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.

Sick Day

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

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

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

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

Sick-Day

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

“Hang on a sec, why did you do that?”

“Excuse me?”

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

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

“Okay, Mr Carling, please continue.”

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

“Why were you home early, Mr Carling?”

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

“Rather convenient, wouldn’t you say?”

“What do you mean?”

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

“What are you insinuating, detective?”

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

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

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

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

“I see…then what did you do?”

“I turned around and I left the house.”

“Do you remember what time that was?”

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

“Where did you go?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Alright, then what happened?”

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

“Mhmm. What next?”

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

“Go on, Mr Carling. Please.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I…I saw the bat…”

“The bat?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I understand…thank you, detective.”

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

 

2nd Place!

I opened up WordPress yersterday afternoon to some wonderful news: I had come 2nd in a short fiction competition!
My story was entered as part of Esther Newton’s Flash Fiction Competition and the stories were limited to 100 words. I’m thrilled to have done so well and would like to congratulate everyone else who entered.
You can read my story, “Money”, by following the link provided here. Do please read the 1st and 3rd place entries, they are brilliant! Thanks again to Esther for providing the challenge!

PS. I appear to have buggered up the links as they are not working for some people. If they don’t work for you, Dear Reader, then please look in the comments section and find the lovely Esther Newton. You’ll find the stories on her blog along with many more wonderful and inspiring posts.

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100 Followers!

Today I opened WordPress to the fantastic news that 100 people are

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following my blog!
This is incredible news and I am grateful to everyone who has decided to hit that button. I’m ecstatic that so many of you enjoy my stories and I am constantly encouraged to keep writing by many of you.
So thank you one and all! My pen will be working furiously and I’ll have a massive smile on my face today!

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 8

 

Today sees the end of the first full week of this April’s blogging challenge. Writing six stories in six days has been quite difficult, but so far I have found it to be very rewarding. Let’s hope I can keep up the pace and the optimism!

Today’s word comes from the wonderful Kate again, and the word is
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“HESSIAN”. I had to look this one up, because I initially convinced myself that it was something to do with an unpleasant old crone. I was quite wrong about that!

Anyway, here’s what I was able to come up with. It’s slightly darker than the previous two stories, just as a heads-up.

(P.S. The word I was confusing “hessian” with was “harridan”, in case you’re interested!”

 

HESSIAN

By Adam Dixon

My breathing comes out in harsh gasps as I struggle to remain calm. My hands and ankles are tied securely and my left side is numb. It’s so hot in the boot that my damp hair sticks to my head and it hurts to breathe; the digital thermometer on the dashboard had read thirty-two degrees outside when I had seen it last. That had been in the morning, long before the hottest point of the day. I am hyperventilating, my is body stiff with fear and my jeans are soaked with piss. The car rocks me to and fro as it cruises along to God-knows-where. I’ve long since given up crying out as the stereo system in the back drowns out any attempts I make with embarrassing ease. I am cursing it with all my might and regretting the day I installed it. All I can do is wait.

After what seems like hours, the car stops. I lay still, praying that a policeman has halted the car, or that the road I’m being driven down is impassable, or even that the driver has had a fucking heart attack at the wheel! I’m so desperate for something to happen that I can’t help but yelp with fright when the boot is yanked open. Sunlight greets me like a slap in the face, its rays barely filtered by the thick hessian sack covering my head. Gruff laughter from those outside rubs salt in my wounds as six strong, rough hands seize me and drag me out. I land heavily on the ground, jarring my numb hip. The ground is strewn with coarse, hot sand and the air seems clearer than back in the city. All I can smell is mouldy coffee; the sack must have been used to transport beans at some point before it was repurposed. I am forced onto my knees with my head hanging low. I am blubbering, begging these strangers not to hurt me. I am pleading with them, offering money I don’t have and promising to change whatever aspect of my life so offends them. No words are spoken, but I hear muted conversation and the cocking of a gun…

***

I sat bolt-upright in my bed, sweat covering my face and torso. I slowly took stock of my surroundings, panting and listening to my heart pounding in my chest. She stirred beside me and when I finally looked around she was watching me with concern.

“Did you have that dream again, babe?” she asked, her dark eyes glittering like orbs in the night.

“Yeah…” I answer. There’s nothing else to say, we’ve already said it before. The same nightmare has come once or twice every week since that afternoon five years ago. That was the day that I realised just how dangerous being a political journalist in the heart of the capital could be. That was the day I realised that I would never be safe, no matter what my employers promised. That was the day I stopped being a journalist.

I groaned as I got out of bed and stood up. The pain in my left shoulder was always worse after the nightmare, almost as if I were actually reliving the experience. In a way, I was, because the dream replayed the entire ordeal back to me in crystal-clear detail. But I always woke up before the bullet hit me these times. Thank God for small favours, eh? Christ…

I staggered out of our bedroom and into the bathroom. I didn’t turn on the light because I knew where my pills were kept. I also couldn’t bear to see the angry scar on my shoulder after the nightmare anymore. I seized the medicine bottle and shook out two of my pills. After a brief moment of doubt I shook out two more. What the hell, right? Tilting my head back I swallowed them dry, feeling them scratch my throat on the way down, threatening to catch and make me gag. I managed to coax them down my oesophagus as I stood staring at my reflection in the mirror. It was too dark to see anything, but I knew how haggard I was looking those days. Bags under the eyes, wrinkles appearing weekly and even locks of grey hair spreading across my head like a fucking forest fire. The hair which wasn’t falling out, anyway. Those men had messed me up big-time.

I wandered back into the bedroom and saw that she was still watching me. We stared at each other in a silence which was borne of desperation: her desperate need to know what I was thinking and my desperate need to forget what I had seen. She broke eye contact first, she always did. I don’t know why that always made me feel good, but it fucking did. She wouldn’t understand, anyway, so there was no point in trying to explain. I grabbed the half-empty bottle of whiskey from the bed-side table and poured out a glass, perching on the edge of the bed. She laid back down and turned away from me. That was fine; no sense both of us losing sleep. So I sat on my bed and swallowed my first slug of that particular morning. I held the glass to my nose and inhaled deeply for several seconds before every subsequent mouthful. I needed to get the stench of mouldy coffee out of my nostrils somehow, didn’t I?

 

April A-Z Challege: Searching for Prompts

 

As some of you may be aware, I am taking part in this years A-Z April Blogging Challenge.

In keeping with the theme of my blog, I have set myself the task of writing and posting a short story each day, with a word count of 500-1000 words. I know this is quite a big ask, and I am feeling quite intimidated by it to be perfectly honest, but I have committed to it now and so I’ll give it my best shot!

In my previous post, I asked some of you lovely readers for word prompts because I’d love to involve as many people as possible. So far I’ve had some quirky, baffling, intriguing and downright intimidating suggestions from the likes of Kate, Niki, Viki and my partner and I intend do go with all of them. Thanks so much for those, ladies!  I’d love to know if anyone else could suggest some words for me to use now that the fated starting point is approaching.

My words so far:

A for ABANDONED

B for BOMBASTIC

C for CONCUBINE

D for DRAGOON

E for EFFERVESCENT

F for FRAGILE

G for GARGOYLE

H for HESSIAN

I for INKLING

J for JACKASS

K for KARMA

Then it jumps to:

X for XENOPHOBIA

Y for YURT

Z for ZANY

 

Now, I’m sure you’ll agree that those are some great prompts! I can already feel the creative cogs turning, and I’d love to get some more in there before the Challenge begins. So feel free to bombard me with any and all suggestions!

Good luck to everyone else who has decided to take up this challenge, and I’ll look forward to seeing what you can come up with!

April A-Z Challenge Accepted!

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Hi everyone ☺ I might be a bit late announcing this, but what the hell, here goes!
After seeing this last week and giving it some thought, I’ve decided to give this years “Blogging from A to Z Challenge” a go.
The idea is self-explanatory: bloggers are encouraged to post every day throughout April, excluding Sundays, and each day’s post will be related to a letter of the alphabet. Each day will follow the alphabet in order and will provide the prompt for that post. In short, I’ll be attempting to write 26 short stories next month! I’m going to limit these stories to between 500-1000 words. No pressure, or anything…
I feel like this will be a great way to test myself and see how well I will work under time restraints. I’m becoming quite fond of writing flash fiction, so this should be fun! 😄
If any of you fellow bloggers would like to join in, you can find all the information for the Challenge here: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/?m=1
Grab the badge and post it on your blog, then follow their instructions to sign up. Simple! ☺ Wish me luck, and feel free to give me some ideas for specific letters!
P.S. I hope that’s not cheating…

And now for something completely different…

This is just a quick post to express my happiness at having reached two milestones this week.

Fist of all, I wrote, edited and posted my 20th short story. Whilst there are several wonderful writers on WordPress who have written more than my humble offering, I am brimming with pride over this achievement. When I began posting my stories back in June 2015, I had no idea how they would be received or whether or not anyone on the blogosphere would actually read them. It was a rather daunting feeling to begin posting on this platform without fully understanding where I would be going with it, or indeed whether I would continue posting at all.

Which brings me to the my second milestone: I have somehow accrued more than 50 followers to my blog. This is wonderful news, and I am simultaneously humbled and excited by it. It is incredibly affirming to have so many brilliant writers, poets and networking geniuses visiting my blog and taking the time to read through my offerings. I felt like these milestones deserved a little something, so I’ve given this blog a fresh lick of paint and I am planning on posting more regularly in the future.

I thank you all for your kind words when you comment, and I assure you that I will be writing more and with a huge smile on my face!