Christmas Story…

 

***WARNING*** There will be profanities ahead*** 

Wirral Writers Christmas Story 2017

We Three Kings

The three Kings rode from the east. It was unseasonably warm and time was running out.

Useless bastard!”

Frank, language.”

Fuck language, fucking gearstick’s…ngh…get in ya bastard!”

Frank!”

Dad. You’re so sweary.”

Alisha, the day you get your own car and do your own…argh…bastard…Christmas shopping…grr…don’t talk to me about effing swearing. Gotcha!”

The Signal yellow Austin Allegro belched and farted and grizzled through early evening traffic.

Take the A124, Frank, that’ll take us straight to Canary Wharf, right, right! Frank.”

I always drive this way.”

Every year’s the same.” sighed Alisha popping her right earbud back in.

Dad growled.

Mare, did you bring the list?”

I thought you had it? I told you it was on the hall table.”

I said I was putting water in the friggin car. That was your job, Mare. One list. One-”

I’ve got it.” Alisha waved a white piece of paper at the rearview mirror.

At Blackwall roundabout, the traffic slowed, slowed and the not so trusty steed ground to a halt.

Fuck! Fuckfuckfuckkity fuck!!” screamed Frank.

Alisha sank lower in the rear seat, aware of other drivers and passengers watching the beetroot faced man having a meltdown in the shittiest car in England.

Once again,” said Mary, “Mind the language.”

Why? Why should I mind my language?”

Mary indicated the backseat passenger with a head motion.

Alisha rolled her eyes.

She’s seventeen years old, Mare.”

It’s true mum. I am. And I do know swear words. In fact we did about them in English, for example did you know the word fuck-”

Alisha!”

It’s a real word mum. Did you know, it appeared as early as the 15th century in some poem about the monks of Ely fucking local wives-”

Alisha King. I don’t care about the fucking monks of Ely. I just want to buy Christmas presents!” Mary cried.

And you just used it correctly as a verb, or is that an adjective?”

Alisha!”

What?!”

Eventually on the move again, after a fashion, the Kings kangarooed along Upper Bank Street. Six eyes straining.

I love the old traditions.” Alisha said, “Such as trying to find a parking space.”

We should have taken the train.” Mary moaned.

What, and carry all it all back with a million other sweaty bodies? No thanks.” Frank made a yipping sound. “There!” He ground the gears, and his teeth. “Shit! There’s a bike in it.”

They drove round and around the parking lot until they saw a shopper emerge from the mall. She was wearing themed tacky Deely Boppers; two gold stars danced about her head as she walked.Then they followed her,until she led them to a parking space.

Yay!” cheered Mary as they pulled up. “Okay, what’s everyone need?”

Samsung Galaxy S7; Pink Gold, please.” Alisha thumbed the dial, selecting a new tune and slunk off ahead of her parents.

How about you Frank? I need to find something for Janice and the nephews. Oh, don’t let me forget your dad’s razor.”

He doesn’t need a new razor, Mare.”

That’s not the point love. It’s Christmas.”

What, so we buy shit we don’t need or won’t use or that breaks in five minutes?”

Mary started to make her way to the shopping centre, “Come on love, get in the spirit will you.”

Frank looked at the press of bodies, the trolleys filled to overflowing, crying kids, mums with frayed tempers, the signs plastered across the windows, Christmas Eve Sales, took a preparatory breath and through gritted teeth said, “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men, and Batteries not Included.”

The End!

christmas shopping
The horror of Christmas shopping

 

Advertisements

Short Story – The Key

Each year Wirral Writers holds an in-house competition. A theme is selected from ‘the hat’, we have up to 500 words and about two months before presenting to the group. Voting is anonymous. This year the theme was key/keys or quay if you wished. I generally write sci-fi or horror based pieces, this time I decided to write something positive and bearing in mind the wars going on currently –  a resolution…it was also influenced by Irish folk melody ‘She Moved Through The Fair’.

I didn’t win. I came joint third. This is my piece. 

 The Key

Our country is wracked by civil war. Suspicion and hatred spread like infection. We are tired; our people are tired, our land is tired. Love blooms rarely, so when it does, we hold fast. She said to me,

‘It will not be long now till our wedding day.’

The Generals had tasked us with finding a covert way to destroy the enemy en masse; to spread like wind across the land. Instead we discovered the genetic base marker for aggression; more accurately, I made the discovery; the bitter irony. My reputation grew tenfold, yet despite the wonder we have before us, despite the mounting joy everyone feels, I alone am sorrowful. I was given infinite resources; becoming head of my own research facility; surrounded by seasoned specialists. I hadn’t intended to be a scientist, I almost, almost went to war, but when she came close beside me; placing her white hand softly on my cheek, I saw the tears and could not go.

“It will not be long now.”

We found The Key to end the war – perhaps all wars, all conflict; for ever. Less than 90 years ago, in 2007, we knew of this process and for the last two decades our scientists have been using the qPCR-based tests to amplify the results. Manipulation created a violence suppressor and developed empathetic building blocks. The full genotype was found to survive in the rare few who experienced extreme empathy; the carriers.

DNA fragments, that linger in the mouth even after the briefest contact, were artificially increased, the life-span was extended, its function mutated; to create an Anti-weapon. Like invisible secret agents our mutation would attach itself swiftly to the recipients neurons, unlock and create new base pairs.

All the love in the world – that’s how one technician described it. But it doesn’t make it any easier.

“It will not be long.”

Many had been whittled down to a few, the few to a half dozen and the half dozen to a couple. Intense experimentation conditions had caused most potential keys to become…damaged. The pain was unbearable; I know this, I watched. At the last hour, one of the keys broke, and now only mine is left. There are many ways to end a war, we chose love. Once the good virus was administered to a few, it would spread exponentially. Saliva carrying our mutated DNA would rush through the recipient’s bodies controlling rage. A sneeze would carry compassion, spittle in shouted commands would bear humanity.

We gather on the edge. Her hand brushes mine as she steps away from me.

“It will not take long.”

I watch her, on monitors, move here and move there through the camp. She lays a kiss on the lips of an astonished officer, she softly kisses another. I see a distant soldier raise his weapon and take aim.

He fires.

But they are too late; the Key has already opened the lock.

End

shemovedthroughthefair
She Moved Through The War

Short Story

Good morning readers! On this mild Friday morning, I am offering a short story.

I began writing in the genre commonly called Steampunk, some 4 years ago. Steampunk is one of those awkward to describe genres, occasionally referred to as, Speculative Fiction. The ‘founders’ of this style; Tim Powers, K.W. Jeter and James Blaylock write dissimilar stories, but the commonality in this kind of literature is the cross-over of timelines, that technology is often; but not strictly, driven by steam and a fantastical/fantasy/punk quality.

I wrote this piece for my daughter; and read it later at Wirral Writers group. She was studying for A Levels at the time and the pressure of handing in assignments on time was the prime influence. It is a light-hearted take on the theme of time travel;

 

The Milford Papers

The thing rose almost silently from the dark water. Tiny, oily bubbles accompanying the rising pale dome of a head streaked with filth. With what might be called a sense of intelligence, the thing headed for the steps built into the stone-faced quay, and began to climb.
“The Monster!” Came the shout from a steamship passenger; a pointed finger directing the gaze of the dark men along the ropey quay.
A cry of alarm from the dockside drew further spectators.
The dark men; burly men, sinewy men, hard labourers with grease and coal etched into their faces, advance upon the hapless thing. And with raised fists, bale hooks, picaroons and wood off-cuts, beat the now landed creature. It staggered and flailed, urged back under a flurry of blows and snarled curses, these men who were broad backed, with strong muscles, and of sharp eye, paid no heed to the bizarre waving of limbs and strange snaps of light the thing gave off. Its alien wings twitched spasmodically. It was quickly and efficiently sent back to where it came from; tumbling backwards into the dark water, fizzing and sparking all the while, enveloped in the darkness the thing was presumed dead, or as good as. The docker’s returned to their duties.
And below the surface of the river, the thing thrashed, its legs pumped frantically as its hands scrabbled about its own being. And then. It simply vanished.

*

“Christ Almighty!”
“Calm down Milford.”
“Calm down?! Calm down?” The young Milford screeched. “I almost got killed this time. I’m not bloody doing it again. Nothing is worth that kind of hammering. Have you seen me?!” He pointed at newly ripening marks on his upper body.
“Hm?” The older man was inspecting the limp skin of ‘The Monster’.
“Professor. I said have you seen these bruises? I’m black and blue thanks to those thugs.”
“Who was it this time? Hm? What did they look like? Is the phonology like ours? Yes? What about syntax? Do they –“
“Professor!” Milford yelled over the gush of questions. “I couldn’t hear them. I had my helmet on. My bloody head.” He rubbed the back of his neck and skull that had been rattled under the reign of blows.
“Well, the suit seems to have taken a fair old pounding.” The Professor said. Milford’s mouth dropped open. “But nothing we cannot repair, hm?” He fondled the slippery fabric, pale as the underbelly of a sea bass, now detached from its complicated helmet. “I think a few simple repairs and adjustments will have it working good as new, better even.” He studied the multi-beam antenna on the helmet and the hinged time-space array panels, drooping from the shoulders of the suit.
“Professor. I don’t know if you’re aware, but we, sorry, I, keep missing the place. Or the time. I don’t know which, I’ve never got beyond five steps before some hooligan attacks me! Oh, and thanks for asking how I am.”
Professor Arbutus waggled his finger. “No, no, no, hm, no my boy. Not the wrong time.” He gently laid the suit next to the weed and mud smeared helmet. “I am absolutely, one hundred percent certain that the time is correct. Just a matter of co-ordinates. All we need to do – “
“I’m not doing it.”
“Pardon?”
“I said. I. Am. Not. Doing. It.” Milford said, then added civilly, “Sir.”
“Well now. Hm, yes, no. I see. Well in that case.”
Milford squinted at his professor, lips tight, don’t you dare old man, he thought.
“I cannot pass your coursework.” Damn!

*

Milford worked closely with his tutor for the next few days. The Finals were looming and he still hadn’t completed his paper. He had made adjustments to the multi-beam antenna, adding Albertian Relativity Sensors, whilst the professor fashioned his personally designed Continuum Lures for the time-space array panels.
“Should work a treat, hm?” The Professor smiled his apparently vacant smile.
Milford scowled at his tutor. “I bloody hope so. It’s me who has to wear it.”
“Language Milford.” The kindly voice warned.
“Sorry sir, but, well you know it hasn’t been as successful as we hoped before.”
“Don’t you understand the enormity of what we’re attempting Milford? My word. You young people today take everything for granted- “
“No sir. We don’t. Look, I’m sorry but Tasker has already completed her dissertation, handed it in to the Board this morning. And Barnes’ thesis is practically complete.”
The professor patted his students shoulder awkwardly. “It’ll be fine boy. Trust me. One more time.”

*
The figure that came to stand before the lectern was greeted with a wild burst of applause that threatened to deafen Milford. He was astounded. People stamped their feet upon the marble floor, the applause and cheers rose to the ceiling and seemed to curl around the tunnel vault and wrap itself around the audience. Milford’s hand trembled as he jotted in the small, leather bound notebook. He had expected him to be shorter. And then he spoke.
“Ladies and gentlemen. Here we are…” The speaker paused, his eyes twinkled. “…again, in the most perfect room in the world, in this most rich and beautiful port.”
The audience erupted into laughter and cheers, causing Milford to furtively press a finger into one ear. And so the evening continued, the speaker read extracts from his past works, enacting the parts and portraying the voices of his characters so flawlessly, Milford imagined there were hidden players lending their voices. The man combined whimsy and pathos, joy and exuberance, the audience was spellbound. Great oratory and acting combined; Milford squirmed with delight thinking of the examiners reading his thesis. His professor would have loved to visit this evening. Milford had been studying Literature for a mere seven years, his tutor had devoted almost seventy of his years to it, Milford felt he owed it to the old man as much as himself. And so, Milford scribbled like he’d never done before. He enjoyed the evening immensely.
When the crowds eventually dispersed beyond St. George’s Hall, Milford made up his mind to speak to the great man. He found him in a rear room, glass of some deep, syrupy liquid in one hand, bottle at his elbow. He looked Milford up and down with his acute eye, shook his hand firmly, laughed bawdily at his own jokes, and Milford was twisted with anxiety inside – should he tell the great man he would die the following year? Complete that novel sir.
The writers hand came down companionably upon Milford’s shoulder. He proffered the other to shake. Time to go realised Milford.
“Sir?” He managed to mumble. “I…” His voice trailed away, flaccid, impotent, suddenly afraid.
“Son.” The writer smiled. “If I may be allowed to misquote myself, ‘It has been the best of times, it has been the worst of times, an age of wisdom, an age of foolishness, everything is before you.”
He took a brown, felt hat from a stand. Buttoned his heavy overcoat and turning at the doorway, smiled at Milford, winked and, swaying slightly, left the building.

*

The lights fizzed and hummed. Professor Arbutus looked up from his current project.
“Milford my boy!”.
He tottered forwards to release Milford from the Deep Time Suit. Removing the helmet, he was halted in his waffling by the glistening on his student’s cheeks. Milford sagged onto the nearest seat.
“He’s going to die Professor.”
The professor sat down opposite Milford. He noticed the suit was comparatively pristine this time. Milford yanked a small, leather bound notebook from inside the outfit. The professor took it gently, almost reverently. He thumbed through his student’s notes making exclamations of delight.
“Did you get the dialogue?” He pressed.
Milford began laboriously unfastening his one-piece, revealing the historical costume beneath. He unknotted the tie and from within its lining, pulled out the tiny recording device. Arbutus grabbed it and thrust it into the Vox Processor.
As the rich, deep voice filled the room, the Professor clenched his fists and almost jigged on the spot.
“He’s going to die Professor.” Repeated Milford morosely.
“Milford my boy.” Lectured the aged man before him. “Mr. Charles Dickens has been dead for five hundred years. Now pull yourself together, you have a thesis to write!”

END

*Dedicated to Erin
* In 1869 Charles Dickens gave his last speech at St. George’s Hall, Liverpool. He died in 1870.

*Featured Image – Film still from La Jetee, 1962

Emilio

I wrote this story as a submission for a competition a while back. The theme was desert island, and anything to do with being stranded alone or otherwise. Mine didn’t get accepted (which is why it’s appearing here!)

In the light of the reality TV shows about survival, I quite liked the idea of a group of office workers who brought all their work ‘baggage’ with them. Two of the characters; Martin and Steve are heavily influenced by two members of the League of gentlemen (sorry guys), and there’s a passing nod to a well known story by William Golding! Anyway, this is ‘Emilio’, hope you like it:

                                   Emilio

 

 

“Woo hoo!”

“Yay Colin!”

“How d’you learn to do that?”

Colin shrugged shyly and pushed his spectacles up his nose, I smiled and raised my bottle to him. The engine hummed like a giant cat. Colin took the wheel.

“Untie the painter.” He called.

“The what?” Simpered Soo.

“I’ll get it.” Called Martin, staggering, bending over to untie the rope that held us to the quay. The rest of us tottered and swayed around the deck, grabbing at various handholds, giggling like a bunch of teenagers, waving bottles of beer and vodka. As we sped off into the night, in the stolen yacht, Sharon at the rear of the boat, red kitten heels in one hand, raised her almost empty bottle in the other and loudly slurred,

“How’sh this for team building Peter! Up yours!”

 

                                                                                 #

 

“They don’t know we are here Ray!” I yelled, stomping up the beach. “No-one knows we’re here!”

 

Ray jogged occasionally to keep up. Ray annoyed me. Ray had always annoyed me. With his weak eyes and weak smile, his brown suits and mustard ties. His mustard tie was currently tied around his profusely sweating head.

“And why are you wearing your tie like that? You’re not Rambo!”

 

It was really hard to walk indignantly on hot, soft sand. Ray was jabbering something but I had given up listening. I found a fallen trunk in the shade and sat on it, hard.

“OW!” I squeezed and itched the buttock that had been inadvertently jabbed by tinder dry bark. God how I wanted a chair with cushions and a back.

 

 

We had sat on the beach dazed, hung-over and sullen for much of the first day, after the accident. A kind of silent numbness having infected us all. Everyone had cuts and grazes and bruises, nothing serious. Miraculously. Unfortunately, I thought meanly, looking at Martin. Now Martin, in his attempt to take charge was trying to organise people into building some sort of camp.

 

“Ellen, go and gather some of those banana leaves for the rooves.” He said coming up behind me, panting, with a load of large leaves clutched in his arms. Alan trudged heavily behind with a larger load. “Come on, don’t just sit there.” Martin said.

 

“Martin. I have been trying to see where we are.” I snapped.

“Well I’d have thought that was pretty obvious.”

“Is it? Is it really?” I said standing to face him. His nose was already peeling pink from two days of sunshine. “How do we know we’re not on an isthmus, or near some mainland, or, something?” I ended lamely. I didn’t know what other geographical terms there were.

Martin dropped his bundle. “And what did you find?” he asked, feigning patience as if talking to an imbecile.

I shrugged. “Nothing. Just beach and trees.” He gave me one of his smug I told you so looks.

“Well I’ve only looked along here.” I pointed.

He began to busy himself, “Well then, I suggest that until we know better, we make ourselves shelters.” He straightened, “Or do you think we should all wander around seeing if there is a nice little hotel bar somewhere Ellen?”

I wandered a few feet away before mumbling what he should do with himself.

“And they’re mangoes!” I shouted as I headed into the trees.

 

 

 

I collected Sharon from a mangrove swamp she had got herself stuck in, and headed back to, what Martin insisted on calling, base camp. A group of four was organised to go looking for drinking water. Me, Soo, Martin and Ray. Sharon, Alan, Steve and Colin were to improve the shelters, make a fire, and collect whatever food they could find. The initial recce took us along the length of the beach until it narrowed to a low, rocky outcrop. We made our way inland. Beyond the mangrove swamp lay a vast forest. We stared at it glumly.

“There could be anything in there.” Whispered Ray.

No-one answered. Martin simply waved towards the left where the ground rose and a lumpy section of rock, like a mound of crumbly cheese, peeked out from the greenery. We plodded off after him. We skirted continuously around the dark trees, but eventually realised that we would need to go in. If water was anywhere it would be down there. At one point I turned to make sure Soo was still following. She had stopped to tie something bright around a sturdy branch.

“What’s that?” I asked.

Soo smiled her calm, Mother Earth smile. “Markers.” She indicated her hippie shawl; one of those loosely knitted things. She had been pulling threads off at intervals and tying them around bits of undergrowth. I was rather impressed at her ingenuity. I had thought Soo a bit dippy to be honest. This act of practicality gave me a new respect for her. We did eventually find what we were looking for; a small pool fed by a trickle of water from the direction of the cheesy rock. But we had nothing to carry it in. So we drank our fill, washed our faces, and then returned to the camp to inform the others. The lushness of the trees, the whistle and peep of the birds and the pristine, white beach should have delighted me – but we were alone here, we shouldn’t be here, and an odd sense of unease filled my steps.

 

                                                                                      #

 

I was scraping inside the hard skin of some green fruit. With the insides removed, they made good bowls. Soo was attempting to fish with her shawl. I think the fish were too small or the holes too big; she never caught anything. Alan was attempting to make a device to carry multiple containers of water. I think Martin and Steve were off hunting somewhere with Sharon.

I squinted along the hot beach. I could see the shimmery figures of Ray and Colin heading our way. Colin was doing a kind of sideways trot alongside Ray, gesticulating wildly. I could hear his shrill whine even at this distance. Before they came too close. Ray stopped dead and leaned into Colin. I could see his mouth moving. The body language was clear. Colin leant back.

They approached the camp with an uneasy gap between them. They sat apart.

“So what was that all about?” Alan’s quiet voice.

I didn’t know he had even seen the exchange, he appeared focused on twisting lengths of plant life and threading them through holes in fruit skins.

Colin glanced nervously at Alan.

“Nothing.” Said Ray. “Personal.”

I looked at Colin. He seemed in pain.

“Come on Ray. Spit it out before Colin wets himself.” I said.

“He said-” began Colin.

“You shut your mouth!” snapped Ray. Colin stood, fidgeting with a leaf.

“Colin?” I urged. He looked like a frightened turtle; he had a habit of sucking in his lower lip when anxious.

“Look. If this affects us, then we should know.”

“It was a set up by Peter! He’s a drugs runner!” Colin slapped his hands over his mouth. Ray stood and pointing at Colin said threateningly,

“You little worm. I said it was none of your business.”

Alan, me and Soo were now standing too. We all stared expectantly at Ray. His brown suit, reduced to torn, knee-length shorts and a sleeveless shirt. He looked suddenly thuggish. The beige man from the office long gone.

Peter was our manager. He had organised this trip as a team building exercise. We were all astonished; team-building abroad! All except Ray, who was often brown-nosing around Peter for favours. Ray looked at our expressions, he could see he had no option.

“Pete had contacts in Colombia from way back. Been doing small deals here and there. He had a big offer – I mean huge– and so he arranged for us to be his cover. A small British company on a team building exercise with the addition of opening a buyers’ market.” Ray looked around at our faces.

“Go on.” Prompted Alan.

“I met with the contact.” Ray continued.

“Contact?” I said.

“You?!” Said Soo.

“It was supposed to be a simple exchange of goods and cash. The goods would be on a luxury yacht owned by the local…”

“Goods?” I queried, nervously.

Ray ignored the comment. “I was to make the exchange and then, we all go home.” He ended lamely.

“Except that’s the yacht we stole for our jolly. Isn’t it Ray?!” I said becoming hysterical.

“You fucking idiot!”

We all turned. The others had returned. Martin, Steve and Sharon were standing silently in the shade. Martin and Steve were seething.

“You absolute, great, steaming pile of-“

“Ray! What have you done?”

“Look, I didn’t mean for this to happen. How was I supposed to know that was Emilio’s yacht?” Ray stammered.

“Oh. It’s Emilio now is it?” snarled Martin advancing.

“Martin.” Said Alan in a warning tone.

I chewed my nails. Sharon was sucking her thumb.

“So.” I began nervously. “When someone does come to rescue us. In all likelihood it will be Emilio’s men who arrive looking for their boat and their goods?”

“Shitshitshitshitshitshit. Shit!” cried Steve, running his hand through sweaty hair.

“Oh my God Ray. When were you going to tell us you’re a drugs mule for the manager?!” I cried.

“So someone’s coming to rescue us?”

Sharon!

 

                                                                                           #

 

I was sitting with Soo and Sharon in what we had named- Pink Ladies Corner. A section of the beach about a minutes’ walk from the base camp, with rock pools to dabble our toes and overhanging trees keeping the sand warm rather than scalding. The men were fishing, building, hunting or something of that ilk. Colin and Steve seemed to be going for a swim.

“He was awfully cross.” Sharon was saying.

I dreamily brought my attention back. I had been thinking about Emilio. What would he do to us? “What?”

Sharon had a tiny compact mirror and was applying mascara. “Roy. When he found out about the e-mails.”

“What e-mails?” I asked, more out of politeness than interest.

Soo, Sharon and I had pooled our feminine resources; Mascara, eye-liner, mini pack of playing cards, cigarette papers and tobacco – it turned out that Soo had a lighter in her denim sac-bag and so beginning a fire was no longer an issue. After we had dried the papers individually on a rock, alongside the tobacco, we went off for sneaky smokes, like a trio of naughty schoolgirls.

“The misspelt e-mails, remember?” she began filing her nails. “Roy said he would fire me if it happened again. Well it did. I think he was going to get rid of me next week.” I looked at Sharon’s slender legs, her tiny waist and shapely bosom. She was a natural blond, with a pretty face. We all knew why Roy kept her on as his personal secretary.

“I really don’t think he would.” I said.

Soo smiled from her recumbent position. “Steve changed some of your keys.” She said.

“My keys?” said Sharon.

“Hm, on your keyboard, when you weren’t at your desk.”

I looked at Soo, amazed that she knew about this, but more so that she had never told. “Not really my business.” She said.

Sharon was thinking. It was evidently hard for Sharon to think, her forehead crunched up, she chewed the inside of her cheek. Then her face lit up. “Oh my God! The D and the F.” She looked at me like I should know what she meant. “The D and the F Ellen. When I wrote to Duckworth and Sons about late payment, I kept getting e-mails from this cranky old biddy – well I think she was old, she is in my head -“

“Sharon, stick to the point.” I snapped.

“Okay. God Ellen, chill. Finally, Mr Duckworth himself wrote to Roy demanding his secretary stop referring to him as Fuckworth in e-mails.”

Soo rose up onto her elbows. “You mean to say, you never checked the spelling?”

Soo and I started laughing.

 

There was a commotion along the beach. I squinted beneath my hand. Steve and Martin were toe to toe shouting in each other’s faces. Soo, Sharon and I approached quickly.

“It was you all along.” Shouted Steve. “You hid my pro-biotic yoghurt’s.”

“Just like you’re hiding something now.” Martin shouted, making to grab at Steve’s arm.

Steve shrugged him off. “Get lost.”

“Why would I want your stupid pro-biotic yogurt?” sneered Martin. “Eh?”

 

The others had taken notice now and stood at various distances from the arguing pair. Colin was the closest, he was clutching a bundle of stuff to his chest.

 

“Anyway, you won’t need pro-biotic yoghurt now with all the fruit you’ve been stuffing in your fat face.”

“I’m not fat. I have a glandular condition.” cried Steve.

“If you got off your fat arse and walked to the photocopier once in a while, instead of getting Colin or Ellen to do all your work-“

“I don’t!” Steve protested.

I walked over to Colin. “What have you got there Colin?” he looked at me, his eyes wide behind the lenses. He looked down into the bundle.

“We found the yacht.” He mumbled. “All smashed up round the other side of the rocks there.” He nodded past the designated lavatory inlet.

I pulled open the shirt he had wrapped around his parcel. I pulled out a packet. It was the length of an A6 notebook, thick, plastic and filled with white stuff.

“Oh, my God.” I stared. “Guys.”

“And I never got those e-mails you were supposed to send me from Pargeters.” Martin was shouting.

“Oh stop being such a puritan.” Steve shouted back. “Have a laugh once in a while.”

“Guys. Martin, Steve.” I tried again, walking towards them, the packet held out before me like it would explode.

“I lost a sale!” yelled Martin.

“Oh boo hoo. Martin lost a sale. What’s new -?”

And that’s when Martin slapped Steve.

I stopped dead. I could see Soo with one hand on her hip, the other at her mouth. Sharon was suppressing a laugh. Alan had his hand over his eyes in mild exasperation. Colin yelped, dropped the bundle and ran off to his hut. Steve’s hands came out from behind his back. He pointed a gun at Martin.

“Whoa!” A number of voices called. Martin blanched, even under his tan. His face went slack.

“What the…” said Ray. “Where did you get that? Did you bring that with you? How did you get it past customs?”

“Okay Steve.” I tried to sound calm. “It’s gone a little too far now.”

“He found it on the motor boat.” Said Martin, his eyes never leaving Steve’s.

“Yacht.” Said Steve quietly. “It’s a motor yacht.”

“It’s a bloody wreck.” Interjected Ray, “Which is why we’re here.”

“Shut up Ray.” I hissed.

“Boat. Yacht. What’s the difference?” Martin still managed to sneer.

“About twenty feet and three hundred thousand pounds.” Said Steve. Someone gasped.

“Listen Steve. You need to lower the gun. We have a more pressing problem.” I continued.

Soo and Sharon had come to huddle beside Alan. Probably hoping his bulk would protect them from any stray bullets, should it come to that. They looked like something from a poor version of a Frank Frazetta painting; large male protecting a semi-clad female on either side. Except the sun didn’t glint off Alan’s square jawline, more like rolled around his double chin.

The birds and insects seemed to have ceased their noise, the tide had hushed for the moment as we all stood regarding the gun in Steve’s hands. The sun burnt my eyes. And then.

“God aren’t guns heavy?” Steve let his arms flop down suddenly. An expression of bored exhaustion on his pink, round face. I felt a group release of breath. Martin sagged, hands on knees and breathing heavily.

“It doesn’t even work. Look.” He pointed it into the sand and pulled the trigger.

“No!” shouted me, Alan and Ray together.

Nothing happened. “I think it’s jammed with the seawater or something.” Steve continued.

“You bloody, great…wanker!” Martin croaked.

 

It was decided that it was probably best if Alan was in charge of the weapon. We discussed burying it, but finally we thought it best to have even a useless gun if the owner turned up. I had a vision of Emilio in my head; tanned, white suited, cigar smoking, brutal.

 

                                                                                      #

 

“Eew!” cried Sharon. She hopped on one foot briefly, before dashing past me to wash it in the sea.

“Oh for Gods sakes, who crapped on the beach?” I sighed. “We agreed that the toilet was to be over there, in that inlet.”

“You agreed. No-one else did.” Said Colin.

“Oh shut up Colin. Who asked you?”

“Exactly. No-one asked me.”

“We need a loo. It’s the most obvious place.” I paused. “So where have you been going the past four days?”

Silence.

“Don’t tell me you’ve just been dropping your pants whenever you fancy one?”

He gave a mumble.

“What?”

“I haven’t been, you know, for a -”

“A poo!” shouted Sharon coming back from washing her toes free of stodge. “It was a poo!”

“You haven’t had a shit in four days?” asked Steve, amazed.

Colin looked around us all totally embarrassed. “I can’t go when I’m nervous. Or uncomfortable. Or there’s people…”

We all stared at him.

“What. At all?” said Ray.

“No.”

“But we’ve been living off nothing but mangoes. How can you not? I’ve had the shits something rotten.”

A collective groan went up.

“Thank you Steve.” Said Martin.

“Am I the only one then?” Steve continued. Sharon and Alan both raised their hands. “See!” said Steve triumphant.

“I’ve had a dickey tummy too.” Admitted Soo.

“Please! Can we not discuss everyone’s bowel movements? God. We have more pressing matters. We need to organise ourselves.”

“Agreed.” Said Soo and Alan.

“We need to make the shelters sturdier.” Interjected Martin, stealing my lead. “Arrange a hunting rota, keep a fire going.” Heads nodded.

“Hunting?” chimed Soo and Sharon.

“We sharpen some sticks. Make spears. I’ll be in charge of the hunting party.” Martin was warming to his own idea of Man the Hunter, “Colin. You make a fire and keep it going.”

“Why me?” Colin whined.

“Because you’ve got the specs.” Said Martin.

“This isn’t Lord of the bloody Flies Martin.” I said.

He scowled at me. “Well at least I’m trying.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” I retorted.

“Oo, I’m just going to take a look over here and see what might be hiding behind this tree.” He said in what he imagined was a female voice. “Perhaps I shall find a nice young man to cuddle up to at night.”

My mouth gaped. Everyone looked shocked or embarrassed. Then the moment was broken by Sharon bursting out laughing. “Oh my God. You’re talking about that waiter she had in her room.”

“Shut up Sharon!” I snapped. Martin smiled his smarmy smile. “Why is it any of your business anyway Martin.” I stood over him.

The sun was descending and we still had not made a fire. Light from the sea illuminated one side of his face and bare shoulder. The other side was in shadow. “Jealous that you can’t get anyone to share your bed at night?” I turned on my heel and stomped off to my mango lean to.

 

As I lay still in the dark, listening to the waves hiss and sigh up and down the beach, I was aware of quiet conversations in other shelters. They weren’t exactly soundproof. Single sided pallets of broad leaves, propped up on sticks. I shared my ‘hut’ with Soo. She was apparently fast asleep, after having done some prayers to the goddess and her weird nasal breathing. I could hear Alan’s deep, steady voice trying to whisper.

“That was a bit uncalled for Martin.” He was saying. He got no reply. I didn’t know whether Alan was referring to what I’d said, or what Martin had revealed.

 

                                                                                        #

 

The following morning, I awoke to find Soo’s leg draped over mine. During the night she had managed to turn ninety degrees, somehow. Her head was pressed into the leaves of the shelter. Alan and Colin were trying to make a fire.

“Morning.” Said Alan. I greeted them with a nod and vague smile. I scratched at something on the back of my neck.

“Been bitten?” asked Alan.

“I don’t know, but it’s not half itchy. Alan had a look, then showed me the top of his chubby arm, just before it went into the armpit. There was a horrible reddish lump, about the size of a Jelly Tot, with a dot in the centre.

“It’s one of these.” He said. I itched again.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Might get infected if you scratch the top off.” Alan had taken the First Aid course the company offered last year. He was the only one, well, if you didn’t count Sharon, because Sharon couldn’t remember anything. Sharon’s head was like a beach ball, bright and pretty, but ultimately empty.

 

When we had all eaten our fill of mango, we tidied up. We kept the camp as clean as we could under the circumstances.

“Right. Today’s duties.” Started Martin rubbing his hands together in a preparatory manner. “Colin, fire. Ray, foraging. Alan-“

“Hang on, hang on.” Interrupted Ray. “Who put you in charge?”

“Yes Martin.” I smiled, folding my arms. “Who did put you in charge?”

“Well, I er, as senior member of staff-“

“Senior member of staff?!” came the incredulous squawk from Ray and Steve.

“I’ve been with the company longest.”

“So what? Doesn’t make you senior.” Ray said. Martin glanced at Soo, who stood with her eyes closed, arms slightly raised, smiling at the sky. Ray grinned.

“You’ve got to be kidding!” said Martin.

“She is senior buyer.” I said, backing up Ray, not because I agreed with him, but because I despised Martin.

“Really?” he pointed at the still shut-eyed Soo. “You’d rather have, her in charge? Mrs Hippie-Mother Earth- Lets all have a Love-in.”

“I don’t want a Love-in Martin.” Came the calm, wispy voice.

“She doesn’t want a Love-in Martin.” I teased.

“Oh. I get it.” He was nodding and stepping back. “This is just like – Let’s not invite Martin to the lunches.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Alan.

Martin was pointing, waggling his finger at each of us. “I know you’ve been having lunchtime get togethers and not inviting me. And screwing with my desk. Let’s turn down the contrast on Martins screen, see how long it takes the dick-head to notice it isn’t actually broken.” Someone giggled. “Altering the Autocorrect on my Word docs.” A snigger. “And don’t think I don’t know about your whistling Steve!” he suddenly shouted.

Steve burst out laughing. Martin was furious. I couldn’t help myself, the laughing began deep down. I pressed my lips tight, but I was shaking all over. The others were in various states of giggles by now. Even the kindly Alan was smiling.

“Look, Martin-” he began, reaching out a hand of friendship.

“Fuck off!” Martin shouted before stamping away along the bright shoreline.

I looked around at the scorched faces that were variously creased with hysteria, or attempting to restrain smiles whilst looking towards the lonely figure kicking sand. I felt like a naughty kid.

“I’ll go and talk to him.” Said Soo as she drifted past.

The rest of us avoided looking at each other. Except Sharon who was looking puzzled. “What did he mean about the whistling?”

“Steve did it to annoy him.”

“But Steve can’t help not being able to whistle.” Sharon said.

“He can whistle. He just doesn’t?” I hinted. Sharon frowned.

“Oh for Christs sakes!” said Steve as he began to walk away too. “Sharon. I was pretending I couldn’t whistle so it annoyed Martin. I can whistle, listen…” and he whistled a perfectly tuneful little number. Seeing the incomprehension on her face, he gave up and wandered off.

 

                                                                                         #

 

There was something, or someone, moving through the trees beyond. They must have come ashore on the opposite side of the island. A bird called in the treetops. The hairs on my arms prickled. I could feel my heart thumping wildly beneath the remains of my cotton blouse.

Martin was creeping along, slightly ahead and to my right. He had his face painted, his spear raised. I didn’t know whether to feel comforted or chilled. He moved stealthily. Which was more than could be said for the figure ahead. It crunched its way assertively through the shade.

 

Martin slowly rose from the undergrowth. I could see the whites of his eyes, wide, focused. He drew back his arm and screeched as he flung the spear forwards. An immense explosion went off close behind me. My body jerked automatically to a crouch as the figure in the trees beyond hit the deck. My ears were ringing. Martin dropped into the cover. I turned to see Alan standing surprisingly near, arms stretched forwards pointing the gun. Did I imagine the smoke drifting from its muzzle? He looked terrified. As the ringing faded I became aware of three more figures racing through the trees. Now we’re in trouble, I thought. I couldn’t see Martin. Should I leave him? Now I could hear shouting, but it was a jumble. I grabbed Alan’s arm and tried to yank him down. He shrugged me off saying “It’s OK. It’ll be OK.” He began to move forwards.

“Alan!” I hissed. “Alan, get down.”

My mind was crazy with visions of Tony Montana, black suit covered in white powder, going mad with a machine gun; ’Say hello to my leetle friend.’ I began whimpering. Oh my God, I’m going to die on an island where no-one will ever find me. And I haven’t got any make-up on!

I was paralyzed with terror.

Emilio had arrived.

The ground crunched and snapped as people made their way towards me. I squeezed my eyes tight shut.

“Just make it quick. Just make it quick.” I wept.

“Ellen. Ellen.” It was Alan’s calm voice.

He was okay. He was okay! My stomach felt squiffy. I peeked from between my fingers. There were two men stood behind him. All I could think was, how pale their faces were and I could smell soap. Alan reached down to take my trembling hand. “It’s a research team Ellen. Not drug dealers.” I frowned at them. The two men nodded, one held up a recording device.

“I think he’ll be okay.” Shouted a voice from the bushes. “Get onto the radio and call for air ambulance Tony!”

Tony gave me an odd smile then pulled a walkie-talkie out. He turned and walked off giving instructions.

Alan led me to where Martin lay groaning with a horrible wound in his shoulder.

“I’m sure he will be fine.” The visitor, whom Martin had been about to spear, was doing something with folded leaves and his own shirt, padding the wound and tying it tight. I couldn’t help notice how incredibly muscled he was, his broad shoulders had a light sprinkling of freckles. I peered at his profile, he seemed familiar. He gave instructions to Alan to apply pressure to the wound. Alan did as he was told.

“You shot me! You fucking shot me!” Squeaked Martin.

“I couldn’t let you kill him.” Replied Alan.

The shirtless man stood and offered his hand to shake, “Hi, Bear Grylls. We thought this place was deserted. Looks like you’ve been having fun and games.”

 

 

The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Singularity Volume 3

Can quite possibly boast some of the best cover art in this style of magazine.

The third issue of this speculative fiction magazine is out now on Amazon Kindle and in Paperback at Amazon and CreateSpace . Issue 3 features another mix of ten stories from award-winning to new writers from around the world. I am delighted to be included in this issue, alongside Mike Wood who is also a member of Wirral Writers club. Mike has written many sci-fi stories that have been published across various mediums,  (plus, the really delightful “Travelling in a Box”, about his family holidays in tents and finally a caravan.)

The Singularity, I believe is one to keep your eye on. It’s editors have a sharp eyes for interesting storylines, and a good sense of humour (as evidenced by my inclusion!)

Visit:

http://www.thesingularitymagazine.com/

http://www.mjkewood.com/

http://wirralwritersonline.blogspot.co.uk/

 

 

 

Short Story – Two By Two

 

“Come on lad, get a move on, rain’s starting.”

“Ouch! It bit me!”

“What did?”

“I dunno what it is dad.”

“Just stick it in a crate and get in.”

Ham carried the small, shelled animal at arm’s length. Its tiny, pointed mouth waving to and fro snapping the air.

A final check all were on board and everything that needed tethering was, and the doorway was hauled shut. Blackness. Murmurings, rustlings and bleating’s filtered through the darkness. When the eyes adjusted, a tiny patch of light could be discerned some thirty odd cubits above.

“Let’s get a couple of lamps lit.”

“Yes dad.” Came the three voiced response. Ham, Shem and Japheth busied themselves with lighting the tiny, clay lamps. Three flames, no longer than a little finger, glowed in the immediate darkness. Noah looked at his sons yellow lit faces. They were nervous, he didn’t blame them. Japheth scratched at his neck.

“How long will it take dad?”

“Forty days and forty night’s lad.”

A collective groan went up. Noah chivvied his sons away and went to survey the collection, his fragile flame illuminating only the nearest sections of the interior. His hand found a warm muzzle, something snorted. Noah jumped.

“Noah! Noah!”

Noah’s head sagged a little as a tiny grumble escaped his lips. Then as another flame closed in he bucked up.

“Ah Naamah, light of my life, honey on my tongue, sunsh – “

“Yes, yes.” Snapped Mrs Noah. “Where are we supposed to sleep? I’m not sharing with Shem’s wife, you know how she snores. And where am I supposed to hang the laundry, never mind how it’s going to dry. And washing and, the other. How does that work? Did you think of that? Eh? I bet you didn’t did you? Did God give you any instructions on how to go about that? It’s all very well building an ark for the animals, but what about us, the people? I hope you don’t expect me to feed the tigers and I’m certainly not clearing out their –“

Noah slunk off, scratching his stomach, leaving his wife shouting criticisms and grievances at his back. He bumped into something in the darkness.

“Oo, sorry Mr Noah.” A female, one of his son’s wives, he couldn’t tell which one it was and didn’t recognise her voice instantly in the strange environment.

“It’s alright love. Listen, could you just go and have a little chat with the missus. Got herself in a bit of a tizzy.” He gestured about him with his hand. “All this, it’s a bit, you know –“

“Different?” she offered quietly, helpfully. Ah, it was Adataneses, Japheth’s wife. She was a good girl, she’d keep his wife quiet. For a while.

The rain pounded like rain had no right to. Noah, his wife, their sons and their son’s wives huddled amongst straw covered in blankets. A female voice cried out as something creaked ominously.

“It’s alright lass.” Quavered Noah. “God’s watching over us.” He pressed his wife’s hand tightly as he continued to mouth his silent prayers.

After what felt like an endless wait, the boat creaked and tipped as it was lifted from its temporary crib. A chorus of exclamations, bellows and shrieks filled the vessel.

“Bloody hell!” exclaimed Seth. His mother slapped him smartly across the head,

“Mind your language.”

“Sorry mum.”

The animals were making a cacophony. The smell of fart and faeces rolled through the decks until reaching the family, who covered their noses with loose clothing, headscarves or straw. Noah struggled to his feet, “Best check on them.” He sighed, itching his armpit.

While the women tended to the living quarters and the birds, Noah and his sons made rounds of the stalls that contained the larger animals.

“Dad.” Said Japheth, scratching at his nether regions. “What do we feed the Oryx?”

“Grass son.”

“What about the antelope?”

“Grass son.”

“And the snakes?”

“For goodness sakes Japheth! Use your head. What did they eat in the wild?” They worked in silence for some moments then.

“Da-ad.”

Noah sighed heavily, closing his eyes. “Yes son.”

“Why have we got so many sheep?”

“Weren’t you listening at the meeting? God said two of each sort that were unclean, male and female, and seven of each sort of clean.”

Japheth seemed to give this some thought, shrugged, scratched his head and bent to the task of putting straw and grass into the nets hung against the walls. It took the whole of the first day to feed the animals. By nightfall the family were exhausted and fell into each other’s arms, almost oblivious to the rain thrumming on the roof.

The following morning, Noah stuck his head out of the window on the top deck, he needed some air, and he needed his ears to have a rest, even if he did get wet. Pulling the shutter down, he returned to the task of the day; which meant not only feeding the animals, but shovelling up huge quantities of waste. They scooped it into buckets and carried it all the way to the top deck in relays, then tipped it from the window. Sometimes the wind caught it and dragged it off into the floodwaters, sometimes bits blew back into their faces.

“Ptah!” Spat Ham. “There must be an easier way to do this dad.” He moaned.

“Shut up son and keep shovelling. I think one of the camels has the shits.”

Ham gagged. His mother came up with two fat mugs of tepid tea. Lifting the end of her apron, she licked it and applied it to her son’s face. “You’re covered in muck son.”

“Mu-um.” He gently pushed her hand aside.

By the end of the first week, the family had settled into a tolerable routine. The smell became a background accompaniment to their daily lives of feeding, cleaning, prayers and sleep. The constant drumming of the rain lulled them to sleep at night. The rocking of the boat was the cradling of God’s arms. The flash of lightning was occasion to see their surroundings lit bright.

At the end of the second week the wives began to bicker.

“It’s mine Sede!”

“No, it isn’t, yours is the pale blue one, this is grey.”

“How can you tell!” screeched Nelatamuk. “They’re all the same colour in this light.”

“I cleaned the hens yesterday.”

“No you didn’t, you collected the eggs.”

“I cleaned them too!”

“If that’s what you call clean, then I’ll eat my scarf.”

“Who let the genet out? It’s trying to eat the guinea pigs?”

“Not me.”

“Nor me.”

“Well somebody did and it certainly wasn’t me.”

“Put it back then.”

“You put it back!”

“It bites.”

“I’ll bite you if you carry on whining.”

“Me?! Whining?! You’re the queen of whining.”

Noah sat on a bale of hay, head in hands, thumbs pressed over his ears. He didn’t know how much more he could take. He looked up beseechingly. “God, give me strength.”

“Is it nearly over dad?”

“No Ham.”

“How much longer dad?”

“Seven days Shem.”

“And then can we go home dad?”

“No Japheth.”

His sons looked sharply at him. Noah regarded their tangled hair, muck streaked faces, arms and legs. They were good boys, he told himself. Not too bright, but well meaning. And their wives, well they could screech as well as the caged birds, but they too had good hearts. Noah itched his head and took a breath.

“Listen lads. When the rain stops, then we’re going to be in the middle of a huge flood. Water everywhere. Understand? There won’t be any land, there won’t be any homes, there won’t be any people, and there won’t be any animals. There won’t be anything except water as far as the eye can see.”

“So, we’re not going home?” said Japheth.

Noah groaned, raised his eyes heaven wards and took a breath. “No son. We have no home. There’s nothing left. There’s just us.”

Someone sniffed a wet sniff. Noah stood and wrapped his arm around Shem’s shoulder. “Come on son, it’s not that bad. New beginnings and all that.” He gave Shem’s shoulder an encouraging squeeze. “Just think. God chose us. Us. Out of all the people in the world, we get to live and start a fresh new life. There’ll be a new land with loads of space. You can have your own land to farm with Sede, raise children and live a ripe old age.”

Shem sniffed, “Like you dad? How old are you now?”

“I’m five hundred and ninety nine son. And you’ll live longer.” Said Noah proudly.

“What about me dad, can I have a farm of my own?” wheedled Japheth.

“Farms for all!” Noah shouted, spreading his arms wide. He did a mad little jig. His sons laughed.

“What’s going on here?” called Mrs Noah, ducking adroitly beneath a wooden beam draped with damp laundry.

“Oh look out.” Noah said as an aside to his sons.

“Have you cleaned the cattle deck today?” She said.

“Yes my love.”

“Did you brush the camels?”

“Yes, oh blossom of the dessert.”

“How about those mad dogs?”

“All sorted, oh light of the moon.”

“And stop scratching!” she reprimanded.

“I wasn’t.”

“You were, while you were expounding. You were scratching your –“. She pointed.

“Well, my love, if you washed the clothes properly, then we wouldn’t get so itchy.”

There was a sudden, chilly silence. Ham, Shem and Japheth lowered their heads and sidled away between straw bales and beams, into the shadows beyond.

“I beg your pardon?” Naamah said deadly and low. Noah raised both hands, about to apologise but she beat him to it, she often did.

“If I washed the clothes properly?” her voice higher. “If I washed the clothes properly?” higher still.

“Now now, my queen of the night.”

“Don’t you ‘queen of the night’ me! I’ll have you know that me and the girls work hard keeping everyone’s clothes clean. How do you think we warm the water? Eh? Eh? God doesn’t do that Noah! Oh no, it’s, gather unto me all the animals and, I am not finished speaking, all the filth and the stink and the spillages. We work our fingers to the bone scrubbing your pants and this is all the thanks we get.”

“My love. I did not mean to upset you. I know you work hard, you and the daughters, and we do appreciate it, I appreciate it. It’s just –“ He paused.

“What?!”

“Nothing.”

“Go on, what were you about to say?” Noah pursed his lips and watched her.

“You just scratched.” He said.

“No I didn’t.”

“Yes. You did, Look, you’re doing it again.” He pointed. She was indeed having a good old belly scratch.

Mrs Noah stared in horror at her husband. “Two by two did He say?”

Noah stared at her.

“Oh, bloody hell.”