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.

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A – Z Challenge Day 23

It is Day 23 and today’s word comes from another one of my work colleagues, Jamie. As it happens, Jamie is my supervisor, which makes his suggestion all the more amusing. His prompt is the word “WASTED”, and judging by the grin on his face when he suggested it I knew exactly what kind of story he was hoping for!

Well, I had a bit of a think and came up with an idea that I really like. It’s been partially inspired by my thought process for each word during this Challenge, and I hope you enjoy it. Thanks again, Jamie!

WASTED

By Adam Dixon

“Settle down, class!” the stern-faced robotic teacher commanded. She was fully seven feet of gleaming chrome with stern feminine features carefully painted on to her “face”. She had even had glasses added to complete the academic effect. The babbling group of forty children quietened to a murmur before reaching complete silence. It was a young class as most of the children were between five and seven years old. The teacher surveyed the room with her highly-attuned sensors and confirmed that every pupil was concentrating.

“Your English Language class will now begin,” the teacher buzzed as she spoke, turning towards a large metal disc set into the floor. It looked very much like a polished version of the manholes that used to lead into sewers during the last millennium. The teacher stretched out a shining arm and the disc began to glow. A cone of light erupted from its surface, creating a shimmering image of the word “WASTED”. The teacher turned to face the children.

“Today’s lesson will consider adjectives, and we will begin with this word: wasted. Listen to how it is pronounced and repeat after me. WASTED.” The class dutifully repeated the word back to the teacher. She nodded and waved at the disc again. The image shifted, and in the blink of an eye transformed into a high-definition image of an industrial skip which was filled with half-eaten sandwiches, water bottles and sweets. The children began to talk and gesture at the image, but were silenced by a sharp glance from the teacher.

“Now, here we see an example of the formal use of the word. Please note that the inclusion of this ancient device known as a “skip” is purely for your amusement. This collection of partially-eaten food demonstrates that potential nourishment has been wasted. There was no need to throw it away as there was plenty left to eat. What do we call this kind of behaviour, class? Please reflect on our previous lessons on adjectives.” A few of the children shouted out their answers.

“Juvenile!”

“Ungrateful!”

“Greedy!”

“Shitty!”

The teacher strode over to the desk at the front of the class and pressed one of forty red buttons spread out across it. There was a sharp buzzing sound and a small, ginger-haired boy yelped and leaped out of his seat, rubbing his rear. The rest of the class burst out laughing, jeering and pointing at the unfortunate youth.

“Be advised, Macolm, that whilst your use of the word ‘shitty’ can be considered correct, you are not permitted to use curse words in this classroom.” The teacher said, her painted face aimed at the boy.

“Sorry, miss…” Malcolm mumbled, carefully sitting back down. His classmates stopped laughing and paid attention, afraid that they would be punished next.

“Good,” the teacher said, moving back to the holo-disc. “This word can also refer to an action, a fitting example being Malcolm’s wasted effort at answering my question.” The class sniggered and Malcolm hung his head. The teacher waved at the disc and the image warped and was replaced once again. In place of the wasted food, there stood the image of a badly emaciated woman. Her skin was stretched across bones which could be seen easily even at the back of the class and her gaunt face was skull-like. She glanced up at the class and her long black hair moved away from her face, revealing a chilling smile. A few of the children gasped and four of them started crying. The teacher ruthlessly buzzed the sobbing youths until they held back their emotions. They sat trembling, enduring the wretched image in order for the lesson to continue.

“This is another example of the word wasted,” the teacher continued as if nothing had happened. “In this sense, it refers to the body of this woman; it has shrivelled and become very weak through lack of nourishment. This was a common problem among the people of the early twenty-first century due to the “Size-Zero” phenomenon in fashionable society, as you will recall from your History lessons.” The image of the woman gazed around the class with haunted eyes and raised a hand towards them. This time several more children began to cry and the teacher was forced to change the image more quickly. The hologram shifted and a tall, reasonably healthy-looking man replaced the skeletal woman. His face was slack, his movements were clumsy and he wore a ludicrous smile on his face. He hiccoughed, belched and laughed every few seconds, clutching a half-eaten kebab in one hand and an almost-empty bottle of beer in the other.

“Here, we have an example of the informal use of wasted,” the teacher droned on. “This man has been rendered incomprehensible and unbalanced through severe intoxication: therefore, this man is wasted.” The man giggled and dropped his glasses. As he bent down to retrieve them, he also dropped his kebab. Swearing loudly, he leaned down further and performed a crab-like shuffle as he tried to decide which of his belongings needed saving first. Before he could reach a decision, he fell on to his hands and knees and promptly vomited on to the floor. The hologram was very sophisticated, recreating every image in stunning detail. The horrified children screamed as one as the very real-looking vomit spread towards their desks. The teacher frantically waved her arms and the image faded.

“Silence, class!” She ordered, stabbing the shock buttons at random and ignoring the shrieks they caused. “It was merely a computer-generated image and nothing to become agitated about! Please sit quietly so that we can move on to our second adjective of today, the word SCARY!”

The children wailed collectively and the robotic teacher tutted. She was running out of buttons!

 

A – Z Challenge Day 19

We’re approaching the end of the third week of this April’s Blogging Challenge, and I can hardly believe that it will all be over next Saturday! Well done to everyone who is taking part this year, I’ve seen some brilliant themed blog posts from some fantastic writers. Let’s keep the momentum going until the end!

Today’s word comes from my colleague, Sarah. Working in a cafe can be a bit dull sometimes, but not when you’re working with someone like Sarah! She is a great laugh and she was keen to offer me a suggestion for my Challenge when I had a few letters missing. Her prompt for me is “SAUSAGES”, which came about after she rescinded her original word which I believe was “SEX”. I don’t think that the former was a serious suggestion, anyway, and for that I’m extremely grateful and relieved!

Here is what I was able to come up with. Thanks again, Sarah!

SAUSAGES

By Adam Dixon

“Well, Mrs Warburton, we’re almost done,” Becky said, smiling as she flipped through her the pages of her notepad. “There are just a couple of details which I need to run through with you.” Becky’s efficient, somewhat scruffy handwriting spread across the pages to the underside of her hand and her fingers in a mess of black ink. She scratched her pierced nostril and left an inky smear behind. Finding the page she was searching for she scanned it, reaching for her now-cold cup of black coffee.

“Right, here we are!” Becky took a sip and glanced up at her interviewee. Mrs Warburton was in her early forties, slim and rather attractive with her natural-blond hair cut short. She was sitting up straight with her elbows on the small table, looking around the café with an air of contempt.

“I still don’t know why you insisted on meeting me here,” Mrs Warburton sniffed, nursing her pot of peppermint tea. “You do realise that the owners of this company don’t pay their taxes, don’t you? Nor do they pay their bean farmers properly; it’s nothing short of modern slave labour! And of course they waste milk by the lorry-load in here…those poor baby cows deprived of nourishment for the sake of an overpriced latte…”

“Erm…yes, Mrs Warburton,” Becky pressed on, the feeling of bemusement returning for the umpteenth time that morning. It was becoming quite familiar.

“You said that you’ve lived here in Brighton for many years and-“

“It’s Hove, actually,” Mrs Warburton interrupted. Becky paused and altered her notes, inwardly rolling her eyes.

“Okay, Hove, then,” Becky continued. “And you have been frequenting that particular restaurant in Brighton for more than two years now. Is that correct?”

“That’s what I told you, young lady. I’m not in the habit of repeating myself unnecessarily.”

“Sorry, I’m just double-checking the facts first.” Becky felt herself blushing under the woman’s steel gaze. She busied herself by reading her notes more carefully. “So, you believe that this incident was deliberate? Part of a prank?”

“I do, indeed,” Mrs Warburton folded her arms and lifted her chin haughtily. “And I think it is disgraceful that a vegan restaurant of such high-esteem should number such juveniles amongst its staff!”

“Quite so, Mrs Warburton,” Becky smiled sympathetically, hoping it would disguise the smirk which had arrived an instant before it. She adjusted her thick glasses with her inky fingers

“You’re sure that it couldn’t have been a mistake? A mix-up with one of the orders?”

“Young lady,” Mrs Warburton’s stare turned the air around her to ice. Becky was surprised that her breath wasn’t misting before her eyes. “I am not a fool, and I sincerely hope that none of the workers in that kitchen are foolish enough to ‘accidentally’ add pork sausages to a meal they have no purpose being a part of! There shouldn’t have been a single sausage in the whole building, for God’s sake!”

“Of course, of course,” Becky raised her hands defensively, her brown eyes wide. “Like I said, I’m just double-checking here.”

“Well, there really is no need,” Mrs Warburton huffed. “You appear to have listened to what I have told you and managed to dictate it well enough, so I believe that is all you shall require. I would like to leave this ghastly place now, if you don’t mind. I can’t stand the smell of those cheese toasties!” She shuddered dramatically, twisting her mouth into a snarl. Becky smiled and stood up, holding out a hand.

“Well, thank you very much for your time, Mrs Warburton,” she said warmly. “I do hope that your case goes well.”

“It ought to,” Mrs Warburton replied, giving Becky’s hand a limp squeeze. “Veganism is finally getting the respect it deserves these days, due in no small part to you young people. That is why I agreed to be interviewed by you and your Student Union; I usually wouldn’t involve myself with trivial university newspapers but I believe that my story will strike a chord with the more open-minded pupils. At any rate, I must go. Goodbye, Rebecca, and thank you for the tea.” With that, Mrs Warburton buttoned up her long coat and strode out of the café with her head and chin held regally high.

Becky sat down and took a moment to process the events of her morning. Mrs Warburton was undoubtedly one of the oddest people she had ever met, let alone interviewed. She felt rather sorry for the legal professionals who would have to deal with her!

“Still, it was quite a good prank!” she said to herself, chuckling as she flicked through her notes once again. Her stomach rumbled and Becky wanted a fresh coffee anyway, so she stood up and approached the counter. She perused the menu for a few seconds before she broke into a grin. Oh yes, she knew exactly what she fancied!

“Good morning, how may I help you?” the smiling barista at the counter asked her. Becky thought she might recognise him from one of her lectures.

“Hi, I’d like a medium Americano, please,” Becky answered, still grinning. “And I could murder a sausage sandwich!”

 

A – Z Challenge Day 18

Today’s suggestion comes from my dear old mum! Yes, yes, I know, it’s not very rock and roll to get Mummy Dearest involved one’s projects, but personally I couldn’t give a monkey’s about that! My mum has given me plenty of encouragement with my writing and I am very pleased that she wanted to help me out directly this time. Also, I’m not very rock and roll anyway, so nothing changes!

Anyway, today’s word is “RANCID”. One can only speculate where this suggestion came from…I do hope it’s not a character association! I like the word a lot and decided to use it today. Thanks again, Mum!

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

RANCID

By Adam Dixon

Tobias squinted up at the midday sun and cursed the torturous sphere with every ounce of vehemence he could muster. Even the stone block he was sitting on was warming up, much to his dismay. He lifted a bony hand to his face and wiped the remnants of a rotten tomato from his left eye, wincing as he felt a tender spot on his cheek.

“That must be from the potatoes the washer-women were throwing,” he muttered to himself. “Damn good shot, that one! Nearly bowled me over!” He looked down at himself and sighed in resignation. He was covered from head to foot with an array of interesting and disgusting detritus, some of which could be readily identified. He could see that tomatoes, onions, potatoes, apples and even turnips had been pulverised against his arms and body, making him slick with stinking, sticky juices. Almost all of them had been rotten, which was something of a blessing because the few unripe projectiles among them had left him battered and bruised. Tobias attempted to make his legs more comfortable, but the wooden stocks clamped around his ankles gave him no such freedom. He supposed that he should be grateful that he hadn’t been placed in the pillory instead; at least he could mostly shield his head this way.

“How I long for the days of greater acceptance!” Tobias cast his dejected expression Heaven-ward once again. “Oh Lord, why must I be humiliated so? I did no harm to anyone with my antics! It was only a dress…” He trailed off into silence miserably. With all the great strides men were making in science, technology and enlightenment theory it baffled Tobias that an old man deciding to wear women’s clothes in his own house could cause such an uproar. There was no need for all this, surely! At least the villagers had retired for the afternoon…

Tobias glanced up as he heard giggling and approaching footsteps. He saw three local boys, none of them more than seven years old, creeping steadily towards him carrying dirty sacks over their shoulders.

“Oh, what fresh terrors await me, now?” Tobias cried aloud, causing the boys to stop suddenly. They were about ten feet away from the stocks and for a moment they looked doubtful over their purpose. However, this hesitation was quickly dispelled when the largest of the three dropped his sack and plunged a hand into it. He pulled out a suspicious brown substance and tossed it right at the helpless Tobias. It was not a particularly good throw as it hit him in the thigh, but no sooner had it made an impact the other two boys were following suit. As they flung double-handfuls of the stuff at Tobias he realised with horror and disgust what it was. It was manure!

“You little wretches! You stop this at once!” he roared, flinging his arms in front of his face. “By the Lord Almighty, if I weren’t trapped in here I’d give you such a thrashing! STOP!”

The boys began laughing uproariously, continuing to pelt the impotent Tobias as he bellowed at them. When they had exhausted their ammunition they stood still, staring in wonder at their accomplishment. Tobias was covered in steaming brown muck, his fury so intense that he was incapable of coherent speech. He waved his arms about madly, shaking off bits of manure as he did so. The boys ran off laughing, slapping each other on the back and congratulating themselves for a job well done. Tobias lowered his arms and looked at himself again. He was appalled by the sight and had never felt so humiliated.

“All for a bloody dress!” He managed to squeak out once his throat had loosened a little bit, his eyes wide and his breathing heavy. After a few minutes he had calmed down enough to feel miserable again, so he slumped forwards, resting his filthy head in his filthier hands.

“Oh, Lord!” he groaned. “It will take me days to wash out the smell!” He looked up at the sky again, his face scorched by the sun. “I don’t suppose there is any chance of a spot of rain soon?” He asked hopefully. As he stared upwards, he heard more footsteps approaching. The three young boys were coming back, and they were puffing and panting as they supported a large bucket between them. A pale yellow liquid slopped to and fro as the bucket swung with their movements. Tobias almost laughed!

“Oh, but what a big mouth I appear to have!” he said as he braced himself. He only hoped this day would end soon!

A – Z Challenge Day 15

Week Three of the April Challenge has began, and that means a fresh batch of stories from Yours Truly! Today’s prompt comes again from Sakina, and her word is “OVERCOMPENSATE”. Now, I think you’ll agree that this is a right good ‘un, and I had fun working with it!

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

OVERCOMPENSATE

By Adam Dixon

“Oi, Gaz! Over ‘ere, mate!” The stocky, bald man called from one side of the road to the other, waving his arms eagerly.  A tall, muscular man in a tight red vest and shorts turned round and frowned from behind his sunglasses. The first man waved again and the second’s face broke into a grin.

“Bazza! ‘Ow are you, my son?” the second man shouted back. Neither of them showed any intention of crossing the road.

“I’m all good, mate, cheers!” Bazza declared, thrusting his hands into the pockets of his tracksuit. “Just popped out to the bookies. I reckon my luck’s turnin’ today! ‘Ow about you?”

“Yeah, I’m alright, mate!” Gaz replied, shrugging. “Same old same old, innit?”

“Too right, mate!” Bazza nodded sagely. He gestured towards the gleaming silver car parked a few feet from Gaz.

“That ain’t your motor, is it, Gaz?” he asked hopefully, shouting over the noise of the mid-morning traffic. “I ‘eard through the grapevine that you’d got another one.” Gaz’s grin widened and he switched to a causal pose, cocking his head nonchalantly.

“Oh, that? Yeah, mate, I bought ‘er last month! She’s a beauty, ain’t she?” Bazza’s eyes widened and he whistled in appreciation.

“Fuck me, mate, she’s gorgeous! Second-‘and?”

“Nah, brand-spankin’-new, mate!” Gaz was almost bursting with pride. “Fresh outta the factory, almost! Set me back a fair bit, but I thought ‘fuck it, why not?’! You only live once!”

“True, Gaz, true!” Bazza laughed, unconsciously raising himself to his full height. “Convertible too! I bet your bird loves it! What’s ‘er name again? Sally? Sandy?”

“Suzie,” Gaz’s smile fled and with it his cock-sure composure deflated. “Me an’ Suzie ain’t together no more…things didn’t work out.” Their conversation was cut short as a freight lorry thundered past them, blocking their view of one another.

“Oh. Sorry to ‘ear that, mate,” Bazza said, as quietly as his shouting would permit. Gaz cleared his throat and puffed out his chest, shrugging one shoulder and curling his lip before he spoke.

“Ah, it’s alright,” he replied loudly, waving his hand. “She was draggin’ me down anyway! Too much baggage on ‘er, I’m well shot of all that now!”

“Glad to ‘ear it!” Bazza shouted. He fumbled for something else to say as the traffic continued past them.

“Well, you’re lookin’ pretty trim these days, anyway!” He exclaimed. “You’ve gotten well hench since I last saw you! What’s your secret?”

“Oh, well I’ve been ‘ittin’ the gym, ain’t I?” Gaz brightened, flexing his arms and sounding pleased. “Yeah, I’ve got some spare time now that me an’ Sooz are finished, so I figured I’d get pumpin’!”

“Yeah, gotcha, mate!” Bazza replied enthusiastically, rubbing his own arms sheepishly. “Been meanin’ to get goin’ with that myself, but I can’t seem to find the time.”

“You should, mate, it’ll sort you right out!” Gaz insisted. “You should use them protein shakes an’ all! They taste like shit but they really ‘elp you bulk up quick! I’ve been ‘avin’ to beat the birds off with a stick since I’ve been goin’!”

“Yeah, I bet you ‘ave, mate!” Bazza joined in with Gaz’s laughter, despite knowing that it wasn’t true.

“Anyway, I’d better get goin’, mate,” Gaz shouted, raising an arm in farewell. “I’ve gotta see a bloke about a dog an’ then I’m off to the gym. Nice seein’ you again, let’s ‘ave a drink some time!”

“Sounds good!” Bazza called after him, smiling and waving. “Nice to see you too, mate! Take care of yourself!” Bazza lowered his arm and took a final glance at Gaz’s new car. He sighed and shook his head before walking off down the street.

Two young women seated outside a nearby café watched Bazza as he shuffled past them, muttering to himself about the cost of gym memberships. They looked at each other with bemused expressions.

“Well, they obviously wanted everyone on the street to hear them!” the brown haired lady laughed and fiddled with the spoon on her tray. Her blond friend grinned and lifted her steaming decaf latte to her lips.

“I know, right?” she replied, blowing on her drink. “What d’you make of those two, anyway?”

“Oh, they seem harmless enough,” the brown haired lady shrugged, lifting her own coffee. A mischievous smile crept across her face.

“Although they’re definitely overcompensating for something!” Their laughter pealed out into the morning, unheard by Bazza or Gaz as they went about their days. Perhaps that was for the best.

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 7

I can’t believe it’s Day Seven already! My word today is “GARGOYLE”, once again suggested by Kate.

This one was fun to write. I began wondering what it would be like for the gargoyles if they were alive and what they would do to pass the time. I had to remind myself of the difference between “gargoyles” and “grotesques” before I did so, mind you!

Anyway, here is what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy reading it.

GARGOYLE

By Adam Dixon

It was a wet, miserable Wednesday morning in London, and as usual everyone was scurrying about the vast city with nothing but themelves in mind. It’s not that they didn’t care about the world and other people in it, it was merely that that kind of morning always succeeded in making the most cheerful of people recede into his or herself. With their consciousness sheltering in their skulls like turtles in their shells and their tunnel-vision modes activated, nobody was paying much attention to anything except avoiding the many large puddles dividing the pavement. But they should have been paying attention, and they should have been looking towards the rooftops, for the gargoyles were certainly paying attention to them.

“How about that one?” The Bearded Man said around the rainwater which was trickling out from his open mouth.

“Which one?” Several irritated voices answered at once. There were roughly two dozen other gargoyles within range of sight, clinging to their respective buildings and issuing forth the contents of their gutters. None of them could move, of course, so they needed the Bearded Man to be more specific.

“Oh, yes, my apologies,” the Bearded man mumbled sheepishly. “The woman in the bright red raincoat just passing by the Lloyd’s bank on the corner. Can you see her? She’s on my left.”

“I see her!”

“Target confirmed!”

“That’s an affirmative!”

“Wait, I can’t see her!”

“She’s by the entrance to the Tube now, moving towards the Nandos!”

“Oh yes, I see her now!”

“Good,” Bearded Man said, pleased. “Well, what do you think?”

There was a slight pause as the gargoyles thought for a moment. The rain fell more heavily, dancing a merry pattern on their stone features.

“Well I think that she is going to the library!” The Bearded Man announced proudly. “She is wearing glasses and she is carrying a large pile of books in that plastic bag, I’m sure of it!”

“No she isn’t!” scoffed the Rearing Lion from the other side of the road. “It’s got food in it! She’s probably just carrying around her lunch for this afternoon. She’s going to work, probably in one of the offices.”

“I think she’s goin’ to stop at the theatre,” the Grinning Imp asserted. “She looks like the thespian type to me.”

“Balderdash!” The Bearded Man said, incredulous. “Look, she’s going straight past it!”

“I mean the other theatre, you pigeon-fouled buffoon!” laughed the Grinning Imp. “That one’s only for the cheapos of the city, and judgin’ by her shoes she can afford to go to the more up-market one down the street!”

“Wait, I can’t see any fancy shoes!” the Stunned Dragon shouted.

“You can’t bloody see anythin’, you’ve got an eye missin’!” The Grinning Imp cackled. More voices filled the minds of the gargoyles playing the game, all eager to put forward their interpretation of the unsuspecting Londoner. In the end, the Screaming Man guessed correctly: the woman had walked into an infant’s school at the far end of the street. She was probably a member of staff or a mother dropping off a forgotten packed lunch. Screaming Man was very pleased with himself and made it known, whilst Rearing Lion grumbled that he had at least been right about the packed lunch.

“Oi, Crouching!” the Grinning Imp shouted telepathically. “You never made a guess. What’s up with you?”

“I’ve got more interestin’ things to look at!” came the Crouching Imp’s sniggered reply. That particular gargoyle was set facing a particularly grim-looking block of flats, so naturally the others were curious to know what he had been so preoccupied by.

“There’s this couple on the sixth floor,” the Crouching Imp chuckled. “They’ve left their curtains open an’ let’s just say that they’re havin’ a better mornin’ than most of this lot on the street!”

“Oh, you utter cretin!” the Bearded Man said in disgust. “Avert your eyes, for the sake of dignity!”

“Hey, I didn’t tell them to leave their curtains open, did I?” the Crouching Imp protested. “Besides, I can’t avert my bloody eyes, can I?”

“Oh, you lucky sod!” the Grinning Imp was very amused by this. “You’ll ‘ave to give me all the saucy details later on!”

“I should think not!” the Bearded Man shouted, eliciting a burst of laughter from various gargoyles who were listening in.

“Oh, shut it, Beardy!” the Crouching Imp snorted. “You get on with your bleedin’ game, I’m doin’ just fine over ‘ere!”

“Fine, I think I will!” the Bearded Man huffed with an air of contempt.

“Right…” the Rearing Lion began awkwardly. “Erm…what about that one, then? The fellow in the brown suit with the small umbrella? He might be a teacher as well!”

“Who, him? Nah, he looks more like a journalist!”

“Don’t be silly, look at his briefcase! He must work for the Council!”

“The Council? With that tie?!”

So the game continued on into the morning, with the gargoyles happily protecting their buildings from the worst of the rain. It was not a complicated game, but it served to pass the time.

 

A – Z Challenge Day 2

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The word for today’s story has been provided by the ever-helpful Kate. Actually, Kate has suggested a number of excellent prompts for this challenge and this will be the first in a sequence of them. The word Kate provided is “BOMBASTIC”, and I’ll admit to being  surprised and slightly disappointed to learn that it doesn’t mean “crazy”, “lively” or “wild” as I initially thought. Curse you, Mr Bean, for misleading me!

Anyway, it’s still an interesting word and I rather enjoyed the character which came to life upon my re-education. I hope you all do, too.

BOMBASTIC

By Adam Dixon

“…and I put it to you, dearest members of the public, that none of my esteemed peers would perform quite so well as I have!” The newly-crowned King Geoffrey asserted, brandishing the sleeves of his voluminous golden robe with gleeful vigour.
“Nay, but ‘tis true!” he continued, grinning from one end of his carefully-trimmed beard to the other. “’The fine body of men and women who make up the Assembly and who serve as my advisors are all able and intelligent people. Sharp of mind and keen of eye where matters of state are concerned; of this there can be no doubt! But, dear people, not one of them could perform the duties expected of a monarch with such stalwart effectiveness and practiced ease as I! ‘Tis true that I have been blessed by the gods of this world to be worthy of so lofty a duty, and in turn you are fortunate indeed to be the subjects over which I hold dominion!”
Kind Geoffrey beamed at the vast gathering of people standing before his palace. They had come to his grounds in droves following his coronation, with thousands upon thousands of them waiting to hear him speak. Rightly so, thought he! It was not every day that the common folk were graced with the attention of such a mighty and impressive figure of a man! The subjects gathered beneath him as he addressed them on his balcony would long tell the story of how they heard Good King Geoffrey speak, and their children would pass the tale on to their children and so on and so forth. King Geoffrey glowed with pride for these hypothetical offspring, and was delightfully happy for the very real men and women who were listening to him now. What a truly splendiferous day they must be having! He continued with his self-confident rhetoric for over an hour, before reaching the end of his speech.
“Sadly, dear friends, I must take my leave of you. All that is left for me to announce is that my first decree as King is to make a bold change to the face of my kingdom, to forever prove my undying loyalty towards you good people. I declare that from this day forward, I shall no longer be known as King Geoffrey, for I fear that the word “King” is rather archaic and distances the monarch from his people, but instead I shall be known as High Citizen Geoffrey, the first amongst his fellow men! Thank you, one and all, and I bid you adieu!” The ruler formerly and briefly known as King Geoffrey blew kisses to the crowd and bowed as he moved back inside, revelling in the rapturous applause he received.
“What d’you make of all that then?” A man in stained blue overalls asked, squinting at the man in the smart suit next to him. The grey-haired gentleman snorted and made a show of straightening his tie and jacket.
“Oh, more or less what I’ve come to expect,” he said with a nasal drawl. “The man is as bombastic as ever, full of wind and self-praise but little else. He’ll make an awful monarch.” The man in the overalls laughed, running a hand across his stubbly chin.
“Oh yeah, you’ve got that right, mister!” He said with a guffaw. “Makes for an amusin’ spectacle, though! High Citizen Geoffrey, may he live long and keep us all laughin’ while he does!” The two men shared a moment to appreciate the joke, as thousands of people shuffled home around them. Geoffrey watched his subjects dispersing from behind a curtain and smiled. Truly, what a magnificent day for all it had been!

Spook the Human

Spook the Human

By Adam Dixon

 

“So, what are you up to these days?” Fred the house spider asked his friend Stan as they met for a chat underneath a leather sofa. It was dark and quiet and that suited them well. The humans had been out of the house for most of that day, so they could fully relax. Stan raised two of his front legs in a non-committal gesture.

“Not much, friend, the usual,” He replied lazily. “Just one day to the next; avoiding the humans and trying to find a suitable mate.” After a moment, his eyes lit up suddenly in the dark, eight globes of excitement fixed on Fred. “Oh, but I have done well today for grub! Two fat, juicy bluebottles flew straight into my web this afternoon, one after the other. Beautiful, it was, and I’d not long finished spinning it! How they wriggled and fought! It was such fun wrapping them up!”

“Well done!” Fred cackled. “Impressive! By the way, where is your new home? I thought you were in the front porch?”

“Yes, I was,” Stan sighed. “But that bloody woman decided to clean it, and she caught my web with that vile pink thing that she brandishes around when collecting dust. Anyway, I moved into the conservatory after that, just above the doors. Prime location, perfect for catching curious flies!”

“Good choice,” Fred was eager in his approval. “Maybe I’ll leave my web in the loft and move in there, if you don’t mind, of course.”

“Not at all, it’ll be nice to have some company.” Stan sounded pleased at the thought. “Tell you what, come over this evening and share my meal. Consider it a welcoming present.”

“Don’t mind if it do!” Fred replied warmly. They lapsed into an easy silence for a few minutes, listening to the sounds of the house. The slight creaking of the floorboards, the whisper of a draught under the door, the electronic hum of the refrigerator. Then Fred spoke up again.

“Listen, I have to tell you about this hilarious game that my siblings and I have been playing,” He said excitedly. “We came up with it a while ago, and it is brilliant fun every time.”

“Alright, you’ve got my interest,” Stan replied stretching his rear legs a little.

“It’s called ‘Spook the Human’,” Fred continued. “It’s self-explanatory, really. You know how some humans are actually frightened of us? Even though they are several times bigger and stronger than we are?”

“Yes, I know. Ridiculous, isn’t it?” Stan guffawed.

“Completely. But that’s the point of ‘Spook the Human’; the aim of the game is to reveal yourself to a human in order to scare them into running away from you. I don’t mind telling you that when it works, it is absolutely hilarious! Sometimes, if you get really close, they all but lose their minds!”

“That does sound quite funny,” Stan said, amused. “But surely they’d just step on you right away? It can’t be worth the risk.”

“Wait and see, my friend,” Fred winked four of his eyes at Stan. “I’ll give you a little demonstration when the humans appear again. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.” Stan agreed to wait, and so they stood motionless for a long time, silently enjoying one another’s company. Eventually, the colossal ‘bang!’ of the front door and subsequent tremors along the floorboards announced the arrival of at least one of the larger occupants of the house. As the vibrations came ever closer, Fred became more animated in his anticipation.

“It’s the woman!” He cried, his fangs trembling he hopped about excitedly. “She’s terrified of us! Wait…She’s coming in! Watch this!”

With a devious chuckle, Fred scurried out from underneath the sofa. He ran across the smooth laminate flooring towards the towering figure of the woman. He made it about three feet before the woman let out an ear-splitting screech and threw her arms up in the air. Spinning on her expensive heels, she fled from the room, a squealing mass of blond hair and designer clothing.

Fred went back under the sofa next to Stan, laughing loudly.

“See?” He said, blinking tears from several of his eyes. “She can’t stand us! It’s a riot every time!”

“That did look like fun, I’ll give you that,” Stan chuckled. “In fact, I think I’ll give it a go next!”

“Great! But there are some warnings about the game that I must give you,” Fred said, becoming serious. “It is good fun, but you need to be careful about which humans you try it with and where you try it. Some aren’t scared at all, and will attack you instead of running away. Two of my brothers got crushed by choosing the wrong humans, and three of my sisters were drowned in sinks. Just be careful, even though the thrill is in the risk.”

“Alright, I’ll be careful,” Stan said dismissively. “Come on, I want to play!” With that he inched closer to the edge of the sofa, scanning the room beyond. His hairy legs were quivering as he waited impatiently and he clicked his jaws together in irritation. Soon, the floorboards began quaking once again, and a blond-haired child of about four years old came galloping into the room, grinning from ear to ear.

Laughing, Stan shot out from under the sofa, his legs moving like a skeletal hand with too many fingers. The child saw him and stopped in her tracks. After a second or two of scrutiny, the child seized a slipper from next to an armchair and squashed Stan flat. Smack! Smack! Smack! Without a word the child walked out of the room, leaving a brown smear on the laminate where he had been.

“Bugger…” Fred cursed sadly. “I did warn him!” Fred shook his head with regret before stealthily moving off in the direction of the conservatory. Well, it would be a shame to waste those fat bluebottles…

 

Ginger Nuts and Carrot Tops

Ginger Nuts and Carrot Tops

By Adam Dixon

“Do you know much about the world before they took over?” Mandy asked, taking a long drag on her cigarette. Her colleague, Jack, leaned casually against the back door of the hair salon, staring at the brick wall of the alley in front of him.

“Not really, darling,” he replied, his voice musical and feminine. He inhaled vapour from his e-cig, the base of it lighting up in a flash of pink. “That’s why I’m curious about it. You lived through the change, though, didn’t you?” He cocked his head inquisitively as he asked, his silver earrings dancing merrily at the movement. Standing there in his stylish faded-blue jeans and trendy white shirt, Jack was in stark contrast to the plump older lady next to him dressed in a simple, muted dress and sensible shoes.  He was the very picture of youth and optimism to Mandy, and she felt a longing for her simpler past. She nodded, absent-mindedly smoothing her fringe. Her hair, like Jack’s, was dyed bright orange.

Mandy and Jack both worked in the salon, and their main task each day was to treat customers’ hair with dye. Orange dye, exclusively; there were traces of the dye in their fingers from continual use of the stuff. That was the way of the world now, for during the 2020’s, ginger-haired people had unexpectedly, inexorably and irrevocably taken over the world. It was now 2053, and barely anyone could remember exactly how it had happened, but somehow it had. One of the first obligatory decrees that had been passed by the new world leaders had been that who had not been born with ginger hair must dye theirs bright orange. Initially, it had been a way of gaining a measure of revenge against decades of international ginger-jokes and ridiculing. It had since become part of the everyday structure of society once the initial grumbling and protestations had died down, and so bright orange hair could be seen from London to Beijing and everywhere in between.

“The bloody hair dye was the biggest change, obviously,” Mandy said, tucking a loose strand behind her ear. “Caused quite a bit of trouble once people realised that it was a serious demand. That’s why they had to get the Nuts involved.” Jack nodded, he knew that much. The Ginger Nuts, or just “Nuts”, were enforcers of the societal rules, essentially a secondary police force walking the streets. Many believe that the job title was again a means to subvert the previous stigmas towards red-haired people. It certainly appeared to have worked, as the Nuts were regarded with a grudging respect by the people of the world and were generally obeyed without question.

“Ginger Nuts…” Mandy continued, chuckling softly. “Why, I remember a time when that term was used to take the mickey out of the poor ginger lads and lasses! That and Carrot Top, but now they’re both respected titles! Unbelievable… Anyway, the dye created the new class system as well, labelling everyone ‘Pures’ or ‘Dyers’, as you know.”

“I read that Danny Dyer’s career took a bit of a nosedive thanks to those terms.” Jack said thoughtfully. Mandy threw her head back and cackled loudly.

“Yeah, and that was a good thing for us all!” She exclaimed with good humour. “One of the benefits we could all agree on!” She chuckled for a few moments, with Jack smiling and shaking his head.

“But, yeah, it all changed quickly,” Mandy said, becoming serious again. “Overnight, really, or at least it did to my mind. Quite a lot changed, but not all of it was noticed at first.”

“One of the major changes was the reshuffling of the monarchy, right?” Jack asked.

“Yeah, that was a bit of a to-do!” Mandy took another contemplative drag on her cigarette. “Prince Harry being declared the next in line to the throne ahead of William and his children. That caused quite a stir, make no mistake! Nearly caused some kind of civil war once Charles died! But it all settled down eventually and King Henry the Ninth was crowned without too much hassle. Not quite sure how they pulled that one, either, but they did.”

“Shocking,” Jack shook his head in disbelief. “It’s amazing how much stock people put in the royal family these days.”

“Well, you just watch this space, my lad.” Mandy said gravely. “Supreme Carrot Top Bollins has never been one for royals, even before all that power went to his head. He’ll likely abolish the monarchy in the UK if he has his way. He’d at least like to pretend to be a republican, I’ve heard. A republican emperor, imagine that!”

“We’ll see.” Jack appeared troubled. He shivered as a cold wind blew down the alley, brushing an unruly lock of hair across his high forehead.

“Why have you never asked me about this before, Jack?” Mandy asked, twirling her disappearing cigarette between her fingers. “We’ve worked together nearly two years now, you and I, and you’ve not asked anything about it all. So, why now?”

“I dunno, darling,” Jack shrugged, and gave Mandy an apologetic smile. “I suppose it’s just been on my mind recently. It all seems so ordinary to me, but at the same time it seems so silly, it’s hard to explain. Maybe my generation is brainwashed against that sort of thing, or maybe it’s just the job getting to me. It’s not exactly stimulating work, is it?” Mandy shook her head.

“You’ve got that right, love,” she sighed. “You’re a clever lad, and this ain’t exactly rocket science. But, it’s an important one in the grand scheme of things. Keeps people from getting arrested, which is fine by me even if it is a bit on the silly side. Don’t let anyone else hear you talking like that, though. It’s alright with me, cos I’ll never breathe a word, but others might take simple questions as rebellion and turn you in to the Nuts.”

“Don’t worry, darling,” Jack winked at her cheekily. “I know better than that. At least I can have a chat with a wise old mare like you if I’m feeling curious. That’ll do me just fine!”

“Old mare!” Mandy cried in mock outrage, swatting at Jack’s arm. “You little scamp! I’m not too old to give you a clip ‘round the earhole, sonny Jim!” Jack laughed and held up his hands in surrender.

“I know, I know! Sorry, darling, couldn’t help myself.” He smiled at her and slipped his e-cig back into his pocket. “We’d best get back to it, though. Don’t want Dave to think we’re skiving.” Now it was Mandy’s turn to grin.

“Oh no, we don’t want that,” she said sweetly as she nonchalantly ground her cigarette butt under her shoe. “He’ll have you over his knee in a heartbeat!” Jack grimaced as he opened the door for her.

“Oh, don’t!” He pleaded. “He would as well! Have you seen the way he looks at me? Dirty old perv!” Mandy cackled as she stepped back into the salon, her mirth filling the alley for a few brief moments. Beyond that, the world moved on in much the same way as it always had. People hurried to and fro along the street, each one about their own business, as usual. People lived, loved and laughed under the same sun, and very little was new…except that that same sun was now peering down on a sea of uniformly bright, orange hair.