Thursday, 22 September 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 268

This weeks picture prompt is by Igor Zenin a Moldovian photographer. This one is simply called Winter Landscape. This is actually the fourth time I have used one of his pictures for Mid-Week Flash, the other were on Week 175  Week 10 & Week 97 He has some great art pieces.

I had to do a rewrite to get this to come out as planned. It's a dark one, but I think it works. I've gone over the word count, but I'm not sure anyone cares.  

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 picture of a snow covered boat and valley with a town in the distance, with tracks in the snow leading over a small bridge toward the town. The sky a pink/orange sunset colour. Created by Igor Zenin.

Evacuated

Fagan crept up to a tree and peered round it. All was quiet in the valley, the snow making it soundless. He saw tracks leading from the boat into the town.

He stepped out from the cover of the trees, risking exposure as he scurried up to inspect them. There were four sets of boot prints. He followed the trail over the bridge into town.

He kept close to the wall at house on the corner so as not to be spotted. What were they doing here? The town had been evacuated weeks ago. Maybe they didn’t know.

Fagan skulked further in, following their tracks. They’d gone straight to the town hall. They hadn’t bothered checking any of the other buildings. They knew the people were gone, so why were they here?

He ran down the side of the building rather than follow them in. It had been left unlocked as had all the buildings. He reached the side entrance and carefully opened it, sliding in as soon as the opening was wide enough.

He took the back stairs up to the main floor as silently as he could, listening out for them. When he reached the door into the main foyer, he stood with his back against the wall next to it, listening.

‘They’re not here; they’ve taken them with them.’

‘He said they didn’t. He said they’d be here waiting for us.’

‘Well there’s nothing here. So what do we do?’

‘We can’t go back without them, he’ll kill us.’

‘If we stay we’ll be killed too!’

‘Don’t be silly, they were just being hysterical. There’s no one here. It’s completely quiet.’

‘Too quiet if you ask me. It doesn’t feel right.’

‘Come on, there’s another level to this place.’

Fagan heard them stomp up the stairs to the attic where the town memorabilia was kept. He couldn’t work out what they wanted; there was nothing of value here. After a few minutes of scuffling sounds overhead, he heard them coming back down.

‘They could be in the church. He said the centre of the community; maybe we’ve got the wrong place.’

‘Bit sacrilegious to ransack a church, isn’t it?’

‘What you getting all religious on us now?’

‘No, it’s just it wouldn’t be right.’

‘And you think stealing from here would be?’

‘Well no, but at least HIS eyes won’t be on us.’

Fagan heard laughter.

‘You’re a funny sod, no one’s eyes are on us, the town’s dead. Can’t you see that? They’ve been evacuated.’

 ‘Yeah, and why exactly is that, Clancy?’

‘It’s all a load of guff, there’s no psychopath on the loose. I think it’s something he arranged to get them out so we could come in and retrieve the stones.’

 Fagan grinned. Their naivety would benefit him.

‘Why couldn’t he have come himself? He knows where they are and what they look like.’

‘How do we know he’s not sending us to our death?’

There was silence for a moment.

‘Don’t be so bloody stupid, why would he do that?’

‘Maybe because he’s the psychopath!’

There was a smack, and an ‘Ow!’

‘Don’t talk about him like that. He’s served us well. Come on, let’s go to the church.’

Fagan silently backtracked out of the building, while they went out the front, heading to the church. Fagan took another route round the back, using the side vestibule entrance. The pastor hadn’t wanted to leave but there hadn’t been much choice in the matter. Too many had died.

Fagan climbed up the stairs to the bell tower. He reached up inside the bell and found the little sack hanging from the bell clapper. This was what they had been sent to fetch. They were pretty gemstones and would fetch a good price, but Fagan had no interest in riches.

He quietly made his way down to the gallery. He could hear them below, their inane chatter bouncing off the walls as they looked around for the stones. Fagan moved down to ground level and past the door, carefully locking it as he went by. He crept up the aisle on the left, towards the altar, keeping out of sight.

‘What was that?’

‘What was what?’

‘Thought I heard something?’

‘You’re paranoid.’

Fagan found himself grinning again. He loved how people dismissed their instincts when they were in danger. This time when he moved he deliberately scuffed his feet. All four of the men froze, eyeing each other in terror. He wanted to laugh but would hold off a bit longer. Instead he chucked the little bag of gemstones onto the alter table.

They all drew their weapons as they scanned the church, still unable to spot him. While their backs were turned, he rushed across to the altar and crouched behind it.

‘There’s someone here. Oi, mate! There’s no point hiding. Show yourself & we can talk.’

Fagan had no plans to talk, only plans to sacrifice.

He rushed them, killing two before they turned; stabbing one through the back into his heart, and another with a swift swipe across the neck. His blade had never been sharper. The other two tried to swing at him, but they were clumsy and he dispatched them without even breaking a sweat.

All four lay on the church altar. Perfect. He’d say his prayers then prepare them for the spit. He’d have a feast and pay thanks tonight.


Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Review: Substitute, by Susi Holliday

SubstituteSubstitute by Susi Holliday
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's difficult to rate this one, as I feel it is more in the 3½ realm, but as there is nothing specifically wrong with the writing it is also not a 3 star.

I have read all of Susi Holliday's books, and I can't decide if it is because she is writing to market now but the quality in the last couple of books is lacking. The premise starts out well and there is enough to lead the reader in, but then it gets bland. The characters aren't particularly likeable - Chrissie is an agitated character who isn't really happy and you don't ever fully understand why, or what the history has been with her husband. A lot is eluded to but never explained. Then Holliday weaves all the threads of the tale together through different perspectives and in this case different time lines.

I noticed more in this book that it is written in present tense, rather than third, and found it more jarring than usual. I think skipping back and forth between time periods rather than finding another way to write the backstory, is not beneficial for the reader because they have to keep checking the chapter titles, which do become irritating. I also felt this style of writing was repetitive and a little tired. I felt the story could have been told in a whole other way with much more tension and suspense.

The storyline in Substitute might have a unique premise, but it became predictable as it wasn't fully fleshed out and wasn't given a chance to run fully before it was all wrapped up neatly. No cliffhangers, all without question, and basic characters who all end up happily ever after. It's a shame a developmental editor didn't help Susi find a better way to draw out the darker side to this story, and it would be great to have a fully fleshed character the reader actually cared about rather than indifferent to. But then this could just be standard for crime thrillers, which are not my preferred genre.

I get the feeling Susi Holliday would do better to write what she really wants, which is dark, scary stories, that aren't necessarily tied to crime or to a market. I still feel that Blackwood and Violet are her best books to date.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 14 September 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 267

This week's picture, according to all the sources I can find, say this was created by Adam Gaia, who I have found on an art website, but this image doesn't appear. The Instagram account the art website gives also doesn't exist anymore. Shame. Hope it is theirs - but can't find it associated with anyone else. 

Went a bit esoterical 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.



An image of a path winding through grasslands on either side and up round overhead too, in a kind of tunnel with a bright light at the end, which glows over the landscape. The silhouette of a person standing at the end of the path in front of the light. Image created by Adam Gaia

The Light

Tim was terrified. He had no way of knowing if he was going the right way. The path might be clear, but should he be on it? It wound through the grasslands which surrounded him in all directions. There was no other path or direction. This was it – which in fact it was … or at least he thought it had been. He’d died, he was sure he had, yet this felt real, tangible. He could feel a breeze, hear wind through the grass, smell the grass. He bent down; touch the grass. So if he wasn’t dead, where was he?

He refused to entertain the idea of heaven. He’d never believed in that concept, spurned it all his life. He had pondered the afterlife, but this wasn’t life, this was a path. But to where? Would St Peter and some gates come into view shortly? He chuckled to himself. But yet he wondered if he should. What if that was where he was headed? At this point he couldn’t rule out anything.

The way ahead seemed to narrow, or at least it felt like it did. Tim couldn’t trust his eyes anymore – or any part of his body, because it wasn’t really there. It was residual; in his mind’s eye only.

He began to feel like the path was leading him through a tunnel, the grasslands wrapping round him to the left and right and overhead. There was a light ahead. Oh good grief, was this THE light? The one you were meant to go through to ‘go over to the other side’? Surely that was just humans and their hopeful bullshit. There was no other side, or light. But that was exactly what was ahead of him.

The light glowed, and basked the grasslands in a golden light. It was magical. Tim mentally scoffed at the word, but it was the only way to describe it. It shone like light he’d never seen before, and it enveloped him. He looked down at what was once his body. It hadn’t been his body before his death, it was his body from his youth; how he always remembered himself. Even though the clothing was dark, it glowed and sparkled. He could only smile.

He felt elated. He had no reason to be elated – he’d just died, but there was an excitement in the light that was infectious. He felt his stride quicken and he rushed forward. The light seemed like a destination. The path seemed to disappear out of sight. Tim wondered if there was an edge, and if he might fall or jump or step through into something. He wanted to know what. He felt eager, like a child before an exciting event, restless: curious and a little nervous.

Was he going to see family? People he’d known who had passed? His mind raced at the thought of who he might see, and he considered the past relationships he’d had, some of whom had already passed. Would any of them show up? Would he want them to? Or was it all a fallacy that you met your loved ones? Maybe there were no people.

The light filled his entire vision as he approached it and he knew that at any moment he would cross over into it, but the path kept on going and he kept on walking, and it remained there in front of him. His excitement didn’t fade, it matured into a keen knowing that he was about to witness something that would explain it all, the very existence of life; that he was on the verge of knowing everything.

There was a flash, and the light was all around him and in him and he was a part of it, and it was a part of him.

Thought was gone.

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 266

This week's picture prompt is by Sarolta Bàn, a hungarian artist. She creates the most incredible images, which offer a world of meaning.  I actually used another piece of hers back in 2017, on Week 28 and this won't be the last one. 

This week a poem came out. It's rare when it happens, but it's what came. 

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 black and white image of a man walking in a barren empty, desert-like land, his back to the camera dressed in suit and flat cap, holding onto a rope over his shoulder, dragging an giant metal old key, with a round looped top. Created by Sarolta Ban.


Life choices

It was there but he didn’t see it

He carried it with him, but he didn’t use it

It was with him all along but he chose to ignore it

He believed himself unlucky

He believed himself unworthy

He believed he never had a chance

But there it was right there

The key to his life

The key to his success

The key to open up all the doors of opportunity

It started with him

It grew with him

It was part of him

But he wasn’t aware of it

He just kept trudging on

One foot in front of another

Taking the hard route

Travelling the monotonous route

Being frustrated by the emptiness of life

The lack of abundance

When all along, the key there

And it grew heavier with every passing decade

Weighing him down

Waiting to be seen

Waiting to be felt

Waiting to be sparked into life

But it wasn’t to be.


Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 265

This week's picture prompt was taken by Walter Arnold an American photographer. He calls this one The Pull. It was taken in Salpelo Island, off the coast of the state of Georgia, in the US. This is not the first time his work has been a prompt on Mid-Week Flash, the last time was Week 177, back in December 2020. He takes some wonderful pictures, worth checking out.  

A short piece of what I saw when I first looked at this image. 

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 dead tree trunk lying on the sand in the shallow waters of a beach, with waves receding from it, along with other branches and beach debris in the shallows. Taken from low down looking out to sea at sunset. Taken by Walter Arnold on Salpelo Island, Georgia, USA

Drag

He gripped the log, having managed to straddle the main limb, and held on for dear life as it was pulled away with the hard tidal water. He knew that it would be pushed back just as strong but he had no choice but to hang on if he wanted to stay alive.

Not one inch of this tiny little island stayed dry during the ocean tide anymore. As the sand had been dragged away so had most of the vegetation, in particular the large trees that had once kept it shaded and allowed other plants to grow.

Perry didn’t know what had brought about the change in the seasonal rotation of the sea. In the three years since he had been stranded on it, he’d mapped the weather and the tides, trying to work out the possibilities of getting off. But four months ago the first of the exceptionally high tides had started, bringing daily floods and washing away his rustic attempt at shelter. The persistent water had started to corrode the bases of the trees, the salt permeating the bark, poisoning them, making them easier to breakdown and drag away.

He scanned the sea, hoping to see any kind of boat or ship on the horizon but there was nothing, as it had been all the years he’d been stuck here; dropped by a malfunctioning plane which had sunk to a watery grave along with its pilot.

Perry considered this could be likened to a rollercoaster ride, like he used to enjoy back home – being thrown back and forth, the water rushing along with the dead tree trunk. But the chances of him losing his life back then were minimal, today they were very real. And even if he did survive this ride, then what? How much longer before he’d died from thirst or hunger? Rains weren’t due for another week or so, if they came, and if they did he had no way to catch the water or keep it. Maybe he’d be better off letting the ocean take him.

But instinct and the innate desire to live held him on the trunk as the movement started to slow and the waters began to recede, the trunk being shoved back into the sand. A respite of a couple of hours before it started again. He wondered if next time the sea might take the trunk once and for all, and him along with it. Part of him could only hope.


Wednesday, 24 August 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 264

This week's picture prompted was created by Edli Akolli, and Albanian artist over on deviant art. He calls it Valkyrie and it's stunning. He's created quite a few stunning warriors like this one. Take a look using the link above. 

This week just a short piece on how this inspired. 

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 female winged warrior standing on the top of mountain range amongst the clouds, with wings open and on display, dressed in a gold fitted tunic on the top and a long, to the floor, red skirt holding a waist-high gold sword in front of her, with the tip on the ground. It's called Valkyrie and created by Edli on DeviantArt

Service

I fell to my knees the second I saw her. Her height, her strength, her power as she stood proud at the gates of the slain, overwhelmed me. I was already in love with her. I wondered if she would dane to let me touch her or kiss her feet, but she was too majestic. I dared not try. I was in awe. I was humbled. I was grateful to be here.

I wondered what her judgment would be; would I be going to Valhalla to join my battle mates, or would I be going to Fólkvangr where I could rest my weary head in the meadows? I didn’t mind as long as it was Valkyrie’s wish. Her wish was my every desire, and I would do anything to please her.

‘Soldier, are you tired with life?’

Her voice filled me. It was gentle, loving and sympathetic. I could listen to it for eternity.

‘Oh great Valkyrie, I only tire of spilling blood and avenging those who I have never met; of the drive to end life for the means of gaining land – land taken from another by force. I only tire of seeing children and families torn apart by war, or the poverty they are driven into. I tire of seeing human battle human for no other reason than greed.’

‘I feel your pain, warrior. I hoped that humans would do better. But they have not. But it is not for us to judge, it is only for us to serve.’

‘Oh but great Valkyrie, I am the one who should be serving you. You are magnificent and loyal to our cause. I would do anything that you wish of me.’

‘I wish for you to find peace with Freya and free your heart and soul of your sadness. You’re mortal work is done and you are here now in the after realm where you must take time to rest before your next task is set.’

‘I will do as you bid. I only hope that you will someday join me and together we might serve side by side.’

She laughed; a deep joyful sound that made her eyes light up and my heart melt.

‘Oh warrior, you do a valkyrie a great service with your words. It is long days since anyone has requested my presence anywhere other than here. I hope too that someday your hopes will be fulfilled.’

I was uplifted by such an answer and as the clouds on the mountain tops cleared to make way for the meadows below, I was hopeful that I would see her again. As I took my place in the sleepy grasses that Freya offered spent soldiers, I set to dream of such an event.


Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 263

Today's picture prompt was taken by Montblanc Pen Lover over on Flicker. These are special edition Montblanc Skeleton ink pens. To give you an idea of cost, the one on the far right is going for USD 9,300 on a luxury website! Just the nibs alone run at around USD 300 dollars. But it's their steampunk qualities that attracted me, so let's see what they inspire. 

Took me a while to find this story and maybe one day there might be more. 

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 picture of five MontBlanc Skeleton special edition ink pens, all with ornate designs on them in different types of gold.

A Reasonable Man

He opened the ornate wooden box on his desk. It had been delicately carved out of mahogany and had his initials stamped on it: HEA. His parents had given it to him when he had left for university. It had contained the first of his collection of special Montblanc skeleton pens. The pen was exquisite in its depiction of the world map which had been etched in gold. Henry found himself admiring the detail whenever he pondered a missive.

And that’s what he had in front of him today, some thirty years on, a missive he was reluctant to sign, but one that warranted the weight of such a pen, both in its value as well as its physical presence.

Henry watched the gold nib glide across the paper while transferring his consent on what had become a contentious issue.

‘I hereby grant permission for Mrs Isabella Aston to be transferred to the psychiatric wing of St James’ hospital without delay. It is with regret that I will be unable to attend the transfer as our son will be in my custody and I will need to reassure him that all is well.

At no point prior to the agreed time and date should Mrs Isabella Aston be made aware of this transfer to avoid undue stress and anxiety.

All the required paperwork will be present, along with the injunction and the judge’s decree.

I expect a swift and smooth operation. There will be extra bonuses made available to those who diligently adhere to the required gentle handling of this sensitive matter.’

Henry signed and dated the letter and put it on the top of the other legal papers required to complete this transaction.

He carefully replaced the lid on the pen and sat back in his office chair, pondering his choices.

Isabella had proven difficult and defiant the longer their marriage had gone on, and in recent months even combative. Henry wasn’t an unreasonable man, but he had built a large business empire and wanted his son to take it over. He couldn’t risk her snatching him away and an acrimonious divorce to take place. He hoped that once she had been in the psychiatric wing for a few days she might be more compliant and open to finding a compromise. He hoped they could find a way forward, if not together at least in a way that would suit them both.


Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Review: Territory, by Dan Howarth

TerritoryTerritory by Dan Howarth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a holiday read and it got to the point where I deliberately made time to keep reading because it was so compelling, and I had to know how it ended - which was completely unexpected!

Jari, a hunter living in a small village in Norway, loses one dog and find his other under attack from a pack of wolves, and he's not the only one; several others in their small community lose their animals too. Then some boys are chased down by the pack and the community decides they have to do something about it.

Set in the middle of winter in heavy snow, Dan Howarth writes this dark, tense story and keeps you on the edge of your seat with the wolves literally at your door the entire way through. A compulsive story in a tough setting, it's not an easy read - but read you must if you like dark tales, with elements of gore.



View all my reviews

Review: Alone With Myself, by Kev Harrison

Alone With MyselfAlone With Myself by Kev Harrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A super short story, but a brilliant little read. The concept is that of grief taking a little bit of your soul - and then what happens when it comes back.

A dark, thought provoking tale and a great introduction to Kev's writing style, which is easy and succinct, flowing off the page. I really enjoy the stories he writes. I can't recommend him enough if you like things, dark and different.

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Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 262

This image was once up on Etsy as an item for sale but it is no longer available so I can't credit either the company of the person who took the picture. But it is rather wonderful. 

I tried to think a little out of the box, and my mood infected this one, and it's run over the word count, but I can't edit it anymore without ruining the story. 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.


A close up of a glass bottle with a small amount of yellow powder in it, with a label printed on it saying Sun Dust sprinkle any time to add a little light to your life. The bottle has a stopper in it and is tied with string.


Lifting Life

Felicity needed it today more than ever. It was yet another overcast day and her mood reflected it. She felt sad. In fact she often felt sad, although she was someone who kept it to herself. People saw her as sociable and outgoing – and she was, but she also felt deeply disconnected from everything around her. She lived alone and worked from home. She spent most days not seeing anyone or speaking to anyone. Only at weekends, when she arranged to meet others, and although they were great people, they were surface friends; no deep and meaningful conversations or relationships. It was taking a toll on her and she didn’t know how to change it.

She picked up the little bottle she’d bought at a shop that sold herbs and tinctures. ‘Sun Dust, sprinkle anytime to add a little light in your life.’ She wondered if it was just a sales gimmick. But the shop assistant had assured her it was very real and would bring her what she needed. The assistant had advised her to sprinkle just a few grains of it around her room to brighten up her life, so she took out the cork stopper and sprinkled a little over different areas of the house.

She waited. Nothing happened. Maybe it was a gimmick.

There was a bright flash at her window. Great, lightning, now there was going to be a storm to make the day darker.

Felicity went to the window to watch it but didn’t see any more and there was no rain. The clouds were grey but they didn’t look that heavy. Maybe it was just a random strike.

She went to the kitchen to make some breakfast. She was about to switch on the light when she saw the sun had broken through the clouds here at the back of the house. Yet while she was clearing the dishes out of the kitchen sink she glanced out and saw the clouds were still there, blanketing the sky. It must have been just a brief glimpse.

She looked down into the sink again and saw sun glinting off the chrome of the pans. She frowned. Where was it coming from?

She looked round the room and saw beams of light cutting across the counter. She opened the back door and stepped outside but it was still completely dull and chilly. She came back inside and saw the outline of the window frame cast across the kitchen table as though it was full sunshine outside.

Was it real? Could the Sun Dust be doing that? She couldn’t think what else it could be.

Felicity went out of the kitchen and checked all the rooms she’s sprinkled it in, even upstairs. Sure enough, they were all lit up with invisible sunshine. It was glorious.

She smiled. And when she left her bedroom she felt her feet lift more than usual. When she reached the stairs she floated down them rather than stepped. What was going on?

She kept her hand on the banister, worried she might not be able to stay grounded if she didn’t. But at the bottom she had to let go to get into the lounge, and glided across the floor, plopping down onto the sofa, although it didn’t feel like she was actually touching it.

She giggled at the idea, and then she couldn’t stop and lay there laughing for at least half an hour, not really sure what she was laughing at.  Her sides ached. What was happening? Had the bottle released some kind of laughing gas?

Felicity didn’t know, and no longer cared. She felt good. She hadn’t felt this good in years, in fact not since she last fell in love.

That was it; it felt like falling in love. Only there was just her. But that was okay. She liked that it was just her; she was enjoying herself on her own for the first time ever. She realised she could be happy all by herself. She didn’t need other people to have a good time. She could do things by herself that would make her happy.

The revelation made her want to go for a walk, It didn’t matter it was overcast; it didn’t stop nature being wonderful. She couldn’t wait to get out in it and breathe in the air.

Felicity stepped out of the front door with a big smile on her face. But by the time she reached the road her feet were no longer gliding, the weight of her body had returned. And when she reached the woods she began to wonder what she was doing there. She did, however, enjoy the trees and the smell of the foliage on a dank, cold day.

When she reached the lake in the middle, she saw the ducks and wished she’d brought something to feed them. And although when she returned home less light and happy than she had been, she felt at peace. She knew now what she needed to do.

The Sun Dust might have been the catalyst, but she understood that her sadness was because she kept herself cooped up and didn’t appreciate herself enough, or the outside world she lived in.

She smiled. She’d use the dust again, she knew that, but now she had a deeper understanding that to change her life for the better it started within.  


Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 261

This week's picture prompt was created by The Master Baron on Deviant Art. They call it the Dream Machine. They have a lot of interesting digital imagesm wirtg a browse. 

Took me a while to decide on this one, and it's short but I 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.


A digital image of circle patterns like cogs, wheels and/or bubbles. Some of then look like they are lit up with a gold light. By The Master Baron on Deviant Art

Star Struck

Am I dead?

I must be, right?

That truck just went right over me. It came out of nowhere. I was just looking at that squirrel by the side of the road as I stepped out and, wham!

Unless this is ‘seeing stars’ … but that doesn’t look like stars; that looks like cogs.

But cogs for what?

My brain?

Or are they bubbles?

Lights even?

I’ll just reach out my hand …

Okay, no hands.

No body, just me.

I’m dead.

Or am I dreaming?

Could be dreaming.

Or could this be what is on the ‘other side’ – is this the afterlife?

Well if it is, it’s pretty.

But where are the people? You know all those people who loved you in life and are already dead, like grandparents and such, who come back to meet you and take you through?

It’s all bollocks then, isn’t it? Thought so.

So instead of a bright white light you go through, there are some kind of cogs, or wheels … Or is this space?

Have I drifted up in an ethereal state into the universe? This could be a nebular of some kind. I might have floated into it.

But wow, isn’t it beautiful? Isn’t it wonderful? I feel so elated, so full, so happy?

Is this happiness? Is this what it feels like to feel complete and whole and ‘at peace’?

Am I at peace? I definitely feel it.

I can’t even remember ever feeling different. I can’t remember … well, anything.

I could just stay here and stare into these amazing rotating circles forever.

And I will.

I just want to be here with them. I want to be in them, I want them to be here with me.

I love them. And they love me, right? I can feel it. Like a tangible thing coming through their light.

They do.

I never want to be anywhere else ever again.

There is nowhere else.


Tuesday, 2 August 2022

Review: Elevation by Stephen King

ElevationElevation by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I delayed getting this book, because it's a novella which is being priced at the cost of a novel. This is the publisher's way of making money from the Stephen King Constant Reader and I don't like it - PLUS this book has been padded out with the first three chapters of his next release (The Institute) so I find this particularly scammy. Not a good look for Stephen King OR his publishers.

That said, I'm a lifelong fan of Stephen King's work. I own all his books - The Dark Tower in duplicate (hard and soft covers), so when I started reading this book, the opening was really familiar too me, like I'd read it somewhere before. It follows a similar storyline to Thinner, and the main character also talks in the opening about a doctor and him weighing himself. I wondered if this book was maybe a story Stephen King had written before Thinner and he'd pulled it out of his draw and decided to release it. I'm okay with that, but this one could have gone into a collection.

In terms of the story, it is classic Stephen King. It's been a while since he's brought one out that has this kind of storyline. Something unexplained but yet compelling, with a brilliant ending. His writing has been mixed these last few years, some has even be shockingly bad (Sleeping Beauties), with others going off the rails a bit (The Outsider). It's a light story with well developed characters, and he uses modern day themes like the changing attitude to same sex marriage, based on recent political agendas. It was refreshing, if brief.

I would recommend this one to those that enjoy his writing. But if you can find a second hand copy so you don't have to pay the extortionate price for something so short, I'd urge you to do so - or borrow it from a library.

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Review: Tender Morsels, by Jack Rollins

Tender MorselsTender Morsels by Jack Rollins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my first time reading Jack Rollins' work, and I was not disappointed. This was only a short story, a taste of what's to come - which is within itself a pun on the story within these pages.

This story was drip fed and built tension while setting the scene and giving the reader a chance to get to know the characters. It was set in the Victorian times, in a poor district of London and the dialogue and writing style reflected that.

Knowing it was a dark, horror-filled story I was waiting for the reveal, and it came much subtly than I expected but with full impact right at the end. Just a few simple lines to expose the terrifying truth.

This is not a story for the faint-hearted but those that like their horror dark and not put off by gory. I look forward to reading more.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 260

This week's picture prompt was created by Barath Ganesh from Coimbatore, India. They have some incredible art, definitely worth having a look. They call this one Floating Boat. 

A return to a piece within the word count, AND another Tricky snippet. The last one was Week 257

If you like it then, you can always grab the first book in the series: Dead Lake The second one is due out in September. 

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 empty rowing boat lying on a still lake with a leafy green tree behind it, and a blue sky with fluffy clouds perfectly reflected in the water so the horizon is invisible. Created by Barath Ganesh

Spy

‘What’s this? Why we in a boat?’

‘Safer.’

‘Safer for who? You know I don’t swim.’

‘Both of us. Now shush, this is important otherwise I wouldn’t have brought you here.’

Tricky adjusted her seat and the boat wobbled. Annie clutched the sides.

‘Watch what you’re doing or you’ll have us over!’

‘Annie, stop worrying, we’re safe. It’s not deep water; you could stand in it if you wanted. I just needed to be in another time where we couldn’t be over heard. No one can creep up on us here. What I have to tell you can ONLY be between us!’

‘So it’s not deep water?’ Annie peered over the sides. ‘Looks deep to me. And it’s so still. You can barely tell which way is up.’

Tricky beamed and looked around her. ‘I know, stunning, isn’t it? I love it. It’s amazing how some worlds look. There aren’t many places on the landmass that have areas of water this big, and none of them like this. And not with that sky!’

Tricky leaned back to admire it causing the boat to move. Annie let out a squeal.

‘Stop doing that! Just hurry up and tell me what you need to, so we can go back.’

‘This thing goes deeper that we thought. I think there’s a spy in Tumelo’s house.’

‘Do you know who?’

‘Nope. I’m not even ruling out his wife at this stage.’

‘That bad?’

‘Yep.’

‘What can I do?’

‘Use your guides. Try and find out anything you can, like who we can trust, how we can bring an end to this without chance of others knowing we are onto them.’

‘And you have no suspicions about who it could be?’

‘You know me, I’m suspicious of everyone. But Adric said something that could have ONLY been known by someone who had been in the same room as me and The Baron when I was telling him about his son. I’ve been trying to wrack my brains cuz we had more than one conversation about it, and I can’t remember exactly.’

‘Not his brother? He might have said something to him.’

‘No, Kiros was horrified when his father played that recording to him. There’s no way he would have given anything away to his brother. He knows how vital it is we keep Adric in the dark.’

‘What did Adric say?’

‘He came in all wafty like, pretending butter wouldn’t curdle in that lying mouth of his. He was all ingratiating himself with everyone, doing that silly shy, then flirtatious thing he does. Now I know what a slippery scheming turd he is, it’s like I can see straight through him.’

‘But he knows you know, right? I mean he must do after what happened?’

‘He’s pretending he doesn’t of course, because if there is a spy he must do – and I’m fairly certain there is. But I have to play along as though he doesn’t, just like he is doing. It’s a dance. He’s waiting for me to slip up – but he might just have done that himself. He said, “So tell me Tricky, you know about gemstones, what other qualities do they have? I heard someone say they could even be used to listen in, to record things?”

‘Oh! He definitely knows! Someone has told him!’

‘There’s a chance Dufray told him.’

Annie looked at Tricky, her eyes glazing over for a moment, then she refocused on her. ‘No, no he didn’t. He knows that for sure.’

‘Okay then, there is a spy.’

‘So what now?’

‘Search about, amongst your guides, amongst your feelings, in anything you receive. Help me work out who it is. We need to ‘cause otherwise it’s all for nothing.’

‘Have you shared this with Tumelo?’

‘I know, I need to, but what if … what if …’ Tricky couldn’t quite say it.

‘He’s in on it too? Yes, that would be tricky – even for you.’ 


Wednesday, 20 July 2022

Review: Six! by Mark Cassell

SIX!SIX! by Mark Cassell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thoroughly enjoyed this collection from Mark Cassell. He excels at keeping the reader enthralled, and compells them to turn the page with the dark, tense suspense, and these stories are no exception.

I really enjoyed In Loving Memory, and the idea of what a lightning strike can do. But I think On Set with North was my favourite. True horror at its finest, but definitely not for the faint-hearted or the squeamish. If you like the dark gothic Victorian writing style of the likes of Poe, then The Space Between Spaces is for you. I love it for its otherworldly, dark intrigue.

There's much to enjoy here. This is also a good introduction to Mark Cassell's work, so if you haven't yet tried his dark delights, this is a good starting point before you tackle The Shadow Fabric novel and the myriad stories surrounding the mythos. I can't recommend Mark's writing enough. He has a defined clear style that I really enjoy reading.

View all my reviews

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 259

This week's picture prompt was taken by Richard of Hollins over on twitter. Taken in January this year in Lancashire, England. 

I had an image for this one in my head, but it went much darker than expected and double the word count! But if I cut it off it wouldn't make sense. It needed its end, so it's a short story instead of just a piece of flash. And TW/CW: Sexual Assault/Rape suggested. But not graphic. 

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 out of focus image of a snow laden path across a bridge at night. Ahead is a headlight, which is creating green circular swirling effect. Picture taken by Richard of Hollins

Suspicious

Trisha staggered and almost slipped on the ice. Fuck, this wasn’t good. She could barely see. She’d had a few but not that many. She could see the street lamp on the other side of the bridge, but it felt like everything was spinning; the snow on the ground moving round and round. She took a deep breath and tried opening her eyes wider, but it didn’t help.

She remembered Jamie buying her two beers in Henry’s, but when they’d moved to the Angel, she couldn’t remember how many she’d had. She’d kept pace with the girls so maybe three. At the peacock they’d only had one, because it was almost closing, but down the club she remembered someone bringing them shots. Had someone put something in one?

Trisha heard footsteps behind her. She tried to glance behind, but it unbalanced her and she thought she might fall off her heels. Then she heard voices and realised there was more than one. She tried to hurry up but it was hard walking on semi-hard snow in high heels.

‘You alright, love?’ A deep voice from behind her. She could feel panic rising from her stomach.

‘Yeah, I’m fine thanks.’ She tried to say it in her clearest voice, but knew it sounded slurred.

‘Your Nathan’s sister, aren’t you?’ A different voice. Did she know them?

She glanced back again, but her eyes couldn’t focus properly on their faces.

‘Yeah. He’s my little brother.’

‘I’m Dan. I work with him at Griggs.’

Trisha didn’t know whether this was a good thing or not. It wasn’t a name that rang a bell, but Griggs was a big factory and Nath knew a lot of people.

‘Oh right.’

‘Can we help you get home, love? You seem to be having trouble on this ice.’

‘Yeah, got the wrong shoes on for this stuff that’s for sure.’

The other guy came up on her left side and took her arm and Dan offered his arm on her right. Together they helped her get over the bridge.

She tried to relax and chat to them, but she was still on guard.

‘So who are you then?’ she said to the guy on her left.

‘I’m Craig. Just moved to the area. I work in the lasting room with Dan.’

‘Nath’s your supervisor then?’

‘Yeah, he runs our production line.’

‘So how come you know who I am then?’

‘He pointed you out to us earlier tonight, when you were in the Angel,’ Craig said.

‘Oh right. And he didn’t stay with you then?’

‘No, he said he wasn’t up to the club.’

‘No, Nath’s never been one for the nightclub. Not his scene.’ Trisha thought of how her little brother preferred goth music.

They eventually came out of the park. Trisha’s head was still spinning and she felt like she was losing moments of time, no longer being able to keep track of the conversation they’d been having, but fortunately she lived close by. They were only a few feet from her door when Craig said, ‘So you live by yourself then?’

Trisha didn’t want to answer because of where it might lead, so she lied. ‘Usually yeah, but Nath crashes on the weekends cuz I’m closer than mum and dads. I expect he’s snoring upstairs already.’

‘That’s good then. Not sure you should be left alone in your state,’ he grinned at her.

‘Oi, you cheeky bugger. I’m alright. I know what I’m doing.’

She left them on the road watching her as she walked up the path to her door and fumbled the key into the lock. She was still worried they might try and come in after her, so she opened it a tiny bit and squeezed through, trying to keep them in sight as she did it.

‘Bye then,’ she called.

They both put a hand up to wave goodbye and walked away. She closed the door behind her and put on the chain. Leaning against it, she tried to get her bearings and stop her head from spinning.

She heard movement in the lounge. Her breath caught in her throat. Who the fuck was that?

Then the hallway light was snapped on and her brother’s head appeared at the lounge doorway. He yawned and rubbed his hand in his hair.

‘You alright, Trish? Hope you don’t mind me crashing. I lost my wallet and didn’t have the money to get back home. I fell asleep on the couch.’

She let out a low breath. ‘You scared the shit out of me! Especially after that walk home with your work mates.’

‘Work mates?’

‘Yeah, Dan and Craig. They said they work in the lasting room with you.’

Nathan frowned. ‘Never heard of them. They’re not in my lasting room. You sure they work at Griggs?’

‘They said they were out with you tonight. You pointed me out to them.’

 ‘I was out with Mick. You saw me in the Angel with him.’

Trisha rubbed her head. She had a vague memory of it, but her head wasn’t very clear.

‘You alright, sis?’ Nath stepped towards her and put his hand on her shoulder.

‘I feel really out of it, but I haven’t had more than normal.’

‘You think someone spiked your drink? Maybe those blokes that claim to know me.’

Trish felt herself swoon and fall into her brother and then she blacked out.

When she woke up she was lying on the sofa and sun was coming through the window. She cracked an eye open and saw her brother standing at it, her dad standing next to him.

‘Nath? Dad? What you doing here?’

They both turned round. ‘What do you remember from last night, Trish?’ her dad asked as she approached her and sat down on the edge of the sofa next to her.

She tried to think but her head was fuzzy. ‘Not a lot. Just out with the girls. I felt rough coming home. Oh and some lads helped walked me home.’

‘And no one touched you inappropriately?’

‘What you on about dad?’

Her mum walked into the room with a cup of tea in her hand. ‘Oh good, you’re awake.’

‘Mum! What are you guys doing here?’

‘Nath called us. He was worried about you. Did something happen to you last night?’

‘Why do you all keep asking me that?’

Her mum looked down at her skirt; it was ripped and there was blood on her leg.

‘How did that happen?’

‘You sure we shouldn’t take you up to the hospital and get you checked out?’ Trisha’s dad asked.

She didn’t know. She realised she did feel sore underneath … but when and how? Tears sprang into her eyes. ‘I don’t know dad, maybe that’s a good idea.’

‘Oh Trish, darling.’ Her mum put her arm round her. ‘It’s gonna be alright.’

‘I’m just glad your brother was here,’ her dad said.

‘Me too. When I find out who those blokes are, I’m gonna batter them!’ Nathan said between clenched teeth.

‘Shh now Nath, let’s focus on Trish. Come on darling. Let’s get you up there now, then we can get back and you have a long bath. Maybe come back to ours for a few days.’

Trish had never been so grateful for the support of her family. She wasn’t sure what had happened, or when it had happened, but something had.