Hell hath no Fury: Two Flash Fiction Pieces featuring ruthless women.

Hey guys!  I have a confession to make…I have been pretty neglectful of my writing of late.  A full time job and a baby make finding the time for such things difficult but I promise I haven’t forgotten about you.  In fact, I have some pretty exciting things in the works.  First, over on my Instagram, I have reached the 2000 follower mark and will be celebrating with a HUGE giveaway, in conjunction with several bookish shops, so head over and follow me so you don’t miss out.  I am also working on some great collaborations for the Inspired series.  I have just sent a poem and story away to a photographer and an artist and I have a story sitting inside my head, ready to be unleashed onto paper and sent to another artistic soul.  These guys are super talented, and trust me when I say you don’t want to miss out!  You can subscribe to my blog and receive updates every time I post, to make sure you don’t miss out.  In the mean time, here is a couple of flash fiction pieces, featuring some very nasty ladies!  Enjoy…

Flower pic

Queen

He wails, the sobbing muffled by edge of her cloak.  She can see wetness spread on the red velvet.  A guard goes to remove the crumpled figure, but she holds a hand to say no. She likes to watch them beg and squirm, it makes her feel alive.  Eventually, when she has had her fill, she kicks him, his body hitting the stone floor hard, the blow unexpected. With one gesture, she signals for his execution. He screams as he is dragged away, “MERCY…MERCY.” She smiles to herself.  She has no mercy for thieves. Nothing excuses someone taking what is hers, not even starvation.

Heartbreaker

The moment she saw him, she marked him her own. Stolen kisses, whispered words, empty and false. She twisted herself around him and settled herself into his life, coiled like a snake. Then, one day she was gone, taking all he had with her; his money, his car, his heart.

 

Dark Woods: A Short Story

In the latest edition of Inspired, my collaborative series, I have had the privilege of working with the incredibly talented Brian Easlon.  Brian is a tattoo artist from Cornelius, Oregon in the United States.  If you like his work as much as I do, you can see more on his Instagram.

Dark wood art

Dark Woods

Forests are notoriously dangerous places, especially for little children, and especially at night. So, if you were a young girl, you would be inclined to avoid such places. Unless, like Agatha, you call such places your home. Agatha’s kind are known as many things, fairies or wood nymphs or sprites, but what they all have in common, is the image that they conjure. When you hear these names, you picture beautiful children, tiny and perfect, with wings spun from gold and glitter on their faces. The kind of being made of magic and dreams, who grant the deepest wishes of poor downtrodden servant girls and lost boys alike. Except, fairies are none of those things. They are nasty, mischievous little creatures, who gain pleasure from the pain and misfortune of others.

They are also neither beautiful nor glittering. They have the wings of moths, not butterflies, and to the human eye, they appear as a normal insect, brown and mottled, distinct only by the large, black eyes staring from their wings and the distinct skull shaped spot on their large bodies. They are beautiful in their own way, but nothing like the watercolour illustrations of ‘fairy tale’ books we read as children.

Over time, they have grown to hate humans. We destroy their homes to build our own, we chop down trees and burn them, and the plants we call weeds, which we kill with chemicals, are some of their favourite food. And so, when a human is unfortunate enough to wonder into their lair, they waste no time in commencing a punishment which they see fit.

In the heart of Ireland there lies such a lair. A small wood on the edge of a village, filled with dark shadows and watching eyes. For centuries, people have entered those woods, having lost their way, or to seek shelter from a storm under it’s thick, leafy canopy, only to disappear without a trace, never to be seen or heard from again. It is said the trees within, move and walk, in order to confuse and trap you, and that the thorns can claw and grab at you like arms, ensnaring you within their jagged trap. The local people never go there anymore. After losing Grandparents and parents and siblings and friends over many generations, they learned the hard way that such places can never be tamed. After decades without foot steps or felling, the trees grew denser and darker, and the eyes within grew impatient for their prey.

This is the place Agatha calls home. For decades she has lived within those woods, watching the planes flying overhead and the cars driving by in the distance and she grew resentful. The humans had an entire world in which to exist and explore, yet they showed it no respect. They were ungrateful and spoiled. How could they not see how lucky they were? She had lived nearly a century in the same small forest, and now, she wanted out.

*********************

Lyndsey was a photographer, or at least, she dreamed of becoming one. She would carry her father’s old camera everywhere she went, snapping whatever caught her eye. She preferred the dark room to the modern digital prints, and every time she developed a picture, it was like giving birth, each picture a piece of her. Her forte was nature photography. Every weekend, she would drive to a part of the country she had never been, and snap the local wildlife. This weekend, she was travelling to a little village further south. It was so small it didn’t feature on her Sat Nav, and it took her longer to arrive than she thought. It would begin to get dark soon.

She passed a patch of woodland, a few minutes walk from the road. It looked wild and untouched, perfect for her project. She parked the car at the side of the road, and began walking through the fields. When she reached the edge, she could not find a path, and so had to create one, forcing down the plants with her feet, breaking tree branches. She would not be able to go too far in unfortunately. She stopped to take a picture of spider web, one of the largest she had ever seen, strung between two large oak trees. Little drops of water from that mornings rain, clung to it and sparkled as it danced slowly in the breeze. It was like a beautiful, delicate piece of jewellery.

Something moved in her peripheral vision. She started, and turned to see a large moth landing gracefully on a nearby log. It was far larger than the ones she had at home, which swooped and played around her light bulbs. It was at least four inches wide, with large brown mottled wings. On each wing, was a large black spot, with hints of red and burnt orange. They looked like angry eyes staring out at you. On the thick body, there was a white mark, distinct and terrible. A skull, watching her along with the eyes. It was beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. Lyndsey moved to photograph it, when it flew, suddenly, straight at her face. She fell backwards on reflex, trying to avoid it, but something was wrong. She fell, expecting to reach the ground quickly, but the impact never came. Instead she kept falling, down and down. Suddenly everything went dark, but she could feel she was still falling.

A small pin hole of light broke the darkness, moving towards her, increasing in size as it did until she was surrounded by the light. It took her a minute to focus her eyes. She was still in the forest, the same trees, the same dull beams of light just penetrating the darkness, now fading with the hour. Except, something was wrong. It was the same place, but from a different angle. She looked around, but she couldn’t feel her neck. She went to touch it, but she had no hands. She began to panic, a silent scream filling her head, as she realised she could not speak.

Then she saw it, or more accurately, she saw herself, walking towards her. Same hair, same face, same clothes, it was definitely her body, but it was huge and giant, towering above her now. It was as if she had shrunk, a twisted version of Alice’s adventures. But who was this copy? It smiled at her, and held up the large camera lens to her face, or at least where she thought her face was, and in it’s reflection, she saw the moth. It hit her. She hadn’t shrunk, she had swapped. How was this possible? This can’t be real. Horror filled her. She wanted to do something, say something, somehow stop it, change it back, but how, she did not know.

“Smile for the camera.”

It laughed, and snapped a picture.

“That’s a keeper.”

She started to try to ask what was happening, to beg for mercy, but no voice came out.

“I can imagine what’s going on in that little mind of yours, and so, as a courtesy, I’ll sum up. I have taken your body. It’s mine now. You are inside mine, and there you shall stay. I will explore the world, and you, can stay here, trapped in an immortal form, pondering and weeping over what happened for the rest of time. It’s nothing against you specifically, just your kind. I have a general disdain for human beings, but I require one as a vessel to leave this God forsaken place. You happened to be the first to venture here. Wrong place, wrong time, that’s all. There’s nothing you can do about it, and I can assure you, I will not change my mind. Goodbye human.”

She appeared satisfied with her explanation, and with that, she watched herself turn and walk towards the make shift path she had formed earlier, and disappear from her view. It was a nightmare, it had to be. But sadly, it was not.

A New You: A Collaborative Short Story.

In the latest edition of Inspired, I have had the privilege of working with the incredibly talented Jason Franks.  Jason is an illustrator from Leyland, UK and he very recently worked alongside 20th Century Fox to create some truly terrifying Alien art for the release of Alien: Covenant.  If you like his stuff as much as me, you can see more of his work on his Facebook and Instagram

A New You

1She stared at her body in the mirror, lines drawn across it, dissecting every sad and saggy piece of skin, a road map of her flaws. She had been beautiful once, but time has plans for us all. Over many years, she had watched her body bloom and blossom, rose pink and splendid, before seeing it wither and wilt before her eyes. She was a husk now. A hollow piece of wood. In a world where appearance was everything, where beauty meant more than intellect or creativity, she was merely an unwanted reminder to the young, of their own mortality. She saw how they looked at her, like they had suddenly smelled something rotting. At one time, she was marvelled at. Her face adorned the front of magazines and on billboards and advertisements all over the world. She was admired, adored. Now, she was ignored, forgotten. She was nothing.

She had tried everything to stop the inevitable decline; creams, lotions, botox, Chinese2 herbs, crystals, she had even visited a priest. But no amount of money or connections could turn back the hands of time. She had almost given up hope, when she heard about Dr Volo. It was said, that in his skilled and steady hands, he could take off twenty years, maybe more. He was her miracle. He was her last chance. He had been incredibly difficult to employ, but then all the best surgeons are. After pulling strings, blackmail, bribery and spending most of her fortune, she had got a consultation with the man himself.

3He had not been what she expected. Usually, the surgeons were as fabricated as their clients, all shiny, orange skin and stone faces. Not Dr Volo. He wore his lined face with pride. He was a tall, delicate man, with sharp eyes and thin lips. He wore his jet black hair slicked back and shiny, and a thin moustache underlined his crooked nose. He spoke with a melodic, European accent, although she was unsure exactly where he was from originally and when he stared at her with his green eyes, she felt like he was reading those very lines she hated; her life story etched in flesh, her desires and fears, her longing to renew. He had sketched his art on her body’s canvas, and these black inked lines represented how he would wield his scalpel like a brush and paint her anew.

4

There was a gentle knock at the door. She quickly put on the paper gown which had been laid out for her, and placed herself delicately onto the gurney. Excitement and nerves mixed and churned within her, the combination causing her skin to erupt in goosebumps.

“How are we feeling Helen?”

She hadn’t even noticed him come in, never mind cross the room to her side. He moved so quietly that no footsteps were ever heard. It was the one thing about him which disconcerted her.

“Fine Dr. A few nervous butterflies, but I’m excited.”

“Before we do, I just wanted to make sure this was what you wanted?”

She was completely taken aback by the question. She had been to three separate consultations, paid the fees, signed the consent forms and was now a human doodle wearing a paper dress with her ass hanging out. What exactly indicated she may have changed her mind? He seemed to see her thoughts forming in the lines of her furrowed brow.

“I know it may seem like a silly question, but I just like to make sure my clients are one hundred percent sure about going through this process. This is a big decision to make, and it carries risks. I know we have been through this, and you have signed all of the relevant wavers, but I have to ask you one more question. What exactly is it you want?”

At first, she was speechless. They had had dozens of conversations about exactly what she wanted, detailed discussions about every nip, every tuck, every slice. Now, he was asking her what she wanted? She thought the answer to that question was fairly obvious.

“I want to be beautiful again. I want to look young. I want to be a new woman.”

His thin lips curled up into a smile which unsettled her slightly.

“That, I can do.”

5Before another word could be spoken, identical nurses in identical white uniforms and stockings shuffled into the room, and a gas mask was placed over her mouth. She was asked by one to count to ten, but only made it to three before everything blurred and darkened. The last thing she saw before she succumbed to the void, was Dr Volo’s smiling face.

8When she awoke, her eyes were dry and it took her a while to adjust to the light. When the world came into focus, instead of the hospital light, she found herself beneath a bare bulb, flickering slightly. She raised her arm up to rub her eyes, expecting to feel pain and to be restricted by dressings or a medical drip, but she felt nothing.                         In fact, not only was her arm free of bandages or wounds, but her skin was soft and supple. There was no sagging, no age marks, just perfect skin. She checked the other arm as well, and found it to be the same. She became so excited to inspect her own body, she didn’t notice that the crisp white hospital sheets had been replaced by a grey wool blanket, old and washed a thousand times. Her legs were the same, young and strong.

She clambered off the bed and ran to the mirror screwed above the sink opposite her bed. Her face was not that of her own in youth, but it was certainly young and very definitely beautiful. Her cheeks were plump where they had once been sallow, her forehead was taut where it had once been lined, her lips were plump and full where they had once been thin and listless. Even her hair was new. Instead of thinning grey and lifeless, it was a lush chestnut brown, which caught even the light of the dull bulb overhead. She smiled, her teeth perfectly white and her gums no longer receding. She did not look at all like herself, and she could not have been happier. She looked young, and beautiful, and nothing else mattered.

She had to speak with the Dr, to congratulate him, to hug him, and kiss him and sing his praises. He had delivered everything he had promised, plus so much more. Not only was she glowing with a youthful exuberance, but she could see no scars, no cuts, no wounds. She was changed and she was healed. How, she could not even comprehend, but whatever his methods, he was a genius. She turned to press the call button for one of the stepford nurses, when she finally noticed her surroundings.

9

Just as with her body, the room was also transformed. She had fallen asleep in a white room, with crisp white bedding on a shiny metal trolley bed. One entire wall was taken up by a large silver mirror, which reflected the white light of the crystal chandelier over head, and sent tiny rainbows across the white carpet. There had been a white arm chair, and a white screen to change behind. She had not expected to wake up in that room of course. She had expected to wake up in a ward, with green fabric screens and hospital machines, and rubber tiled floors. But this, this was something different altogether.

The room in which she now stood, would be better described as a cell. The walls were bare brick, painted in a dull grey and the floor was bare concrete with a sad little threadbare rug directly beside the bed. A striped mattress lay on top, covered in bedding which was once white, but after thousands of washes, now took on the same grey tinge as the walls. There was a desk, also attached to the wall, without a chair, and a black leather bible sat on it’s surface. The only other contents of the room was the sink, and the mirror she had been staring into without realising it was made of plastic. Something close to panic began to rise within her, as her eyes fell on the door. It was a heavy one, with only a small barred window, and no handle on her side.

She wondered if this was a drug induced nightmare. Anaesthetic had played with people’s minds in the past; she had read of people wide awake and aware of every slice into their flesh, but unable to move or cry out in pain. Perhaps, her reaction would be vivid hallucinations, yes that was it, it was just a dream. She closed her eyes hard, concentrating on waking up, but when she opened them again, she found herself staring at the same sad little room. She tried again, this time closing her eyes so tightly it hurt, and sent blurred shapes across her vision when she once again opened them to find her situation unchanged. A thought occurred to her, a rule of thumb which everyone knew to be true: you cannot feel pain in a dream. So, she grabbed a chunk of her new, supple flesh and nipped and twisted it as hard as she could. Pain shot down as the skin reddened.

6Tears began to form, as she ran at the door, pounding her fists and screaming as loud as she could. The room was too small, and it was definitely getting smaller, closing in around her, trapping her within her own fears. She was awake, she knew this with every painful thump of her fists on the steel door. She stopped, hearing a set of keys jingling in a lock, a movement of cogs and parts, as the door unlocked and squeaked open. It was Dr Volo accompanied by one of his pert blonde nurses. She fell into his arms, grateful to see something, someone familiar. He would sort this out, he would help her.

 

 

“Oh Doctor, thank God! I thought…I don’t know what I thought! I was so frightened, when I woke up here. What’s happening? Where am I? What is this place?”

“This is your room, within Lakeview psychiatric hospital. You’ve asked me this same question a dozen times Eva, and the answer is always the same.”

“Eva? Who is Eva? What are you talking about? A psychiatric hospital?”

“Eva, we can’t keep going in circles like this, at some point you have to accept..”

“MY NAME’S NOT EVA.”

She screamed it so loud, she startled even herself. Both Doctor and nurse fell silent, their faces crumpled with a mixture of concern and pity.

“My name is Helen, Helen Ford. I was a model, I was an actress, I was famous. I came to Lakeview medical clinic for plastic surgery to be young again, to stop looking sixty. There is no psychiatric hospital here. Why are you saying this? Why are you lying to me?”

She felt tears land on her chest and make their way between her now pert breasts. This had to be some kind of sick joke. Maybe this was one of those prank shows she had heard about, a special episode where they pranked the old stars. Or was it the drugs? She had taken plenty in her lifetime, both legal and illegal, but they were always coming up with something new.

“Your name is Eva Giles. You are twenty years old. You were never a model or actress, 7you were just a normal high school student. You always suffered from mental health issues, which gradually increased in severity and volatility, resulting in you burning down your family home, killing everyone inside; your parents, your Grandmother and your little brother Paul. You were committed here when you were deemed unfit for trial. You know all of this Eva. You repeatedly invent new personalities, new people to be, so you don’t have to be yourself, so you don’t have to face up to what you did and avoid the guilt which tears at you. You’re sick. I thought we were making progress, I thought…it’s fine. You’ll be fine, but you have to let us help you.”

She caught her reflection in the plastic mirror, a scared, young girl staring back at her, so different from the face she had known, or at least, thought she had known. Was it true? Was this all in her head? No! She shook the thoughts from her mind. She could remember a lifetime, sixty years of faces and rooms. She could remember the men she had loved, and the fights which drove them apart. She could remember a mother, bitter and twisted by the space left by her father. She could see her face when she was a girl, hitting her for some minor error, and older, weaker, wheezing in a hospital bed attached to tubes and wires, machines beeping and then a sheet pulled over a still face. She saw her brother, the only man she had never grown to hate. She remembered her devastation when he had died drunk behind the wheel of a burning car. She could taste her first kiss, remember the weight of the many men she had known over sixty years on earth. She saw her wedding day, both of them, in vivid colour, just as she could see the ink of her signature drying on her divorce papers. No, she was Helen Ford, and nothing they said could shake that certainty.

She ran at them, pushing the nurse with all her strength, sending her hard into the wall. She went to run past her through the gap her absence created, but she felt two strong arms bear hug her from behind, tightening as both bodies slid to the floor.

“Nurse, get a sedative, quickly.”

The nurse, blonde hair now sticking out from her hat, pulled herself up and ran out of view. Helen kicked and lashed and even tried to bite the Doctor, using every ounce of strength she could to escape.

“Now, is that any way to treat the man who made you young again Helen?”

She froze, breathing heavily from the exertion. He had called her by her real name. She knew she wasn’t mad, but then what was this? She felt him loosen his grip enough for her to turn and look into his dark, pitiless eyes.

“Why?”

“Why? Because you asked me to. You wanted to be young, you wanted to be beautiful. Well, you have your wish Helen…you’re a whole new woman.”

10His lips curled into that same snide smile, and she again tried to break free, lashing out, screaming for help. But he was so strong, and soon the nurse returned, needle in hand. She felt a sharp pain in her thigh, before her strength began to fail her, and the room started to melt and blur. Soon, she lay immobilised on the cold concrete floor, the world around her fading into black, her eyelids heavy and insistent despite her best efforts to fight, to flee. But the drugs overcame her will power, her body limp, her mind shutting down.

 

 

The last thing she saw before she succumbed to the void, was Dr Volo’s smiling face.

Awake with eyes closed: A Poem.

Happy Sunday everyone!  Another week has passed us by in the blink of an eye, and I hope you all had a good one!  For tonight, I wanted to post something personal to me.  I have spoken before about struggling with depression and anxiety in my life, and this poem focuses on  depression, and the way I personally experienced it, namely as overwhelming apathy.  I often found that to be the most difficult part, the lack of feeling, and frankly I would have preferred to be sad.  I believe it is important to be open and honest about these things, because even in today’s society, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health issues.  In reality, a huge number of people suffer or have suffered from the same issues, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  I honestly think that if everyone opens up about such things, we can remove that stigma, and more importantly, we can ensure that no one suffers alone, ashamed of asking for help.  I hope you like it, let me know in the comments section below, and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to keep up to date with all my posts!  Finally, if this seems familiar, or if you find yourself struggling more than usual, then I encourage you to speak to someone: your friends, your family, a charity or counsellor.  Don’t suffer alone!

Awake with eyes closed

Laying,

Weighted, still,

Staring, blurred eyes.

Immobile,

unwilling, not unable.

What’s the point?

Life passing,

a waking sleep.

There are no dreams here,

just regrets.

It consumes you,

apathy, entropy

There are no dreams,

just regrets.

Cook: A short story.

For this instalment of the Inspired series, I have collaborated with the very talented Lee Harris.  I have placed his wonderful image, at the perfect point in my story below.  Lee is from South Shields, and earned a BA in Fine Art back in 2007 from Sunderland University.  He has had his work exhibited by the Samling Foundation, and has an upcoming group exhibition with the Customs House in South Shields.  He currently works in advertising.  If you like his work as much as I do, you can check out more on his Instagram.  He will also have his own website up and running soon, so keep an eye out!  If you are an artist, photographer, musician or generally creative soul, and you would like to collaborate, then get in touch!  In the mean time, happy reading…

Cook

She wiped the sweat from her brow, steam hitting her like a wall. Her kitchen was too small for this kind of cooking, but she had no other options. She considered the recipe carefully, checking and rechecking the quantity or weight of each ingredient. This was a delicate process. One wrong move, and the entire thing would be ruined. Some of the essential components were rare, and expensive. It would take months to reacquire them, time she dd not have. She had promised to host her group that evening, and she was determined for it to go well.

She would have five guests this evening, all as exacting as each other. They always met once a month, to discuss and work on whatever problems each was facing or struggling with; a difficult boss, a cheating husband, a noisy neighbour. She had come to rely on them over the years, they always knew what to do to make it better.

Her eyes began to water, adding the last of the ingredients. She hoped they’d like it strong. She had just finished when the door bell rang. Wiping her hands with a polka dot tea towel, she made her way down the hall to the front door.

“Something smells perfect.”

It was Edith, the oldest and wisest of their group. Whatever your problem, she had been there, whatever story you had, she had one better. She had lived a hundred lives, and had been quite wild back in the day. Behind her was Brenda, a school teacher and book lover. She was the font of all facts and knowledge for the group; very handy for a pub quiz.

“Hey Beth, nice evening for it.”

“It is indeed.”

Then came the others, one after the other, all nodding their heads and exchanging pleasantries. There was Jane, who swore like a sailor and fought like one too, Cheryl, who must have been the most fertile woman in the country with seven kids and counting, and finally Sandra, who owned the local green grocers and sourced most of the things they needed for these little gatherings. She had contacts everywhere, and always knew someone who knew someone who could get you what you needed, no matter how rare. She was a handy person to know.

“Beth honey, I’m afraid I don’t have long. Three of the kids have a vomiting bug, and Peter was already pulling his hair out when I left. I’m sorry. I’ll stay as long as I can.”

Cheryl was always the hardest to pin down, with her brood and their many extra curricular activities and sports teams. It was a wonder she knew what day it was given how many dates and times were floating round her head.

“Of course, I’ve finished in the kitchen, so we can get stuck right in.”

Edith, nodded, and automatically led us all out onto the patio. I grabbed the pot on the way past, along with a bottle of wine. Everything else we would need was already out there. It was me who had called for this little gathering, me who had the problem to solve.

It was a clear, mild evening in May, with a full moon casting white light over the motionless trees. The women gathered around the table, each pouring themselves a glass of wine, passing the bottle from person to person until it was drained.

“I called you here, because I need your help. Jack, well, not content with being a cheating scum bag, he is now being a lying, cheating, thieving scum bag. He has solicitors claiming all sorts of assets which were mine before our marriage; my house, my book collection. Hell, he’s even trying to get at my rare wines. Bastard doesn’t even drink it, he’s a beer man. I have tried to be civil, to be mature and talk it out, but he’s just impossible. It’s pay back for kicking him out, as if I should have believed his pathetic apologies after I caught him humping his secretary on his desk, like some dog who needs fixed. I’m at the end of my rope ladies. I…”

She trailed off, memories of happier times with Jack flashing inside her mind’s eye, muddying her hatred and anger with regret.

“Right,” Edith clipped,”I think we know what needs done, and since we only have Cheryl for a short time, I suggest we get stuck in.”

sketch-1498767735789They silently pulled up the hoods of their black cloaks, and placed the pentagrams dangling around their neck in their left hands, their right hands touching the pot before them. In unison, quietly at first, but building in volume, they repeated the spell:

Moon of white, and souls of black,

We call to you to punish Jack,

To bring ill fortune, illness and sorrow,

To chip at him until he’s hollow,

To make him fear and fret tomorrow,

To cripple, break, beat and attack.

We call to you to punish Jack.

As they spoke, their words building into a crescendo, the pot’s sticky black contents began to bubble and boil, smoke rising from it’s belly, surrounding them like a fog. When the spell was cast, and the deed done, the smoke cleared and the pot’s contents had boiled into a thick and tar like paste, stuck to the bottom of the pan. Edith, using a wooden spoon, scooped a large dollop of the paste into a small glass jar, and handed it to Beth.

“You know what to do; smear it on him, and the curse shall be complete.”

“I should go, I have six missed calls from Peter.”

Cheryl kissed Beth, and hurried out, the others milling behind her, each saying their goodbyes. Edith hung back, until Beth and her were alone. Beth stared at the jar in her hand. She was angry with Jack, that was true, but did she really hate him that much?

“He betrayed you.”

Edith had always been able to read the others like books, their feelings and fears displayed like words on a page.

“He betrayed you, your marriage, your vows. Worst of all, he took your love and discarded it like a piece of rubbish. Now, he tortures you, for what? Profit? Fun? Revenge? None of these prospects paint him in a decent light. He cursed himself with his deeds. You are merely finalising the details.”

She smiled before glugging the last of her wine, a red drop running down her chin, like a vampire who had just fed. She kissed her on the cheek and hugged her, before heading into the house to leave. Beth stood a moment, going over the details of her life with Jack. How they had met and fallen in love, their wedding, their marriage, the affairs, ignored, then forgiven, then too many to carry the weight of any longer. The fights, the break ups, the harsh words, the tears. She clasped the jar tight in her right hand, the glass warming from the contents within. This home was ancestral and had been in her family for generations, passed from mother to daughter. She had grown up here. It was her only place of solace, and she loved it with all her heart, and now he threatened to have it sold, divided like it was nothing, just bricks and mortar forming a financial gain. No, she would never let that happen, not just for her, but for the women who came before her, and who loved and cried within it’s walls just as she had. He would pay. He would pay for what he did to her, to all the women he used and discarded like garbage, to everyone he ever trampled on and hurt. He would pay and he deserved every bit of his punishment. What happens in life comes back on you three fold, this she knew, and on this occasion, she was happy to give karma a helping hand.

She placed the jar inside her cloak pocket, and began to gather the glasses to be washed. She would call him tomorrow, tell him she missed him, appeal to his ego, ask for a lunch. She would kiss him, one last time, and use that moment to place the potion on him and curse his life and world until he had paid for all his sins three fold. She smiled at this. Hell hath no fury like a witch scorned.

sketch-1498767735789

 

Souls for Sale: A piece of flash fiction.

Souls for Sale

Souls for sale. I see it everywhere now, souls for sale, money over morality, cash for character. It used to be so much harder. I would have to watch a person for months, maybe even years. I would have to delve into every corner of their life, to discover their deepest desires, to find their greatest fears and slowly play on them, increasing them, driving them towards desperation. Desperate people have been known to render desperate deeds. I would offer them a way out, a sliver of light in the darkness. When everything you hold dear is at stake, no price is too high, right? Easy pickings.

devil-1654488_1920Even greater than fear and desperation, was hate. Hate blinds people in a way no other emotion can. It has a scent to me, I can taste it on the air. It tastes like charred meat and animal fat. It sustains me. I would exploit hatred. I would offer them the burned corpses of their enemies on a silver platter, their beating hearts torn from their chests. They could have their wars, their blood, their vengeance, and I, in exchange, got them.

I almost miss the work I had to put in, the harder I earned it, the sweeter the taste. Now, they come to me. They offer me their hearts, their souls, their spirits, for a handful of silver coins. They simply want money, nothing more important than numbers on a statement, sheets of coloured paper, shiny pieces of metal.

Money has replaced God in this world, and I am reaping all the benefits. Souls for sale…and I’m buying.

Mother’s Day Haiku poetry.

Since it is Mother’s day in some parts of the world, I decided to dedicate this blog post to mothers everywhere.  I myself am a mother, to a beautiful and perfect baby girl, and I now know just how much I owe my own mum.  It is the hardest job I have ever done, and the most rewarding.  I have never been more frustrated or happy, all rolled into one ball of emotions, and I am thankful every day to have been blessed with my daughter.

I also wanted to do something a bit different, so instead of a short story, I thought I would try to write some haiku poetry for the first time.  For those of you unfamiliar with a haiku, originating from Japan, it is a three line poem which consists of five syllables, seven syllables and then five syllables again.  It sounds short and easy, but it’s harder than you think.

I decided to write one haiku as a mother and a second as a daughter.  Let me know what you think, and Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums out there!  If you feel inspired to write your own haikus then please post them in the comments section below.

I hold her closer,

Tiny hand wrapped round my thumb.

I am truly whole.

I hope I’m like her.

Strong, kind smart and loving.

My hero, my mum.

Inspired Part 9

For this part of the Inspired series, I have collaborated with a fellow lover of all things that go bump in the night, to create something which will wiggle it’s way into your nightmares.  Nick Villicana lives in sunny Los Angeles, and when he is not at his day job in retail management, he is busy writing and drawing, creating dark and twisted little creatures.  If you like Nick’s monsters as much as me, you can check out more on his Instagram.  As before, I have written a short story and sent it to Nick, who has created this amazing image.  Let me know what you think in the comments section below, and if you are a creative soul, and would like to collaborate with me, please get in touch!

Monster art work

Infection

Hate is a poisonous and infectious emotion. Once it forms within our hearts, it spreads quickly, consuming us until there is nothing of who we once were; no humanity, no love, no empathy. It creates dark creatures, who wonder the earth intent on spreading the disease further. I saw it happen once, with my own eyes.

He was a student at my university, and he lived in the same halls of residence as me. When I first met him, both new to the student world, both nervous and anxious, he was shy and sweet. I liked him. He was tidier than the others who resided there, and he never stole food or brought home rowdy, drunken people or played techno music at 3am. Overall, he was a decent room mate. We never spoke that much, he kept himself to himself, but when we did he was funny and self deprecating. Then it started.

He went to a meeting, one of the many political and social groups which meet regularly within the campus, and there he met someone that planted a seed. When he returned that night, he didn’t respond to my hello, he just shuffled past into his room. I didn’t notice it in the beginning. It’s a cunning disease, which spreads slowly, subtly, so as not to provoke concern or intervention. But after a few weeks, I could see something was different, something was off.

When we spoke he was rude and cold. He would talk about things which made me uncomfortable, he labelled entire groups of people, or fellow students, as wrong, as different. He spat when he talked. I didn’t like what he said, so I avoided talking to him after that.

One night I was in my room, when I heard shouting from the communal areas of the halls. I walked down, meeting several others who had formed an audience to an argument taking place between him and another resident. They were screaming at each other. He called the girl a terrible name, so she slapped him. He spat on the floor at her feet and left the room, just as she began to tear up. I could tell they were tears of anger, not sadness. He was reported to the university after that, and given a warning. He stopped speaking to any of us.

I could hear him, inside his dark and musty dorm room for hours at a time, listening to broad casts and speeches. I don’t even think he went to class after a while, only occasionally exiting his lair to eat or take a piss. It was on one of these late night excursions, when I first saw the physical changes in him. He had become thinner, gaunt even, and he seemed taller than before. It almost looked like he had been stretched. His shoulder blades jutted out like sharp, stubby wings, and his hair had began to fall out in patches. I stopped dead when I saw him, drinking milk straight from the carton. I watched the back of his head, as milk poured down his face, pooling at his feet. When he opened the fridge door to replace the carton, it briefly illuminated him in harsh yellow light, and I could see his skin had a blue tinge to it. It was barely noticeable, almost like someone who has become suddenly cold. When he turned to leave, as the crack of light from the fridge growing smaller beside him as the door creaked shut, I could see his eyes, at least, what his eyes had become. For, they weren’t the blue eyes I had looked into before. They were milky, a white film spreading across the iris, broken up only by red snaking veins. He looked like something from a horror film. I nearly screamed as he flew past me back into his room, door slamming. I couldn’t sleep that night; every time I closed my eyes, I was staring into his.

Soon, we began to hear strange noises coming from his room. It sounded like an animal was trapped in there, something with a low deep growl. There was also a smell emanating from it, a musty smell, like damp earth and rotting leaves. We would notice clumps of hair in the bathrooms, and one day, a collection of finger nails and toe nails, not trimmings or cuttings, but whole nails, yellow and cracked with blood tinged edges. Several of the residents left after that.

I asked around, and no one had seen him for weeks. I checked his class records, and discovered he had stopped attending. I even went to one of the clubs he had joined, but he was nowhere to be seen. Concerned he may have hurt himself or worse, I decided enough was enough. I had to check on him, I had to see if he was alright. The door was unlocked when I tried the handle. I opened it slowly, the light from the hall behind me creating a line across the carpet, which grew in size, illuminating rubbish and clothes. It might have looked like any other messy dorm room, except there was pieces of rotting meat lying in piles, scattered around the floor. It looked like pork belly, except one piece had a marking on it, a tattoo of a star. I stifled my scream; he had hurt himself. But the reality was so much worse.

monster artwork part 2As the door reached it’s apex, the room illuminated by the hall light, I saw him. He was huddled on the bed at first, but he began to uncurl his body, like a centipede. No longer was he the boy I had known. He was twisted and jagged, like an insect. His arms were long now, ending around where his knees once were, and his fingers were sharp and pointed. His skin was a navy blue, and he was completely bald now. He was so tall, crouching slightly to avoid the ceiling, towering above me like some nightmare incarnate. But it was his eyes which were the worst. They were all white now, and matte, like a pearl, and they stared down at me with hatred and anger. His mouth twisted into a snarl and saliva fell as he growled and howled. I screamed and ran from the dorm. I ran until I wanted to vomit and my lungs felt like they were on fire. I ran until everything began to spin, and only then did I look back.

I could just make it out in the distance, walking out of the student’s village, a black shadow passing over the other dorms and street lights. And then, it was gone. We never saw him again after that. There were posters and TV appeals, but I knew there was nothing of him left to find. He had twisted and eroded until only hate remained. I see it everywhere now, spreading through the campus, through the country, through the world. I watch the news and see politicians giving speeches, their eyes beginning to fade white, their finger nails missing. I hear that same snarl on my radio during phone ins and debates. I smell the damp rot festering all around me, and I fear that if something isn’t done, the effects will be irreversible, and humanity will succumb, lost forever to hate.

Inspired Part 8

Inspired is a series in which I collaborate with other creative people.  I have collaborated with photographers, illustrators, comic book artists and painters and for this part I am collaborating with a poet.  The poet in question is called Georgia Lee Rose and she lives in Auckland, New Zealand, but you probably know her as ‘The Coffee Cup Poet.’  Georgia expresses herself with poetry, by free writing her words onto a beautifully illustrated and photographed coffee cup.  She started on Tumblr in 2013, as a way to get her out of a writing slump and stop her over thinking and over analysing her work.  She has been on Instagram since 2014 and has amassed thousands of followers.  If you like her poetry as much as I do, check her out!  For this collaboration, I wrote a story and sent it to Georgia, who used it as inspiration for this wonderful poem, which she then carefully placed onto a coffee cup.  If you would like to collaborate with me, please get in touch, and let me know what you think of this piece in the comments section below.  Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog, for updates and alerts when I post something new.

Coffee cup image

Beginnings and Ends

She didn’t truly understand the meaning of heartbreak until she met him. She had read endless novels depicting women crumpling under the weight of loss and she had seen a multitude of movies showing images of running mascara and snotty tissues. She had even read the endless advice columns from her favourite glossy magazines; ‘How to forget him’, ‘He isn’t worth it’ or ‘Move on with moving on.’ If there was a test, she would pass with flying colours. She was like that, learned, fastidious. She believed life could be learned in advance. Studied for like any test.

She loved to read. She digested books like meals and always had room for desert. She also liked to run. It cleared her head. She would run and run sometimes, without realising how far she had got, endless thoughts preoccupying her mind. She was fun. She danced without embarrassment or self awareness, she sang to the songs that played in the background of supermarkets, and she had a laugh that got her noticed and made others smile.

The first time she had met him, was in the university library. He had sat beside her, despite many empty benches. His elbows touched hers and he smelled of cloves. After about an hour, he had passed her a handwritten note, scrawled in red biro. It read simply, ‘Lunch?’ With one word, he seduced her. They enjoyed their first meal, then their first kiss, and then other firsts, precious and cherished, and never forgotten.

He was tall, over six foot, and she had to crane her neck to kiss him. She liked the way his long arms completely enclosed around her as she breathed him in. He had the same dark sense of humour as her, and they would laugh until they cried. They always held hands while walking, no matter the weather, resulting in a constant clamminess. He was in a band that played terrible punk music, with too much distortion and yelled lyrics. She was front row to every show. When her Father died, he had stood beside her, wearing a suit for the first time in his life, fidgeting at the uncomfortable tie and the even more uncomfortable silence.

They had a song. It had been playing in the trendy hipster bar on their second date; Moon River. It should have been a sign. They took endless selfies, always smiling, sometimes kissing cheeks or silly faces. The world knew them, and agreed they were the perfect couple. They moved in together their final year. After more than six months, they still had boxes as coffee tables and foot stools. They didn’t care, as long as they had a bed and each other.

They started fighting, quietly at first, then louder. He stayed out too much, and never said who he was with. She checked his phone when he was in the bathroom. He hated that guy in her class. He became moody and surly, sniping at her and making passive aggressive remarks. She always rose to the bait. They yelled and cried and said things they didn’t mean and could never take back.

He needed space, at first a few days, then a few weeks, then his things were gone and only odds and ends remained. A toothbrush, an odd sock, deodorant, a dog eared book; insignificant and minor in of themselves, but reminders of something painful, something that was once beautiful. Something broken. She cried when she saw these things, she kept them, even though they had no use. She stayed in her pyjamas, and ate junk food, watching horror movies and cheesy rom coms. She whinged to her friends, her family, anyone who would listen. Her profile was now full of vague comments, designed to have people ask how she was, desperate to express her rage, her sorrow to anyone who would listen.

She kissed other boys, but it wasn’t the same. They tasted differently, and she missed the way he smelled, and the way he would kiss the top of her head when they hugged. She called him drunk, and he said hurtful things to her. She never did so again after that, but there was more tears, more heartache.

She recovered, slowly, but healing takes time. She began to look around again, and smile at those who smiled at her, unafraid of their intent or agenda. She ran again, her thoughts no longer being exclusively about him. She read books, not about heartbreak and self help, but about strength through adversity and adventures and travel. She danced with friends, and even with other men, and sang aloud to the music, never caring who saw or heard. She laughed, at friends and movies and books and shows, and she found herself again, stronger than before, but changed nonetheless.

Georgia’s Poem:

He smelled like cloves
and I shopped for his
scent long after
he left me
dancing beat-less against our
firsts, our
lasts, our only’s
crushing love
more now than
snarling breath, and
what we’d used it for, I
dab my skin
with stems and
run
until it’s gone.

Inspiration Part 6

For those of you who are new to my blog, Inspired is a series in which I collaborate with other creative people, with the aim of inspiring them and being inspired in return.  For part 6, I have collaborated with the insanely talented Sarah Wright, a freelance illustrator from High Rook Designs.  Sarah lives in Northern Ireland, like myself, and has been passionate about drawing from a young age.  She is a working mum of two beautiful girls, so life can get in the way sometimes, but she cherishes the moments when she gets to sit down and be creative.  If you love her work as much as I do, you can check her out on Instagram or via Facebook.

On this occasion, I wrote the story and sent it to Sarah, who was inspired to create the amazing image below.  I think it really brings my story to life.  Let me know what you think in the comments section below, and if you are a creative person, and would like to collaborate with me, then please get in touch!  Enjoy…

Silent man pic

The Silent Man

It was dusk now, and the warm humid air of that day was beginning to cool. Oscar loved to find new places, it was one of the only advantages of working for a circus. Every few weeks he would have new paths to take, new terrain to explore, new sights to see. Sometimes he would walk for hours, losing himself in thought. Often, as he did so, he would imagine living a different life. A life where he was not a lowly clown, but the star of the show, the headliner. He dreamt of awe and applause instead of pity and laughter. But mostly he thought about Ophelia. Ophelia was the trapeze girl. Every night, he watched her soar through the air as the audience gasped. She was so beautiful, so graceful, like a swallow on the wind.

He checked his watch, he would have to turn back soon. The evening show started at eight o’clock sharp, and Jean, the man who ran the circus, would be furious if he was late. Just as he was about to turn back, he came to a clearing in the woods, where the path he had been following, met three more. A cross roads is not in of itself an unusual sight, although one in a forest is highly irregular, but what he saw before him made him start. In the exact spot where the four paths met, stood a man. The man was unusually tall, at least six foot five estimated Oscar, and he was almost as wide again. He towered above Oscar’s five foot seven, slender frame, and was a formidable sight to behold. His neck was the same width as his square shaped head, and it stood upon two large shoulders. He had dark eyes, framed by purple bags, and his thin lips were curled into a sly smile. He wore an old fashioned grey tweed suit with a matching fedora which reminded Oscar of something his Grandfather would have worn when he was a child. All of these features were unusual enough alone, but combined with the fact that the man was staring straight at Oscar with those dark eyes of his, and that his hands were clasped in front of him, gave the overall appearance that he had been patiently waiting for Oscar to arrive. He found it all rather unnerving to say the least.

Oscar froze as he absorbed what he saw, and before his senses returned to him fully, he could think of nothing else to do apart from smile weakly at the stranger, and make an inane remark like, “Nice evening for a walk.” The man made no reply, and instead continued to stare. Oscar began to feel incredibly awkward about the whole situation. He wanted to leave, but felt it would be rude to simply walk away without further conversation, and if there was one thing Oscar loathed, it was rudeness. Again, he tried to make polite conversation.

“I’m here with the circus, you may have seen the posters around town?” Silence followed.

“I find a walk in the evening really clears ones head. Do you agree?” Again, his remark was only met with further silence. Oscar found himself beginning to feel rather irritated by the whole experience. The man was being incredibly rude, not to mention unfriendly, but given his stature, Oscar thought it best to not voice this opinion, and to simply end the conversation and hurry back to the tent. He opened his mouth to say something along the lines of, “Well, have a good evening.” when the man pulled out a letter and thrust it toward Oscar. In normal circumstances, as with the Christians handing out their doomsday leaflets on street corners, he would simply say a polite, “No thank you.” and walk away. However, these were not normal circumstances, and this was no ordinary piece of paper, for clearly marked on the envelope, in blood red writing was a name, his name in fact, Oscar Thorpe.

This was unusual for two reasons, the first being that, as we have already established, this man was a stranger to him, and therefore would have no knowledge of his name. But secondly, Thorpe was his father’s name, the name given to him at birth and the name which adorns his birth certificate. It is not, however, the name he goes by. Indeed, he had ceased to use that name at the age of sixteen years old when his Father abruptly left, and within a matter of months his poor mother had died of a broken heart. Since that year, he had used his Mother’s maiden name of Sheridan, and he knew not of a single living soul who knew of his true, legal name.

He hesitated until curiosity got the better of him, and he took the envelope from the silent man. He examined it carefully. The envelope was of thick quality paper, and had been sealed with a red wax seal depicting what appeared to be a pitchfork or trident. The writing on the front was slanted heavily to one side and appeared to have been written in haste. It had a faint odour which Oscar could not place.

“What is this?” The man made no reply, and instead gestured towards the envelope.

“Who gave you this? Why do you know my name?” Again, the man said nothing, and simply gestured towards the envelope in response to Oscar’s questions.

A dozen questions sat on the tip of his tongue, but he thought better of asking them. He hoped the answers would perhaps lie within, and besides, he could already guess the response he would receive from this tall man, and they would not be satisfactory.

He opened the envelope carefully, and removed the paper from within. Unfolding it, he attempted to guess its contents, but drew a blank. Whatever it was, he had a strange feeling it would change his life forever. Written in the same blood red ink, in the same slanted, hurried handwriting, was the following letter:

Dearest Oscar,

I understand that this situation may be highly irregular, but I beg of you to please read this letter with an open mind. Trust me when I say, it will be to your advantage to do so. I also have no doubt that you have many questions, and I will do my very best to answer them all for you here. First, an introduction. The gentleman who has provided this note to you is a colleague of mine, and a dear friend. He has no name of his own, but I call him Servus. He says very little, but sees all. He will take your response to the proposal put forth in this letter, should you wish to convey one. He is extremely loyal, and very trustworthy, traits which are so lacking in today’s world.

I myself have many names, some good, some bad. I prefer to simply be called Luc. I have developed a reputation of being an untrustworthy man, but all I do is offer those desperate souls what they yearn for. I ask you, is getting exactly what one wants such a terrible thing? But, I get ahead of myself.

Please know that everything contained within this letter is nothing but the truth. I offer no empty promises and I am a man of my word. And to show you that this is not some prank, I will prove to you that I know many things, not least of all, your greatest desire. How do I know your true name you ask? I know many things. I know that you were christened this name, but that you chose another in anger and grief. Perhaps this information is not so spectacular alone. After all, it would not be impossible for one to find out, should they be determined enough. Improbable, but not impossible. But I know more than any man could. I know that you are the reason your father left. That, after discovering his second life, his second family, you had presented him with an ultimatum: Them or us. I know that, after he chose them, you hid the truth from your Mother in some vain hope of sparing her feelings, but instead the lack of knowledge drove her mad with grief, and she died within the year. I know that you blamed your father for her death, and yourself more so, and I know that after too many drinks and a building up of hurt and pain, in a fit of rage, you threw a burning bottle through the window of your ex-father’s new home, and while his worthless life and that of his new wife, were spared, their unborn babe was lost. I know that out of remorse, as well as the fear of being found out, you ran and joined the circus, choosing an empty nomadic existence as penitence for your crime. This I know, along with all the other sad chapters of your life so far. How you ask? Because I see all sin, because I know all sinful men, and because I bear the weight of those sins alongside them.

It doesn’t have to be this way Oscar. You have served your time, and then some. After all these years of making people laugh, don’t you deserve some happiness of your own? Don’t you deserve to know love? The love of Ophelia. She is what your heart desires above all else is she not? I can make her see you for the first time, more than that, I can make her admire you, to see you as the strong, brave man you truly are. I can make them all see you. You have spent too long in the shadows Oscar. I can bring you into the spot light. I can make you the star of the show, but more importantly, I can make you the star of your own life after years of playing the bit part. You can be the man your Father failed to be. You can be who you were destined to be. I can do this and more Oscar, so much more.

All I ask in return, is your unwavering loyalty. Surrender yourself to me, completely, and I will give you exactly what you deserve, and everything you ask of me will be yours. I know this seems a heavy price to pay, but your payment would only be due in death, and in the mean time, you have everything you want in life. Why worry about later right now?

I understand that this is a difficult decision, and I do not wish to rush you, just know that this is a one time offer. Refuse now, and you will never have this opportunity again.

I Look forward to your response,

Yours Faithfully,

Luc

P.S. Simply give your answer to Servus, in writing, I will do the rest.

He read the letter several times, and pondered its contents in disbelief. The information within was known to no other man, no human man anyway. Could this really be something supernatural? Could this truly be, as he suspected, the work of the Devil? Oscar was not a God fearing man, and he had given up on religion many years before. In fact, he had not believed in the devil until this very moment, for despite racking his brains, he could find no other explanation for what was happening now. So if this was indeed a real offer, as Oscar now suspected it was, the question is should he accept? One’s soul is a heavy price to pay for anything, no matter how spectacular and yearned for that thing may be. But, as the letter stated, he had a long life ahead of him, after all he was only thirty years old, and had just recently received a clean bill of health from a Doctor. Was a lifetime of happiness and joy worth later servitude? Oscar reckoned it was. Ophelia was worth that plus so much more. He imagined how joyful his life would be with her. Perhaps they could leave the circus soon, and start a family, or perhaps their children could follow in their foot steps and travel the world, performing their feats for all to see. He had loved Ophelia from afar for so long now, desperate to hold her, to kiss her. This could be his chance. And then there was the idea of being the star for once. He had been humiliated and tread on for most of his life, and for years he had endured this embarrassment so publicly. He had accepted this fate readily at first, after all, he deserved to be punished for his crimes. But had he not suffered enough? After more than a decade of shovelling elephant waste and being the butt of every joke, maybe he had served his time. This could be his chance to finally feel the warm glow of the spot light on his face, and to be the star of the show for once in his pathetic life. Yes, he could see it now, he could feel the rumble of the applause, he could feel the soft brush of Ophelia’s lips on his.

He checked his watch again. It was almost seven thirty now, and he really had to get back. Was he really doing this? Was this really happening? Just as he seemed to make up his mind, the stranger pulled an ornate black and gold fountain pen from his inside pocket, and handed it to him. “Do I just sign the letter?” The tall man nodded, and without further thought, Oscar signed his name on the reverse of the page in the same blood red ink as it’s original author. Before the ink could dry, the stranger pulled the pen and the letter from Oscar’s hands and put them inside the same pocket. Oscar had so many questions. Would it work immediately? How would it happen? Was there some kind of magic words he needed to say or some kind of ritual he needed to perform? But he had no time left, and could no longer stand the silence of this mammoth’s responses.

He turned the way he came, and after a few steps, looked back to discover the man was no longer there, and he was once more alone in these woods.

He ran through the trees, scratching himself on several protruding branches as he did so. He cursed out loud as one particularly thorny vine drew blood. If he was indeed going to receive his dream come true, this was a lousy way to start it. He made it to the tent with only ten minutes until show time, but instead of being met by the hardened, angry face of Jean, he was embraced warmly.

“Oscar, thank God, just the man I was looking for. I was starting to worry about you.”

“You were?”

“Of course I was! Ten minutes until curtain up, and my leading man was nowhere to be seen. I nearly sent out a search party.”

“Your leading man?”

“Indeed, my number one, my shining light, the star of the show.”

Silent man pic

With that, Jean gestured behind Oscar, who turned to see a huge painted, fabric poster, the size of a house, depicting him, Oscar Sheridan, as ‘The Magnificent Oscar, Ring Leader, Lion Tamer, Star.’ He had never looked that handsome in real life. His skin glowed, and the top hat and tails he wore made him look rather dashing, even if he did say so himself. In his hand he held a leather whip, and just behind him, a lion cowered in fear at his might. It was better than anything he could have imagined.

“You should go and get dressed. The clowns will be on first, then the trapeze artists, and then you.”

Oscar nodded, still staring in disbelief, and began to walk towards his tent.

“Where are you going?”

“To get changed like you said.”

“Yes, but why are you going that way? That’s where the minor players and freaks camp, your trailer is that way.”

Oscar didn’t know what to say, and simply nodded dumbly, walking in the direction of Jean’s outstretched arm. He had walked around fifty metres, when he came to a large silver trailer with ‘The Great Oscar’ painted on a yellow wooden star on the door. Slowly, he opened the door and stepped inside. As far as circus digs went, this was the crème de la crème of accommodation. He was used to sleeping bags on the ground and leaking tents. Compared to that, this was a palace. The unit was divided into three sections, a small seating area at the front, a cooking area and a double bed at the back. In the middle, there stood a dressing table strewn with makeup brushes and eye pencils. The Mirror above it was surrounded by bulbs glowing a warm yellow hew, and taped along one side of it was newspaper clippings showing Oscar smiling out under various headlines: “The Great Oscar wows Town Mayor”, “Oscar the Great is awarded the key to the City”, “Oscar Sheridan breaks world record.” A clothes rack stood to his right, and a dozen costumes hung there. The detailing on each sparkled as he swiped his hand along them all, enjoying the richness of the fabric against his shaking hands. Then he spotted it, obscured by a black satin top hat, sat a black and white framed photograph of his beautiful Ophelia. It was one of her head shots, and she stared seductively over her bare shoulder at the camera. In black ink, handwritten in the right hand corner, were the words ‘To my dearest Oscar, Forever Yours, Love Ophelia xx.’ It was all too good to be true. He pinched himself, and with the sharp pain confirming that he was in fact awake, he started to cry tears of joy. It had worked. It had really worked.

A sharp knock at the door jolted him back to reality.

“Ten minutes until show time Mr Sheridan.”

He sat in front of the mirror and applied some make up. He was used to slathering on cheap white creams, and red waxy makeup, but this enhanced his features rather than obscured them. By the time he was done, and his costume put on (He had chosen a white sequin jacket and black top hat and trousers), he truly did look like Oscar the Great.

He made his way towards the tent, and could arrived just as the trapeze artists were performing their final, and most dangerous trick. Ophelia removed her safety wire, and having swung as high as the tent would allow, she would fly through the air and somersault not once, but twice, before her brother Renee caught her. The audience would scream and gasp. On more than one occasion, someone had fainted. But Ophelia never fell. She couldn’t fall. She only flew; a swallow on the wind.

The audience burst into rapturous applause and Ophelia and Renee took their bows now they had returned safely to the ground. Jean went out into the ring and began to banter with the audience, he would always tell a few jokes before introducing the next act, and the two gravity defying stars walked towards Oscar at the side of the ring. Oscar could not take his eyes off her. She was so stunning, and the spot lights behind her, gave her an almost angelic quality. As she passed him, she grabbed him suddenly by the neck and kissed him hard. He went rigid for a moment, sheer surprise and shock overriding every other sense, before they finally returned to him, and seizing the moment, a moment he had only ever dreamt about before this night, he grabbed her by the waist and pulled her close to him, returning her kiss and breathing her scent in deeply. She smelled like apricots, and she tasted even sweeter. It was better than he could have ever imagined.

After what felt like an eternity, she pulled away, and smiled up at him adoringly.

“Knock them dead my love.”

She then skipped off, twice looking back at him and smiling the sweetest of smiles just for him. Before this, she had barely made eye contact with him, and in fact had only spoken to him on three occasions since joining their circus two years prior: “Bring me a drink clown”, “Move out of the way” and ‘Stop staring at me freak.” He had saved each word in his memories, believing any contact with her to be precious. Now, she kissed him fondly and called him her love. Now, after all the fantasies and imaginary scenarios played out in his mind, she was finally his. He felt as if his heart would burst. Surely, it could not get any better than this?

“And now, the moment you have all been waiting for. The star of the show, the bravest man in the western world, the man you all came here to see, the one, the only, Oscar the Great.”

The applause was deafening. People screamed until they were hoarse, several young girls fainted with excitement, and the entire audience, every man, woman and child, stood as he entered the ring. The audience barely noticed him before, now they gave him a standing ovation. This was everything he had ever wished for, and more. Jean handed him the leather whip, and walked backwards out of the ring, clapping Oscar as he went.

He stood a moment, basking in the warm glow of the spot light, and with closed eyes, absorbed every clap, every yell echoing around the tent. Then he raised his left hand and immediately the audience became silent. Even on the saw dust floor, you could have heard a pin drop. He couldn’t believe how receptive they were to him, “They’re eating out of the palm of my hand!” He bowed to them, and the applause erupted once more, before another raise of his hand brought them to silence. It was then he knew what it felt like to be a star amongst men, it was then he knew what it felt like to be truly happy. He wished it would never end.

In fact, he was so absorbed in this moment of sheer bliss, that he had failed to notice the two stage hands roll out the cage containing a rather large, and rather angry looking lion. There are places where a wild animal can be happy in captivity. A travelling circus was not one of them. By the time he heard the snarling roar behind him, it was too late. The beast sank it’s fangs into Oscar’s throat, pulling him to the ground. He could feel warm wetness spreading across his chest, and watched the shining white sequins turn red and dull. He felt pain for only a moment, before he began to feel nothing but cold. It was a coldness like none he had ever felt before, and it sent a shiver up his spine. He could hear screaming all around him, but this was not like the enraptured applause of before, no, these screams were filled with horror and fear.

He could feel himself slipping away, the images around him becoming black and fuzzy. The last thing he saw was a very tall man in a grey tweed suit and matching fedora, holding a piece of paper with something scrawled across it in blood red ink. Written in ink that now matched his jacket. It was a name. It was his name. It was his soul.