Themes: Crime, Urban Fantasy, Sci-fi
Words: ~994

Emporium was quiet for a Saturday night, but then, it tended to attract a lot of Espers. Dunno why. Maybe they like the music. Maybe they like that the bar staff don’t ask How’s your day been? as soon as you pull up a stool. Maybe they just like the soft-light ambiance. Emporium wasn’t really my scene, but I didn’t feel as uncomfortable there as most simple, honest folk do.

The beat of synth music pulsed its way out the front door. The bouncer gave me the once-over, but made no move to stop me. Recognised me, probably. This wasn’t my first visit to Emporium, and I doubt it’ll be the last.

My eyes adjusted to the dim, smoky interior, straining for every scrap of soft light they could get. I glanced over couples staring lovingly into each others’ eyes, and scanned the faces of men and women clustered around tables in small groups. It could’ve been a scene from any bar in the city, except for the fact not a damn one of them was making physical contact.

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Call Me Vlad

One micey. Two micey. Three micey. Four—

He stopped, stock still, on the gleaming barbed wire fence. The fourth spike was empty. Where was four micey? He’d hoisted the carcass up just yesterday. Miceys did not just get up and walk off the spikes. Not after he’d chewed off their little micey heads.

A victorious squeal from the undergrowth revealed the fate of four micey. A black-tipped tail flashed through the dandelions as an opportunistic stoat made off with the largest morsel in the larder.

No matter. Tomorrow, there would be more miceys to catch.

UFO


A Bird’s-eye View

Every other Sunday I’ll be publishing a drabble about, or from the perspective of, a bird. This week’s bird is the shrike. If birds were the size of some of their dinosaur forebears, you’d rightfully be worried about raptors such as hawks, eagles and falcons. However, perhaps after reading about the shrike, you’d bump it right to the top of your ‘avoid’ list. The shrike is a small, carnivorous passerine (the order of birds which also includes sparrows and robins). Lacking the talons of birds of prey, it hunts by pouncing on its victims from above and lifting them up to the thorns of trees or spikes of barbed wire, where it impales its live meal. It can then tear them apart at its leisure using its sharp, curved beak. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a colloquial name for this tiny killer is butcher bird. They’ll hunt small mammals, other birds, as well as insects such as bees and toxic locusts.

Image from here under this CC 2.0 licence.

Themes: Detective, Crime, Parody, Pirates
Words: 972

The docks smelt bad even at the best of times, but as she tottered down the wooden pier on her stupidly high heels, Detective Kitty Salva tried not to pull her face at the foul miasma of rotting fish and blooming algae wafting up from the water below. There were only two ways to smuggle dragons into Yew Nork City, and if they weren’t coming by land, they had to be coming by sea.

The things I do for my job!

“Mind yer footing here, Miss,” said Unscrupulous Jack. The smuggler offered his hand, assisting her over a loose plank. “Are you sure you wanna see this? My word’s gold. Just ask anyone.”

Kitty simpered at him. “My client insists I view the holding area. He wants to be certain that his phoenix will be travelling in excellent conditions.”

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Theme: Fantasy, Legend
Words: 992

“Tell us a story, Grandpa!” Talia begged. Her cry was picked up by the other children in the flock, a chorus of voices demanding entertainment.

Joram looked down at their eager faces. In a few years, Talia and her friends would be leaving school, entering the murky world of young-adulthood.The little ones would be little no longer, and they’d have no desire for an old man’s stories.

“What story would you like?” he asked his granddaughter.

He knew the answer before she gave it. She flung out her arm, finger pointing to the distant wall looming over the city. “The story of the firewall!” Of course. It was her favourite, and she never tired of hearing it.

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Adorned with a crown of jewels, she sat regal on her throne, watching the comings and goings of her subjects below. The morning sun rose, glinting off the stately amethyst and sapphire necklace which twinned the crown.

Nearby flower petals, opening to embrace the sun’s touch, beckoned to her with their perfume of sweet nectar. The cold of the long night forgotten, she stretched her wings and hummed a monotonous tune as she hovered in place.

With royal precision, she dipped forward to greet the flower and sip her saccharine breakfast.

UFO


A Bird’s-eye View

Every other Sunday I’ll be publishing a drabble about, or from the perspective of, a bird. This week’s bird is the beautiful Hummingbird. I suspect the specimen in the Pixabay picture above is actually a male (the species exhibits sexual dimorphism with the males usually more brightly coloured than females), but I couldn’t get the image of a queen wearing jewels out of my head.

An interesting fact I discovered whilst writing this drabble is that the males of some species perform a ‘courtship dive.’ To paraphrase Wikipedia, the male ascends by ~35 metres before diving down over a female at 27 m/s (equal to 385 body lengths/second) to produce a high-pitched sound. That downward acceleration is the highest reported for any vertebrate undergoing a voluntary aerial manoeuvre, and the speed relative to body length is the highest for any known vertebrate. In comparison, that’s about twice the diving speed of the formidable peregrine falcon whilst pursuing prey.

Hummingbird–1,  Peregrine falcon–0

Peregrine Falcon

And he’s pretty damn upset about it!

 

Spacepals Review Stuff

Hello!

Glork

My name is Glorken, and I’m The Urban Spaceman’s best and only friend! TUS has fallen a little behind on scientific reports to the Homeworld, and has asked me to step in to help out by reviewing stuff that is super important to you Earth-things.

Before we get to the good stuff, you probably want to know about my species, right? Specifically, you’re looking at me and thinking, “Hey, that guy has no fingers. How does he count?” Right?

Super important stuff you need to know about me…

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Themes: Humour, Parody
Words: 670

Pussycat lay draped over the side of the rowboat, her paw trailing listlessly in the water. Every few minutes a fish would swim up to examine the ripples, only to dart back to the safety of the depths when Pussycat took a swipe. She hadn’t caught anything yet, but she no longer expected to. These fish were very different to the sticklebacks she hunted in the stream back home.

In the back of the boat, Owl sat strumming his small guitar. Every so often he’d stop at the end of a phrase and repeat the bars he’d just played. His voice was mumble too quiet for Pussycat to discern his words; no doubt it was another ode to her beauty. That was pretty much all he sang, these days.

Another fish swam up to the boat. Another swipe of the paw. Another one that got away. Another repeated refrain from Owl.

“Will you stop playing that bloody thing?!” Pussycat hissed. “You’re scaring away all the fish.”

“I told you they were too fast to catch.” Owl slid his guitar beneath his seat and pulled out the picnic hamper. “These aren’t like the sticklebacks we get at home, you know.”

As Owl began carving up the hunk of honeyed ham, Pussycat sighed at the stars. This was not how she imagined her honeymoon. She was tired, hungry, smelled constantly of the bilge-water that found its way into the bottom of the boat, and to top off her list of complaints, the gold ring Owl had bought for her was turning to brass.

Owl appeared by her side and offered a plate containing a single slice of ham. “Here you go, my love. Eat up! It will improve your mood.”

Pussycat accepted the plate and devoured the ham, but the beast in her stomach still growled in complaint. “Don’t suppose there are any eggs to go with it?”

“I’m sorry, my love, but I had to throw them away yesterday; they’d turned quite green.”

“What about the mince and the slices of quince left over from our wedding feast?”

“You used the last of the mince for fishing, and we ran out of quince just before I cooked up the ham.” Owl bestowed a smile on his new wife. “I told you we should’ve brought more jars of honey.”

“Could you please just not talk for a while?” Pussycat sighed.

“Is something wrong, my love?”

Pussycat’s tail bristled, doubling in size. “Of course something’s wrong! Everything’s wrong!” She held up her wrist, showing off the gold-brass ring in the starlight. “The man who sold you this ring was a complete swine. And I bet that turkey-looking fellow who performed our ceremony wasn’t even ordained to marry us.”

“I told you he looked shifty. But you insisted on eloping! What was I to do?”

“You didn’t have to give him all our money, though. Right down to our last five pound note, too!” Not only was she starving and cold, she was now destitute. The proud owner of a brass ring and a boat that leaked. The boat had seemed a bargain at the time, but in hindsight, she should’ve walked away when she saw its name painted on its shallow hull. Who the hell called a boat Pea Green, anyway?

“It’s not all been bad, has it?” asked Owl. He sat on the bench beside her and took her paw in his wing. “We had our first dance by moonlight, with only the stars for company. How many people can say they did that?”

The dance was nice, she had to admit, but it didn’t make up for the cold. Or the hunger. Or the brass ring. Or the misery. “When we get back home, I’m planting roots.” She thumped the side of the boat. “And we’re selling this piece of crap.”

Owl smiled smugly. “I told you it wasn’t possible to circumnavigate the Earth in a rowboat.”

Pussycat snatched back her paw from his feathered grip. “I hate you,” she growled.

Earth


Inspiration for today’s Flash Fiction comes from Edward Lear’s poem, The Owl and the Pussy-cat (which you already totally knew… right? RIGHT?!) .

This is one of those times when I write one thing for two prompts and also sorta maybe just a little bit cheat my way through it. Yesterday, Jade M. Wong tagged me in a “write as much as you can in 10 minutes” challenge over on her blog. The prompt she gave was GREEN EGGS AND HAM. I didn’t get 10 uninterrupted minutes to do this, and it probably came to more like 15, but meh.

Chuck Wendig today set a “pick one of ten one-word titles and go nuts” flash fic challenge. I don’t know why I had Lear’s poem in my head when I read this prompt, but here we are.

According to Jade, I now need to tag at least 5 bloggers and offer a new prompt, but since I am That Indecisive Person who struggles to pick things (don’t ask my favourite food, colour, animal, etc) I’m just going to leave this open to anybody who would like to join in the fun. So, set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and put something out there! Full rules on Jade’s page linked above, and your new prompt is…

*after agonising for 25 minutes due to aforementioned indecisiveness*

SUMMER CAMP

Let’s talk about Drabbles

I like to think of drabble as the baby brother (or sister) of flash fiction. Where a flash fiction may run from a few hundred to a couple of thousand words, a drabble offers a more concise style of telling a story: 100 words or less.

“But it’s not possible to tell a story in a hundred words!”

It is. In fact, it’s possible to tell it in less. But a hundred is a nice round number to work to.

The Drabble has a very informative post about the art of drabbling here. There is something very satisfying about writing concisely to a small word limit, especially when others enjoy reading what you’ve written.

If you’re a drabble reader and not already following The Drabble, what are you waiting for?! If you write drabbles, then you might like to offer one for submission, to widen your audience and share your work.

You can read one of my own drabbles accepted for publishing at The Drabble here.

And for my favourite pick of drabbles I’ve read so far, check out Empty Vessels.

Got a drabble you’d like read? Stick a link in the comments below and I’ll take a look!

Themes: Fantasy, Horror
Words: 333

Her gnarled knuckles ache with the pain of age and cold as she directs the brush this way and that across the upright canvas. Darkness is her comfort, her old friend, her nightly blanket. Darkness, because eyes clouded by cataracts require no light by which to see.

Swish.

Time, her old nemesis, claws at the few days she has left, scraping them away hour by hour. Each minute slips through her fingers like minnows in the stream, each lost moment dragging her closer to oblivion.

Swish.

The hog-hair brush runs dry. Methodically, she dips it down into the red on her palette. Blood-red. Virgin heart red, to be specific. It will make a lovely rosy colour on the portrait’s cheeks. The flush of youth. Yes, she will be young again.

Brown the hair, brown harvested fresh just last night. The woodcutter’s daughter, her lovely skin, her oak-coloured tresses. Pigtails, she wore. Pigtails no more. The body will be found soon enough.

The boiled-up bones of the baker’s newborn babe give ample glue. The long brown locks lie beautiful along the portrait’s hairline. How well they frame those flawless cheeks pinked by virgin blood.

Swish.

The finishing touches, now. Blue eyes, cornflower blue, to match the blue sky. The dress of the goat-herder’s daughter, ripped to tatters. A wolf, they say. A wolf is fine for the woman. Let the wolf take the blame.

The eyes in place, sightless she stares at the vision of youthful beauty. A face to break a thousand hearts. Much better than the wrinkled, saggy flesh her real face has become. Wartless, hairless, free from liver-spots… yes, this face will do nicely.

She puts down the paintbrush and picks up the spell-book. A whimper draws her blind eyes to the corner of the cottage, where the blacksmith’s daughter, fairest of the lot, lies bound and gagged.

Should she?

Yes. Why not? A new body to go with her new face. Smiling toothlessly, she picks up the wickedly curved knife.

moon


This slightly macabre flash fic was written for a Blog Battle challenge, with a theme of Selfie and a genre of Fantasy.

Rather than go with a more urban or contemporary fantasy, I thought I’d stick with something a little more typical for the genre. I’ve come in waaaay under the word limit, but I hope you enjoy the story. It was inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Themes: Fantasy, Crime, Rebellion
Words: ~1030

They knew him as The Shadow and spoke his name in whispers for fear of reprisal. He’d robbed six nobles in the last month alone, and now The Shadow had his sights set on a seventh. The wheels of the gilded carriage scattered clouds of dust into the night air as the horses blew heavily in their traces. They had travelled far this night, and swiftly.

The carriage was not unprotected, but that merely made his task more of a challenge—and increased his enjoyment of tweaking noble noses. The six mounted House guards he had anticipated, but the plainclothes men had the look of mercenaries about them, which was even better. Mercenaries exploited the fear of others; they would find themselves unpaid at the end of this night.

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