Divides. A flash fiction.

This is a short fiction I wrote for a Uni subject I completed a while back. Enjoy!

Cheers

Steve 🙂 

Divides. By Stephen Thompson.

My mother is dusting. The feather duster she uses swishes lightly over the mementoes and photo frames on the shelf, cautiously tracing a path through our family history like a ship through a field of ice. I watch intently as motes of dust shimmer in the light, settling to the carpet, knowing this is only a short pause on their journey.

My father reclines in his chair, reading. The air is pungent with the thick fumes of an unfiltered camel cigarette. This is how I will remember him long after he is gone, like a silhouette left on a wall after a nuclear blast, its form as anonymous as the figure who left it.

My wife sits before me. Her eyes are electric drills and I am the timber. I’m staring at the table before us and my apologies fall to the floor along with our shared lives; wood shavings, waiting to be swept away.

My son is sitting on the lounge before his games console, the light from the TV playing over his intent features. I sit beside him, reading, occasionally glancing up to see the interaction of figures on screen. Between the lounge cushions is a yawning chasm.

My girlfriend sits across the table from me, sipping from her cup. My own mug sits before me untouched, the tan creamer an iceberg on a coffee sea. She smiles and I see our separate shadows painted darkly upon the wall behind her. Dust motes reflect the light as they dance prior to landing. The apologies to come are an abyss I must eventually cross.

Advertisements

The Sale. Every Episode!

The Sale was an unplanned, episodic story I wrote for my blog over a six-month period. Following is a complete list of every episode, so you can read in order from the beginning.

Enjoy!

Steve 😊

Part 1 – The Door

Part 2 – The Butler

Part 3 – The Host

Part 4 – The Knife

Part 5 – The Kitchen

Part 6 – The Secret Door

Part 7 – The Bedroom

Part 8 – The Guest

Part 9 – The Ladder

Part 10 – The Basement

Part 11 – The Lab

Part 12 – The Fight

Part 13 – The Maze

Part 14 – The Hall

Part 15 – The Dog

Part 16 – The Climb

Part 17 – The Trapdoor

Part 18 – The Daughter

Part 19 – The Confrontation

Part 20 – The End

PS You may notice a varying tone between episodes; the story changed stylistically as I wrote each instalment, but I think it worked out well, overall.

The Sale. Part 20. The Final Instalment.

The police lights twirled, casting brightly coloured fireflies against the mansion walls. Police wandered back and forth from the house. Everywhere you looked was yellow crime scene tape, cordoning off the building and grounds into their own little worlds where masked crime scene investigators in loose overalls prodded, bagged and played. The rain had stopped and the moon gaped full and garish from behind indifferent clouds.

The main police interviews were yet to come, but there was enough initial discussion when they arrived to realise this was a major case. The media hadn’t taken long to show up, and the street was full of television crews and reporters conversing with tripoded cameras.

Aisha sat beside my gurney after I was loaded into an ambulance. The EMS had triaged me and now joined the driver in the cab.

As the doors closed Aisha smiled and gripped my grimy hand. She’d managed to wash, although her hair was still stringy and matted with dried blood. A large bruise swelled on her left temple. A hefty woollen blanket enclosed her like a shawl.

“Hey,” I said. “You clean up pretty good.”

“As do you. If you like that beaten and bloody, ‘just stitched by the Doctor’ look,” she said, a tear forming at the edge of her eye. We both sniggered, but the act stimulated every cut, bruise and wound on our bodies, forcing us to stop. The suspended IV bag rocked gently back and forth as the ambulance picked up speed on its way to the hospital.

“We made it,” I said.

Aisha sighed. “But what now?”

“Lots of police interviews and stuff, I guess. I’m willing to bet money that Silas had more salespeople buried in his backyard. Could be the story of the year.”

“I meant about us. I don’t know about you, but my head’s screwed up pretty bad.”

I grimaced with the pain of my shoulder and jaw. “I guess we’ll just have to work through it.”

Aisha glanced away, wiping the tears from her eyes. She stared back at me. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“Helping me get out of there, stupid.” She chuckled. Her tears recommenced their race down her cheeks.

“You saved me more times than I did. I’m just glad it’s over.”

Aisha leaned over and hugged me. I yelped from the pain, and she righted herself. “Oops. Sorry.”

“That’s okay,” I said, grinning through the pain. “No sale for either of us, tonight.”

Aisha smiled and held my hand tighter.

* * *

The ambulance driver was a young woman, no older than late teens. Her shoulder-length red hair bobbed as she threw the vehicle into another bend. The blood-stained body of the EMS next to her shifted lazily on the seat, head lolling back and forth with each turn.

“My mother was killed by a vacuum cleaner salesman,” said the driver, emphasising every word through clenched teeth.

The ambulance forged onward. The rain started again, the swollen drops a volley fired at the dark and sullen road ahead.

The End?

Missed earlier instalments? Click here to read more.

What is The Sale?

The Sale was an unplanned, multi-part short story I created to challenge myself as a writer. My intention was to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the issue and continue the story.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoyed my little experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The Sale. Part 19.

The revolver was shaking in Silas’s hand as he pressed it against my skull. Water streamed down his face, mingling with his tears. I closed my eyes tightly. I could hear a rush of breath escape Aisha’s lips.

The hammer clicked. Again. And again. Nothing.

I opened my eyes. Silas was inspecting the weapon, his teeth gritted. He swept the useless pistol at my head, but I rolled away, avoiding the blow.

Aisha screamed, raised her knife and charged the huge fellow. Silas didn’t miss this time, clocking her above the temple and sending her stumbling and stunned to the grass. I tackled the big man’s legs and he gave way. As Silas hit the ground I started crawling my way up his body, but a well-placed shoe heel hit me directly in the mouth and knocked me off. I could taste salt and iron as sweat and blood mingled with saliva. I spat and rolled across the lawn away from him.

Silas climbed to his feet, the butt of the revolver in his hand, cursing and crying. Soaked with rain, he looked like a giant silhouetted scarecrow against the whitewashed house wall.

“Junifer,” he sobbed. “My Junifer…”

I kneeled next to Aisha, who groaned and held her temple. Her face was painted in blood, her hair hanging in strings down her back and chest. I grabbed the knife from the grass beside her.

“Give it up, Silas,” I said. “You can’t stop us now.” I rose up, bent over in pain, shaking from exhaustion and blood loss. “We’re going to the police. Your little house of horrors is done.” I smiled at the melodrama of it all.

“No,” he replied with a grimace. “It’s you who’s done.” He ran at me, flailing the pistol butt as he did. We connected. We both fell. Silas grunted.

“Nicely played,” he said, wheezing. The knife hilt extended from Silas’s chest—he gasped for breath as a murky blood stain grew beneath his shirt. Then he was silent.

Aisha clawed her way over to where I had fallen. “John,” she whispered, the drumbeat of rain punctuating her words. “Is it over?”

I lay my head back as she placed hers on my chest. “It better be,” I said. “I don’t think I can get up.” The rain continued its obsessive caterwauling on our shivering bodies. Aisha and I laughed; the manic laugh of insane asylum inmates, just prior to admission.

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here to read more.

What is The Sale?

The Sale is an unplanned, multi-part short story I created to challenge myself as a writer. My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the issue and continue the story.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my little experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The Sale. Part 18.

Junifer Vasilikov limped closer. In the moonlight we could make out a ghastly, bloody smear covering her features. Her hands were empty. “My mother was killed by a vacuum cleaner,” she said, wearily.

Aisha leapt to her feet, knife at the ready. I stood up and we faced Crazy Junifer, together. I raised my hands in a conciliatory gesture.

“Junifer,” I said. “We don’t want any trouble. We just want to leave this place.”

The mad woman’s eyes were wide, her tears mingling with dewy raindrops. Every few moments she would quirkily brush her hand across her wet, stringy hair, as if something annoyed her there.

“My mother…” she said, the words almost a whisper. Junifer lowered her head. She stood trembling.

“Junifer,” said Aisha. “Please let us go.” She lowered the knife to her side and extended a shaky hand.

Junifer sobbed. The light rain was drizzling, now, and our clothes were wet through. Aisha looked at me sadly, indicating to go around the poor woman. I stepped to the right.

Crazy Junifer leapt forward, screaming like a banshee and clutching at Aisha. The two grappled, twisting around as I watched in abject horror. Then Aisha pushed Junifer away.

A trip. A scream. A nauseating crunch. Junifer had fallen down the open hatch next to the house.

Aisha stood in shock. “I didn’t mean to—is she?”

I knelt and glanced over the rim. At the bottom of the ladder, Junifer’s body was twisted, broken and deathly still. A pool of blood grew around her as I watched.

The rain’s intensity had increased, the sound of each drop a hammer beat on the mansion’s roof and walls.

“NO!” screamed Silas. I looked up; he was standing over me. He must have come around from the front of the house. His face was a contorted cacophony of pain and rage. Watery rivulets cascaded down his forehead and cheeks. His eyes were wide with fury.

“I’ll kill you,” Silas screamed.

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here to read more.

What is The Sale?

The Sale is an unplanned, multi-part short story I created to challenge myself as a writer. My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the issue and continue the story.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my little experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The Sale. Part 17.

The climb down was a blur of motion and fear. The air was musty, mouldy and laced with the smell of our sweat-soaked and angst-ridden bodies. At the bottom of the ladder, we stood before the exit panel to the basement storeroom. Aisha gripped the knife tightly, ready to stab anyone who might be waiting on the other side. In the gleam of the flashlight, her bruised and bloodied face was contorted and twisted in a psychotic melange. My expression wasn’t much better. In our torn and dirty clothes, we resembled vagrants without a street corner.

The storeroom was bright. Both exit doors were open. We cautiously tiptoed to the lab entrance. On the floor were smeared blood and strands of sticky hair—the remnants of the fight with Junifer. Her body was nowhere to be found.

The lab was as it was before, less Silas and his omnipresent revolver: the steel tables with built in restraints angled at forty-five degrees; the sideboards filled with test tubes and equipment; an array of vicious looking implements obviously designed for torture; the ever-present smell of antiseptic. I searched the room while Aisha stood watch at the doorway. There were no guns, but in the rear, in a space behind an aluminium storage cupboard, a steel ladder to a trapdoor in the ceiling.

“Aisha,” I called. “I’ve found a way out.” I blinked back a tear, palpable relief in my voice.

She ran over. “Go,” she said. “I’ll be right behind you.” We hugged shakily; the pain of our wounds was sneaking back now the adrenaline was wearing off.

I climbed. At the top the hatch was locked with a simple sliding bolt. It worked it loose and pushed the trapdoor upwards.

Fresh air licked my face. A light rain dusted the grass as I stumbled over the rim into the dark night. I fell to the ground. The moon reflected off the whitewashed house wall behind me. Aisha collapsed next to me. “We’re finally out,” she said.

A twig cracked.

A dark figure stood several feet away, silhouetted against the moon, long hair flitting like Medusa’s snakes in the breeze. Each word it spoke was emphasised through clenched teeth. “My-mother-was-killed-by-a-vacuum-cleaner,” said Crazy Junifer.

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here to read more.

What is The Sale?

The Sale is an unplanned, multi-part short story I created to challenge myself as a writer. My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the issue and continue the story.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my little experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The Sale. Part 16.

At the top of the stairs, another corridor: four sets of doors, two on each side. Aisha smiled grimly. “I know this part of the house. The bedroom I hid in is the last door on the left.”

“The secret passage,” I said. “We can take the ladder down to the pantry and double back around behind Silas. We’ll be closer to the entry.”

There was a crash as the door at the bottom of the stairs slammed open. “Come back here!” screamed the aging butler/mad scientist/serial killer. A bullet impaled the frame next to me. Aisha and I rushed through the door she indicated and shut it behind us. We grabbed the dresser and dragged it to block the doorway.

The room was much as we’d left it. The panel of the secret passage stood open across from the antique four poster bed Aisha had lain under for a day.

The entry door rattled against the dresser, Silas cursing as he pushed. We ran for the passage, closing the panel behind us.

“We have to move quickly,” said Aisha. “Or Silas will work out what we’re up to and be down in the pantry before we get there.” We moved hurriedly through the tight and musty passage, my flashlight beam reflecting off floating dust motes and stringy, hanging cobwebs.

“Then let’s go down to the basement. He won’t be expecting that,” I said.

“Are you crazy? Last time we did that, we almost got killed.”

“We might be able to find a weapon.”

“I seem to remember you saying something similar last time. And we have a knife, now.”

“I was thinking more like a gun.”

“I’m sure Silas leaves AK-47s lying around everywhere,” Aisha said, raising an eyebrow. “If we do find something, I hope your shooting isn’t as bad as your throwing.”

“Hey, it was a heavy flashlight.” I paused and grinned. “If we get a gun, maybe you should handle it.”

Aisha’s strained laugh died as we reached the top of the stainless-steel ladder. I went down first, shoulder pain searing with every movement, gripping the Maglite in my mouth.

“I don’t want to even think about how bad this could turn out,” Aisha said.

I mumbled unintelligibly and kept climbing down.

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here to read more.

What is The Sale?

The Sale is an unplanned, multi-part short story I created to challenge myself as a writer. My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the issue and continue the story.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my little experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The Sale. Part 15.

Aisha and I swore simultaneously.

Silas gestured to his slavering doberman, straining at the chain he held. “This is Goering,” he said. “I think he would like to make your acquaintance.” He unleashed the beast and it catapulted down the hallway, chain flailing behind.

Aisha and I ran back through the doorway we had exited. Further down the corridor on the left was the entrance to the maze below, at the far end was the other door. We bolted as the dog barked and bounded after us.

Goering caught me about five feet from the end door, its weight knocking me to the floor, teeth finding their mark in my wounded shoulder. I screamed as it tore into the already-bloodied flesh. Aisha stabbed the dog, which yelped and turned to attack her. I have to hand it to the girl, she’s a psychotic when she wants to be. The knife was a flurry of movement as blood and canine yelps filled the air. The doberman dropped at the same time I rose to grab the doorknob.

A bullet cracked the wall next to my head. “How dare you kill my dog!” screamed Silas, running toward us, revolver raised.

Aisha and I leapt through the entry, slamming the wooden door behind us and ducking as bullet shots punctured the panels. I clicked the lock on the doorknob, and we glanced at the stairwell behind us. Stairs headed up to the second story we’d visited earlier in the night. Silas was swearing and straining at the handle on the other side of the door. It wouldn’t be long before he produced a key or shot the lock.

Aisha and I took the stairs, blood from my shoulder trailing behind me as we ran.

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here to read more.

What is The Sale?

The Sale is an unplanned, multi-part short story I created to challenge myself as a writer. My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the issue and continue the story.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my little experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The Sale. Part 14.

My fingertips were worn from scraping constantly against the inner wall, tracing our way through the maze. The electric bulbs in the stone and earth ceiling flickered dimly and our shadows gently danced on the surrounding walls as we stumbled on.

My right shoulder lanced with pain every time I jarred it. Every thirty minutes or so Aisha would rip another piece of cloth from the bottom of her tie-dye dress, remove the old dressing and apply a new one to the wound where the bullet had passed through. Her face and arms were a mess of bruises and scratches from the fist fight with Crazy Junifer. Aisha held the knife she had taken from Junifer at the ready and I gripped my Maglite like a club; we were both a little twitchy. Occasionally, we would glance at how dirty, dishevelled and drained we were and laugh. What else could we do?

Finally we found another door. It was steel, much like the one on the lab/torture room, but unlike that one, had a regular handle and no lock. I leaned against the wall, breathing a sigh of relief.

“Ready?” I said. Aisha smiled grimly, nodded and took position beside me.

I pulled the door open. Beyond was a set of wooden stairs leading upwards. Aisha and I hugged and laughed. We took the stairs slowly, the slats creaking with each step. At the top was a conventional timber door with a standard doorknob.

Aisha opened it quietly and glanced into the hall beyond. “We’re back in the house,” she whispered. We exited into the unfamiliar hallway, lit by small glass chandeliers in the ceiling; the door we opened was in the middle of the corridor, with single doors at either end.

“Where to, now?” I said.

Aisha shrugged, gestured eeny-meeny-miny-moe, ending on the left door. I grinned. We tiptoed to the door, and Aisha opened it slowly.

It was the main hall that led to the lounge, kitchen and front reception, where all this had started.

And standing at the far end was Silas, still dressed in his lab coat, his snub-nosed revolver held at waist height. By his side, restrained with a chain Silas held firmly, was a huge, growling and salivating Doberman.

“We really have to stop meeting like this,” Silas said.

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here to read more.

So, What Is The Sale?

The Sale is an unplanned, multi-part short story I created to challenge myself as a writer. My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliffhanger, then work out how to solve the issue and continue the story.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my little experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The Wait. A short tale.

She waited as he wasted away.

She watched and pined. He watched as well; sometimes TV, sometimes her.

She fed him hand-to-mouth. Eventually he refused to eat. As he grew thinner, the drip in his arm pulsed like a marathon runner, sucking exhausted breaths as it neared the finish line.

He smiled painfully. She did, too.

She cried when he slept–never when he was awake. Her tears fell gently on the back of his hand, where they ran off the edge in random segues before fading away with nary a whisper.

She knew when the day arrived. There was no announcement, no symbolic continuous beep on the machine, like on TV. She just knew. So did he.

They held hands.

She waited as he went away.

 

If you would like to read more of my flash fiction, click here.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The Sale. Part 13.

As Aisha and I ran down the underground corridor, squinting in the dim light, we heard a voice crackling from an old wooden speaker box on the wall. It was Silas.

“You can’t escape you know.”

We darted to the passage’s end. A blank wall. Backtracked to an intersection. Ran right.

“I had the tunnels built like a maze for just this reason.”

Another dead end. Aisha swore. “How do we get out of this insane asylum?” she cried. We backtracked to an earlier junction and took a left.

Silas continued, his voice echoing through the stone halls from various speakers. “I’ve been doing this for years, you know. And I haven’t lost a victim—that is, a subject—yet.”

“I guess we’re going to have to hear his monologue after all,” I said.

Silas talked as we ran down more corridors, hoping to find a way out. “I’m not happy about what you did to poor Junifer. She suffers from mental illness, you know. You took advantage of her condition.”

Aisha and I stopped at a cross junction. The tunnels went four ways. We gathered our breath. We hugged each other. Silas’s eerie ventriloquism continued. “Her mother suffered from the same condition, you know. I tried to help Junifer as best I could. But my experimental treatment was ineffective. So, I set her up as the mistress of this house. Only the best for my daughter.”

“She’s his daughter?” said Aisha. “That explains a lot.”

“Let’s go,” I said. I placed my hand on one wall and we jogged along, my fingertips always keeping contact. At the end, instead of retracing our footsteps, I kept my fingers on the wall and followed it around until I was next to the opposite wall. “This will take a long time, but eventually we’ll get out. As long as we follow the walls, rather than the floors.”

Aisha nodded and smiled. “So, what were you, John? A boy scout?”

“Just call me the ‘labyrinth lord’.”

Aisha rolled her eyes. We moved on.

 

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here to read more.

The Sale. Part 12.

My hands were in the air and so was the rock-solid Maglite flashlight. Silas was watching the Mexican standoff in the store room where crazy woman Junifer had confronted Aisha.

I threw the torch as hard as I could. It was a crappy throw. The flashlight hit Silas in the side, surprising him more than hurting him. He fired his revolver. The bullet struck me high in the right shoulder, piercing the flesh, ricocheting off the bone and exiting at the side. I yelped and fell back against the laboratory wall.

Aisha and Junifer were both looking into the lab, now. I folded around the door frame into the store room and collapsed next to Aisha’s leg, clutching my shoulder, swearing. There was a fair bit of blood and whole lot of pain. I squeezed my eyes tight and clutched at my shoulder in agony.

“Junifer,” cried Silas. “Kill him.”

At this point I realised he meant me, stopped wincing and got to my feet. Junifer charged me, knife raised and pinned me to the store room wall. I held her back as she screamed like a wild woman, spittle spraying in my face.

Aisha, obviously smarter than me, pulled the lab door shut, grabbed her dropped flashlight and firmly struck Junifer over the back of the head. Unlike in the movies, a good crack on the head with a solid object rarely knocks people out. It does, however, really hurt.

Junifer, distracted now, turned to face Aisha and menaced her with the knife while holding her bloody skull. I grabbed the door handle as Silas made it to the other side. Despite his bulk, he wasn’t as strong as me and couldn’t get it open with me holding the handle this side. Not for want of trying. As we pulled back and forth it almost resembled a child’s game. Aside from the blood, language and strain on our faces, that is.

Aisha was struggling with Junifer on the floor. The knife lay spinning beside them. The girls were scratching, biting and generally doing all the things that make women’s fights so nasty.

“Hit her,” screamed Aisha.

“Would you like to hold this while I do that?” I cried, as the door pumped open and shut in my tug of war with Silas. I really didn’t want to hit Junifer, no matter how crazy she was. My mother had taught me never to lay a hand on a woman. But this was life or death. As they rolled closer to me, I kicked Junifer hard in the skull. She rolled off Aisha onto the floor, writhing slowly, clutching her bleeding head, sobbing quietly. For a moment I was sympathetic. But only for a moment. We still had a gun-toting torturer on the other side of the lab door to deal with.

Aisha was a mess, scratched and bruised. We were both sweat-soaked, dishevelled, drawn and bloody. She grabbed the knife and held the store room door open. “Come on,” she said.

I pulled hard on the lab door until it clicked. Then I let go of the handle and bolted after Aisha as she leapt through the store room doorway. We were in a narrow corridor with rough, rock hewn walls, illuminated by feeble electric bulbs every ten feet or so.

We ran.

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here to read more.

The Sale. Part 11. A short series.

Aisha froze and dropped her phone. The screen cracked on the concrete floor as it bounced at her feet.

Across the large, concrete-walled room was Silas, the aged and insensitively tall butler. He was no longer dressed in his servant togs, having changed to a white lab coat and matching trousers, and accessorising with a .38 snub-nosed revolver. Pointing right at Aisha.

Being only partly cowardly, I rushed in front to shield her. Having done so I realised perhaps it wasn’t the wisest course of action. My eyes widened. “What the…”

“Indeed, John,” said Silas, smiling like a James Bond villain. “No need for subterfuge, now. Welcome to my laboratory.” He swept his arm theatrically. Behind him, tables with assorted test tubes and other devices; some impressive looking metal tables with restraints, angled at forty five degrees (for easy access, I assume); various nasty looking serrated tools (for easy torture, I assume). The air smelled faintly of antiseptic. Aisha swore.

“You’re probably wondering what all this is about,” said Silas.

Aisha smacked her forehead with her open palm. “Don’t tell me he’s going to soliloquise.”

“Every good villain needs to outline their plan,” said Silas, smiling broadly.

“Screw that,” said Aisha. She ran back into the store room to the other metal door. I stood there stupidly with my hands up. Silas removed a clicker from his pocket and hit the button.

There was a buzz from the handle-less storeroom door we’d checked out earlier and a mechanical whirring of gears. The door slowly opened.

“My mother was killed by a vacuum cleaner.”

Wild-haired and wilder-eyed Junifer Vasilikov stood in the open doorway, the gleaming butcher’s knife extending from her white-knuckled grip. Aisha backed up until she bumped into me from behind.

“I’m open to ideas at this point,” she said.

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here to read more.

The Sale. Part 10. A short series.

Climbing down the ladder we came to the ground floor, with the passage leading to the pantry. “Should we stop here?” said Aisha, taking the iPhone out of her mouth and shining the torch light up the dingy corridor.

“I really think we need to check out the basement.” I tapped my foot impatiently on the rung above her head. “We don’t know if Crazy Junifer is waiting in the kitchen.”

Aisha looked up at me and frowned. “She could be anywhere.”

“Can we just get going? The faster we get to the basement the faster we can get out of here.”

Aisha started moving downwards again, her iPhone back between her teeth. I could hear her mumbling in the dimness. Within a few minutes she had reached the bottom and lowered herself to the floor. I came down after her.

“How’s the phone charge?” I said.

Aisha checked. “Not good. It’s down to 22%. That torch app uses a lot of power.”

“We need to find another light source. There must be a light switch somewhere.”

The basement was larger than expected, maybe thirty feet to a side. The light from the iPhone pierced the darkness, revealing numerous crates and boxes stacked against the walls, along with what looked like furniture under dust sheets. The ladder was at the centre of one wall. Directly across the room were two doors on separate walls. I could just make out what looked like a light switch near the first door.

We walked over. The door was made of steel, with thick bolts rimming the edges. There was no door handle. “Well that’s just perfect,” said Aisha.

I flicked on the light switch. A neon globe sprung to life in the ceiling. “Let there be light,” I said.

“I hope you’re a better salesman than you are a comedian,” said Aisha. She checked her phone for signal (none), then switched it off to save the battery. I pushed on the door, but it didn’t give.

“All right, mister ‘let’s check out the basement so we can get out’, what now?” said Aisha.

I started checking the boxes. After opening a few, success. “Flashlights,” I said, holding aloft two medium-sized Maglites. I tested each and tossed one to Aisha. “Just in case.”

She was standing at the second door. It was the same make as the other, but had a handle. “Looks like we can either try this, or go back up the ladder and try the pantry,” she said.

I walked over, smiling. “My vote’s to try that one. This house can’t get any worse, can it?”

Aisha shrugged. She opened the door.

Then things got worse.
To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here to read more.

The Sale. Part 9. A short series.

We made it to the floor access. The iPhone torch light reflected off the shiny ladder, floating dust motes and hanging cobwebs.

“We’re going down there?” said Aisha. Her face wrinkled in dismay. “I don’t know. It’s bad enough I’m in a dark passage with some stranger…”

I slapped my forehead. “Oh, sorry. I’m John. Forgot to introduce myself.”

“That’s because you were too busy screaming like a little old lady.”

“Yes, well we can’t all be heroes, can we?”

“You’re also a hog.” She snatched the cellphone away and shone its light down the ladder recess. “So we have to go down there?”

“It leads to the pantry and further down to the basement. There may be a cellar door we can get out.”

“And who made you the leader?”

I rolled my eyes. “I just want to get out of this house.” I sighed. “All I wanted to do was sell a vacuum to the lady.”

Aisha guffawed. “You’re a vacuum cleaner salesman? What, you couldn’t find a real job?”

“I’ll have you know I’m pretty good at my job. Now if you’ve finished humiliating me…”

She wiped tears from her eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m in sales, too. I sell make-up packages.”

It was my turn to laugh. She crossed her arms and frowned. “I make a good living, thank you very much.”

On cue, I stopped. “Well, I guess we’ve both been put in our places.” An uncomfortably pregnant pause followed while we assessed the state of our lives and our current predicament.

“This Vasilikov woman must be luring salespeople,” said Aisha.

“Maybe,” I said. “But something doesn’t feel right. I only away because Silas—the butler—led me here. Then he disappeared. Plus, the ladder is stainless steel, but the butler said the passages and the house were here since the Civil War, so the original ladder much have been replaced at some point. It doesn’t add up.”

“The butler helped you? I had to find my own way through this freak show house. If I hadn’t run upstairs and hid under the bed, I don’t know what would have happened. That butler was gone as soon as Vasilikov came at me with the knife.”

“Like I said, it’s suspicious.” I pointed to the top of the ladder. “Going down?” Aisha nodded.

“Ladies before gentleman,” I said.

“You’re no gentleman,” mumbled Aisha as she climbed down the ladder, iPhone in mouth.

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here to read more.

The Sale. Part 8. A short story.

I flung myself off the bed, seeking to extricate my lower leg from whatever was grabbing it. My effeminate scream echoed through the room.

“Oh, shut up,” cried a female voice from below. My leg was released and I huddled against the wall under the shuttered window. An attractive African-American woman in her mid-20’s pulled herself from under the bed and stood. She was dishevelled, dressed in what looked like a tie-dyed hippie dress.

“Who are you?” I said, eyes wide in disbelief.

“I’m Aisha,” said the woman, smiling. “Sorry I scared you. You scream like a girl, you know.”

I rose, looking suitably miffed. “What the hell were you doing under that bed?”

“Hiding from the crazy woman,” said Aisha. “I guess you’ve met her, otherwise you wouldn’t have reacted like you did.”

I relaxed somewhat. “How did you get here?”

“Long story,” she said. “But we need to move, because your girly screams have probably informed  her where we are.” She paused to look me up and down. “I don’t suppose you have a gun or a knife on you? All I’ve got is my cellphone. I can’t get a damn signal, though.”

I deadpanned. “Yeah, I’ve got a few knives tucked into my shoe and a machete down my underwear for just such an occasion.” She rolled her eyes.

“Can I see the phone?” I said. She hesitated, then handed it to me to inspect. It was an iPhone with about 50% charge left. No phone bars, no reception. Strangely, no internet either.

It was at this moment that I realised Silas the butler was nowhere to be seen. The secret door was still open, but he had disappeared. My brow furrowed and I raised an eyebrow, Spock-style.

“There’s a secret passage over there,” I said. “You can tell me your story as we go.” I walked to the opening.

“That’s my phone, you know.”

“There’s no light in the passageway. I need it to see where we’re going.”

Aisha seemed to be in two minds, but decided to follow. “I hope to God you’re not some serial killer.”

“Can’t be worse than Junifer Vasilikov,” I replied. I clicked on the phone’s torch app and climbed into the passageway.

“Is that her name? So she’s some Russian chick?” said Aisha, following. I slid the wood panel into place.

“I guess so. Hey, you didn’t notice the butler standing at the passageway entry a few minutes ago did you?”

“No, I only saw your legs.” Aisha noticed how dank and dirty the corridor was. “Hey, you better not be leading me into trouble. I’ve been hiding safely since last night.”

“You seem pretty okay for someone who’s been hiding out in a strange house for 24 hours.”

“I carry lots of snacks. I’m more annoyed about no internet. You know how dull it can get under a bed?”

To be continued…

Missed the earlier instalments? Click here.

The Sale. Part 7. A short story.

The musty corridor receded into the darkness. Silas, holding his lighter aloft, turned and beckoned me to follow. I trailed him as he crept forward, sweeping dusty cobwebs from the way as he went.

Before long we came to a ladder marking the end of the passage. It led up into the dark and down through a square-cut hole in the floor to the depths below. “We have a choice, sir,” said Silas, glancing up and down. “Which way do you suggest?”

I eyed the ladder, touching the rungs gingerly; they were cold, metallic. “This ladder is made of metal. And it’s not rusted.”

Silas peered more closely. “So it is, sir.”

“Looks like stainless steel,” I said. “Not the sort of material available in Civil War days.”

“Curious. Perhaps it was added at some later date.”

Something wasn’t adding up here. “I don’t even want to think about what’s below this house. Let’s go up.”

“After you, sir.”

I  smiled. “No, I insist. After you.”

Silas climbed creakily up the ladder, awkwardly cradling his lit lighter as he did. He climbed more slowly than he walked, each rung a superhuman effort. I started up after him.

Eventually Silas reached the floor above: another dim, mouldy corridor receding left and right. More cobwebs. I pulled myself up and stood beside him (his prodigious height made me feel like a dwarf).

“So many choices, sir.” He smiled, showing whitened teeth.

“There must be a way out somewhere,” I said. “Let’s try left.”

The left corridor ended after twenty feet. “It’s the back of a secret door, sir.” Of course it was the back of a secret door. What else would I expect to find in this crazy house?

“I can’t hear anything, sir.”

“Then let’s get out of here.”

The door opened into a master bedroom, illuminated from above by a chandelier. It was lavishly appointed (if a bit old and worn) with a four-poster bed, antique cupboards and dresser, with floors of  polished wood. I slipped over and tried one of the windows. It slid open, but the shutters beyond wouldn’t budge. “The shutters are jammed.” I tried another. Same thing. “This one, too. What the hell is going on here?”

Silas looked suitably vacant. “I’m not sure, sir.”

I sat on the edge of the bed. “How am I going to get out of here?”

Cold fingers grabbed my lower leg. I screamed.

To be continued…

Sucker Punch. A short tale.

Here is another piece I wrote for a recent course that is now finished, so I’m free to post it.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

punch

I feel the fist as it hits me hard in the jaw. My head shakes violently; I hear the soft crack at my jawline and a seeping pain overwhelms my thoughts. I stumble sideways, my arms up, guarding my skull. His blows come in a flurry, faster now but imprecise, attempting to break through my defences. At times, he varies his attacks, all of them with self-righteous fury but a lack of finesse and no other purpose than to pummel me into submission.

I feel his knuckles crunch my nose, sharp pain smashing straight through and my skull snapping back and forth like a bobble head on a spring. It gives him an opening and he smacks the side of my head just below my brow, where a ring he is wearing cuts deep. Blood flows freely, down through my eye (sticky, stinging), down my face, along my neck and soaking into my shirt collar. I stumble, my vision blurring, arms still up and aching from bruises that seem to echo through my bones.

Time has slowed, and I sense others pulling him back as I fall to my knees. I’m lucky. At this point he could have taken me out, killed me if he wanted. My mind is adrift in a haze of shapes and motion and as darkness closes in I barely feel the pavement as it greets me with one last sucker punch.

Copyright Means Rent.

This was a submission for a uni course I recently finished, answering a question about Australian copyright law.  I included Alpha Girl and Beta Max because copyright law is pretty dry, and I don’t actually say that much about it here.

When I undertake university courses I see questions like this all the time, and think to myself “I’ve just read the subject matter, do you want me to parrot it back?” Perhaps I’m being a bit petulant, because I know we have to demonstrate that we have a working knowledge. So, rant over.

It is vitally important that authors today (or their agent, if they wish to employ one), have a working knowledge of the legalities of copyright and contracts. I know in some of my previous posts I have facetiously commented that “I’m lazy and would rather have the agent do the work on the legal stuff”, or words to that effect. Reading the week 8 study guide notes sparked my interest, calling to mind my times working in public policy, interpreting and clarifying legislation.

(“Did you just say you worked in policy?” says Alpha Girl, torn away from her magazine and ongoing role as permanent lounge fixture. “I thought you were too stupid to work anywhere—isn’t that why you laze around the house writing blogs all day, instead of getting a real job?”) 

Knowing your rights as an author in terms of the publishing, sales of rights and distribution of royalties are important to ensure you aren’t ripped off, for want of a better term.

(“You’ve been ripping me off for a while, now,” says Alpha Girl, under her breath. “I know ‘writing’ is your excuse not to pay more rent.”

“I can still hear you,” I reply.)

I found the section on What copyright covers interesting. Plagiarism is something that we are constantly reminded of as students, and I like to know that my own work is protected just as others are. Moral Rights and Fair Dealing (along with PLR and ELR) were aspects I wasn’t familiar with prior to reading the guide.

I found the most interesting section to be the Author Contract, and could see why the author’s (and/or his agent’s) knowledge of the contractual process could be so important – not only in regards to retaining rights in international territories, but also to include clauses on remaindered works to ensure options for buying old stock (as no royalties are available on them), Scope and Quality (the power of knockback!) and Subsidiary Rights (on-selling rights into other media).

(Beta Max bounds in after a hard day at work and equally hard session at the pub. He smells of stale sweat, alcohol and Winfields.

“What you working on, bro?” he says, staring over my shoulder as he opens a beer can.

“Copyright law,” I reply. He switches off, leaps over the back of the lounge and plants his butt on the cushions, spilling beer in the process; we both laugh. Alpha Girl scolds him with her rolled-up magazine.

“So, does that mean you’ll make money from your writing, now,” she says, scowling at Beta Max all the while.

“It means I know about contracts and protecting my work, just in case I get signed as an author,” I reply.

“So much for extra rent,” she says, rolling her eyes.)

The Sale. Part 6. A short story.

I pushed off the door and bolted to the pantry, glimpsing back briefly to see the flame-haired mistress of the blade standing in the frame as the door swung open and hit the wall.

The pantry was bigger than I expected, a central corridor lined with shelves of food products—more like a mini-market than a larder. The old butler was beckoning from a shadowy open space at the end. I ran and dived in. He slammed the door shut behind me. It was black as pitch for a moment, until I heard the click of a zippo and a small flame illuminated his ghoulish features.

“We’re safe for the moment, sir,” he said. “I’ve locked it.”

As if on cue, the sound of knife striking woodwork. The butler jumped. “Just to be safe, perhaps we’d better move on.”

I got up, dusted myself off and looked around. The flame from the lighter didn’t provide much illumination. The corridor was the width of a small closet, and extended away into the darkness. Dust coated every surface, and cobwebs hung low from the ceiling. The smell of mould and wood rot assaulted my nostrils.

The sound of battering from the door ceased.

“She’s stopped,” I whispered.

“If I know the mistress, she’s thinking of another way,” he replied. “She’s always been quite dogmatic in her pursuits.”

“She does this often?” I said, looking up at him (still an imposing figure, even at his age). “Look, I’m sorry I didn’t introduce myself earlier. I’m John.”

He shook my hand warmly, a strong and faintly sweaty grip. “Pleasure to meet you, sir. I am Silas. I have been the butler of this residence for over fifty years. Mistress Junifer Vasilikov is the latest in the long line of tenants to occupy it.” A pause for effect. “And possibly the maddest.”

Silas smiled, and pointed down the murky corridor. “Now, I think we had better get a move on. I’m sure Mistress Junifer will be back soon.”

As he languidly hobbled away, I glimpsed back at the sealed secret door. Stuck in a dim, dank corridor with an old guy and a lighter. I guessed I wouldn’t be making a sale tonight…

To be continued…

The Sale. Part 5. A short story.

I ran.

The old butler had a head start into the corridor, but he was shuffling at such an antiquated pace I easily overtook him.

I glanced back at the mad woman approaching from the living room, knife flashing in time to each stride. “Where?” I yelled, manically.

“The kitchen, sir,” he replied, pointing a gnarled digit to the door opposite.

I rushed inside and waited for him to catch up, which he did just as the crazy lady exited the lounge room. “My mother was killed by a vacuum cleaner,” she cried, stabbing the knife into the outside of the door as it slammed shut.

The butler and I had our backs to the door. We could hear the mistress of the house wantonly assaulting the woodwork. The kitchen was spacious, with old fashioned appliances, a solid oak island and a large open pantry off to the right. No other exits. “Suggestions?” I said.

“If you hold the door, sir, I will do some investigation.” As he removed his considerable weight to toddle off to the pantry, the mad woman got some purchase and started pushing harder. The narrow gap between door and frame was a combat zone in miniature.

“Why did you invite me in if you knew she had such an issue with vacuums?” I yelled after him. “My mother was killed by a vacuum cleaner!” came a muffled reminder from beyond the door.

The butler’s wizened head poked out of the pantry. “I’m so sorry, sir. My memory’s not what it used to be.”

I rolled my eyes and put my shoulder into the door, reducing some of her progress. The butler stuck his head out again. “I have found a solution to our quandary, sir. There is a secret door in the pantry.”

I looked at him, dumbfounded. “A secret door? What is this place, a gothic castle? Who has secret doors in their pantries?”

“I believe it was left over from the days of the Civil War, sir.”

“So how do I get to this secret door?”

“You’ll have to run.”

“But she’ll get in!”

“I hope you’re a fast runner, then.”

To be continued…

The Spell. A short tale.

I saw you again today.

You hadn’t changed at all, but of course I shouldn’t have expected you too. After all, it had been but a few weeks, and nobody can be expected to change much in that time. Your beauty outshone everyone else in the room, like a lighthouse between hazardous reefs. I could only glance for a short while, lest I be blinded by your light; I was far too unworthy.

You didn’t acknowledge me at all, and although I was saddened by this apparent rebuke, I understood. You were so infinitely far away, and yet only a few steps lay between us. I was distracted by others, by casual, innocuous conversation, and by the time I looked back again, you were gone.

I smiled grimly as I left that place, knowing that you were a pipedream, an illusion beyond the power of choice. As my eyes moistened, I wondered if I would ever be free of the weave of your magic. Perhaps not.

But if never, then what a fine spell to be under.

Love in Vain copy

The Sale. Part 4. A short story.

The crazy lady was right up in my face, spittle flicking onto my cheek as she voiced her objection. I backed up, hands raised. “Look, I’m really sorry,” I said. “I really didn’t know you had a tragedy related to…cleaning products.”

As if from nowhere, she extracted a huge butcher’s knife from its hiding place behind her back. It glinted malevolently in her hand, matching the glint in her eye. The yelp that escaped my lips was more feminine than I would have liked. My eyes widened to the size of saucers, adrenaline surged and my voice trembled. “I can see you’re probably planning dinner, so maybe I should take my leave.” I continued backing away.

The redhead stared at me through eyes that were a thin line of vehemence. The knife blade shimmered in the firelight. “My mother was killed…by a vacuum cleaner.”

“Sir?” From behind me, the butler’s shaking voice.

I didn’t dare turn around. “Yes?” I said, my voice breaking involuntarily.

“Run.”

To be continued…

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: