Monthly Archives: December 2013

A Love Letter To Friday Phrases #FP

#FP is the best
Creative dance
Waltzing words
Strike a literary stance
Humour & Sci-Fi
Horror, Romance
One question, tho
Where are my pants!

Earlier this year, the quite frankly Awesome @amicgood introduced the wonder of #FridayPhrases/#FP to Twitter.  Amy’s initial proposal can be read herebut the premise, which as is often the case with genius ideas, was elegantly simple: post a story or poem or story-prompt within a maximum of 140 characters (including the FP hashtag), then have THE BEST TIME enjoying the work of other writers.

FP is amazing.  It is, in the truest sense of the word, an inspiration.  I don’t know how the other contributors work, if they plan ahead throughout the week and post on the day, but my own preference is to wait until Friday and post as soon as I think of something, using the extremely technical writing technique of “Making It All Up As I Go Along”.  The happy consequence of this for me is that, on the days where I might have struggled to think of one idea, the cheeky little minx of FP has teased me into thinking of five.

It’s a wonderful Muse, and like many of the best Muses, it’s hard not to have fallen in love with it, at least a little bit, to find yourself checking your phone for the next configuration of pixels to make your heart skip a beat.  You might find yourself stealing secret glances throughout the day, admiring those curves or that muscle, the vibrant sense of humour or the razor-blade intellect, knowing that, once in it’s embrace, you throw the dice, unsure if its next move will be a quick kiss in the dark or a blade between the ribs.

Most of all, I’ve enjoyed FP because it’s given me an opportunity to read the work of so many gifted writers and poets.  The compulsion to retweet, to shout “Hey Everybody Look At This One!”, from the virtual rooftops, is utterly addictive.  I salute them, all those infuriatingly talented people that make me think, “Frak, I wish I’d thought of that!”.  They’re so infuriating, in fact, that I’m hoping to read their work and the work of many more new contributors for a long time to come.

I wish I could post their work here, but the best I can do is point you in the direction of #FridayPhrases and imagine the smile on your face.  Below are some of my own contributions, some of which have led me to short stories, some to … other stuff.  All are presented here with grateful thanks to @amicgood, without whom none of them would have been written.

My boss called me brainless.  My girlfriend called me gutless.  Her sister called me spineless.  So I bought an axe and made us all even.

The vampire cornered me in the courtyard.  My timing was all.  As the light began to burn him I smiled.  He hadn’t known about the eclipse.

His dying scream was stuck in a time-loop.  His dying scream was stuck in a time-loop.  His dying scream was stuck in a time-loop.  His –

Waking up alive in my coffin filled me with a shocked, mute terror.  I didn’t scream until I realised I wasn’t alone.

He set down the tray.  An ear, a foot, a hand the size of a child’s.  He tugged at his apron.  ‘As you see Miss, we ARE a Family Butcher.’

The body was battered and torn, open now, spilling its contents. The children all agreed it was the best Pinata ever …

Everyone has a novel inside them, or so they say.  He slashed and he slashed, but no words bled from the wounds.

They tortured the clairvoyant, slaved him to a battle computer to predict the outcome of the war.  He lied, and said they would win.

I invented a time machine.  To avoid a paradox, my 1st trip was forward, to kill my grandkids before they could travel back and kill me.

I built a time machine.  Hoping to avoid the Grandfather Paradox, I skipped a generation and killed HIS father!  I told you I was clever!

A train, stuck in a tunnel.  Passengers, impatient for news from the intercom. A crackling, whispered list of their names was unexpected.

It was cold, and clouds unrolled from the other shopper’s mouths.  Too late, I realised they were breathing out ghosts. I was surrounded.

He finally unlocked human DNA, ready to clone himself into immortality. Sadly, he found just two words in the code – COPY PROTECTED.

The victim fell, his last gasp a death rattle.  Pocketing the knife, Wally vanished into the crowd.

“Luke,” Vader paused.  “I am your father.”  Weeping with joy, Luke hugged him.  Thwarted, Jeremy Kyle threw the DNA results to the floor.

His first novel as a pantser!  He was pleased with it, but how had “Time To Love” become “Robot Samurai Nurses” ???

More of my #FP scribblings:

Friday Phrases – I’m In Love

#FP – An Archive Within An Ark Hive – Part 01

#FP – An Archive Within An Ark Hive – Part 02

#FP – An Archive Within An Ark Hive – Part 03

#FP – An Archive Within An Ark Hive – Part 04

#FP – An Archive Within An Ark Hive – Part 05

#FP – An Archive Within An Ark Hive – Part 06

#jabeflash – The #FP 100: 1st December – 5th December

#jabeflash – The #FP 100: 6th December – 12th December

#jabeflash – The #FP 100: 13th December – 19th December

#jabeflash – The #FP 100: 20th December – 24th December

 

 


Short Story – A Yuletide Fable

What follows isn’t a new story.  It was written a few years ago, and was one of the first short stories I had broadcast in a much-missed radio slot for such things.  Revisiting it, the language seems kind of stripped down, partly because the time-constraints of the radio programme meant that submissions had a pretty restrictive word count of around 1,200 words, but also because I knew back then that my work had a tendency to be overly-descriptive to the point of stalling the story, and I can see myself fighting against that in most of my stuff from that time.

The other thing I found interesting about the radio work was that it was the first time I’d ever heard my work read aloud by anyone but me, and I was fascinated by how different some of the readers’ emphasis was to my own.  I was extremely grateful that, most of the time, their performance made my scribblings sound better than they had any right to sound.  There was a time, though, when one of the stories was narrated by a usually reliable reader, who on that occasion decided to voice the whole thing with the tone of a faintly distracted man with a train to catch.  Oh, well.  Maybe he was bored.  I wouldn’t blame him.  I re-read the story recently and it’s dreadful 🙂

Hopefully, this one is a little better.  It retains its original title because I couldn’t think of anything better then and I still can’t.  Suggestions welcome …

 

A YULETIDE FABLE

 

It was Christmas Eve, almost dusk, and though Nicholas had plans for later in the evening, for now he had an hour to kill.

Beneath the slate-grey sky, the city centre was a stampede of rushing bodies, most of them engaged in the thoughtless frenzy of last minute shopping.  The air smelled of desperation and hot donuts for sale.  Shoppers cursed themselves for forgetting to buy stuffing for the turkey, or that scarf for Auntie What Was Her Name Again?  They cursed the cold and the snow and the offensively jolly Salvation Army Band, but most of all they cursed Christmas itself, for daring to show its fairy-lighted face even sooner than last year.

Nicholas walked among them, feeling as though he was the only one truly glad to be here on this special night.  With his portly frame mummified in a burgundy overcoat he didn’t mind the cold, even though he was quite old (impossibly so, by the standards of some), and he had always found the Sally Army and its faith-fuelled tunes rather charming.

He supposed that it was the novelty of it all that he was enjoying – he was so rarely with people these days.  Nicholas was a solitary soul at the best of times and even his work – much of which was people-orientated – seldom took him beyond the desolate wastes of his homeland.  But sometimes, he mused, it was good to get among the living and feel one with them, to remind himself who he was and why he did the things he did.

He passed a shop window, one of many ablaze with tinsel and strings of light, and his reflected image gave him pause.  His face was many things to many people, but to him it was just a mask, something to be donned and discarded at will.  It was a young/old face, florid and etched with wrinkles yet alive with the joy of purpose.  His hair was long and white and drawn back into a ponytail, and his beard, just as white, was neat and trimmed to what Nicholas thought was rather a dashing point.  For a while he’d considered getting rid of the beard, despairing of its perpetual itching, but had eventually elected to stick with it.  People expected him to have a beard, it seemed.  It was traditional, and Nicholas had never been one to ignore even the most ancient of traditions.

Suddenly a voice penetrated his thoughts, not a loud voice but one that Nicholas heard clearly above the chatter and bustle of shoppers and the elephantine brass of the Sally Army.

‘ – cigarette ‘scuse me could you spare a – ‘

Nicholas turned, searching for the source.  The yuletide swarm buzzed around him but he looked straight through them, peering through flesh and bone and cloth as though it were thin smoke, and after a moment or two he spotted the owner of the voice – a large, unkempt figure huddled in the shelter of a locked doorway.

Smiling, Nicholas approached him.  The man was in his late fifties, unshaven and unwashed.  A lank tangle of dark hair hung over his thick features, and his clothes, ragged and crusted with filfth, reeked of liquor and other, less palatable fluids.

In spite of the cold, the lower half of his shirt was untucked and undone, flapping in the breeze, and his distended belly swelled over his pants like a plucked turkey.  As Nicholas drew nearer, the man’s pleas for a cigarette were broken by a sudden and violent coughing fit.

Nicholas crouched down in front of him.  ‘Hello.’ he said warmly.

Gradually the man’s spasm subsided, and he regarded Nicholas with his watery, bloodshot gaze.  ‘Ah.’ he sighed, his breath a sour cloud in the cold December air. ‘Good evening, sir.  Could you spare a cigarette for a man who lives outside?’

Nicholas looked him over.  The amber staining of the man’s fingertips told him that he’d spent much of his life pursuing on fatal disease after another, and the crimson flecks left on his lips by the coughing fit indicated that this Christmas Eve, this special night, he might finally have caught up.

Nicholas shook his head.  ‘I don’t smoke.  Sorry.’

The man sighed again.  ‘A pity.  I’d give anything for a cigarette on a cold night like this.’

‘However,’ Nicholas went on, smiling.  ‘I do happen to have these.’

He held a gloved, long-fingered hand out to the man.  In it was pack of cigarettes, an old style pack, minus the modern cellophane shroud and the flip-top lid.  The man’s eyes brightened, and just for a moment, beneath the greying stubble and the dirt silting the creases of his face, he looked twenty-five again.

‘Hey,’ he said, his own smile exposing the blackened tombstones of his teeth.  ‘I haven’t seen that brand for years.  I used to smoke them when I was – ‘ His smile faded a little.  ‘When I was courting.  I didn’t know they still made ’em.’

‘They don’t.’ said Nicholas.  He opened the pack and gave the man his cigarette.  ‘Here.’

‘Hmm, no filters back then,’ the man muttered, putting the white tube to his crimson lips.  ‘Real coffin nails, these are.  Gotta light?’

Nicholas produced a match and lit the roll of tobacco, watching as the man inhaled gratefully, listening as the disintegrating bellows of his lungs wheezed with the effort.  As he began to expel the smoke though, something seemed to break inside him and his body shook with another bout of coughing.  As the wracking moment passed, Nicholas noted more bloodied fragments on his lips.

‘That’s good,’ whispered the man.  ‘What I needed.’

‘Of course it is.’ Nicholas said kindly.  He placed the cigarettes and matches at the man’s side.  ‘A gift for you, my friend.’

‘Are … are you sure?’ stuttered the man.  ‘I mean -‘

‘I’m sure.’ Nicholas told him, rising.  ‘Merry Christmas.’

The man grinned at him.  ‘Well, thanks!  Merry Christmas to you, too!’ He held out a trembling hand to Nicholas, who shook it warmly.

As their grips slipped apart, the man’s eyes grew wider suddenly.  For the first time he seemed to register his benefactor’s appearance: the rounded build, burgundy overcoat and frost-white beard apparently struck some chord in his fog-filled brain, and his black grin broadened.

‘Hey,’ he whispered confidentially.  ‘Hey, you know who you are, don’t you?  You’re Father Christmas.’

‘There is no Father Christmas, my friend.’ chuckled Old Nick unpleasantly, and disappeared into the crowd.