Wednesday 26 January 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 236

This week's picture prompt was taken by @dbrereton over on twitter. It was at Swiss Cottage Tube station. .

I've gone a bit edgy with this one. A scary little tale. 

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 London Underground train pulling in or out of the train station (Swiss Cottage). The image is in black and white and blurred slightly. Taken by @dbrereton


She ran down the steps, almost holding her breath, hoping not to fall and break her neck in her high heels. She was desperate to catch the train but it had already begun pulling out as she reached the platform, the last of the carriages passing in a blur as she ran up alongside them.

Myra kept on running, down to the end, where she knew there was a passageway leading through onto the other platform, with trains going in the opposite direction. She didn’t want to go in that direction but she had to get out of their reach.

They’d been on her tail since she had left work; she’d seen them duck behind pillars and turn suddenly as though interested in a shop window, whenever she glanced back, while on her way to the tube station. They’d followed her down the stairs into the underground foyer. She’d caught sight of them as she went through the barriers. And when she had reached the bottom of the escalators she’d seen them getting on at the top, keeping a keen eye on her.

Once she’d turned into the tunnel that led to her line, she’d rushed, moving through the hordes of people also making their way home, trying not to break into a run and become too obvious.

And as she’d turned down the steps to her platform she’d seen them again, their faces looking at her over the shoulder of two other people, who were oblivious to her predicament.

She didn’t know if it was because of the company she worked for or her position, but pharmaceuticals was no longer a benign profession. Every day people were sure you were doing something subversive; that there was another motive behind trying to help people treat and resist disease. And the longer the pandemic had gone on for, the worst it had become; those determined to discredit you or your work would stop and nothing to do so – even physical pain. She didn’t want to be attacked, or worse: kidnapped. The fact it was officially over hadn’t stopped them. Her colleague, Debbie, had disappeared last week and Myra couldn’t rid herself of the thought that she’d been taken.

She looked at the board on the other platform. It was still two minutes until the train in the wrong direction would arrive. She walked down as far as she could, grateful that more people were pouring in. She could go round in a loop if necessary as there was another opening back out, up the stairs, where she could go back down onto the platform going in the right direction. She wasn’t sure if she needed to yet.

One of the seats at the side was available, besides a tall businessman who was engrossed in his phone. She sat down, hunkering a little behind the man, hoping to remain unseen, but she couldn’t settle, leaning back to peep out behind the man, waiting for the men to turn onto this platform too. They didn’t. Maybe they thought she had caught the train.

She heard another train pull in on the other side. It wouldn’t matter if she missed one, as long as they caught it. Did they know where she lived? Would they be at her home when she got there? The thoughts panicked her and she stood up abruptly, unable to sit still.

She decided to do a loop, and took the stairs back up to the tunnel and turned right again back towards her platform. The flow of people was constant and she didn’t see anyone familiar. She cautiously descended the stairs this time, taking her time using the handrail and staying on the right as people overtook her. Would they anticipate this move? Would they still be on the platform? She didn’t know.

She didn’t walk down too far this time, holding back, in case they were down that end. She kept closer than she normally would to other people, trying to stay safe and invisible. She didn’t see them.

A wind started picked up, indicating the approach of a train. She was almost safe. It pulled in, the rattle and screech of the wheels blotting out all other sound. As she stepped towards the edge, she felt people behind her push forward, eager to get on. The train stopped and everyone paused waiting for the doors to open. Then the melee of those getting off while others pushed on released the pressure, and Myra found herself propelled inside to stand by the doors on the opposite side.

There were no seats available at this time of day, and she was quite happy to stand, her back to the doors and other passengers obscuring her. The doors slid shut, and she let out a breath. She’d made it!

People swung and shuffled a bit behind her as the train got underway and she felt someone dig up against. It was only two stops later, when she turned to get off, that she realised it was one of the men. He eyed her and smiled, and she knew she didn’t have a chance.

Wednesday 19 January 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 235

This week's picture prompt is by artist Dan Luvisi over on Deviant Art. He made this for his science fiction book, Last Man Standing: Killbook of a Bounty Hunter - this is the character Hex. I initially only found a picture of the head of this saved, and it is all over the internet as wallpaper with all the colours enhanced, but when I found the entire original, I much preferred it as it offers so much more. Plus, crediting is SO necessary, so that the artist gets recognised and in this case, a fellow writer gets referenced. Sadly it looks like the book is out of print otherwise I would have bought a copy. 

More an opening than a complete piece, and maybe one I will revisit. Not easy to fit so much worldbuilding into a short piece and keep the story moving. 

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 futurist person or robot with a mirrored helmet head that reflects colours, dressed in a black suit, with a tie with lit up symbols on and holding a see through box with three dimensional plants and galaxies in.  Created by Dan Luvisi


Parker loved the anonymity of the new helmet, its one way mirrored effect and oil swirl design. It gave him a second level of security; it not only protected him from the viruses, it kept him safe from those he didn’t want seeing him. He particularly liked it as evening wear.

Partying had become a political affair during the stream of pandemics that had quite literally plagued the early 2020s. The extreme measure in the 2040s to finally bring an end to viruses by banning all social activity had changed the landscape of entertainment. Some had likened it to the prohibition days in America more than a century before, but the enforcement of the new laws had taken it to another level.

Buildings that had housed pubs, cafes and restaurants had been bulldozed or repurposed to provide small, self-contained units for people on low or no income to keep them off the streets and curtail the spread of disease through homelessness. Shopping in person had been banned; everything had to be done online. Shopping centres and shopping malls were turned over to distribution and postal outlets. While sports, music and theatres had taken the hardest hit of all with redevelopment of theatres, stadiums and arenas, repurposing them into housing, distribution depots and call-centres, as well as film studios to provide for the ever growing streaming industry that was now the key form of entertainment for the populace – and the only place where a gathering of people was permitted.

Parker had been born at the tail end of that period in the early 2050s, when they were just beginning to realise that socialising was a necessary evil if the human race was to survive. It had followed a bleak period when death by suicide had been higher than that of the Coronas.

His parents had been part of the entertainment industry which had allowed him an easy entry into a great career option. Acting had come naturally to Parker, and he’d grown up surrounded by famous peers all able to engage in a physical sense unlike the general public. It had given them elite status but had been resented by the people.

And now into the late 2070s, it had also sparked the debate about the return of social venues, being that a few had popped up under the ownership of Parker and his work colleagues. The governing bodies had tolerated them while keeping check on infection numbers, and so now there was talk of more being set up.

Parker thought it was only fair, but it meant going out among the public, something he’d not experienced before, and scared him, especially when there were people who begrudged his existence.

So this new design in headgear was exactly what he needed, and it went perfectly with the special gift he’d bought Finola. He really hoped she would like it. The new found interest in space since the landings on Mars had provided a wide variety of these pretty little 3D gadgets. The projection of swirling planets inside was mesmerising – or so he hoped she would think when he gave it to her.

He was nervous. He’d never given a girl a gift before; he’d never had a relationship get this far. They might share a unit and live their lives together, as those working in virus free bubbles had to do, but this was taking it a step further; this was buying her something personal. It meant he wanted them to become something more.

He straightened the LEDs on his tie and admired the ensemble. Tonight was the night. He could feel it. He hoped she would too.

Tuesday 18 January 2022

Review: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

The Lost ApothecaryThe Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this for my bookclub and found it a compelling read. Written between the present day and the 1700s, this book tells the tale of a female apothecary who helps women resolve problems in their life by using natural ingredients as poisons.

This is a different and unique kind of crime thriller in terms of its storyline, but is written in what is becoming the standard format for all crime novelists at the current time: switching chapters between characters written in first person. It creates a fast pace and keeps the reader reading forward as they are left on cliff hangers.

This story follows an American woman who comes to London on what should have been an anniversary trip with her husband, but after discovering his infidelity she travels alone and rediscovers herself. As her life is unravelling, she unravels the story of a female apothecary back in the 1700s after discovering an object on the banks of the Thames.

Having not been able to go to my hometown, London, for the last two years due to the pandemic, it was nice to revisit some of the area, which was near when I used to work, and see it in my mind's eye again. I enjoyed the character development as it flicked back and forth and eventually crossing over as each step was told in the past and discovered in the present day. I loved the idea that there could still be derelict and hidden buildings in London that contained secrets to be revealed.

For a fast paced read that will pique your curiousity and keep you reading, I definitely recommend it.

View all my reviews

Wednesday 12 January 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 234

This week's picture prompt is another picture from Florence Caplain. She takes really interesting pictures. She calls this one 'caught'. 

I wanted to write something much darker than I have, cuz this picture deserves it, but what came out was more subtle. 

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 showing a close up of a fence post with a piece of barbed wire going through it, lit from behind by a sunset and almost in silhouette. Taken by Florence Caplain

Fenced in

She liked the view at sunset, the way the light fell across the land and coloured the underside of the clouds. She felt free when she looked at it, wide open, as though she could do anything and go anywhere. But she couldn’t.

Carly had come here believing she was starting a new life; joining a community; being part of something special. She’d visited so many times and everyone had been warm and welcoming, chatting to her and making her feel significant to them and their group. And then she’d arrived and that had all changed.

The silence had begun; ignoring her at social gatherings, only talking amongst themselves. They were civil to her, would pass the time of day, but nothing more. They would never drop by or invite her round, except to events where she was expected – oh and she was expected, in fact they were obligatory. If she didn’t show up they were insulted. It was always what suited them. Nothing was hers anymore – not even her own husband.

He would drop everything for anyone in the community, but when she needed his help or support he would dismiss her or tell her she was being dramatic. Like when their baby son was sick and she needed to work. Yes, she worked from home and could be there for him, but she still had a deadline and wasn’t able to keep getting up to tend to him every time he cried. But her husband had an event at one of the many community clubs he was involved in, and went out, telling her to call if she needed him.

And she did, but he didn’t respond to any of her calls or texts. When he did eventually respond, it was three hours later and only a quick message asking if she really needed him to come because it hadn’t finished yet. Again, when she tried to reply, by text or calling, he’d turned his phone off. He turned up just before midnight and she had to work until three in the morning to meet her deadline. He didn’t care. They came first.

There had been rows; there had been unpleasantness, and he’d made it clear she would never leave with their children if she chose to go. It didn’t help that there was nowhere to go to and no money to go with, so Carly had stayed and made the best of it.

She stood in the field at the back of their home, and looked at the fence that ran round it: the barbed wire, the wooden stakes it threaded through. This wasn’t just a fence to keep unwanted animals out, it was a fence keeping her in. She felt like a prisoner in her own life.

Wednesday 5 January 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 233

This week's photo was originally taken by Nucu on DeviantArt, a photographer in Romania. But since their original picture it has been altered and filtered, and spread far and wide on the internet. This is apparently on a beach in Greece - although personally it could be anywhere - including where I am in Holland. 

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 sunset over the ocean with beams of light reflecting up into the clouds, taken from the top of a sand dune with the beach sweeping down to the ocean.

Dusk Dreams

Mandy sat shivering in the dusk light looking down at the beach and the sunset from the top of a sand dune. The last rays of sunlight displayed their magnificent beams as the sun sank into the ocean, getting lower every second.

Mandy had intended to sink lower too. She’d gone in and waded out past the break of the waves, until she was in over her head. Then she’d let herself fall to the bottom. It hadn’t been easy, she’d let the air out bit by bit to get her down onto the seabed. She’d used her arms to hold her there and waited until the last bubble was gone. The pressure had built up, and her arms had gone from rhythmic steadying to panic fluttering, but she hadn’t been able to open her mouth. She just couldn’t talk her body into doing it. She’d rushed back up to the surface and taken in lungfuls of life giving air.  

She’d swum back to shore and flopped down onto the empty beach. And it was so very empty as all beaches were now.

She wondered how many others there were like her; alone and alive. There had to be others scattered about, unable to bring their lives to an end despite there being nothing left to live for – quite literally: no work, no people, no food, no nothing. It had all stopped. With nobody to run anything it would of course. They were all gone. Mandy didn’t know where. One day everyone was there and everything was normal, the next she’d woken to deserted streets. There was only static on the radio and on the television. She had no idea what had happened

She’d driven out of the city and found the same in every town she’d passed through. At first it was a delight, the world her oyster, everything she ever wanted at her fingertips. But now, months on, it was a nightmare, a place of rotting food and starving pets. The beaches were the only place free from it.

And so here she was recovering from another failed attempt to end her existence, maybe the last person to witness a sunset, unsure what to do next.