Some guy who writes books posts weekly prompts, from which we’re supposed to write short stories. This week’s prompt is the following lyric:
“Why is it so hard to accept the party is over?”
Before I get to my entry for this flash fiction challenge… exciting news!
Some of you may remember my previous post, lamenting my lack of spare time due to seeking a new role with the Planetary Expeditionary Forces (as well as reporting on my canine’s apparent dislike of Tom Hiddleston).
Well, I’m happy to report that the PEF have offered me an exciting new role, so now I will not only be observing people, but also developing them through the use of non-invasive surgery! Haha just kidding about the surgery part. Once I’ve settled into my new role (and spaceship) I’ll hopefully be able to resume my regular reading and writing and blog-following schedule.
Without further ado, let’s get on to some much overdue story-telling:
A Better Party
David Gander watched from above as his relatives gathered around his death-bed for the third time in a week. Though the silvery thread tethering his soul to his body was fading, and his grasp on the living world weakening by the hour, he was still present enough to see and hear all.
“I just hope he’s not suffering,” his daughter, Emma, sobbed quietly. Twenty minutes ago, on her way into the hospice, she’d remarked to her husband, ‘Let’s pray he really leaves, this time.’
“I’m sure he takes great comfort from having us here,” said Bobby, David’s youngest son. Last time he’d visited, Bobby had whispered to his second wife—some Polish waif looking for a sugar-daddy to take care of her—that they’d soon be spending their inheritance on a vacation to the Azores.
Twelve year old Chris reached out to rest his young hand on the arm of David’s hospital gown. “I’ll miss Grandpa when he’s gone.” The little brat had complained in the corridor that Grandpa dying was keeping him from the opening sale of the latest version of GTA, whatever that was.
As he floated formlessly above the scene of his own death, his body surrounded by vultures ready to pick at the bones of his life, a great sadness filled him. How quickly Emma had forgotten that her father had provided the down-payment for her first home. How easy it was for Bobby to ignore the fact that his father’s hard work had put him through college. As for Chris and the other grandchildren… a dozen Christmas smiles over gifts of books and warm knitted sweaters came hurtling through the years as lies.
The machine monitoring his lifesigns faltered. His heartbeat began an irregular blip on the screen. As one, the family leant forward, their eyes shining with anticipation.
Something cold swept through the room, and though David was only a formless soul, he shivered. The silver tether flickered, then strengthened… and holding onto it was another being, one wreathed in roiling grey mist that obscured everything but its eyes—eyes as silver as mercury, and as cold as steel.
“David Gander,” the thing said without words, “I have been calling for you.”
David swallowed—or he would have, if he’d still possessed a body. “I know.” The calls had been intermittent, at first; the tolling of a bell, its peal growing louder as the moment of death drew near. He’d ignored it. Thought he still had too much to live for.
The second time he heard it, it was a wind-chime, soft but insistent, an ever-present tinkling in the background. After hearing some of his family’s comments, he’d ignored that, too.
Now, the call was more ominous. It wasn’t a regal bell or a soothing windchime; it was a thunderstorm brewing on the horizon. It was rumbling and sparking and threatening.
“Why have you ignored my calls?” the thing asked.
“What are you?” David countered. He knew he ought to be afraid, but he simply didn’t possess the biology for it anymore.
“I have been called many things by many people.” The thing drew closer, and the grey mist shifted like sand. Where it moved, David got the impression of different faces. Different… creatures. Different concepts. “Angel of Death. Reaper. Ferryman. My eternal task is to take souls to where they are supposed to be.”
Did he dare to hope? Yes, he did. “You mean… heaven?”
The thing had no shoulders, but David sensed a shrug from it. “For some. For others, it is… the other place. And yet others go back into the world, or return to some single force. It really depends on what you believe, and where you think you deserve to be. Now, tell me; why do you stay?”
David looked down again at his family. At the hope in their eyes. The unspoken eagerness in their voices. “At first, I thought I still had something to live for. I didn’t want to leave them. Who would look after them? Protect them?
“And then, after the first time, I heard their true thoughts. I’m an inconvenience to them. After Mildred died, they put me in a home and thought visiting once a month could make up for a lifetime of me providing for them. They cast me aside and waited for me to die. Even now, they want me gone. They want my money, and they want me to stop wasting their precious time. The only satisfaction—the only happiness—I get now, is from watching their disappointment as I continue to live. I used to be the life of the party, and now look at me.”
“That isn’t satisfaction, nor happiness. It is vindictiveness. Spitefulness.” The thing gestured at the gathered relatives. “I see so many souls trapped between worlds because they succumb to the darkness that licks at them from the shadows. There are worse things in this world than heaven and hell, and if you stay, you will learn of them. And you will wish you had come with me when I called.”
David hesitated. This world was the only one he had ever known. But it hadn’t been the same since Mildred had passed. Would she be waiting for him? Could he finally see her again? Hold her again?
“What’s waiting for me, in the beyond?” he asked.
“Well… let’s call it a new party. A better party. And I’m your chauffeur. But you must decide quickly. Three calls is all any soul gets, and once the storm passes, so does your ride.”
That explained why the rumbles were getting quieter. Why the lightning flashes were more distant. The storm was passing. His chance was passing.
“If I decide to go with you, what do I have to do?”
“Simple.” The thing gestured down at the silvery thread, the one that tethered David to his failing body. “Just let go. Let it all go.”
Greetings, human readers!
It’s been a while since I posted anything here, largely because I’ve been seeking new employment (unsuccessfully thus far) within the Planetary Expeditionary Forces, leaving me little time to be creative. Also, I have a new spaceship. My new spaceship is red, and therefore automatically faster than the old blue spaceship I used to own. Should anybody be interested in purchasing my old spaceship, I am selling it off for 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 blurgcoins. Please leave comments below to register your interest!
I have finished moving all equipment into the new spaceship. Glorken has come with me, as has the small canine I procured earlier in the mission.
Other than that, there is nothing really new with me. I approve of the new Thor movie and can’t wait for the next Star Wars instalment. I haven’t been doing as much reading as I should have, owing to aforementioned busyness. I’ve also discovered, thanks to Crimson Peak, that the canine does not enjoy spooky music or bloody ghosts crawling through walls and floors. She may also not like Tom Hiddleston.
Other things the canine does not like include lions, polar bears, wildebeest, reindeer/caribou, walruses, narwhals and hyenas. As a result, we no longer watch the the Nat Geo channels on my spaceship.
Here is a picture of canine’s unimpressed don’t-like-Tom-Hiddleston-or-narwhals face.
I hope to get some time to produce new stories and fascinating reports to the homeworld over the seasonal period, but in case I don’t get chance, we the inhabitants of Spaceship #2 would like to wish all of our regular followers (yes, all six of you!) a very Happy seasonal period and a joyous renewal of the Gregorian calendar.
Nestling down into the pile of leaves clustered at the base of the tree, Lars folded his arms to tuck chilled fingers into warm pits. He turned his face toward the waning sun and enjoyed the warmth of the dying rays caressing his skin. It wouldn’t be long before the sun failed to chase away the frost entirely, and he was looking forward to long days spent in front of the fire.
Nearby, one of the flock bleated plaintively. Lars glanced over them and, content that the animals weren’t wandering too far, closed his eyes to doze in the remnants of autumn.
Images filled his mind, images of falling leaves and herds of migrating reindeer, of frost patterns on glass and flights of geese in their sloppy V-shapes. A song filled his mind, something strange but familiar, as quiet as a whisper, growing louder as its source neared.
Something brushed against his face. He bolted upright, his hat falling off, heart pounding a staccato in his chest. The ‘something’ was a leaf, crisp and orange, that the tree against which he slept had given up.
“Your coat is lovely and soft,” said a feminine voice. “Does it keep you warm and safe from my sister’s clutches?”
Lars reached for his crook as he leapt to his feet. Wolves and wildcats were the usual culprits when sheep went missing, but the occasional human thief was more of a nuisance than the wild animals.
He didn’t see the woman, at first. His eyes seemed to skip over her, so that it was only when she moved that he truly saw her. Crouched beside one of the sheep, she was stroking the animal’s woolen coat, and when she saw him staring, she smiled and stood.
“I didn’t mean to startle you,” she said. Her voice, soft but crisp, reminded him of the wind sighing through the wilting trees. “I was just passing through.”
“Who are you?” He kept his grasp firm on the crook, let his gaze dart from side to side. Last year, over on Gunther’s pasture, a pretty maiden had distracted the shepherd while a thief snuck up behind and knocked him clean out. When he woke up, every single sheep was gone. Lars was not going to fall victim to the same fate as his friend.
“Like I said, just passing through.”
It wasn’t until he glanced down to her feet that he realised how outlandishly she was dressed. Her long auburn hair was braided in a crown around her head, whilst her dress wasn’t only the colour of the fallen leaves, it actually seemed to be made from them! A pauper, clearly; she went barefoot, without even a slipper to cover her surprisingly clean feet. Her perfume shifted with the changing breeze, at one moment damp and loamy, like the rotting of mulch, and then heady and spiced, like warm pumpkin soup. And her eyes… her eyes were the deep gold of ripe corn, rich and pure, framed by lashes flickering coyly as she watched him watching her.
“Few ever see me,” she said. “You must have a Gift. There is much I could teach you, if you weren’t tethered to the world like the sheep you watch over.”
“Who… what…” Lars licked his lips. Glanced down at the crook, which now seemed such a feeble weapon. This was foolish. He was foolish. She was just some peasant-girl. Just a girl.
The smile that curled her lips was mischievous. Had she read his mind, or simply finished his sentence? The latter, of course. A man’s thoughts were his own. Still, the way that she looked at him, and the way he felt standing before her… naked, yet safe. Exposed, yet protected. He knew, somehow, that as long as she stayed, he would come to no harm.
Her gaze turned West, towards the distant sea. On bare feet she stepped silently through the flock, her attention already focused elsewhere. Lars reached out to touch her shoulder, then quickly thought better of it.
“Do you have to go?” he asked. “Can’t you stay a while longer?”
She shook her head to the sound of birds in flight and the scent of apple scrumpy. “My sister is coming. Wherever I go, she chases me. Her birth is my death, and to stay would be the death of me forever. No, I have to stay one step ahead. Always one step ahead.” From the corner of her eye, she glanced at him. “When you’re ready to learn, come and find me.”
“Where will I find you?” he asked in desperation as her feet carried her ever forward.
But it was too late; she was gone.
Lars opened his eyes and shook his head, ridding his mind of the remnants of his strange dream. The light was fading, the red sun sinking swiftly behind the mountains. Soon it would be dark. Time to go home.
He stood, extracting himself from the pile of leaves that covered every inch of him entirely to his chin. How—?!
The tree had shed all of its leaves while he’d been asleep. They covered him in a blanket, warming him against winter’s crisp chill that was creeping into the air. Nearby, the sheep were silent, and when he realised they were all standing facing the direction that the strange woman had taken, he couldn’t help but shiver.
Plucked from their patches
hollowed, cut, and brought to life
wickedly they scheme.
Tuesday 31st will see the three Autumn haikus brought together in a flash fiction.
Stronger and stronger
as the evenings grow shorter
the shadows, longer.
Yellow, red and gold,
mulchy, slippery and cold,
fiery ice on tarmac.
Autumn (fall) is going to be a theme of my upcoming stories and poems.
The scream from the alley drew Xander’s attention. A smile tugged at one corner of his mouth. And here he thought it was going to be a quiet night in the big city.
He moved closer, flitting from shadow to shadow. The scream echoing down the alley was reflected inside his head, bouncing around his skull, a wordless cry for help.
A woman’s cry, and then a sound of flesh hitting flesh. Sobs. A man’s voice. “I’m going to show you what I do to people who double-cross me, bitch.”
Xander reached into his pocket, fingers brushing against something cold, something metal. He pulled out the coin and held it between his finger and thumb. What do I want to be today? Good, or evil. Naughty, or nice? Saviour, or passer-by?
The coin flashed through the air, coldly glinting against the streetlight. He caught it on its fall, and slapped it against the back of the hand. A shiver of excitement rippled down his spine. This was always the best part. That moment of anticipation. Of not knowing what was going to come next, or who he was going to be until the next toss.
He pulled away away his hand, revealing the heads side. Another smile graced his lips as he reached into his other pocket and grasped the handle of his switchblade.
Sometimes, being good could be as much fun as being evil.
I’m a little late to Chuck Wendig’s Good vs. Evil story party this week. I went for brevity, and hope you enjoyed it!
Three days without sleep was the least of my worries. The three dead bodies on the floor? They were a worry. The three cops who bust into the apartment and found me ankle deep in said bodies? Considerably higher up my list of concerns.
They do say these things always happen in threes.
Unfortunately for me, the cops were human. Killing them was off the cards. I couldn’t explain to them why I was standing in a room with recently slaughtered corpses, either. Discretion, I’d been told. Cluing in the mortals… they wouldn’t have believed me. Tell a man you’ve killed an angel, he’ll think you’re nuts. Tell him you’ve killed three, he’ll think… well, the same, but with an added mass murderer bonus.
It was raining on the day I was seen for the first time in over a year. One of those muted, heavy rains that dampens sound and mood. A rain that trickles down the back of your collar no matter how high and straight you pull it, and soaks right through your only blanket. A rain that washes away the stink of the vomit coating the sidewalk—a memento left by last night’s socialites who went home to their warm, dry beds to sleep off their weekend hangovers.
I sat against the marble façade of the bank, my head bowed against the downpour. Feet passed. Loafers and brogues, sneakers and sandals, derbies and Jimmy Choos. From time to time, I glanced up, checking in case anybody had seen me. But their gazes were fixed on some invisible point right in front of their faces, heads held high; snooty, almost. On sunny days, they hide their gazes behind expensive brands of aviators. It’s harder for them to not see me, in the rain.
It was just before lunch time when I felt eyes watching me. A thrill of excitement jolted through me, coupled with a pang of icy fear. Somebody saw my friend Casper, last week, and he’s still in the hospital. Between being noticed and being noticed is a knife-edge ridge, perilous to walk.
The eyes moved towards me, a large black nose thrusting down towards my face. I glanced up and smiled at the yellow lab giving me the once-over while its oblivious owner stood in the shelter of the bank’s awning, checking her messages on her iPhone, or something. The dog had almost reached the limit of its leash, and still it came forward, snuffling and sniffling. Its eyes didn’t slide past me. Its feet didn’t move on. When I held out my hand, it licked at my fingers.
Dogs are better than people, I’ve realised. They don’t judge you. They don’t care about the troubles spread across your past like a connect-the-dots picture. They don’t wear aviators, or step over you with their Jimmy Choos. They don’t paint the streets that are your home in whatever they ate and drank last night, then go back to their perfect houses and go on with their perfect lives.
Thirty seconds after I made a new friend, its owner moved on, calling, “Come, Holly.” Holly watched me until she turned the corner, and then I became invisible again. Maybe later, I’ll head down to the bridge where the addicts hang out, and see if there’s a litter of puppies around. I think I’d like to be seen more often.
For some real and genuine stories from people who live on the street, visit this site: http://www.gottafindahome.com/
The featured image is courtesy of Pixabay.
Greetings, Earth-peoples, it’s me, Glorken!
Yesterday, I bought The Urban Spaceman a super cool bag for carrying scientific equipment around, and thought I would share with you the item’s baffling care instructions!
1. Leather: Keep it from Mars
But it’s okay to take it to Venus?
2. Cotton fabrics: Not exposure in the sun
3. Knitting, Lace Clothing: Stored separately from different depth color, prevent the shadow color or turning yellow.
But what if it’s already yellow?
4. Fur, leather, etc: Avoid the sun and the rain.
Only use indoors or on dry, cloudy days?
5: White Clothing: Put the clothes separately with other clothes when washing.
A complex enigma!
Do you Earth-peoples have any other examples of baffling instructions to share?