Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Hustler - Flash Fiction Challenge

Here's another flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig's Terribleminds. The aim was to write a 100 words...

And voila!

The Hustler - 100 words

“It was a pleasure, boys...” crooned the huckster, his smile gleaming white. He was sure of his victory, raking the chips back towards himself.

“BANG!” shouted the gun that Tyson pulled, his face a snarl in red and livid white. He was sure no oily huckster was going to fiddle him at cards.

One-Eye's knife said nothing as it sang its quiet song, coming to rest on Tyson's mottled throat. He wasn't sure about anything; still, he had the money he needed, the prisoner he wanted and the cheat's corpse at his feet.

Now, time for a drink.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Body - A Flash Fiction Challenge

A little while ago Chuck Wendig created a writing challenge to do with hiding the body. The challenge was called The Body (arrestingly enough) and I have tried to write it. As always, any thoughts are much appreciated.

This is well over 1000 words, but it feels like the right length, behold:

The Body

They called him The Watcher in the gallery because every day he would come and sit in front of the new reproduction of The Raft of the Medusa. This started at the opening of the exhibition on a Monday in autumn and lasted for many a long week, each day the gentleman showing up at the same time with a carton of juice and a small package of wrapped sandwiches.

Sometimes art students would come and sit next to him and regard the painting as he did, pencils scritching and sliding across heavy, creamy paper as they sketched a small part of a figure, or roughed out a detail of swirling sea and soaked, broken timbers.

Every now and then, he would lean over, look at the book and nod, smiling if he saw a figure from the scene rendered well, with the subtle vibrancy that Gericault had captured. For himself, he never drew the painting, just sat and regarded it, his legs crossed and his demeanour one of repose at a perfect ease.

In the same way as he sat and watched, he would stand every day, ten minutes before the gallery closed and walk over to the painting, looking in what was obviously plain admiration at the rendering of grey flesh on the drowned man in the lower left hand corner of the painting, the corpse depicted draped over the battered timber of the raft. He would then leave, and in leaving, pass the coffee stand as it closed up, politely and quietly asking for a fresh latte before he paid and took the drink out with him into the early evening air.


It had been a long two months for Livia, her heart still heavy from the brutal uncertainty of mourning in front of an empty coffin with her family. As she opened up her satchel and saw her drawing box, she felt tears sting her eyes, dashing them away with the backs of her hands as she sat, on a bench in the middle of the gallery.

Her tutors had been understanding, but she had to compile extensive sketches of this painting and write up her report before the end of the semester in order to avoid having to resit or do summer study. With the cost of the flights home for the funeral, she needed to be able to work all summer long to pay for the next semester anyway and now that Mario was gone, she would probably be glad of the company.

There was nothing to do but to work hard and aim for the best grades she could.


Turning to a new page in her sketchbook, she pulled out her conte crayons and got to work, her mind slowly clearing and emptying of all other things as she sketched and sketched, her mind away and quiescent as she let her hands find the shapes of the figures.

A guilty part of her knew that part of this escape was from thoughts of her brother, missing now for months, the subject of a manhunt that had briefly captured the imagination of the city before fading into the foetid wallpaper of urban life, his existence reduced to a few desperate flyers pinned to lampposts asking for information.

Still, she worked, sketching out the structures on the canvas, the famed triangular composition of hope and death and despair, the romantic loucheness of these naked figures, sprawled in mockeries of sybaritic repose, limbs tangled artfully and morbidly in the accidental embraces of death and suffering.

She smiled wanly and absently as her neighbour leaned over her sketchbook and nodded, smiling at the drawings pencilled there.

As he stood and made his way over to the painting, studying the figure lying drowned in the bottom left, she sighed and leaned back, rubbing her neck and taking a breather. She would carry on drawing the handsome corpse when he moved out of the way.


The tape was stretched across the gallery entrance as she walked up the steps, her brow creased in confusion as the police milled around in the foyer, their eyes dark and haunted as a black bodybag was pulled out of the building on a gurney. Beside her stood the gentleman from the bench in front of the painting, the carton of juice unopened and sticking out of a dark blazer pocket.

She paid him little mind as he sighed quietly and brushed past her, gently strolling across the grounds and out of sight as she tried to get the attention of an officer.

“Uh, can you tell me when the gallery is going to be open again? I don't want to sound heartless, but my degree is riding on this...”

The man she had asked demurred and shrugged helplessly, saying something about proper procedure and prints and evidence. She felt like she had been kicked. It could not get any worse.

She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked into the grey eyes of the detective her family had been talking to those months ago. He looked older now and unhappy, but still resolutely courteous as ever.

“You'll have to come with us, Ms. D'Angelo.”


She sat outside the precint, her face in her hands, and wept in deep ragged sobs, her sketchbook lying closed in her lap and anointed with the splashes of fresh tears.

The detective had explained in great depth but it was like a nightmare: the body had been found in the attics, lit carefully and arranged in the same repose as the figure in the painting. The flesh of the body had been dehydrated and plastinated, preserving it in mannequin like death, the skin tinted with balms and dyes to mimic the original image.

They had only found this out when the prism mounted to the back of the reproduction canvas had come unglued, leaving a dark hole where the drowned man should have been. Where Mario's corpse had stood in for so long, eyes closed and patient under the distant scrutiny of his younger sister.

As she blew her nose, she tucked the used tissue into her jacket pocket and felt a card in there, the plain rectangle of business card stock.

Pulling it out she stared at the neat, even type on the card, seeing the marks where it had been embossed, looking at it, but not understanding it.

“You drew him so well.”

Her screams brought policemen racing out of the precinct, their hands on their guns and panic in their eyes.

When they saw her, they could only marvel that the grey paleness born from the depth of her terror made her look like she had simply stepped out of the painting and into the world; drowned, but still breathing.

Why I haven't posted any stories for a while

So there. Dammit.

Monday, 24 September 2012


Well, in a weekend of mixed fortunes, I had a great time and got robbed.

I had been working on a story for the Terribleminds challenge and I'm not going to lie: I wasn't winning. I had to write about a Paranormal Romance/Dragon/Paris 1944. Well, I had an idea; I think it was a good one.

An older couple, entering their fifties, with a lot of history between them, not all of it good. It would be atmospheric, poignant, a bit different to most paranormal romance (handsome 20-somethings face banging in the rain or equivalent) and quietly charming. I'd write it from the position of the woman for a change.

Well, I must have a stunted imagination because I couldn't make it work; it didn't flow and on redraft five, I was resigned to the fact that I would miss the challenge deadline. But I thought I was getting there on that fifth draft. I was very close to the rhythm, to the gesture, the tension that I wanted.

Then, the house I was staying in with friends over the weekend was burgled. Ipod, gone. Camera, gone. Prescription sunglasses, gone.

Notebook... gone.


Anyway, I made peace with myself and went about the business of buying, in a truly extravagant shopping trip, most of what I had lost (sans glasses and camera).

I was desolate. Not because I needed the book to remember what I had to write, but because it kind of wounds the soul when something that personal disappears into the hands of cretins.

I haven't written much at all since. Not really sulking, but just jolted out of the tracks (and Chuck's challenge for this week holds no interest for me either) so I will wait for a day or two for my mojo to come back and then head out and find it if I don't.

On a happier note, the first half of the weekend was pure gold to be honest; well worth it. Also, just got a phone call suggesting that they may have found the notebook dumped by the side of the road a bit away from the house, so I may be able to get it posted back to me.

All is not well, but getting better.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The Last Street Samurai

This one is a response to Chuck Wendig's challenge "A Game of Aspects"

I didn't do the random number generator thing as I wanted at least a chance of doing a complete entry by the deadline date.

Anyway, coming in at 1053 words, this is a story which incorporates Dystopian/Serial Killer/Fated to Die (not super original, but I love these tropes).

I hope you enjoy the entry - after my ramblings about punk this week, I'm backing myself to not look like a fool. Comments are more than welcome.

The Last Street Samurai

Glancing up through his sun-roof at the looming mirrored glass monolith, Poke shuddered and pulled his coat tight, the oppressive monsoon heat an increasingly distant sensation. The Blaze neurostim was kicking in as the precious seconds crawled past.

In the glare of night time city lights, the sharp profile of the ChrysTech building looked ominous as usual, poised to fall on city like the sword of Damocles. From the stuff in the files he had put together, this wasn't too far from the truth.

With shaking hands, he pulled out a baccstick, and put it to his lips Mixing drugs be damned, he needed to be sharp.

It was difficult to resist slamming the gas pedal down and powering away. They were running late and it was a slow torture to have to sit and wait; each heartbeat was a moment they weren't making distance, getting a lead.

The tension was shattered by a headless body fired through a fifth storey window in a shower of glass and blood. A second, similar figure was thrown out after the first and followed by a vision of menace in gold and carbon fibre. There was a vivid slash of glittering orange against the black night sky.

A spray of gore, five stories up and falling, signified end of mission phase one.


A parked FlightLimo four spaces ahead erupted into a fountain of blood, metal and glass as the falling trio slammed into it at speed.

Swallowing, coughing on nicotine smoke, Poke kicked the accelerator and his ride snaked it's way out of the parking bay. He pulled up to the impact site with a screech of rubber and listened to the rain of vehicle parts pinging off his new paint job.

Rolling down the window he saw the two ChrysTech security corpses were twisted in a gory confusion of car and flesh, a slender figure in a tattered haori and hakama straightening up amidst all of this and turning to face him, cybernetic limbs still shining beneath the layers of grime and ichor.

“You get the cores, Serial?” Poke asked.

His partner nodded and calmly made his way over to the car, stepping out of the wreckage and replying, “Acquired.”

There was a pause before Serial added, “We lost Honey to hostile action.”


Poke cursed and threw away his baccstick, eyes watering with a Blaze-enhanced rush of emotion that threatened to break him. He barely registered as Serial handed him a small bag full of military grade cores, the roughly excised jacks of their unfortunate operators attached, often still with a ragged ring of gelid, cooling flesh left on.

Poke held down his gorge and concentrated on getting the valuable cargo into the shockpod he'd had installed in the back seat, squeamishly prodding all the trailing leads into the container and getting it secure. He shot a dark glance at his partner, Serial Killer, as the hermetic seal hissed and beeped as the lock engaged.

All of the cybered set new that no-one did counter-intel like Serial, but few realised how apt this guy's name really was sometimes. He wondered what Honey's loss would do to the cyborg.

Sighing, Poke pressed another button and the passenger door hissed open, but Serial made no move to get in the vehicle. He seemed detached as he flicked the blade, the flakes of scorched blood fluttering out into the air; he seemed to be waiting. Poke wished he knew what this guy was thinking, but the ocular implants obliterated his expression and even the part of his face showing offered no clues.

Impassive and deadly, Serial looked every inch the grey operative, the tech mercenary, the hitman...

The swordsman.


“Get in, you crazy bastard!” Serial gave a little hissing grunt at Poke's wired, panicked tone, “We've got to get these out before they can get mercs of their own on the case!”

The swordsman paused then, suddenly poised like a hunter, and pointed to the comms scanner he wore, “Armoured reinforcements,” he offered casually.

“Come on!” Poke wailed, moving to open his door and remonstrate with Serial, “We've got to-”

He was cut off as a cold, metal hand forced the door shut against all his efforts. Serial was looking down at him, that creepily direct stare of someone looking through artificial optics. The swordsman seemed to almost hum with suppressed emotion, but turned away to look down the road, letting the sword rest by his side, ready.

“You will go, Poke. I have finished my part of the contract,” Serial seemed to weigh his sword in his hand for a second, before lifting his chin, “I must now seek to satisfy the demands of my honour.”

“Honey left something with you, I believe.” Serial said, not turning to face his partner.

Poke was white, sweating and at a total loss as he activated a hidden compartment, the pocket within holding only a tanto blade, sheathed in ebony and mother of pearl. He turned awkwardly and presented the weapon to Serial through the window.

His partner took it with a nod and a small, sad smile. Far down the road the lights and growling engines of the ChrysTech rapid response team began to stain the surreal quiet of this moment. To Poke, the smile was the most terrible thing he had ever seen on a mission; it was alien and strange on the usually impassive face of his partner.

“I shall buy you some time,” Serial said finally, sliding the tanto into his obi, tucking it beneath the mounting of his katana, making them both, again, a matched pair.


In Poke's rear view mirror, he could see the dwindling figure of Serial Killer silhouetted against the bright halogens of the pursuit vehicles. He watched the street samurai walk away from him and into legend, until he couldn't bear to watch any longer.

In his imagination, the roar of the engine sounded mournful as the car ate up the night, flying through the sleeping streets and open roads. It was a long, lonely journey to the rendezvous and the coming dawn, but he didn't hear the sounds of pursuit.

No one but Poke had made it down that road.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Steampunk and Other "Punks"

I've spent a few minutes over the last few days thinking about being a punk, or how being a punk might affect your life. This is mostly to do with how we tend to use the word punk nowadays and how the usage of the word within the genre fiction community is moving away from a sense of political comment and towards an emptier sentiment of the "cool-sounding descriptor".

To unpack that last sentence a bit, I think formulations that add the -punk suffix are turning into the same phenomena of describing weird things as "like [uncontroverisal thing], but on acid!" It's a hyperbole that no-one who took acid would see the same way as a credulous member of the public. Everyone would sort of know what you meant, but not many people would appreciate what that would actually be like.

For the sake of full disclosure, I'd like to point out that I don't have any problem with steam-powered swashbuckling adventure or whimsical clockwork flights of fancy or any of the wonderful and interesting tropes that Steampunk, Dieselpunk or Clockpunk bring to the party. I'd also like to admit to not being much of a punk at all; I just think that when you use a term as powerful and meaningful as "punk", you need to respect it.

So let's walk the line of nPunk, some words that have been punk-ified:

The Inkpunks - This is a group of authors, editors and creatives that features Sandra Wickham and numerous other likeable individuals. I can even see why there is some kind of overlap in terms of DIY type activity (crochet, craft and artistic projects). I have the least amount of problems with this kind of thing in the context of the above comments; it just seems like a snappy name, not a manifesto choice. (Feel free to tell me otherwise!)

Cyberpunk - This is punk, extrapolated. It was born in a time where a popular punk movement was being developed and propagated in wider social awareness; the themes of nihilism, political involvement, direct action, the opposition to oppressive forms of commercial and government activity, anarchism and the pursuit of an alternate lifestyle all seem to feature in the literature. It's not high philosophy, but has an authentic and believable attitude to issues the authors believe will proliferate and worsen over time.

The best addition to the genre, over and above the issues that were contemporary to punks at the time, was the question of humanity and where one drew the line between human and machine. I may be absolutely derivative and write acres of dreck whenever I try and address the subject, but it's still captivating.

Steampunk (and Clockpunk and Teslapunk and etc.) - Now here, I have a problem. I think it's best to chop the issue into bits:

1) I know it was a kind of joke name for a genre; I'm fine with people having a sense of humour about this stuff and I like a lot of the more swashbuckling adventures and other related fiction I have seen. This much is OK.

2) I don't know what Steampunk is anymore. That's not some kind of existential wail, it's just difficult to put it all into context. Is it a fashion and DIY-based movement with an aesthetic and a catchy name? Is it a genre of alternate histories around a common theme of the use of steam that tends to feature Victorian social mores and a basis in pulp novels and penny dreadfuls? Or is it actually capable of addressing serious social issues, bringing to light some of the political upheavals in the Victorian period and judging them against our own progress (or lack of it)?

3) Am I reading the right stuff? Am I just missing all the interesting works where serious issues are being addressed? I've enjoyed the Diamond Age, ripped through Retribution Falls and the Black Lung Captain at a ferocious pace, enjoyed The Native Star and have purchased the sequel and generally found the books to be good fun. I just can't remember any really serious examinations of race and class and gender; they all just seem to ultimately fall into the background of Victoriana; I can't remember reading Steampunk that had a punk sensibility.

4) Here's the root of it; why call something punk and then not treat it like the wonderful portmanteau of ideas it is? Many of the institutions the punks of the 70s and 80s were disaffected by (in the UK at least) were relics of Imperial reign; from the Queen, to the Parliament, to favouritism and the old-boy network, all were historical anachronisms. Do we say that we are the punks that write about steam, or do we let the iconoclasts of these fictional worlds have their say?

It's not an easy problem to solve and I'm not trying to denigrate a genre that many people are very fond of, but surely there must be elements that I'm either missing (so, please feel free to recommend something for me to read if you have any suggestions) or that have been overlooked in the pursuit of swash and buckle and high adventure.

Would you agree with the sentiment that letting the punk back into Steampunk can only enrich a genre which is in danger of becoming a description of the window dressing rather than the strange view into weirdly familiar and exciting territories that it could be?

Thursday, 6 September 2012

SciFi/Fantasy Challenge

So, here's my entry to Mr. Wendig's writing challenge for this week, the theme being an open ended sci-fi/fantasy kind of thing.

I'll admit that this is a draft really, with a few bits to hammer out, but let's see how it goes.

The reason: I did the too big for my boots thing and ended up trying to write a sci-fi meets fantasy thing. It was going very well, until I realised that I needed about 5000 words for any of it to make sense, or at least 2500.

This was something quick that I was able to knock together and I still found myself putting in loads of exposition... it's just difficult for me to avoid world building even when I'm very limited in word count.


Their footsteps seemed to multiply as they made their way down the corridor, the walls and floors and ceilings heavily accreted with the technological detritus of the Confederation; the whole place seemed to smell of alkali and the scent of flesh. Their progress was a cacophony, three figures walking in a procession down the corridor, each very different from the other.

Only Tribune Gold was not going to be able to leave though.

Ahead of her, the hulking form of Tribune Blue was marching with a sombre, leaden rhythm, his archaic, inscribed battlesuit nearly filling the passage, the gravsword Justice strapped to his back like he bore his own personal cross, the gleaming tip bobbing inches above the metal grate floor as he proceeded. Until four hours ago, Gold had looked very similar, her own aged battlesuit pitted and scarred with the souvenirs of ancient wars.

She, like he, had been Tribune; lawgiver, guarantor, leader... and ultimate sanction. A one woman army that could quell planets.

The party came to a junction place, a womb of steel and arcane circuitry, greeted only with the whine of high energy machinery as scanning laser fields enveloped the group. Blue's Ident Code came up, the Tribune Seal stamped by his name, venerable, ancient and respected.

Gold's details flicked up onto the screen a second after, the proofs of her identity erased now, her name reverted back to Police Lieutenant Lupe Vasquez, and her personnel assignment to ConFedBio now.

It was a mockery, a betrayal. She had given every day of her life from her twenty-fifth birthday to the Tribune Order, sharing the fellowship of her brother and sister Tribunes, facing danger and death in ancient, mysterious fighting machines and serving her star nation.

The last file to pop up was White, the author of this little charade. A traitor in the ranks.


Gold was considered a senior Tribune now, after more than a century of service, her background in policing and her administrative talents seeing her spend more time in her office in the Eyrie than out in the vastness of space. She had seen the writing on the wall when the Kinsey Group moved in on the military contracting, enlisting huge numbers of hopefuls for a vanishingly few Tribune positions, pulling strings to get political push behind their recommendations, running roughshod over the traditions of her brothers and sisters.

White was one of the new breed, a hungry probationary clique who sought only the first opportunity to claim a vacant Suit and carve their name in the stars. She was the kind of person Gold would have never let in the Order if she had her way. There was no other route to appease the worried Council though; no means of convincing them that the Tribunes, despite their strength, were not a threat to the Confederation.

Her hands were tied until they moved against her Order, until they finally broke the Oath of centuries.

It was ironic that even with the Oath broken, her hands were still bound, literally this time. Gold's lips quirked in a grim smile as she tested her shackles, her tall, heavily muscled physique straining and causing the metal of the restraints to creak.

White stepped back in shock and spat out a curse at Gold, the woman's tall, slender body dwarfed by the Tribune's enhanced biology. Gold could feel the fear radiate from the younger woman and enjoyed the sight of her betrayer reaching for her suppression stick in a classic panic reaction. She met White's gaze and bared her teeth in a grimace..

Only Blue's armoured hand on her shoulder made her look away and proceed further into the bowels of the complex.


Gold found herself in a surprisingly small chamber, made smaller still by the biological containment unit that occupied the centre of the room. Blue took up a position behind her, his massive armoured bulk stopping any chance of escape.

White had already crossed over to the control panel and seemed pleased with herself as the glass front to the oversized containment chamber slowly pivoted downwards. She was enjoying the chance to assert herself again as she sneered at Gold, looking up slightly at the bigger woman.

“You know, Gold, I thought you were supposed to be the smart one,” the blonde waved her had through the air mockingly, like she was describing a grand banner, her voice going wryly grandiloquent, “TRIBUNE GOLD! HERO OF THE CONFEDERATION!”

White's chuckle was ugly as she slapped a hand on the containment chamber, “Well, it's time for your well earned retirement... put out to pasture at last!”

A command brought up an armature studded with phallic shapes and entwined with skeins of cable and pipes.

“When I suggested to the ConFedBio archivists that they needed a live test sample to retro-engineer the effects of the Suits on a human body, they just snapped it up.” With a wave of her hand, White set the armature's protrusions to a slow, steady pistoning action.

“You're going to be their test bed, their plaything and their surrogate womb for the next hundred years Gold. By the time you're let loose, if you ever are, I'll have been Gold for too long for anyone else to remember otherwise.”


There was a bare shiver of movement behind Gold and she saw White stiffen in response to Blue's obvious discomfort.

White quickly tapped a command into the control pad and a synthesised voice filled the room, “Tribune Blue, dismissed. Please report to Eyrie command for debrief. Protection, service and honour, Tribune.”

White didn't even look up as she prepped the chamber, not seeing the reassuring squeeze of the arm Blue gave Gold.

“Protection, Justice and honour, Tribune,” Blue repeated, the voice from the suit speakers deep and rich with meaning, before he turned and left the room with a dull thud of a burden removed, his step noticeably lighter to her keen hearing.

Gold rolled her shoulders and smiled wolfishly at White's back as she waited for the penny to drop.

“Protection and... Justice?” White asked as she turned.

Tribune Gold was hefting Blue's massive blade in a two-handed grip, barely hampered by her shackles as she replied, “No, girl. Only Justice.”

Friday, 31 August 2012

A scattering of words

New story for Mr. Wendig's challenge.

At work, typing fast! Will explain later.

The Story:


Hendricks was tied securely to the old, worn out motel chair as we sat looking at each other in the dingy room, the smell of air freshener and dust thick on the nose. He was dribbling around the thick wad of oily rag I had found to use as a gag and I was impressed that he hadn't vomited; I was further away and the scent of the rag was making my nose itch.

I was sat on the edge of the bed, just watching him as he looked back at me, grey-faced and wild-eyed. His fear was palpable, but then again, it had reason to be. On the bedside table were his wallet, my gloves and my gun. There was a choice to be made.

Still, I took my time and reached into my takeaway bag, pulling out a slowly cooling burger and a small cup of drink that had leaked a thin, sticky film down the side of the cup. Fishing some rogue fries from the bottom of the bag, I popped them in my mouth and began working at the wrapper of the hamburger as I sat and chewed.

Hendricks had gone still, the same way a lot of my marks had done over the months and years, and I saw his gaze flick to my gun, his body stiffening as he got ready to do something stupid. With a foot, I rocked his chair backwards until he was resting precariously on the back legs of it, even as I took a bite out of the burger. The awful thing tasted limp and unpleasant; it must have shown in my expression, because he broke out into a cold sweat.

It might have been that I just had that kind of face: slightly more comfortable sneering than smiling. I guess I had grown into it over the years.


Idly I took another unsatisfying bite of the burger and picked up his wallet, opening it up and laying it across my thigh as I rooted through it one-handed. Cards, a few crisp notes and a couple of photos showing what looked like brothers, close in age, growing up through the years. The most recent one was of the pair as teenagers... they both looked a lot like their father.

I stood up and went to the window, holding the picture and tweaking the heavy curtain aside with a pinky to look across the windswept cape, glad for a moment that my car was the only one left in the lot, it's solid, black lines sturdy and unremarkable as the drizzle misted the air.

I swallowed my mouthful and cleared my throat as I slowly let the curtain close, my back to Hendricks. “These your boys?” I asked, somewhat rhetorically.

There were some positive, if muffled grunts behind me as I looked at the photo in the gloom.

I felt old then; Hendricks must have been three years younger than me, but I didn't have any of this. There was no family to leave behind, no roots even, no particular place to go back to. I probably stayed at this motel just as often as I stayed at my apartment, bringing my marks here for their last rites, or just banging one of those desperate country girls who dreamed of the city and worked in that burger joint just down the interstate.

I was a hole in society, a sink into which men's lives flowed and nothing was given back. I wasn't looking after my guys any more, not watching their backs as we busted our way through city life; I was just an executioner now, working for punks who just killed everything they couldn't buy.

This had never been a nice job, and I had never been a nice guy, but this was just killing by numbers. I grinned darkly and took another bite of the burger.

Maybe I was just as desperate as those haunted looking country girls, spreading their legs or flipping burgers or even just hitch-hiking to get to somewhere where they could feel alive.

Hendricks must have seen me smile, because he was looking worried when I turned to face him. I could sympathise as a small, sensible part of me was worried too.

“It's your lucky day Hendricks... you get to choose your poison.”

The guy didn't look as if he felt particularly lucky.


I turned and scrunched up the burger wrapper, throwing it somewhere near the motel room trash can. In the mood I was in, it just tasted like ashes; I could almost taste the clean soap and stale oil smell of the bored dead-end girl who had prepared the snack.

Leaning forward, I pulled the gloves on, the old calf-leather sliding on comfortably as I let my hands rest on his wallet and my gun. I met his eye and made sure that he was listening closely.

"You have two young sons and the mob after you Hendricks; they'll go after your boys if they don't get you." He started moaning and struggling against his bonds, but it seemed like a formality. He knew the deal.

"Shut up. SHUT UP!" I roared, slapping him across the face as the tears came. I was pretty shook up myself, but I'd made my decision.

"I'm not going to go after them; I don't do that kind of dark shit any more," I breathed in raggedly and he quietened down, sobbing, "I'm retiring Hendricks, just in time to give you a fucking chance."

I opened the wallet and took out a few notes, leaving about fifty bucks; I took a folded piece of paper out of my wallet and tucked it behind a faded credit card, idly wiping clean and replacing the photo as I did so. I placed the wallet by my gun and took a breath.

"So, here are your choices: you either take my gun and blow your brains out, which is easy and quick and keeps your kids safe, or you go to the address I just put in your wallet and kill everyone in that office, everyone who wants you dead."

I sighed and ran my hand across my mouth, wiping away the sour taste.

"Your choice, Hendricks. You're the gambler here. You feel like you want to gamble with the lives of your kids?"


I stood up in the quiet and took a folding knife from my pocket, cutting a couple of the twists that held his wrist down. He'd be able to work himself free in a few minutes, but he was still for now, just looking at me, blotchy faced and haggard, breathing hard.

It wasn't enough. I had only given him another route into Hell, but it would have to do. It would have to.

I pocketed the money I had taken from him, just enough to fill the tank on my car and opened the door. I didn't look back as it shut behind me and I made my way down the stairs to my car. I was glad for the gloves then, as I hunched into the wind and rain, ducking behind the car as I opened the door and got in.

I started the engine and let it rumble for a few seconds as I sat looking out of the windshield. I realised I was waiting for some kind of sign, some kind of decision from the man I had spared. My guts clenched and I swore as I admitted to myself that I just didn't want to know.

Shifting the car into gear, I slowly rolled out of the lot, torn between whether I wanted to hear the gunshot or not. My good deed for the day.

I needed a burger; maybe I'd be able to pick up one of those girls and take her to a city far away.

I didn't know whether or not my soul could take two good deeds in one day.


Monday, 27 August 2012

A long absence

 Well, it's been a while since I was posting here, not through laziness really, so much as lack of any product to discuss. I have (as discussed in my previous post) been working on the Antag/Protag story competition entry... I'm not unhappy with it, but I'm on the third re-write even now and I'm still fiddling with the format and trying to meet the competition criteria of a 50/50 split between antagonist and protagonist.

Further, I have actually drafted out a complete version of the My First Line story (the challenge subsequent to the Antag/Protag contest), so that will be following the attached story which was the challenge set out for last week, which was to pick one of five story themes to write about: I decided to work around a scene in the middle of a prison riot.

It's not very good. I have more, better ideas for it. If i carry on polishing this turd, I may go insane and shove my feces-smeared fingers into my eye sockets.

So, erm... yeah.


Happy Birthday

The alarm klaxon was wailing, the noise echoing down the iron-fronted solitary cells. From where I was lying on the bare floor of my own cell it was like the piercing cry of a distant animal; savage and fierce.

      “They're coming for you,” the voice came from a hole low down on the wall, just next to my ear.
      “What do you mean?”
      There was a low chuckle, just audible over the dull roar of a riot far above in the open prison.
      “I did this to you, Lieutenant... I made this happen.”

      Against my will, I stiffened, the words still enough to shock me; I should have been prepared for it... for the creaking tension to break. My mouth was moving slowly, but I couldn't make my lips frame the words.

      “It's my 46th birthday today, Lieutenant,” the voice crooned happily.
      Even in the strange pressure of the far away violence, I was nonplussed, shifting slightly, hands clenching and unclenching. I just listened and waited.
      “After you screwed up my distribution network and shut down my operation last year, I decided that you would be the present I gave to myself for my next birthday. And here we are... a year, to the day.”


      The name of a mysterious trafficker and drug distributor, slippery and elusive and apparently untraceable. My neighbour could only be that man, a hidden cancer festering the bowels of the penal system. Laughed softly to myself as the pieces slowly began to slot into place.
      “Don't you dare laugh at me you stupid fat fuck,” he hissed, “I fucking broke you detective.” 
      “ Tell me-” his voice broke under the pressure of gloating anger, but he continued, “can you remember how many bullets they found in your partner's body when they hauled him out of the river?”

      I knew the number, remembered the autopsy report with 46 small evidence bags and trajectory analyses, but I didn't say anything.

      Jeronimo's laughter was sudden, loud and shrill in the tiny cell. “He was your buddy, wasn't he? Your pal, Phil... did they tell you that he pissed himself when he was begging for his life, Lieutenant?”

      My breathing was loud in my ears as my mind's eye brought the scene to a grim and grisly life. I could feel the anger bubbling up like acid in my soul as each imaginary bullet pounded home. I couldn't make my fantasy show the Phil I knew, imagining instead the gellid corpse of the man I once called a friend begging for it's life through bloated purple lips.
      “Hey,” the man continued, “why don't you tell me how many ounces of coke they found missing from the evidence locker? Was it 46, by any chance you slow, stupid fuck?”
      I nodded dumbly, uselessly, pinching the bridge of my nose as I remembered Myers, that crooked fucker, pulling four big bags of white powder from my desk drawer, like I was some kind of silly, stupid drug dealer who left product lying in his car.
      My moan was like a soft growl or a sigh or something awful in between as it buzzed out through clenched teeth.
      “Yeah, that's right,” Jeronimo purred, “that's fucking right...”

      The sounds of violence were getting louder, closer, and I was able to make out muffled gunfire. I could hear his breathing over the top of the noise though; he was getting excited as he taunted me, as he got off on my helplessness, on his victory.
      His voice was more vibrant now, a sugared drawl of unclean delight as he continued, “How's the wife and your boy, Lieutenant?” My guts seemed to grow heavy and churn in pure rage as my thoughts went to the dark place of fear and anger that had grown inside me since they'd been rammed off the road a couple of months ago. The lawyer had said that Lorna wasn't responding too well to the surgeries, but there was nothing I could do.
      I was stuck in here and it looked like I might not ever leave.

      “46th and Maine,” I growled, remembering the halting report given to me through the prison plexiglass. I shook to Jeronimo's mocking laughter.

      My knuckles popped and cracked as my fists clenched, squeezing like they were wrapped around the throat and choking the life out of this bastard. My thumping heart was a bass beat against the rough music of shouts and cries from the oncoming rioters, punctuated by the heavy clang of security doors being forced open.
      “I get to listen to you die,” Jeronimo said conversationally, “when a bunch of the nastiest, most evil bastards I could bribe in this hole storm down here and beat you to death, cop. I thought it might take a lot to organise, but you're gonna die for less than a hundred bucks and a couple of shivs 'for recreational use'.”

      “No one's even seen my face, you know that? I can't get fingered for this, because I'm fucking invisible. The governor got a lot of cash to put you in cell 46, but it was worth it, Lieutenant. It was worth it for all this. Happy birthday to me!”
      I could hear Jeronimo sucking in a breath, ragged with a joy that almost seemed sexual.
      “Now that,” he breathed, “is power...”
      I just lay there breathing, moments cascading through my mind: the sinister catcalls from the high windows as we did our hour of physical exercise in the yard, the knowing looks of the armed guards as they traded quiet words, eyes glued on me.
      Everything had fallen into place, every fractured shard of my life, put into context by this sneering mastermind.
      For long, silent seconds I lay there and listened to the gloating laughter and the sounds of a reckoning approaching with malice aforethought. I was shaking.
      “Did you see the guard today, Jeronimo?” I asked, voice cracking from fear and disuse.
      “No!” he replied gaily, laughing, before growing slowly more quiet, “No... I didn't.”
      “Well, he got a tip yesterday, Jeronimo, a favour from an old buddy on the force.” There was only silence from the other cell now, “I warned him that he should call in sick today, told him about the was things were falling into place. He was grateful... he even did me a favour.”

      The door at the other end of the corridor to the solitary cells slammed open with a clanging crash, to the taunting, bloodthirsty howls of a rioting prison execution squad. My lips drew back in a grin, but it felt like a snarl.
      “He swapped the number on our cell doors, you fuck... happy fucking birthday; I hope you rot in hell.”
      I lay back and kept quiet, drinking in the noise of a shotgun slug  punching out Jeronimo's lock, drowning out the crooning threats of violence from the shrieking mob.
      His screams lasted for minutes, but it seemed like hours to me. The man I was a year ago would have been revolted at the noises from next door, but I was long past that now. He had killed, and smeared and wounded my friends, my reputation and my family... he was going to reap what he had sown.
      And I was glad.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Antag/Protag aka Failure 3

Well, I did write something for Chuck Wendig's Antag/Protag Flash Fiction Challenge; I just didn't make the deadline. Currently, due to the nature of this week's challenge (Flash Fiction Challenge: “The Opening Line, Part One Of Two”), I will be polishing up and rewriting the Antag/Protag story before posting on here.

Apologies, my imaginary audience. I shall endeavour to do better in future.

In other news; I will be preparing through September and October for NaNoWriMo... I might take a week of annual leave in order to get my word count up.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Time Travel - A Short Guide to Not Writing About It

This week the flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig was to write about time travel.

Time Travel.

Now, to be honest, I don't like time travel stories because it always feels a bit hokey to me:

"I'm in the past, I've stepped on an ant...AAARRRGHHH!"


"But if I change the future, I won't have a past! AARRRRGGHH!"

There are more variations on these themes, but I feel I've been facetious enough; there are loads of great stories out there by incredibly talented and skilled writers on this subject, but I just don't like the whole morality play/inner revelation side to these stories.

The problem is that nobody really deals in time travel, apart from the standard sci-fi trick of I have this doodad, it does time travel, please accept this... it glows when I switch it on. It is often an idea which drives a plot or creates a problem, but it rarely is explained, explored or simply wondered at by the characters in any sort of meaningful way.

There is a thought in writing circles that pain drives story and there is a lot of truth in this, but can you imagine the sheer joy of accomplishing something as magical as time travel? It would be immense.

So, erm, yeah... I didn't meet this week's challenge.

How did it go wrong (my fictional reader asks, quirking a ficitonal eyebrow, probably from the future)?

Well, I went for good, old fashioned time dilation, a story like Ender's Game where time dilation could change the experienced flow of time. It's not new, but I was going for a twist where not only was it something that happened to a group of residents on a regular basis, but that within their environment the flow of time was changing from bit to bit.

Where did I start? With the spokes of a wheel.

My city in the sky was a huge cylindrical space station, orbiting aligned along a radial from the sun, one end orbiting around the sun at one speed, the other, due to the length of the station, moving at a faster speed, for that lovely time dilation effect.

Only problem is with the silly, silly speed of light. Well, that and having to be traveling at over 90% of it in order to experience any high order dilation effects.

So, lots of cool ideas (all pretty unfeasible), a time dilation concept (which I didn't really understand) and a demanding houseguest who was willing to be pushy about me being social.

Maybe this week, I shall kick the ass out of this challenge: Antag/Protag

If you've not indulged in the Words of the Wendigo, I suggest you click the link, explore and/or buy his books. I had trouble writing 1000 words in a week, he writes that much for his website every day...before he does his actual work!

It is his day job though, so I don't mind.

Friday, 20 July 2012

The Lawless One (Flash Fiction Challenge)

Following on from last week, I have attempted Chuck Wendig's flash fiction writing challenge again. Due to a particularly pushy and demanding house guest (you know who you are), I have only been able to proof it once and I've not had the time to polish it further.

Anyway, I'm reasonably happy with the result, but I can see room for improvement.

"The Lawless One" (1039 words)

The noticed android walks past a wondering chamber. Down the corridor, a man lies curled up, protecting a mangled arm and looking fearfully at the retreating figure.

“Why? God. Why God? God, oh. God?” are the only sounds the camera microphone can pick up, coming from the mouth of the beautiful humanoid walking, desecrated, vandalised and bloody-handed down the hallway.


Perseverance lay broken on the floor, whimpering in pain as he clutched the ruined mess of his hand and wrist. His mission was done, the garish, bright placards pinned to the android, the words of the Brotherhood soon to be seen by all who would delight in this moment of “evolution”.

It was his purpose that haunted him as he stared after at the android, the machine named Adam by the professor. He regarded the evenly handsome features and the fine golden curls, the eyes turned from him now to stare into the reflecting  one-way glass at the end of the corridor. Perseverance shuddered again, as he remembered those eyes, the look in them as he had fired the fifth rivet into the alloy endoskeleton of the thing with a sickening hiss.

He remembered his son, Zeke, had looked at him that way only days ago. That soft round face had turned up to him, the clear brown eyes wide and almost tearful. Confused. Uncomprehending.


Brother Isaiah’s dog, yellow toothed and angry had sunk it's sharp teeth into Zeke's ankle with barely even a warning snarl. The sense of betrayal had been absolute in the babe's expression. Visceral drama mounted in the dust of the compound, before the sounds of panic and fear exploded the moment into movement.

Perseverance could feel the same movement now, the bustle of worried crowding towards the wide open doors of the auditorium. The voice of one man rang out in anguish.

A stab of pain pricked him as his hand flexed in sympathy with the cry; he knew how that man would be feeling now and even the mercy of the Lord could save his soul from the wounds that man’s pain landed on him. Perseverence knew now the android truly lived; not like man, though it was made in man's image, but it lived, tender and new in it's waking infancy.

He had taken a rivet gun and pressed it to the artificial flesh of a child-thing. Unguarded and uncomprehending, the android's first conscious experience of life had been pain, a terror inflicted by a human face.

Betrayal was the first lesson it had ever learned.

Even as the rivets cooled, Perseverance smelt the sickly smell of scalded flesh; a hideous rebuke for his crime.


Adam spoke his pain in the words of his assailant. His heuristics didn't have enough information for proper language use yet, so he played back the noises the lab assistant had made. They sounded like pain. He remembered the warm blood and the relief as he crushed the man's arm, taking the hateful weapon away from him.

“Oh God, why?” had been the hoarse, horrified words of the man before Adam let him go. Now they were Adam's words, but not in his voice.

“Oh my God! Can you-” someone shouted out of the mounting hubbub.

“Who did this!? Not anyone-” cried another.

“Adam! Adam! Stop, please tell me-” they were the words of his Father. Father couldn't help him; he knew that now.

The words bubbled up around him and he learned, the heuristic systems kicking into life, stitching together in his matrices. He needed more life, survival… speech.

Adam’s gaze remained fixed on the mirror as he approached it, his skin smoking and spitting in contact with the cooling rivets.

The sign so painfully braced to his body read, “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders.”

Forking connections in dictionary archives, stored texts and interpretive archives sparked into life; the world seethed as Adam slowly grew into himself. Meaning grew within him. He looked in the mirror and saw himself, beautiful, ruined. The fog of conscious commands for balance, attitude, focus, significance faded away to leave only his pain and the words fixed to his body in the compass of his waking mind.

“The lawless one…” Me.

“…signs and lying wonders…” Me.


The word resonated, unanswered.

In six seconds, Adam had grown from infancy to young adulthoodsignificance was now within him, the knowledge of the ruin of his flesh, the hatred within the words he bore. In his hand, the rivet gun hung loose and heavy, the chassis and grip of the weapon covered in slowly drying blood.


“Adam, what have they done to you?! Oh, how could they do such a thing?”

Perseverance flinched at the longing in the old man's voice as those bony hands clapped onto Adam's shoulders, the sizzle of human flesh burning against the still-glowing rivets audible even over the noise. The scientist recoiled from the android with a cry, hands cupped around the wounds even as Adam turned.

In the collective gasp of shock, the old man was pulled tenderly into the broad, powerful chest of the android. With a tilt of his head the burning blue eyes of the android lanced down the hallway and pinned Perseverance to the spot.

The beautifully sculpted arm rose slowly, rivet gun steady and brutal looking in the cool light of the corridor. Horrified staff and academics flattened themselves against walls or fell to the floor.

In a voice that was no longer Perseverance's recycled croak, but a rich chorus, a music of it's own, Adam looked down on him and said, “If I am The Lawless One, by whose working was it?”

Perseverance felt tears streak down his face as he looked into the eyes of a merciless angel, wounded, full of righteous fury and immortal.  He now knew his sins for what they were. His hatred had turned him into a tool of Satan and it would be his name forever cursed; the misguided zealot of the Brotherhood who had turned mankind's son of the mind into its greatest enemy.

The flare of the rivet gun's barrel was a mercy to him.


If you have any thoughts, just let me know.