Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 193

This week's prompt was taken by an author friend of mine, Andy Baker, who lives in Amsterdam. I thought it was very moody. He takes some great pics on his walks round Amsterdam and other places - and he's a great writer too. 

I tried hard to cut this one down to size, but I was not successful! So it's 150 words over! EEK! But the story insisted on being told. Not an easy one this week - very dark. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.



Penance

He could feel it. He could hear it. He could almost smell it. They were up there, doing those things to her; using her, exposing her, treating her like she was a blow up doll. He could see it in his mind. He hated it. And he had no choice but to do something about it. He’d been gifted with such sights ever since he’d been sent here. It was his job; his penance; his cross to bear.

Telling the authorities proved pointless. They didn’t want to know unless there was hard evidence, so it was up to him. It wasn’t the first of these circles he’d uncovered; he’d unearthed four so far. And there was only one way he could get in and that was by pretending to be one of them.

He knocked on the door of the townhouse. It opened a crack and a gruff voice asked, ‘What do you want?’

Trevor flicked his head up, indicating the noise above. ‘Some of that.’

‘As you can hear, she’s busy.’

‘When won’t she be?’

‘Depends on how much you got.’

‘How much does she cost?’

‘Bidding starts at a couple of hundred.’

‘Bidding?’

‘You don’t think you’re the only one, do you?’

‘Is it cheaper if I share?’

The man opened the door a little bit more, interested.

‘Would you be happy to be a third?’

‘How much?’

‘We just need someone to keep her calm ... you know?’

His stomach clenched but he nodded. The guy opened the door to a dark narrow corridor which led to an almost vertical staircase. ‘Go up and someone’ll meet you up here.’

Trevor nodded and ascended the stairs. Another man appeared at the top. The girl had started screaming – and not from pleasure.

The man pointed to another flight of stairs. ‘Hurry will you!’ he shouted.

Trevor ran up them. At the top it opened out into a large open studio. There were cameras and a four man crew. Trevor hadn’t expected it, but it wouldn’t be a problem.

What he didn’t expect was that this wasn’t a normal trafficked woman; this was a minor, and a feisty one at that. Whatever they’d had her on had worn off. She was kicking and screaming in an attempt to resist the needle one of the two naked men were trying to put in her arm. He wasn’t having much luck, and no one from the crew was intervening.

‘Are you here to help?’ The one without the needle shouted at him.

‘Yep,’ Trevor said.

‘Good. Strip off and get over here.’

Trevor stripped down to his underwear. ‘I’ll take these off when we have things under control,’ he said.

The men didn’t seem to care, and Trevor approached the bed they had her pinned on. How was he going to play this? He had no intention of helping them, only her.

‘Tell you what, why don’t you hold her down and I’ll give her the needle.’

‘Be my guest,’ the man said, shoving it at him. His willingness surprised him. These weren’t professionals.

Trevor took it and waited for them to get hold of the girl’s limbs. Each man held an arm and leg. The girl started sobbing, believing it was hopeless now, and a tiny piece inside Trevor broke. He wanted all of them to pay for this.

He shushed her and stroked her hair, whispering it would be okay. He looked her in the end, then glanced at the needle and at the man’s arm and then back to the girl. He did this twice while shushing her and she quieted, picking up on his intention. Out of his left-hand peripheral vision he eyed the other man, taking in his position.

‘Now!’ he shouted. In one movement he plunged the needle into the arm of the man on his right, and brought his elbow down hard on the bridge of the nose of the man on his left. The man on the right tried to fight but the drug effect quickly. Trevor pushed them back and swept the girl up, taking the bed sheet with him, and wrapping it round her as he put her over his shoulder.

The crew were slow in responding, but by the time Trevor turned he was surrounded.

‘You can try it if you like, but I’m not alone.’

They look around them and Trevor smiled as the door downstairs slammed open and they heard a man scream. They backed away from the stairs looking at each other as they heard a rushing sound come up the first flight and a second scream as whatever it was encountered the man on the second floor.

Then it stopped.

‘Fuck!’ one of the men said, and rushed over to the sash windows, debating the possibilities of jumping. The other men joined him and they all stood there, no knowing what to do.

Trevor gently placed the girl on the ground. She didn’t want to let him go, but he reassured her he just needed to get dressed. Once clothed, he scooped her up again and descended the stairs. At the bottom was a dark shape. Trevor patted it on the head, and red eyes blinked out at them.

The girl gasped. ‘Oh don’t worry about, Bonzo; he won’t hurt you. They might be called the hounds of hell, but there’s no hell like that here on Earth.’ 




Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Review: Madame Monvoisin's Emporium of Extraordinary Adventures, by Michael Wombat

Madame Monvoisin's Emporium of Extraordinary Adventures: Volume 1: Rue du Pont MarieMadame Monvoisin's Emporium of Extraordinary Adventures: Volume 1: Rue du Pont Marie by Michael Wombat
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a superb book!

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I love all the author's books, but knew this one was a little different. It IS a collection of very short, often flash fiction, stories, but another story has been written around them to encompass them, which is why the author calls it a 'framed anthology'.

The story and characters in the wrap-around story live in the late 1600s, and the author has endeavoured to provide accurate historical facts and settings. The characters themselves step right off the page and are immediately engaging. And the supernatural way in which the collection of short stories are brought into the main framing story is intriguing and captivating. It is possible to read the story without reading the short tales between, but in many cases they apply to the development of the character experiencing them, in this case Etienne Blessis.

The characters, both Etienne and Catherine Monvoisin, are people I began to care about and wanted to know better, especially how Madame Monvoisin is able to provide the adventures she sends Etienne and her other clients on. And we do get a glimpse of this, which reminded me a little of The Magician's Nephew (the first of the Lion Witch & the Wardrobe series) - in that book they were pools, but in this one they are trees. But to say more would spoil the journey.

The book ends on an excruciating cliff hanger, so I am SO pleased to hear the second volume is ready for release. I can't wait to find out what happens and to spend more time with these wonderful characters.

Get yourself a copy of this book - you won't regret it. There's something for everyone in it.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 192

This week's picture prompt was taken by Ralf Eisenreich, a German photographer. He calls this 'Little Green World'. He has some interesting pictures across a variety of subjects. 

Tricky wanted to own this one. It was definitely one of her stories, and as is her way, it pours out, and gives me ideas as I prepare for the second book in her series. Enjoy.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.



Glimpse

A flash caught her eye. Tricky spun round, but couldn’t work out where it had come from. This was a part of the forest to be wary of. The trees had decided some time ago not to play nicely with the humans that passed through.

Not that she could blame them, oh no, the history of abuse at the hands of humans was ingrained in the every atoms that made them. It might feel like a couple of millennia to humans, but to trees it felt like just last decade. It would be a while yet, and this particular group of pines had reason to be nervous; their wood was beautiful and luscious, and many desired their objects to be made from it. Lucky for them there was still plenty of waste left over from the shift that would still take decades to be used up.

There it was again! There was something here, or they were playing tricks on her. And she was the one called Tricky; tricks weren’t to be played on her, no deary, she wasn’t having any of that.

‘Stop it now, will you? Show me what you’ve got. I’m not here to do you no harm and you know it,’ she yelled out into the green.

There was a wave of susurration and the flash dazzled her, leading her to a crook in an old piece of tree stump. Either a victim of weather or of human, no one knew anymore. It had since been covered in lively moss, which found abundant living in these parts.

There jammed in a crack was a glass ball, reflecting the world around it and holding an inverted version. Now, who had left that here?

Tricky tentatively touched it and pulled it up and out, rolling it about in her hand. It was indeed glass, not crystal like those she had in her possession, and it seemed decorative rather than magical. A pretty thing, but was it a dud? Tricky didn’t trust it, as was her way – and her right.

She closed her eyes and pulled up the energy out of the ground and through her into the ball. It flashed orange. Ah hah! Not a dud, but one to dupe others no doubt.

In her mind she saw a picture of another place: a desert plain not of this world ... or at least this part of it. No deserts were known on this landmass, and it wasn’t so big to hide any before you met the unsailable oceans.

As she looked a shadow appeared to cover the lens through which she looked, and then something solid moved in front of it and an eye appeared.

Tricky cried out and dropped the ball. What was that?! Or who was that?! Her heart raced and her blood did jigs round her body. A dark sick feeling oozed its way into her stomach and every nerve in her body rang alarm bells. The trees around her rushed through another wave of leaf motion to indicate their dread too.

Was that place on this plane, or was it another in space and time? Tricky didn’t want to investigate but knew she had to; these things were down to her – they were her gift’s purpose. It was her duty, however much she liked to pretend it wasn’t.

She leant down and picked the ball up again. It had resumed its ornament status, but Tricky knew tricky things better than anyone. She pulled out a scarf from her pocket and wrapped it up tight. She didn’t want it looking through again. Not until she was ready, which she wouldn’t be until she got this back to the cabin.

She took a deep breath and sent out calming energy, grounding herself while doing so to move the awful feeling and displace it from her body. It would only hinder her investigations otherwise.

‘Thank you,’ she called. ‘I’ve got it now, and I’ll look into it.’ She chuckled and there was a rustling as though they were amused too. ‘Oh, you know what I mean.’

She walked away still tittering to herself, until her hand found it again in her pocket. Her fingers retracted from it. She had a lot of preparation to do before she uncovered it again.


Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 191

This week's photo prompt is by French photographer, Megan Glc. She doesn't seem to have posted much recently, and her 500px page, where I believe this was originally posted, is gone. But she can be found on other social media platforms, but just not this pic, or this kind of art, which she seems to have moved away from. 

Sometimes when you can't find the end, it is finished. This turned dark. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.



Art

Dammit! Charlie couldn’t get it quite right; it just wouldn’t come out properly on the page. He dipped the nib of his ink pen into the water and watched it spread slowly through it. How could such beauty take place so naturally when it was so difficult to capture on paper?

He’d toiled for ages trying to get the perspective of the birds and the trees just right against the shadow of the land, until he reached a point he could no longer look at it. He pushed his chair back and rubbed his hands down his face.

He tasted something on his lips, and licked them again. Was that ink? Charlie looked at his hands and sure enough they were black with it, almost dripping.

He picked up the pen, but it didn’t appear to be from that. He even struggled to keep hold of it his hand had become so slippery. He grabbed some tissues and wiped at it, but more ink just kept coming. Then he saw something at his feet. A puddle of ink had formed there too. But how?

Charlie stood up, and noticed the window by his desk. Normally it looked out over fields, but it had gone opaque. Was it misty outside? He swiped his hand over the glass as though to clear it, but all it did was leave a smear of black ink behind. What was going on?

He went to the door, but it wouldn’t open. He thumped and shouted, but Charlie had lived alone for years, all it did was release his frustration – and fear.

He looked back at his desk and could see a shadow behind it that looked like a tree. He went over and looked at the picture he’d drawn. There was the jar of water, and the trees within it, and ink swirling through it, but ... was that a silhouette of a person just in front of the tree?

He heard a rushing sound from overhead and looked up to see a murmuration of Starlings in the sky above him. The ceiling to the room was gone, as were the walls. He could only see an opaque boundary running round him.

Then he felt something lapping at his feet. He looked down, there was water all around and it was rising. He was in his own picture.

He spun round. There was no furniture, only glass walls. But the jar was open, he would survive, he could swim up. But when he tried to lift his feet he couldn’t. He was stuck, fixed into the picture. His struggles only released more ink into the water in those pretty swirls. And eventually those slowed as his body became fixed, like the figure in the drawing.


Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 190

This week's photo prompt is from a UK Wedding dress website, with no details who took this picture was taken or the product name/designer. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.



Dream Dress

Story touched one of the material leaves on the waist line of the multicoloured, strapless dress. It was soft and made of the finest silk. She had butterflies in her stomach at the thought that she would be the one to wear it. It was the first step to becoming. She couldn’t wait!

Up until now she hadn’t worn any dresses. They didn’t allow gender defining clothes on ones so young, not until they knew. And now she had shown signs, she could finally indulge her pleasure in public and not just in the privacy of her own room. Not that she had been able to properly in her room either; she couldn’t make a dress, and wrapping a bit of a material round you wasn’t the same. This was a real dress, made especially for her, to fit her. She was excited.

The party was to take place on Midsummer’s Night, along with a hundred others who would be revealing their identity – or non-identity as the case may be. It was a coming of age event that all thirteen year olds looked forward to, although there might be a few absentees from her year who were still unclear on how they wanted the world to see them.

But she was sure and had been for as long as she could remember, never a doubt in her mind. She was lucky. Many struggled. Her own brother had taken until he was seventeen before he decided he was going to be her brother.

She came from a long line of people who chose identities, but her father had a sibling who refused to consider an identity or a non-identity. They felt it was too defined. Story had admired Ash’s bohemian way of life and indeterminate way of being. She specifically liked their affinity with trees. It was partly what had inspired her choice of dress. She imagined a flower fairy dancing in it under the stars. It was a dress of dreams and magic.

Story had considered that it might have been nice to be a fairy, but decided a life of pretending to be something she was not would be too hard. Some people did choose to be something other than their species, and were embraced as such, but it made her feel uncomfortable, which was the tell-tale sign that it wasn’t her true identity.

No, Story would be a she for the rest of her days and that made her happy, which was, after all, the entire point of existence.


Sunday, 7 March 2021

Review: The Sandman, by SJI Holliday

Mr. SandmanMr. Sandman by SJI Holliday
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great read from a great author. This time a horror novella and I loved every bit of it.

Set in London with a trip to the seaside, Mr Sandman is a twisted tale built around being careful what you wish for. The main character wants her boyfriend to be different and visits a fortune teller on the pier. She ends up getting more than she wished for. And, as usual, Susi Holliday adds in a nice twist at the end just to mix things up and keep you thinking about it long after its done.

Well written characters who you can imagine knowing in real life, and fast paced, I really enjoyed this book. The only thing that didn't fit for me was the external cover, as I didn't feel it related to the story very well; I wouldn't have picked it up based on that alone. However, the inside cover was much more fitting. So don't judge this book by its cover, it has a great dark tale to tell inside.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 189

This week's picture is by Jimmy Lawlor, an Irish surreal artist, who has some incredible work. He calls this Stepping Stones. I'd recommend a look through his site.

I do love surreal work. And this one, I just want to know her story. So what do you think her story is? 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.



Running the Runes

Oh god, oh god, I’m going to be in so much trouble, Lucy thought as she kept on running.

She thought the term ‘running the runes’ was just an expression they used when referring to someone taking up reading them. No one had mentioned that you literally had to run them, while they were elevated in the air, and that once you began you had to keep going to the end because ... well, she didn’t know why, she assumed until she fell. And Timmy dog, had gone and followed her, the duffus, and now he was trying to keep up too. Lucy hoped he didn’t fall; she couldn’t stand to lose her dog doing something so foolish.

Were they getting higher? She was sure they were, and the circle was widening. Oh no! Mum was going to kill her, and it was all that Leon’s fault; him and his bloody dares! She should have known better. She was surprised he wasn’t down there laughing up at her – although he wasn’t stupid enough to stick around. When the elders found out she’d be in for it!

No one under the age of sixteen was meant to touch them, they were sacred and weren’t to be messed with. But Lucy was still trying to work out why they had risen in the first place. She’d only climbed up on one of them for a dare.

She could see adults gathering under her now, and someone with a staff. Oh this was bad! It was the auspicious McGaffrey, the eldest of the elders. He was waving it about. Was he trying to shout at her to come down, or was he chanting? She couldn’t hear this high up and not at the speed she was running to keep up with the stones. But focusing under them to the people on the ground was the trick to not feeling sick. Timmy was doing the same; she could see him out the corner of her eye. Oh please make this stop elder McGaffrey, and I promise I will never go near them again, Lucy thought.

Were they lowering? Lucy thought so. Oh good, it meant this would be over soon. Thank goodness. They were slowing down too. Lucy could see the tops of heads directly below. Then the stones stopped spinning and she stood still on one of them. Timmy whimpered on the one behind. ‘It’ll be okay, Timmy, we’re almost there.’ The stone landed with a gentle rocking motion.

Lucy bowed her head in shame and respect as the elder approached. Lucy could also see her mother out of her peripheral vision, wringing her hands. Man, she was going to be in trouble!

‘Lucy Gwedaveen?’

‘Yes, Elder McGaffrey.’ Lucy glanced up for a millisecond, anticipating an angry stern face, but she caught a look of bewilderment instead.

‘How did you get them to elevate? What did you say?’ His tone was one of amazement.

Lucy brought her eyes up again and saw the wonder in his face. She was confused.

‘I didn’t say anything, Elder McGaffrey, they just lifted up. Don’t they always do that?’

‘No, Lucy, no one has ever seen them do that – not even me!’

Lucy felt her eyes widen and her mouth drop open. ‘Oh!’ She didn’t know what else to say. The other adults all approached and stood round her in a circle.

‘It seems, Lucy, that you have a gift. The runes respond to you in a way they have for no other. We must explore this gift together. You must come and reside by the elders.’

Lucy felt her face flush. Live with the elders? She wasn’t even twelve yet, let alone sixteen when those that felt the need to learn the teachings were allowed to apply.

‘But ... but I’m too young.’

‘Clearly the runes don’t think so. Come child, we shall make preparations.’ He beckoned her mother, who rushed to her side and put her arm round her. ‘Take her home and get her cleaned up. At evensong we shall discuss this further.’

Lucy’s mother rubbed her arm. ‘Come on, Lucy, let’s get you ready.’ Her mother was excited, not angry. ‘A whole new world is about to open up to you.’

You’re not kidding, thought Lucy, one of rune stones. She wondered how many times she would have to run on them, and what that running would achieve. She supposed she’d find out soon enough.