prompt and I was very pleased with how it turned out. It’sa little bit different from my usual type of stories, but upon re-reading it I’m still quite fond of it. Please do let me know what you think 🙂

As always, thank you for reading!

Cracked Head
By Adam Dixon

“Is that what you meant to do?” Pete smiled at the memory of his question from three years ago. It was the crack in the headstock of Jimmy’s bass which had prompted it, or the lack of one; Jimmy had it fixed almost right away.
“Yeah, course it was,” Jimmy had replied, rolling his eyes. “Halfway through the gig I thought ‘you know what’ll liven this up? If I drop my bass on the stage!’ Bloody hell, Pete…” Pete remembered blushing at the remark. He had admired Jimmy back then, believing that his big brother could do no wrong. Pete’s smiled faded as he ran his finger over the spot where the crack had been. The instrument had always been lovingly cared for, so finding a layer of dust on it had been a shock.
“Well, d’you still want it?” Jimmy asked, breaking Pete from his reverie. Pete stood from his crouch and faced him in the small bedroom. Jimmy looked terrible, his face was pale and haggard, his blond hair was a scrambled mess and he had lost a lot of weight. His cheerful brown eyes were dimmed and bloodshot above deep purple bags. He was also sniffing constantly as if he had a cold.
“Well?” Jimmy insisted, frowning in annoyance.
“I…yeah, course I do,” Pete answered, thrown by Jimmy’s bluntness. Jimmy nodded and smiled, nibbling at a stubby fingernail.
“Cool,” he said. “Did you bring the money, then?” The hopeful tone in his voice made Pete feel uncomfortable. He pulled a wad of notes from his Marvel Comics wallet and held them out. Jimmy’s eyes lit up and he snatched the money in an instant.
“Nice one, bro!” Jimmy said gleefully. “And you told me you were skint last month!” He snorted and shot Pete a brief, accusing glance. Pete felt sick.
“I was,” Pete said. “But I’ve been saving up from my paper round; it’s taken me three months to get that. Why are you selling it anyway, Jimmy? You love that bloody thing!”
Jimmy barked an unpleasant laugh, and pocketed the notes. “I’ve told you already, it’s for food and toiletries and all that boring stuff. My student loan barely covers this place!” He swung an arm around the room for emphasis before winking and adding: “Condoms, too. The price soon adds up!” Pete smiled in response, but stayed silent. When Jimmy had gone to uni he had been attractive in a scruffy rock-star kind of way and had boasted of late-night encounters with his fellow students. Pete had burned with jealousy and curiosity, but Jimmy had changed a lot in a year. Their frequent phone calls and constant Whatsapping had trickled to almost nothing in recent months, and Pete was worried.
“Well, I’ll look after her, don’t you worry!” Pete smiled and changed the subject. “So, what’s the plan for today, then?” Jimmy’s brow creased.
“Plan?” he echoed, sniffing twice and scratching his head.
“Yeah,” Pete said, disbelief and anger stirring in his stomach. “You do have a plan, right?” Jimmy stared blankly for a moment then slapped his forehead with his palm.
“Oh crap!” Jimmy said, his eyes wide. “It’s your bloody birthday! Oh, mate, I’m so sorry! I forgot! Yeah, let’s totally do something! Like, we could go to the bar in a bit? Get you a pint, yeah?”
“I’m fifteen, Jimmy!” Pete snapped, unable to stop two tears from sliding down his cheeks. Jimmy’s face crumpled and he stepped closer. A strong smell of B.O. and cigarettes assaulted Pete’s nose; he didn’t know that Jimmy had started smoking.
“Course you are, I know that!” Jimmy said, placing a hand on Pete’s shoulder. “Course I do! We can still get some food at the bar, if you want. Or we could go into town and grab a meal somewhere, or – “
“Forget it,” Pete said, shrugging off his hand. The tears flowed as he lifted the bass from its stand. “You’ve got what you wanted from me now! I can’t believe I’ve spent two hours on a coach for this, what a bloody loser!”
“Come on, Pete,” Jimmy croaked. “Don’t be like that!”
Pete wiped his eyes furiously. “I’m going home. Maybe mum will still take me to see Logan.”
“Pete!” Jimmy tried to touch his shoulder again but Pete shoved him away. Jimmy’s wasted frame offered no resistance and he staggered backwards, shocked. Pete seized the guitar bag which lay at his feet and shoved the bass into it.
“I’m taking this,” Pete declared. He shot Jimmy a tearful, angry look. “Unless you’re gonna charge me for it, as well?” That hit home. Pete stormed out of Jimmy’s room and down the corridor, ignoring the pleading sobs which followed him.
***
“I just didn’t know what else to do,” Pete said. He had calmed down during his walk across town, and the bitter sea wind had given him something else to worry about. The left side of his head faced the beach and tingled as he sat miserably at the coach station.
“That stupid little…!” a strangled voice said in his ear. Pete winced and moved his phone an inch further away. There was a pause and a measure of control entered the voice.
“I’m glad you called me, darling,” it said. “I’m so sorry you had to see your brother like that, today of all days!”
“It’s okay, mum,” Pete said, relieved that the expected eruption had not occurred.
“No, it’s not okay!” his mother insisted. “You’ve just found out that Jimmy is a druggie on your birthday, for goodness’ sake!”
“Would it have been any easier on different day?” Pete demanded, then was immediately contrite.
“Oh, mum, I’m sorry for snapping,” he said, rubbing his puffy eyes. “I’m a little on edge, you know?”
“It’s alright, Peter,” his mother sighed. “Ooh, just you wait until I speak to that boy!” Pete opened his mouth to reply, then closed it. He looked down at the guitar bag which rested against his knee. He hadn’t let go of it since he had left Jimmy’s flat. Strong memories flooded his mind, and Pete swallowed back the lump that rose in his throat. He remembered Jimmy teaching him notes and chords on that very bass and helping him to save up and buy his own. He remembered his incomprehension when their dad walked out, and how Jimmy had seen him through it.
“Don’t call him yet, mum,” Pete said slowly. “Let me talk to him first.”
“I thought you were on your way home?” Pete’s mother was puzzled. Pete stood as the coach pulled up, gleaming in the dim sunshine. The doors opened with a whoosh and a hiss, but he turned away from it.
“Not yet, mum,” he replied. “I’m going back to Jimmy’s. He needs me.” Saying it aloud cemented his resolve, and Pete made his way back towards the university.
“I won’t cut you out, bro,” Pete said to himself. “Never.”
***
Up on stage, Pete revelled in the attention. He and his bandmates made use of the tiny space as best they could, thrusting their hips and nodding their heads with huge grins on their faces. They weren’t great, but they had pulled a decent crowd for the small gig and everyone seemed to be having a good time. The whole space smelled of armpits, beer and excitement, and Pete loved it. He plucked at his instrument, glorying in the pounding of the amp behind him, savouring the vibrations as he strung notes together. The old bass he was using still had life in her, and Pete had taken good care of it.
The song ended to a smattering of genuine, good-natured applause, and Pete scanned the room whilst the lead singer spoke into the mic. He saw a few of his school friends and waved at them, and they replied with smirks and crude gestures. He saw his mother in the crowd, beaming and doing her utmost to embarrass him in front of his mates. He grinned at her sheepishly and continued to gaze around the room. His eyes drifted towards the bar at the rear, and found the brown pair that he sought. Jimmy raised a hand in greeting, nursing a glass of Coke with the other as he leaned casually against the bar. His face and body had filled out since he had dropped out of uni and he had shaken off the haunted look at last. The singer reached the end of his melodramatic speech but before he could count the band in, Pete stepped up to his own microphone.
“Just a sec,” he said, wincing as the feedback screeched across the room. Everyone looked at him in annoyance and curiosity; Pete gulped and wished his heart would slow down a bit.
“Erm, I just wanted to add something quickly before we start,” Pete continued. “I’d like to dedicate this song to someone in the audience, someone who inspired me to get into music. It’s my big brother, Jimmy, who’s hiding at the back over there. Hi Jimmy!” Pete waved and laughed at Jimmy’s alarmed expression as the forty-odd people in the audience turned to look at him. Jimmy cleared his throat and looked down at his feet, his cool, casual poise ruined.
“Anyway, I owe a lot to Jimmy, and since it’s his birthday tomorrow I thought I’d embarrass him. Thanks for coming, bro!” Pete waved again and the audience clapped. Behind him, the drummer counted them in. One, two, three! The room was once more filled with the sound of something resembling rock music and Pete settled into his role. He caught Jimmy’s eye again as he strummed his big brother’s bass. Jimmy was smiling, and he raised his drink in a salute. To the casual observer, it would appear Jimmy was thanking Pete for the shout-out, but Pete knew there was more to it than that. It had been a difficult year for Jimmy, but Pete had been there for him through all of it.
“You’re welcome, bro,” Pete thought as the amps roared. “I love you.”
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Image courtesy of 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.

Out of Retirement

Merry Christmas, everyone! 😀

 

Out of Retirement

By Adam Dixon

 

“Voila! What do you think, mon ami?” The old reindeer turned at the sound of the cheery voice, his legs creaking and his back threatening to cramp up. He lifted his shaggy white head at the newcomer as he stepped in through the door and into the tiny cabin. A large old man dressed in green cloth grinned and turned his flabby jowls towards the roaring fire. The orange and gold light flickered across his clean-shaven face.

Well, Pierre, I didn’t realise you had quite so many chins,” he replied, sending the thought with a mischievous wink. The old man’s smile faded and he huffed, flopping his bulk down on a nearby armchair.

“Oh, you are a scoundrel!” he declared “Ah, but you are right, of course!” There was a small wooden table next to his armchair and upon it stood a bottle of wine and two clean glasses. Pierre uncorked the bottle and helped himself.

“So, the big night is upon us again, no? It comes around so quickly!”

Yes, it does,” the deer nodded. “I still get the old feelings of anticipation, you know. I suppose they never go away, even after retirement. How long as it been now?

“Twenty-five years for me,” Pierre replied. “And I believe that it will be twenty-two for you. Mon Dieu, how time flies!”

Hard to believe that the new Santa is the second one after you,” the deer said. “And the Rudolph is the third after me. We seem to be getting through them these days. Pity about Seamus, he was a wonderful Santa.

“Oui, he was,” Pierre said sadly. “But a bit too fond of whiskey, in the end. He shouldn’t have drank so much before flying through that Pacific storm…such a shame…and that was three years ago now, no?”

Yes, that’s right. Still, the new Santa appears to be finding his feet,” the deer sent. As soon as he had finished speaking, there came a knock on the door. A moment later an elf poked her head inside, an expectant look on her face. The cold night air rushed in and disturbed the fire, sending shadows dancing around the room in a panic.

“Evening, sirs,” she said, curtseying as she stepped inside. The small bells on her tall, pointed hat jingled. “Santa would like speak with you. He’s a bit nervous about tonight, I think.”

“Speak of the devil!” Pierre said with a broad grin. “Wiggles and I are not up to much, please send him in!” The elf curtseyed again and left the cabin. The reindeer growled and glared at Pierre.

Why do you insist on calling me that?” he sent.

“It is your name, is it not?” Pierre asked, pouring out an extra glass of wine as he refilled his own.

That’s not the point, you know I hate it!” Wiggles sent, scowling. “That was the hardest part about retiring, having to lose my first decent name…” Before Pierre could begin laughing in earnest, the door to the cabin swung open again. Another very fat man strode into the room, resplendent in his red-and-white clothing and shining white beard. His dark face was creased in happiness as he walked over to Pierre and seized his hand.

“Pierre! Ça me fait toujours plaisir de te voir!” he said with enthusiasm. Pierre smiled at the compliment and nodded towards Wiggles.

“And to you, mon ami! But let us speak in English for the sake of our valued steed, yes? He is not intelligent enough for two languages!” Pierre yelped as Wiggles bit him on the hip.

I have a working understanding of the language, you fat fool!” Wiggles chided. “Half a century of listening to you wail your old songs gave me that much at least!

“Those are ballads of great beauty and skilled composition, I’ll have you know!” Pierre said with a laugh, rubbing his hip. “Now, what can we do for you, dear Emmanuel? May I offer you some wine?” The man in red smiled and spoke up, stroking his beard with his fingers.

“Nah man, I’d better not,” he said slowly, sampling the less familiar words with care. His accent was thick and exotic for the North Pole. “Pierre, I don’t like the take-off, man. Reindeers are all ready, but I’m the scared old goat! Ya both helped me last Christmas, an’ so could…could ya come an’ see me off this time? I’d be grateful.” Emmanuel’s eyes moved imploringly between Pierre and Wiggles. It was Wiggles who spoke first.

Of course, Emmanuel!” the reindeer sent, shooting Pierre an eager look. “The fat fool and I were just discussing the old times, as it happens. I think we both miss the job more than we’d like to admit.” Emmanuel’s grin split his beard in unequal halves and he nodded with vigour.

“Oh, thank you, thank you!” he said with excitement. “I bet you do miss it, man! It’s the best job I ever had! The kiddies are so happy in the mornin’, an’ I get to make it happen! An’ seein’ Haiti again always brings me joy!”

“Oui, that is wonderful!” Pierre said with longing in his eyes. “I am envious, Emmanuel. I would love to see Lille again…to be frank, I would love to see the world again, but I am too old to travel away from here now.” Emmanuel seemed struck by a thought and he cocked his head to one side.

“Maybe not, man,” he said slowly. “Ya should come with me! Both of ya! Think about it, man! Up in the sky again, feelin’ the wind in ya hair and hearin’ those sleigh bells jinglin’!” Pierre’s eyes widened and Wiggles was too taken aback to say anything.

“Emmanuel, that is a magnificent idea,” Pierre replied, choked. “I didn’t realise just how much I missed that creaky old bucket and the stink of the reindeer blowing in my face until this evening. I’d love to do it all one more time!”

Eloquent as always,” sent Wiggles. “You can count me in, as well, Emmanuel! That is if the Grand Elf sees fit to let us, and if we can get the ‘creaky old bucket’ off the ground with you both in it!

“Aha, you a cheeky one, man!” Emmanuel said, grinning from ear to ear. “Come, come! Let’s go an’ speak with him right now!”

***

The Grand Elf was an old being who radiated knowledge and wisdom. His small face was cracked and creased by innumerable lines from innumerable years on the earth, and his long white beard trailed the floor in twin lines behind him. Standing in the large, decadent Grand Cabin, supported by two young elves who held him at the elbows, he looked hard at his audience. Despite their own long lives and their familiarity with him, the trio were struck dumb with awe at the elf. They fidgeted before his gaze, scuffing their feet on the floor and clearing their throats as he pondered their question.

“This…is most irregular,” the Grand Elf rasped. His voice sounded like sandpaper scraping across a wooden toy. “There is no precedent for a former Santa Claus and Rudolph taking part in Christmas Eve so long after the termination of their duties. Why should I allow it?”

“Master Elder, sir,” Emmanuel began, wringing his hands together. “I’m still scared about the take-off, an’ I could use the help.”

“The elves working here can provide ample instruction,” the Elder wheezed, frowning.

“I know, sir, but I would feel much better to have my friends with me,” Emmanuel pressed. “An’ also, they wanna fly again! You’d be doin’ them a great favour, too!”

“Hmm…” the Grand Elf mused, rubbing his chin with a trembling, time-withered hand. “It is not simply a question of missing the journey into the sky, but of the magic of Christmas. Do these two still hold that magic close, I wonder? Or has it faded with the decades of inactivity?”

“Tch! Don’t be silly, man!” Emannuel said, affronted. He was immediately contrite. “’Scuse me, sir! I mean, of course the magic is still there. These two are walkin’ Christmas spirits!”

“I would ask them the question and not you, young man,” the Grand Elder said with a stern frown. Emmanuel blinked at the comment but held his tongue.

“Sir, I don’t know where I ought to begin,” Pierre said with confusion. “I… Christmas has always been special to me, and I tried to spread my happiness every year when I was living in France. I helped charitable organisations feed the homeless and visited the elderly in my younger days….” Pierre trailed off, thinking. The Grand Elder stood in silence, waiting. Pierre gulped and continued.

“But I must talk to you about the work itself…I still remember the first time I was given the honour of being Santa…” Pierre stared into the distance with a smile on his face. “Mon Dieu, it was fantastic! To wear those wonderful clothes, to see the world with sturdy animals and the starlight to guide me…. incredible! But…but most of all I loved to imagine the smiles on the faces of the children on Christmas morning. Ah, the rosy glow of happiness! The cheer in their eyes! The laughter and the love! That, to me, is the real joy of Christmas!”

Pierre is right,” Wiggles sent. “It’s been a long time since I was a foal, but I have spent every year since trying to make humans happy. The children and the old, the merry and the glum, they all deserve to be joyful at Christmas. Serving mankind as Rudolph for forty years has been the highlight of my life. I’ve never been happier, and I still want to spread my happiness across the world with my friend Pierre.

“We did it together, mon cher ami,” Pierre said with great affection. He laid a meaty hand on the old reindeer’s head. Wiggles nuzzled Pierre’s hand and bleated fondly. The love between the two friends was palpable and one of the Grand Elder’s aides sniffed loudly. The other dabbed at her eyes. Gradually, the air inside the Great Cabin became warmer and seemed to shimmer around Pierre. The fat man laughed in delight as he flexed his tingling fingers, his eyes growing wide as soft, white sparks danced along his skin. His belly shook as he laughed, the happy, rich sound booming around the room as he sparkled with light. Next to him, Wiggles began to croon in the back of his throat, bucking his legs and shaking his head. He squeezed his eyes shut, snorted twice and then sneezed. As he lifted his head, a crimson light shone around his nose, lighting up the astonished onlookers. His face looked as close to a bright smile as a reindeer could get. Bathed in the light from the two friends, Emmanuel clapped his hands together and bounced up and down, his bulk making the floorboards creak.

“You see! You see! They’ve still got it!” he said, his wide smile threatening to burst from his face. “What did I say, man? I told you!”

“Yes, this is quite a display!” the Grand Elf said, beaming through his own beard. “The magic of Christmas is still strong within you both! Excellent, excellent! I see no reason for you not to accompany Santa, if you are both able. Blast the irregularity, it is Christmas!” Emmanuel seized Pierre’s hand in both of his and pumped it vigorously.

“Oh, Pierre, my heart sings for you!” he said, still bouncing on his heels. “This will be the best Christmas ever!”

“Oui, mon ami,” Pierre said, sharing the excitement with tears in his eyes. “It certainly will! Now, I must prepare! I will need my old suit, my old hat and my old boots! Oh non, will I still fit into them? I have gained so much weight since then…Oh, Mon Dieu, why did I decide to shave today of all days?” Emmanuel burst out laughing as the old man hurried off towards his own cabin, muttering to himself and fretting about the cold night air. Wiggles shook his great head and sent his amusement to Emmanuel.

That old fool never did have the best timing!” the glow from his nose waved merrily as he laughed. “Now, I’d best get ready myself. See you on the runway, Santa!

“Not soon enough, Rudolph!” Santa answered with a wink. Wiggles scampered off, feeling as happy as a foal at feeding time. What a wonderful Christmas it was going to be!

 

 

Christmas Story reblog

It’s that time of year again! Everyone is either rushing around doing frantic last-minute shopping or relaxing with all their presents bought early, their feet up and smug smiles on their faces. Today I was one of those unorganised louts in the former category. I hope you’re all faring well and are getting ready to enjoy the festivities!

Today I thought I’d share a story which I wrote last year. I can hardly believe that so much time has passed since I posted it! Take a look at the teaser and follow the link below to read the full story. I am currently writing another which I will have ready either by Christmas Eve at the earliest or Christmas Day at the latest. I’m enjoying reading through some of my fellow blogger’s Christmas-related posts too! It’s almost enough to get me out of my Scrooge-like introspection and find some holiday cheer! Almost…

Happy holidays, everyone!

The Elves’ Hot Chocolate

By Adam Dixon

“Well, I’m glad that’s over!” Barry the elf exclaimed, slumping back into the padded seats and closing his eyes. His green pointed hat slid over his mousey fringe. The large red sleigh bucked as it sailed over the clouds, jerking him forwards with a yelp.

“Oi! Pay attention, Baz!” barked a gruff voice beside him. Gary rubbed his head and glared at Barry. “You knocked off my hat, you clumsy oaf! It’s gone right over the edge! What am I supposed to say to Mrs Claus when we get home?”

“Sorry, Gaz,” Barry said sheepishly. He took the reins in a firm grip and surveyed the night sky.