Sun and Angel Kissed

sunlit-road

Things hadn’t been going so well for Lottie. The thing is… Well, to put it bluntly… I mean…

She died.

She isn’t dead, of course; that’s just not her style. Lottie would never lower herself to something as mundane as ceasing to have a spiritual connection to the world. But she did die. Walked right out onto the road without looking left – on holiday, you see – and poof, gone.

But not dead.

Not really gone, either. Her soul is still there, softly fluttering in a plane between Earth and the angels. Most souls simply fly off and away, much like how most candles would be snuffed out by a mid-summer storm. Lottie just had to be different.

So there she is: sitting and patiently pondering her decision. She could come back – exams were over, after all – but then she’d have to pay council tax and clean up the bathroom. Six of one, as they say.

As she sat, pondering patiently, she watched the sun. Its rays fell like wind sneaking through the cracks in old walls, gently brushing her skin and trying their best to remain unnoticed. It was comforting. Suddenly compelled toward twilight, she blinked.

The warm rays no longer cloaked her skin, but held her hands with a grasp that was all-too present and tangible. With smiling eyes and a cheeky wink, the angel cocked her head towards the mortal world.

Resignation must’ve flickered across Lottie’s face, as the angel smiled knowingly, as if at a job well done. Her lips were made of warmth, bright lights and earthly music and lightly brushed Lottie’s brow.

Sun and angel kissed, she lazily wandered back into herself and returned with all the nonchalance of waking from sleep. Disinterested by the drop-jawed wonder of the crowd, she stalked off wearing a gloomy expression: she hated cleaning the bathroom.

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Choice

park_bench

Bill was a curious sort. During the rare spells where the sun glanced over England without cloud or heavy winds to obstruct the view, he would grumble and throw on his coat. His house sat aglow during the daytime but released not a flicker of light after the sun had set.

He used earphones in the privacy of his own lounge and a loudspeaker in the library.

I once saw a kindly old lady sit on park bench, just a few inches over from Bill who was frowning in his creased pyjamas. She spoke to him, asking for help with her new phone; she could never quite wrap her head around new technology.

Bill pointedly ignored each of her questions, prompting an irritated “My goodness, isn’t this boy a great help?!” from the old dear. The rhetorical outburst had scarce brushed past her lips when Bill stood, roaring incoherently about the internet and some kind of fruit store. The old lady was stricken and tears welled furiously in Bill’s eyes, but never fell.

You see, Bill had a problem. Whatever logic or decorum presented as normal, Bill’s poor brain would turn on its head. He wore bathing suits in midwinter, shouted in outrage when the hero saved the day in movies and only washed his clean clothes.

But the old lady who spoke to Bill had seen this behaviour before. She spoke to her nephew, whose neighbour was quite a brilliant young doctor. They relived what happened with Bill and set about making a change.

So it was that Bill ended up in hospital, glaringly miserable at being told his condition would soon be reversed. His reaction, it was interpreted, was a positive one.

When he woke again, the doctors were pensive and hesitant. Bill noticed a slight chill in the air, so pulled on his jumper for warmth. Someone murmured that he seemed well, and Bill smiled appreciatively at the comment.

Wanting to verify that he was indeed better, the doctor asked him a question: “What do you want to do today, more than anything else in the world?”

After a moment’s hesitation, Bill answered quietly, as befits a room full of unwell patients:

“Today, I would dearly love to die.”

Cliffhangers

jake burgess a comfortable moon story

Some stories start out softly. With languid strides they circle around, sharing whispers for your attention. They build slowly, a steady marathon your brain tries to sprint.

Others explode. Out the box instantly: racing, raving lunatics clashing swords with spears, drunk on fear or lust, adrenaline courses through veins as scenes flash, flickering before our eyes.

You want the best stories, and I know the formula.

It’s the Grand Unified Theory of literature and I give it freely away. Whatever the character, give them purpose and flaw; sharpen the tool, cut the readers and addict them to the pain. Step 1.

The rest is plot and setting, dialogue and metaphor. They’re blocks which build faster now as we approach the last. Time for your ending.

Center stage, a resounding crescendo of anticipation, of ifs and buts and how’s. A final smirk or tear, the last reveal seals the deal and pays for all: the secret to your ending, my friends, is

Knowledge

When you penned your number,
the nib scratching away
ink willingly bleeding,
that napkin became a trophy.

Worried that it might be lost,
I stole a pen, three glances
and let the ink seep into my forearm.

I put the napkin somewhere safe.
Wait one year
you said.
One year, then pick up the phone

Grass limped into being,
grew tall under a glorious sun,
wilted beneath bitter winds
and drowned under cold snow.

Every day I stole another pen
and traced,
ever so delicately,
those eleven digits
long memorised.

Finally
as the spring grass stumbled
onto colourless parks,
a year had passed.

For the final time I wrote it down.
In the seconds before dialling
I checked the number,
then hit call.

It rang,
but no voice ever answered.
I cried,
and knew you’d lost to cancer.

The Sands of Sacrifice

 

hourglass, time, family, story

In my youth, I crafted a marvellous device…

My father’s middle years were greeted with a gruelling, torturous ailment. To look upon him, he appeared sullen despite a happy family; miserly with a trust fund in the bank. He grew quiet and soon scorned the companionship of his closest friends.

I stirred the nerve one day to ask what was going on. The reply, sad and teeming with loneliness, came that he was in some amount of pain, my boy and that the doctor couldn’t help him. But for his eyes, slowly dimming from teal to a merciless grey, his body retained all the health and supposed-vigour of any man his age. Friends began to speculate on this “pain”: if he wants to hole himself up with whisky and darkness, he can bloody well just say so. A charade they said. A front.

Before long, even I lost belief in the very man who raised me. If a team of doctors couldn’t root out the cause and Dad couldn’t describe a single symptom of this ailment, then there wasn’t one. He pushed us away and we willingly retracted.

For years, my doubts were left to fester: the once-immutable belief in my Father resurfaced and I knew that he, that great man who raised a family from nothing to comfort, would never abandon us. There had to be something more. There had to be a way to understand.

I started working tirelessly. Hours blended to weeks and sleep became a daydream as my toiling stripped our bank accounts bare. Then I had finished. My device was ready.

The man who greeted me from behind that knocked-on door was a shadow, a haggard impersonation of my first words. We talked, reminisced and I even laughed. He nearly smiled.

I left him with a trinket. It resembled a small hourglass filled with carmine vapour, rather than sand. To remind you that time is just a perspective. If you’re not done yet, just turn things around and let the sand fall the other way. He smiled at the idea. I made him promise that whenever the pain seemed insurmountable, and only then, he should flip the hourglass and remember that he’s not done yet.

That night, for one hour, I knew the most profound agony. Each atom blazed like flame, my stomach roiled and rumbled with a malicious virus and it was all I could do to keep breathing. After an eternity it passed, and I sank into fitful sleep.

I woke the next morning to a message. It was from my father. He spoke of the marvellous device that had vanquished his pain. His words sang with pride and gratefulness for the temporary miracle I had wrought. The laughter in his voice was like a solitary candle in a lifetime of darkness.

I never told him the truth but I lived in a constant fear that he might turn to my hourglass. Fear became phobia and led to a dark, lonely world of paranoia. The stress, the intermittent and excruciating agony made me delirious and irritable.

One day I woke to another message. A note, pinned to a parcel. I know what you did, son. You gifted me with a life I’d long sacrificed to pain. Time for you to live your own.

The box was a collection of broken glass, a splintered wooden frame and a single photo of my father, smiling.

I wept, and embraced a crippling sorrow.

The Babysitter

eyes

So, tell me about your son.

He’s a mildly wild child, my child.

Haven’t you tried hiring a babysitter to help?

Yep. My desk holds piles of files,
going for miles and miles
of gentile, stylish, beguiling smiles
claiming their profiles are all worthwhile.

So…pick one?

What?
A juvenile ‘phile on file
with that hostile, exiled
jeremy-kyle smile like he can be trusted even though anyone who sees that moustache knows he’s on the register?

Think I’ll pass.

Harold the Small

harold_the_small_giant

In a faraway town, in a silly little story,
lived rosy-cheeked toddler, not destined for glory.
His eyes we bright green, shining like springtime,
with small squishy hands – at least, for the meantime.

The townsfolk were pleasant, with light feather caps
and warm knitted jumpers for winter, perhaps.
They wandered and roamed, living small little lives,
Driving small little cars, with little babies and wives.

Molehills were mountains, with raindrops big as melons
and our story begins, with a sweet girl called Helen.

She was brazen and strong, with a mean furrowed frown
but her heartbeat was loving, and that was known through the town.
The boys swooned and they sighed, tried to harpoon her heart
all but one fell and faltered, and the miller filled the part.

They married and loved, in a cosy little house
where soon came a child, squirming around like a mouse.
They aww’d then they ahh’d, at the light of their hearts,
a little bundle of joy, loved for his laughs, cries and farts.

Barely three weeks had passed, Helen was shocked to see,
her babe had outgrown his clothes, standing ‘nigh three feet three.

Helen sweated and slaved, making bread with her husband,
but his cravings were endless, his clothes always burst-buttoned.
At ninety days young, with a crisp golden beard,
Harold stood tall and proud, though the older kids jeered.

Upwards and onwards, till his head kissed the sky,
Harold never stopped growing, but waved his family goodbye.
He’d eaten the cows, snacked on pigs, chicks and fishes,
but the townspeople hungered, so he left with best wishes.

He wandered and roamed, through the night and the day,
scarcely tired, often frightened,  the people kept from his way.
One night he gazed at a church on the mountain
and it made him feel so small and tired all of a sudden.

He lay down his head, and for an hour he slumbered,
growing 13 feet more, as the bells tolled like thunder.

Breakfast In Bedlam

dark short story breakfast

[wrote this a couple years ago now, but thought i’d stick it up here to save my blog from utter dormancy while i finish my degree. enjoy!]

She was the apple of Frederick’s eye: a softly pulsating spot at the core of his being where light glowed like fresh coals against a warm grate…Sarah.

From city to city, he had always loved her. Barely a day passed where he found himself more than a laugh’s throw away and photos of his beautiful chérie lined the surface of his bedside table. The night before had been a wild one: Sarah and her colleagues – fellow student nurses on placement at the local hospital – celebrated the end of their pre-reg years with a few bottles of bubbly, finger food and live music at The Sunken Leaves, an ex-brewery turned jazz bar by the riverside.

Holding little renown as a steadfast drinker, Sarah met lights-out early on and was sent off home by the girls, knowing her dutiful husband worked nights and would take care of her hangover come morning. In the event she happened upon Frederick in the street on his way home from work. A drunken “Hello… what’s your name again?” was laughed off as he paid the cabby and led her across the street, inside the crudely painted door and up the stairs where to lay her to rest, firmly tucking her in. He gave her a bitter nightcap to help pass the night soundly.

When he woke, Sarah was busy making her best impression of a log and was sleeping dreamlessly, thank goodness. Bubbling with an absurd giddiness he swept the entire house – polished glasses, hoovered carpets, emptied bins and even brushed Sarah’s soft brown-blonde hair out of tresses and in to smooth, even strands. Next he made her favourite: two poached eggs on gluten-free toast, chamomile tea and a little bowl of sugary cereal on the side of the tray; a little pick-me-up.

When he entered the room, Sarah had already woken. Opening his mouth in pleasant greeting, the screaming cut him short. Sarah split the air and rent apart the morning silence. Her skin burned and roared protest against the rough, unforgiving bonds which tucked her firmly in to the bed, powerless. The whites of her eyes sung of paralysing fear but her noise dampened with another “bitter nightcap” napkin and she settled back down. Frederick, unperturbed, sat by her side and began to re-tie the pleats in her hair, smiling vacantly at her photos on his bedside table; his own scene-mismatched face filling the holes cut beside her own.

Across the street, two detectives spoke in placid tones to a man stricken with grief and streaming tears from his eyes. They sat in his kitchen, poached eggs growing cold in the morning sun.