Thursday, 2 December 2021

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 228

This week's picture prompt is by photographer Kari Liimatainen from Finland. He has some wonderful landscape pictures, worth a look at his galley on DeviantArt

I could see him looking through the branches. But who was he, and what was he looking at?

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.


An image of a lake seen through snow laden tree branches, with the sun coming up and giving everything a warm glow.


Capture

He’d sit here and wait, and then when they came out he’d have his fun. It was the best bit; the waiting and the anticipation.

The forest was muffled under snow, and little moved in the freezing hour before dawn, but Puck was here, eyes keen and watchful. He wouldn’t miss a trick.

The lake was all aglow and so were his eyes as the sun crested the horizon. Oh the glory, oh the delight. He was such a lucky Puck.

He saw them on the edge of the bank, appearing out of the water. They were tiny and delicate and oh how he wanted one. But they weren’t to be had; they weren’t to be owned. There were strict rules he had to adhere to – imps like him couldn’t get away with it. He might be named after the most famous fae, but he was a lowly dark half-fairy. These water sprites were elegant and fragile, and not for the likes of him.

No, the best he would get is this, peeking at them from the other side of the water, remaining hidden, and startling them a little to capture some of their essence to trade.

Water sprites held a lot of power, which is why catching them had been banned. It could lead to abusing and enslaving them and that wasn’t something the enchanted community would tolerate – unless you were one of the privileged few who could pretend it was consensual. But if they gave away a bit of their power, intentionally or accidentally, then that was allowed.

Puck shifted a little in his position and prepared to shake the branches above him. It might not seem like much but it would be enough to spark their fear, which would release electric shocks into the air. He was a nimble Puck and could easily catch them.

When it looked like the group had all emerged from the water and were basking in the morning sunshine on the snowy banks, Puck raised his arm up to the branch overhead, and with a sudden movement swiped it with his hand, causing it to snap out and back, sending showers of snow to the ground.

It worked. The sprites leapt to their feet, letting out tiny bolts of what looked like lightning into the air, across the lake to the object of their startlement and where Puck was sitting. He swiftly reached out with a bottle he’d brought in preparation and swept it through the air to catch them. It filled up fast, and he stoppered it quickly, not wanting any to escape.

Oh he was going to be a rich Puck for a while now too. But as he watched them return to the water, a darker shadow appeared in their wake and moved in his direction. He squealed. Puck knew what that was; you couldn’t get up to tricks and not know the consequences. Guarding demon spirits were in the employ of water sprites. They could take you over and cause you to lose yourself for several days. Puck didn’t want to suffer that, oh no.

He scrambled back up the riverbank and over the top rushing into the woods for protection. He shimmered up the nearest trunk and waited. The shadow appeared below circling round the trunks, but it hadn’t seen which one he’d picked. Oh thank Aine for its oblivion. The only problem now was how long it would stay down there. Puck settled into the nook of a branch. It might be hours but now he had his treasure, he could spare the time.  


Friday, 26 November 2021

Cover Reveal & Release Date Announcement - Dead Lake, Tricky's Tales Book 1

I am finally here to announce the release date for the first book about my character Tricky, who has been appearing on my blog in my Mid-Week Flash fiction challenge entries for three years now!
(her first story was back on Week 77

Not all of her stories appear in the series. I have often used the opportunity to explore the world and characters, and taken ideas or themes from them. You can find a catalogue of all her tales here, if you fancy reading them and getting a taster for the story. 


The release date will be: 26th December 2021

The book is available for pre-order, so get your copy now at a reduced price. 


Damn and blast! That rancid piece of excrement, Carter, has had her ransacked out of Clancy!

Tricky returns to her cottage to find it turned upside down. An action that means she’s got three days to leave the district or face punishment. Randolf Carter, head of the district, is spreading lies and suspicion about her kind, making life difficult. But it wasn’t just an ordinary ransacking – they were searching for something.

Using her gifts, Tricky traces the energy left by the men and spies another creature’s energy among it: a jackdaw. Swift and wily, it’s pinched her precious gemstone, a piece of black obsidian. But at whose bidding? Communicating with birds is a rare ability and she knows all who possess it.

Tricky wants her stone back, but coming up against people like Carter won’t be easy, especially when he’s got one of her kind in his employ. But she’ll handle it, oh yes she will. She'll just have to be careful and a little bit tricky. Good thing she is then, isn’t it?

Adept at working with energy and time as well as communicating with trees, Tricky is lured into something bigger than ownership of a gemstone, and finds out that sometimes it pays to be a little bit tricky.



 


Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 227

This week's picture prompt is from artist and underwater photographer Elena Kalis. Based in the Bahamas Elena has some incredible images and attained global success in her field. 

Another dabble into Tricky's world to see where it ends up.  (Last Tricky Tale was on Week 222)

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.


Image of a woman in a white dress underwater but facing a wall of water and touching her own reflection. Taken by photographer Elena Kalis

Play Dead

Tricky was thankful her mother had taught her how to swim. She’d struggle otherwise. She’d been wise enough to take in a deep breath when they’d chucked her overboard, and swum down as far as she could despite her tied hands.

She felt the riverbed under her feet and pushed herself away in a horizontal line under the water, getting as far from the boat as she could. She hoped they’d think she’d drowned.

The River Red was wide, so it was going to be a struggle to get to the side without coming up for another breath, but she kept going as long as she could. Then turned over on her back and floated up slowly, letting her face and mouth break the water just enough so she could exhale and take in another breath.

She daren’t look back. They were nasty pigs onboard, cut you up as soon as look at you. Tricky knew their sort, and under Stanislav’s vicious hand they’d been given free rein to abuse the people in their charge. It mattered little to them; you were just a piece of meat for them to try out their sick perversions. Even in the water Tricky could still feel all the sore spots where they’d attempted to extract information they’d wanted. She’d given them nothing.

But one thing was for sure, they’d still be looking out for her body to appear. Stanislav wasn’t stupid – at least not that way. He knew their ilk better ... in fact she wasn’t even sure he wasn’t one of them. He knew more than any non-gifted person should, and things that weren’t in any book or learnt in any classroom.

It wasn’t like Tricky to be unnerved, but he’d achieved it. He’d even managed to scare her, which since her mother’s death she hadn’t thought possible – despite all they’d put her through.

The water grew darker ahead and she was confident she would see the side of the river soon. She hoped to come out under the shelter of some trees, even draw some energy from them, because she couldn’t pull herself out of the water just yet – oh no, she would be trickier than that. She wasn’t going to let those slimy rancid slugs spot her again, no definitely not. They were never going to get their filthy hog paws on her again. Next time they saw her it would be their death, oh yes.

When the muddy wall of the river appeared in front of her, she drifted up as close to the side as possible, her fingers touching the soil wall, and tilted her head back so her face broke the water surface. She blinked, trying not to sputter or make any sound, and looked up into the leaves of an overhanging willow. Wonderful.

She reached out and sent her energy reserves and felt them met with the deep green energy all trees possessed. She felt immediately refreshed.

But rather than come further out, she took another breath and went back down, underwater until her feet were on the bottom and put her hands out against the riverbank. She breathed out hard, humming as she did, the sound filling her head, and a pocket of air opened up.

She watched the water part and shimmer as the air pushed it out. Her floating underskirt and camisole top dropped and stuck against her it moved round her, and she opened her mouth to breathe, taking in big gasps as she relaxed.

Some people would think she had been able to part water, but really all she had done was create a time bubble. The tiny bit of river bed she was standing in was not actually here, but in another time and place.

She considered opening it out further and travelling through it away from the river, but she wasn’t sure where she might end up. It was always a nice idea travelling through pockets of time, but you could come out on the other side of the landmass even though you might have only travelled a few feet. Time was tricky like that. It’s what gave her an affinity for it. She liked tricky, she understood tricky.

And not just that, she didn’t trust Stanislav not to anticipate such a move. She’d found she wasn’t the only one adept at manipulating time. Where had he learnt that skill? Who had trained him and honed it? Someone must have. She’d seen his ability wasn’t natural like hers; he needed tools to achieve the same effects. But the only other person that knew as much had been her mother. Or was there someone else, someone unseen?

She sat on the floor of her time bubble and pondered such things. She had plenty of time to do that, oh yes she did. She chuckled, time was never hard to come by for her, oh no. She’d sit here and wait out those dumb meat heads and play dead.     


Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 226

This week's picture prompt is from Italian photographer Sergio Pessolano. This is a salt flat in Bolvia - Salar de Uyuni. Sergio calls this 'Just Salt'. He also suggests that the viewer scroll up and down fast. You should see light/shadow changing, depending on the gamma value of your monitor. 

Just a glimpse of what I saw when I looked at this picture. 

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.



An image of a salt flat in Bolivia, with the salt dried out in a pentagonal pattern, and the shadow gives it a purple tinge. There are mountains at the horizon under a cloud broken sky. Photograph taken by Sergio Pessolano


Hallowed Ground

It was in sight at last. He didn’t know how many weeks he had been staggering toward this, but Logan struggled to believe it. He knew what a mirage was; he’d had plenty of them on this journey, yet it was still there.

He tripped over the edge of one of the strange raised pentagons that the salt had shaped into, and fell to his knees. He was grateful for his long trousers, although the knees were thin after the times he’d only had the strength to crawl.

He’d come close to death from dehydration so many times, but fortunately the skies had opened and rain had fallen, and he was able to catch enough to carry on.

He didn’t want to think about where he had come from, he only wanted to think about the future. The pain and captivity were over and that was all that mattered.

He swiped his hand through the air in front of him. The image of the mountains in the distance didn’t waver or change in any way, unlike a mirage. A spark of hope lifted inside him.

He got back up to standing and allowed himself to take a single drop of the rain water he had collected two days ago, and continued with his stagger.

Thoughts of seeing people again entered his head. What would he look like to them? Had the wounds on his face from the continual beatings during his imprisonment healed, or would they still be visible? What would they think of him? Would he be considered weak for having been caught in the first place, or praised for escaping? Few escaped and even less made it across the salt desert.

For a second Logan was filled with terror. What if they took him back? What if they felt he didn’t deserve freedom? What if they returned him?

But his mind at least gave him a reprieve from those thoughts; he knew that escapees were never sent back and that they were hailed as survivors, his own uncle had been one. Maybe it was in the genes.

His mind continued to ponder all the notions and he let it run like credits at the end of a film, watching his feet as he continued to move forward. When he lifted his head again the mountains had grown and he could see details. This was no mirage. He was almost home.

The way the clouds covered the sky above and the sun sat behind the mountains, it gave them a halo as though he was headed for hallowed ground – which to Logan he was.

For over four years he had been trapped and confined in that hell hole, and despite the initial excitement of freedom and space, the salt desert had become its own prison. Empty of life and hope with no sense of place or direction, if it hadn’t been for the sun Logan would have been lost or dead. And now with it there, lighting up his destination, actual liberation was within his grasp.

For the first time since he’d broken out, the surface beneath his feet began to change. The pentagon pattern was beginning to disappear as yellow sand and grit replaced it. Soon he could feel hard stone under his shoeless toes. He would reach the town soon. He increased into a staggering lope.

Lights in the distance came into view and increased the closer he came. The land opened out and cultivated swathes of earth appeared between the rocks. He could smell the sweet smell of desert dried foliage in the air.

Tears came to his eyes as he walked, he couldn’t help it, he was beyond thankful he could behold life again, instead of a cell wall. He had dreamed of this moment.

He started to see people farming the land. A few looked up and then he saw people running towards him, calling to others for help. As they reached him the last of his strength gave out and he collapsed into the arms. Safe at last.


Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 225

This week's picture prompt was created by Australian artist Cameron Gray, known as Parablev on DeviantArt He calls it Cage. He has some incredible creations. I really love his art. Worth a look. 

This week it went a bit dark. Not what I had initally intended, but still like it. 

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.





Test Subject

Dr Hayden chiselled round the face. It was messy work, but she managed to pry it off. She knew the top of the head came off easily, but she was surprised the face did too. There was blood everywhere and the flesh underneath was deeper than expected.

She stuck her fingers in and rooted around. Yep, there it was. She could feel the hard nub at the back of the third eye. She got her fingers under it and pulled it out, holding the blinking purple light up to inspect it, some sinews still dripping off.

It seemed intact and was still working so what had gone wrong?

She dug around further, going in around the brain which had gone mushy. All the wires were where they should be, and there was no evidence of a short circuit. So what had happened?

There’d never been a case of such a psychosis; all were stable and never questioned themselves like this one had. Self-esteem had never been questioned before and certainly none had displayed paranoid delusions that they turned on themselves.

The entire point of the third eye neural transmitter had been to help individuals remain open and to have a healthy perspective. It kept them looking forward and not back, out instead of in. It had been one of the most successful resolutions to the mental health problems over the last century. It had even become standard practice to have one implanted once adulthood was reached. Those that chose not to were considered feral.

So why now, after all these decades had this one malfunctioned?

Dr Hayden took the transmitter over to the counter. She washed it off and inspected the outside of it. There was no evidence of any kind of tampering, and with its position behind the skull it was well protected. She opened it up and found nothing out of the ordinary inside either. It was a complete puzzle.

She took out the patient’s paper file and leafed through. There had been no accidents in their thirty-two years – they’d actually had an exemplary medical record. But something struck her; when the patient reached her thirties there had been repeating visits to their doctor.

She went over to the computer and put in the patient’s details. The name of the doctor appeared. Hayden covered her mouth as she read the name of one of her former colleagues. He’d been relieved of his position at their lab because of his unethical ideas about patient care. He believed the transmitters were a manipulation tool to keep people passive, and wanted to see if they could be removed.

She quickly brought up the specifics of the visits. He’d been giving her medication, a wide variety of them including hormonal replacement therapies and heavy duty stimulants. They were virtually unheard of now. Only those without the transmitters were given them and then at a high cost. Why had he been giving them to this patient? She had no requirement for them. Her initial visit to him had been for a simple bacterial infection.

But then she noticed the note under the initial visit: ‘test subject for hormonal activation of transmitter’. He’d wanted to see if it could be triggered.

And it had; an early death by turning the brain to pulp. But had it been the transmitter or the drugs? That would be the next investigation, after she had made a call to the authorities to report the murder.


Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 224

This week's photo prompt was taken by Jonathan Steele, an American photographer. He calls it Winter Train. He says: Essex Steam Train passing through Deep River Ct during a snowstorm. (that's Essex in Connecticut in the US).

I tried not to go for the obvious, and I think I managed it.

 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.




Pushed

It was coming, she could hear it. Finally she’d be on her way. She could see the plumes of smoke above the bare woods in the distance, extra large in the frigid air. If she could just manage to get on it, freedom would be in reach.

She looked round the platform. It was busy. People were jostling for position. It wasn’t going to be easy to get on, let alone get a seat, but in the crowd she was invisible. He would come, she knew he would, and force her to go back. She didn’t want that to happen. She didn’t want the guilt manipulation: the begging, the tears. She wanted to be gone and on her way.

She manoeuvred her way through to the edge of the platform. People didn’t like it, but she was a small frail-looking woman, so they gave way – plus she had exceptionally sharp elbows. She didn’t look at them, just said, ‘Excuse me’ and ‘Sorry’ even though she wasn’t.

She looked along the tracks and could see the train coming, its headlamp cutting through the veils of freezing mist. It was like watching her future arrive.  She really hoped she could get on it.

She looked back at the crowds, worrying that he was there and had spotted her, maybe even working his way towards her. But she couldn’t see him amongst the hat-covered heads.

She edged a little over the platform line. She had to get on this train. She had to get away from him. He pretended every time to be sorry, but as soon as he had her back in that house, she would be the one that was sorry – sorry to have believed him again. He feigned to others that he was the victim of a cold hearted woman, but behind closed doors she was the victim of a cold hearted man. No more. Today she would get on the train and be free.

She took another step closer as the train was starting to slow down, ready to pull into the station. It was a huge magnificent black beast, ready to take her way.

She could feel movement behind her and a sudden pang of fear shot through her. It was him pushing through to get to her, she was sure of it. She turned this way and that trying to see behind her, but the crowd were only interested in getting on the train. They were trying to see round her and pushing forward.

She slipped, falling backwards, and cried out. A man grabbed her hand and for a second she was relieved. But then as he pulled her up his face came into view, and she panicked, letting go. It was him; he’d found her.

The crowd of people emitted a collective yell, but they were too late to save her. She fell onto the tracks seconds before the large engine pulled into the very same spot and rolled straight over her.

  She’d found her freedom. 


Monday, 1 November 2021

New Release! - Nocturnal Nibbles - A collection of short, dark tales

I have a new book out today! 😀

I decided to gather together all the tales I’ve had published in anthologies and online ezines over the years and put them together with some of the tales I've written for my weekly writing challenge, Mid-Week Flash which I've been hosting for over four years now. This collection also includes a couple of new stories which haven’t been published anywhere.

To celebrate this new release, I'm offering it at the super low price of £1.99/$1.99 for today and tomorrow, so grab a copy while you can!

Click on the cover





Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 223

This week's picture prompt is by Peruvian graphic artist Enzzo Barrena. He has some incredible abstract art. This one is called Broken Flower

Took a while for me to get started with this little tale, but once I did it flowed. A nice dark tale this week.

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.



Painting by Enzzo Barrena of a naked woman made of porcelain, lying down and broken open at the waist, with red petals representing blood scattered around her, and a crow hovering over her with a red petal in its mouth.


Bleeding

Angie was broken. At least she felt like she was – her feelings on display for all to see and pick at, like birds of prey over road kill. He’d humiliated her again. It was bad enough having to put on a show for their social circle that all was fine in their marriage, but when he chose to flirt with the young women right in front of her it made a mockery of it.

She made her excuses and went to the rest room. It was an elaborate affair with a luxurious seating area and mirrored walls – standard for this opulent stately home. She stood and stared at herself in the mirror, and took out her comb, primping at her hair in an attempt to make herself feel better. She inspected the aging lines of her face. It didn’t matter what she did they were still there and increasing, but she wasn’t prepared to go under the knife to try and erase them, you couldn’t cheap time or death.

The door went behind her and one of the young pretty things her husband had been letching at came in. She was young and nubile and had spent the evening making eyes at him. Barely giving Angie a glance, the girl locked herself in one of the cubicles.

Angie stared at herself in the mirror, her anger rising. She hated girls that thought they were invincible in their perfect little, half emaciated bodies, coloured and cajoled into something popular media considered desirable, but was in fact sickly and woefully lacking. Not enough food meant their brains were malnourished and their ability to understand was limited. It made them selfish, spiteful people who believed they had a right to anything they wanted, including other women’s husbands.

The comb in her hand snapped under the pressure of her rage. She looked down at the long handle that had now come away from the main comb.

She heard the toilet flush and moved away from the mirror to stand in front of the door to the occupied cubicle. She heard the lock turn and saw the door begin to move inwards.

The girl inside was still looking behind her, and flicked her hair back as she turned. Angie stepped in front of her causing her to cry out.

But the sound was cut short by a grunt as Angie wedge the comb handle up under the girl’s ribs, cutting her air supply and ability to call out. The girl looked down to see the nub of comb handle protruding from the middle of her dress and blood seeping out around it.

Angie pushed her back into the cubicle and sat her down on the toilet, where she slumped back, her eyes glazed.

Angie pushed the end of the comb handle in further to conceal it, and cleaned up the few drops of blood that had fallen. Then she locked the cubicle door and used the toilet as a step to climb up and squeeze herself over the top into the next stall.

She dropped down and straightened her dress, composing herself before stepping out even though no one had entered the rest room.

Angie returned to the mirror, wiping dust off her silk dress. There were a few creases, but no marks. She put the remains of the comb into her clutch purse. Her face was flushed, so she ran her wrists under cold water and dabbed at her forehead with it, to bring her temperature down. Within a few minutes Angie looked fit again.

She dried her hands and returned to the ballroom, sitting down at their side table and graciously accepting a drink from the waiter’s trays. Her husband returned to the table too and smiled at her, taking her hand and kissing it. His apology. Her rage appeased, she accepted it.  



Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 222

This week's photo prompt was taken by Laura Ferreira a photographer and artist from Trinidad, and her subject was Kiwan Landreth-Smith a musician (model & actor) from Trinidad, taken around 2010/2011. 

A dip into Tricky's background this week and the background of a couple of the characters.  (Last Tricky Tale was on Week 220)

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.




Eye Candy

He could get whatever he wanted with eyes like those, they saw straight into you and through you. It was unnerving but compelling; you couldn’t help but look back, and that was when he had you – or at least when you dreamed of him having you.

Tricky chuckled to herself; she really was incorrigible, but she couldn’t help it, not when he was in the room.

Since Adric’s arrival at their home to study under her mother, he hadn’t spoken much, just looked at her with those striking pale green eyes, set into that beautiful dark complexion. He was young though, a good couple of decades behind her, and a little too skinny for her liking. But he’d fatten up and when he did women on the landmass would not be safe – oh no, not with the likes of someone so fine. She sighed to herself. Yes, he would be something special one day and she was interested to see it.

Her mother didn’t seem affected by it though. She treated him like any other student even though he’d turn that charm on her too sometimes. Tricky admired that about her mother. She didn’t seem easily impressed by a man. They had to work for recognition with her. She was strong and made sure they respected her before relenting and gracing them with her softer more flirtatious side.

Tricky liked flirting. It was a good way to test the waters with some men. If they became testy and a bit up-themselves, she knew they weren’t worth her time. But those that were playful back, now they might earn a hair flick or side glance, and if they were lucky a trip into her knickers. But she picked careful mind. Not just anyone.

She glanced across the table at Lucien. His closed, secretive demeanour appealed to her. He was a kindred spirit and one she hoped to engage. But so far he had barely looked at her, being far too beguiled by her mother. She didn’t feel jealous though, her mother was beguiling.

Lately the only person that seemed to get her mother’s interest was Vincent Linley. He was a man of upstanding in the district of Delane where Tricky had grown up. He’d built a network of friends that seemed to have influence everywhere, and they were keen to bring her mother onside; bring the community of gifted folk into their realm.

Tricky had a nagging feeling about him, and Annie, her best friend outright hated him. But this new one, Adric, seemed to wheedle his way into their favour. She’d seen him leaving Linley’s apartments on a couple of occasions. Although, Tricky supposed, Adric was used to powerful men, seeing as his father was The Baron and ran the landmass. He was probably more comfortable around them and maybe he even knew him through his father.

It made him more attractive in some ways. He clearly had his own way of influencing. She’d like to develop that skill. She just needed to stop herself being so easily seduced by the likes of him. Oh but was he such a beautiful piece of eye candy. 




Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 221

This week's picture prompt was taken by Florence Caplain, a French photographer. It is of a piano in Chateau de Pont Remy Somme also known as the Chateau Pianiste due to all the pianos  found in the house. A less elegant name given by the many explorers and photographers who have visited, id Chateau ‘Clochard’, meaning chateau of the ‘homeless man‘, because of the state of the chateau. 

This photo was taken on the 8th of August 2021, but on the night of the 13th of August, arsonists set the Chateau alight and now all that remains is a shell. Such a shame, although a few of the furnishings were saved by firefighters. But this photo is all that remains of this piano. 

It's taken me a couple of days get this tale together. I always want to write ghost stories but they never seemed to come out as well as I hope. Here's my effort.

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.



An old disused dusty close up shot of a piano keys, with a photo of someone on the music sheet stand

Greensleeves

‘Is that the piano I can hear?’

‘It can’t be; there’s no one else here.’

‘I’m sure it is. Listen!’

The sound of Greensleeves filled the old cavernous house from top to bottom. They got out of bed and put their dressing gowns on, rushing downstairs. They went to the piano in the drawing room and watched the keys moving up and down, while opaque pages of sheet music on the stand turned one after the other.

They reached out to the papers but their hands passed right through them.

‘Oh Jeffrey, what is it?!’

‘Who is it more like!’ he replied.

‘The hairs on my body are all on end!’

‘Calm yourself, Marjory, we’ll be fine. They’re harmless.’

‘You don’t know that, they might do something to us in our sleep!’

‘They aren’t even able to touch us! Don’t be so silly!’

‘But who are they? And why are they here? Can we find out?’

‘This is an old property dating back to the 1800s. I should imagine quite a few people have passed in this house. How can we identify just one?’

‘Were any pianists?’

‘Possibly, but Marjory it’s not like I have a book on the shelf I can reference to tell me about all the previous occupants and whether they played the piano or not.’

‘True. Maybe the tune has some significance?’

‘To whoever is playing it, probably. But it’s a very well known tune, it’s been around for centuries.’

The music stopped.

‘What shall we do now?’

‘There isn’t much we can do, short of a séance.’

‘We could try that.’

‘Tricky with just two people, but possible I suppose.’

They went over to the little coffee table that had a glass chess set on it.

‘Jeffrey, could we use this as a sort of Ouija board?’

‘We could Marjory, that’s a good idea.’

They moved all the figures to one side of the board and Jeffrey wrote the letters of the alphabet on the empty squares on the other side. He used one of Marjory’s eyeliner pencils as it would write on glass and they could wipe it off later.

‘Is there anybody there?’ Jeffrey said, and they waited.

Then a pawn started to rattle on the board and move to the Y for yes.

‘Who are you?’ Marjory asked.

They spelled out Mark and Janice Freeman. Who are you?

‘We’re Jeffrey and Marjory Blackson. Why are you here?’

The reply came: We live here.

Jeffrey frowned at Marjory. ‘What do they mean by that? We live here.’ He called out, ‘I think you might need to accept it’s time to pass over. Is there anything stopping you? Something we can do to release you?’

For a long time nothing on the chess board moved. Then the piano started up again. The papers in the stand began rustling vigorously to catch their attention. Jeffrey went over to look at them. He bent closer, a frown spreading across his face.

‘What is it Jeffrey?’

‘It’s a newspaper article. I’ll read it to you, Marjory:

On the night of the 15th of September, the North Ridge Fire Brigade were called out to Blackson House on Hawthorne Crescent. Only the left wing of the large mansion was ablaze and the fireman had hoped to find the homeowners alive and well, but they were found dead. It was initially unclear if it was smoke inhalation, but later it revealed they had been strangled. A man has been taken into custody believed to be their estranged son. It is unclear whether he is a suspect or helping the police with their enquiries.’

Jeffrey stopped speaking and looked at Marjory, who had joined him by the piano. He took both her hands in his.

‘Oh Jeffrey.’

‘I’m so sorry Marjory, I should have known getting in touch with him again was a bad idea.’

She looked round the room. ‘So the house isn’t ours anymore.’

‘No sweetheart, it’s not.’

‘We’d better go then.’

‘Yes, we should.’

‘Is that light coming from the front door?’

‘Yes, I think so.’

They walked out into the hallway, and sure enough the door was open and a brilliant yellow light shone through. They stepped into it hand in hand.




Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Review: Monster Double Feature & Murder, Machinery & Snowflakes, by Mark Cassell

Monster Double Feature: River of Nine Tails / Reanimation ChannelMonster Double Feature: River of Nine Tails / Reanimation Channel by Mark Cassell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's while since I've read a Mark Cassell story and have to admit that I really enjoyed coming back to his style of writing. It flows easily and I'm gripped and interested immediately.

I loved River of Nine Tails. Such a refreshing and new theme. I kept thinking I knew where it was going, but I was wrong, so very wrong. This is true horror, not for the faint hearted, both visually and mentally. There's gore, and there's psychological horror. You can't get away from it. It's why his stories linger.

Reanimation channel was also also a great tale, and maybe a warning. There is a new stream of ideas coming up in Gamer fiction in movies, about being able to control others through remote control with new technology, and this story takes a darker take on it, one that even encompasses old horror stories like Frankenstein. I really enjoyed it. Totally unpredictable which makes it so original.

I am becoming a die hard fan of Mark Cassell's writing and stories. For those that enjoy dark horror that doesn't shy away from blood and gore, yet isn't focused on it, I definitely recommend giving this a read. It's a great introduction to Mark's writing.


Murder, Machinery & Snowflakes (a trio of festive terror): Santa's Elite / Away in a Mangler / Ho Ho HollowMurder, Machinery & Snowflakes (a trio of festive terror): Santa's Elite / Away in a Mangler / Ho Ho Hollow by Mark Cassell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another brilliant small collection of horror tales from Mark Cassell.

All three were original. I found the first, Santa's Elite, darkly amusing, and Ho Ho Hollow shockingly horrific yet a very new take on a horrifying santa tale. But for me, Away in a Mangler stood out the most - an epic blood and gore tale. I sat with my hand covering my mouth, my eyes barely keeping as I was gripped to see what would happen next. Mark really knows how to deliver original and unpredictable dark stories.

If you like your horror dark and don't mind gory, these really are worth a read.

View all my reviews

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 220

This week's picture prompt is by Nate Robert a photographer on Flicker. This was taken in the John Forrest National Park, near Perth, Western Australia. This is the Swan View Tunnel.

Another dip into Tricky's tales and developing the story.   (Last Tricky Tale was on Week 218)

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.



Phot of the Swan View Tunnel in WA, taken from the ground viewing the dirty ground and light at the end.

Saved by the Church

Tricky kept pulling herself forward through the mud and grit. She knew this tunnel had to come out somewhere – being that it wasn’t full of water it wouldn’t be the sea!

At least she knew that for certain. She didn’t know much else, like: how much longer would this tunnel go on for? What sort of tunnel was it? She knew it was putrid, although her body was too weak to keep on retching. It must have been a sewer outlet for the people that lived in the bunkers.

She realized she could see the shape of the gravel she was crawling over and the outline of the walls at either side. She looked ahead. Was it? Yes it was; it was light. Just knowing that gave her a boost and she moved forward faster as the light grew.

Tricky paused for a moment and took a deep breath in, reaching out for the energy the light provided and drawing it in. She felt her limbs strengthen and came up onto her knees, tucking her ragged skirts under them so they wouldn’t get more damaged.

As she got closer to the opening, the tunnel started to take another shape. There were defined bricks shaping into an arched roof. What was this tunnel then, if not a sewer? She really had no idea, and probably no one left on the landmass did either, being that centuries had passed since it had been used for its original purpose.

When she finally made it outside and turned to look at it, she saw the peak of the brickwork and a cross imprinted on it. Had this been a church? Had she been saved by a church? Tricky couldn’t help but let out the guffaw that rose up. She stood there cackling at the prospect. She also giggled at the idea that it had turned into a sewer – or had that happened before the shift? Either way, it was ironic and amusing.

It would be one to tell John Thatcher, they’d have a good chuckle over that – should she ever be lucky enough to cross paths with him again. She hoped she would. But there was no telling. As soon as they knew she had escaped they would bring everything to bear to capture her again, especially now, with what she knew and where she was going.

The thought crossed her mind that they had let her escape. It filled her with panic and dread. What if this was a ploy for them to find her cohorts? What if this was some kind of decoy for something else yet unseen? What if they were watching her this very minute?

She whipped her head around, suddenly terrified, but there were only trees, multitudes of them, and she sighed, turning it into a longer exhale. She reached out with her weak energy trails and they responded by flooding her with their green energy light. She inhaled as much as she could. It wasn’t yet enough to heal her, but it was enough to enable her on the next part of her journey.

There was a screech overhead. She ducked down as though she could somehow disappear into the ground, scanning the sky for the creature that had sent out its warning, and then she heard a flapping sound in a tree to her left.

It was Melvin. She’d never been so relieved to see a bird in her life, although a peregrine falcon was a bit more than a bird.

He squawked again when she looked at him, and swooped down low over her head into the trees on the other side. He was guiding her out.

She made a note to thank Safa once she raised enough energy to get into Medie and contact her.

Melvin squawked again.

‘Alright, alright, I’m coming, keep your feathers on!’

Tricky rushed off into the sanctuary of the trees, following his flaps through the dense forest.


Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 219

This week's photo prompt was taken by Caroline Von Tuempling a London based photographer who works for Getty Images. This picture is for sale as wall art and called Shadow of a Palm Tree on a Deserted Beach. She also worked for the Maldivian Tourist Board, so I should imagine that is where this was taken. Still a place on my bucket list.

No Tricky this week. I did want to go dark, but it just wasn't there, so it's a hopeful tale instead. 

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.


shadow of a palm tree in the shallows of the sea on a white sand beach



Mindset 

She sat in the shadow of the palm tree and looked out at the deserted beach which reflected her life so accurately. It was beautiful and pristine but devoid of life. She marveled at its perfection. It was everything she had dreamed it would be yet it felt like a veneer with no depth. She longed to feel something other than being alone. She could imagine anything she wanted in her head, but it wasn’t here and tangible.

She felt the heat of the sun even though she sat in the shade. She could smell the ocean breeze and feel the ripples of the shallow waves as they touched her toes. She wanted to love this and embrace it, and she did, but … there was always a ‘but’.

She enjoyed being single, living alone, and not having to be dependent or obligated to anyone. She’d done that for enough years. And this was her reward, coming here, ticking this location off her bucket list, but alone it had no meaning. It needed to be shared, whether with a friend or a lover, it didn’t matter.

She stood up and waded into the water until she was knee deep. The wind picked up over the water and she held onto her big floppy hat as she breathed in and stood there enjoying it, refusing to let her aloneness eat away at this moment.

She heard voices and saw two people strolling along hand in hand. Was the universe taunting her? Then she heard the conversation as they passed.

‘I wanted to go snorkeling.’

‘We can do that after we’ve been to the mainland and had a look around.’

‘Can’t we just skip that and stay here and enjoy the island?’

‘We don’t have that much time. We need to see as much as we can.’

‘But we’re here to rest and relax.’

‘There’ll be time for that after.’

‘Will there? We’ve only got five days here.’

‘Exactly we need to make every second count.’

‘So then why rush around a city looking for presents people don’t even want?’

‘That’s a bit cynical.’

‘Is it? We came here for us to get away and reconnect.’

‘And we’re doing that. We’re strolling along a beach hand in hand, aren’t we?’

The forced smiles they gave each other were enough to make her feel grateful to be on her own. She could do what she wanted and go where she wanted without having to compromise to suit another.  

She took another breath and took in her surroundings through fresh eyes. She could indeed do whatever she wanted. There was a wine tasting evening tonight trying out the local wines, and right now she could be enjoying a massage at the end of the jetty.

She took her time going back to the main building, walking along the shoreline in the shallows. It was glorious. And as she walked up to reception to book her spa treatment, she spotted a lone guest reading a book. They glanced at her as she walked by and smiled. She smiled back. Maybe she wouldn’t be spending all her time alone here. 


Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 218

This week's prompt picture is another untraceable. I've been trying to track this one which is all over the place, but yet never leads to a credit. Furthest back is to 2013 on We Heart It from a private user. 

More exploring Tricky's stories.  (Last Tricky Tale was on Week 217)

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.



A stream running through a woods at night, with fairy lights round the trees and on the ground

Forest Friends

She was grateful for them. They knew how to deliver when things were tough. She sent loving energy out along their roots and received it right back. She’d never underestimate the unknown forests of Ferristan again – and never consider them unknown; she’d made friends here.

Tricky stumbled along, following the effervescent leaves they’d created to help her stay on the right path and lead her out. When she looked back they were no longer visible. The trees were keeping her safe. They weren’t going to let her pursuers track her. They’d made that clear further back when she’d heard a crash and a yell and saw one of them trapped under a branch. They were letting their limbs go to block or kill on her behalf. That was loyalty and she would pay it back tenfold once she got out of here and made it to Chestwick.

She thought of returning to her cabin first, but that would delay things and she needed to get to Tumelo and tell him everything in person. He needed to know what was going on from someone he knew and trusted. At least she hoped he trusted her. This wasn’t going to be easy. But she had the evidence. It’s why they were chasing her. Why else would they bother? They’d intended to kill her until she’d got her hands on it, she knew that.

Tricky could feel herself tiring. They’d taken a lot out of her in that torture chamber and not just the pieces of her body. She needed to find out who the masked man was; he had skills that were beyond anything she’d known – even beyond her mother’s. He’d tried to suck her dry of light energy. If she hadn’t been able to block off a part of herself in another time dimension, she’d be dead. She knew that for certain.

And who’d have thought that ponce, Stanislov, could turn time tricks? She’d love to know where he’d learnt that – because it was definitely learnt not a natural gift. She wouldn’t have been able to catch him out otherwise. Someone had taught him how to conjure them. Was it that masked man? She needed to uncover them all.

There was another crash further over to her left and she heard a scream. Another one was down. She had a chance now. But she needed to rest and heal. Her beaten body couldn’t carry her much further.

A line of glowing leaves appeared up a tree trunk. She looked up into the branches.

‘I’d love to deary, but my arms don’t have the strength to pull me up.’

A creaking sound was heard and a looped vine appeared. She sat in it like a swing and held on. It lifted her easily, taking her high up into the boughs to branches thick enough to lie on comfortably. With the dense foliage she didn’t feel high up and clambered onto one, slumping down onto her back and letting herself fully relax for the first time since her capture.

She felt the green tree energy envelope her. She felt her strength returning and her own yellow inner energy growing. She loved the trees. There was no other place she’d rather be than here among them. She didn’t want to leave, but she had to, she had to reach The Baron. But that was only the beginning, until they unmasked all the players in this, none of them were safe.