The Medium is the Message


fortune teller mask

.

(600 words)

“Hello Sherina, yes, I’ve received your payment, how can I help?”

“Well, the world’s divided into two kinds of people. Those who hear voices in their heads and those who don’t. Some get paid for it and some get locked away!”

“Ha ha, yes, I get paid for it, dear!”

“Oh, getting on for thirty years!”

“Well, we have ‘guides’ – people in spirit. They co-ordinate who comes through.”

“Yes, they do a great job, it can get pretty busy! OK, I’m hearing the name Dianne, it’s a female energy, I’m feeling a lot of love, is it your mother, dear?”

“All right, I’m feeling a sharp pain in my chest. Did she have heart problems before she passed, perhaps a heart attack? Ah, I feel she passed quickly.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, dear, but she’s with me now, she says she’s fine now, and she sends her love … Sherina, are you OK, love?”

“Ah, yes, she’s just come to say hello, to let you know she’s fine!”

“Well, she’s showing me a garden with two swings, and two dogs, one’s a rough collie, black and white, the other’s a big brown thing, I’m not great on dogs!”

“Oh, yes, it is! He’s got a long muzzle and a big black nose.”

“Yes, my love, she’s bringing that through as a memory link, then. From when you were little, then … You’ve got photographs on the mantlepiece of her, she’s showing me?”

“Yes, have you noticed them being moved?”

“She’s been there and moved them, my love. To let you know she’s still around.”

“Yes, she’s often with you. Did you know?”

“Well, now you know, perhaps you’ll be more aware of her?”

“Ha ha. On, no, spirit won’t intrude if it’s private. Like if you’re in the loo!”

“But she’s saying she’s not keen on, Ian, is it? Yes, is he a boyfriend, dear? She’d question his motives.”

“That’s right. And sometimes he brings a friend, she’s saying.”

“Yes, well we won’t go there, dear!”

“No, it’s not for me to judge dear, I’m just the go-between. But, maybe listen to what mum has to say, eh?”

“Yes, and can I give you Andrea?”

“OK, well, she’s telling me that Andrea’s not to be trusted, do you understand, please?”

“No, don’t sign anything! That’s what she’s telling me, anyway.”

“Well, it’s up to you. I’m just the messenger. Perhaps speak to a financial adviser, love?”

“Ha, well you can choose your friends, but not your family, in-laws included!”

“OK, now, I understand you’ve been having bad headaches?”

“And it’s something you’ve suffered from for quite a while?”

“Well, she’s saying to try shamanic healing, she thinks it’ll help.”

“Just look online. Where are you, my love?”

“Oh, there’ll be a few around there. As I say, just check online, OK?”

“And can I give you October for a big anniversary or birthday?”

“Oh, yes, birthdays and anniversaries are still important to those in spirit, dear. They can go anywhere, at any time, and join in the fun!”

“Ha, yes, she’s showing me a big cake, it’s got a lot of candles on it!”

“All right my love, and mum’s giving you a bag of sherbet lemons! I was never too keen on those, they used to scrape the roof of my mouth!”

“Ha, that’s why she’s giving you them then!”

“All right, my love, I’ll leave you with her love and say God bless.”

“You’re very welcome, my love. And remember what she said about Ian and his … his, er, friends, eh?”

“All right, my love, Goodbye. Thank you.”

—-

To purchase the stories up to June 2017 in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 500 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 240!

Tangled Lives


tangled roots

(700 words)

I felt embarrassed. “Eavesdropper, moi?”
The girl looked at me accusatorily, but with humour behind her pale grey eyes. She wasn’t pretty, not even attractive really, but she had ‘something.’ Her skin was quite dark, healthy looking, and she wore silver-rimmed glasses. Maybe it was her generous shape. Perhaps it conformed to a subconscious template we males lust after?
“Well, what were you up to then?” She glanced back at her friend, a fat girl with bright blonde hair, presently shovelling spaghetti Bolognese into her face, then looked me square in the eyes, raising her eyebrows.
“OK, perhaps I was … a bit. I’m a writer; it’s a way of getting realistic dialogue … and ideas for stories.”
“What did you hear then?”
I laughed. “Not much really, just that you both sound desperate for a man!”
“Cheeky sod!” She blushed. “Perhaps I am. Have you written many books then?”
“I’m working on a novel.”
“Oh.” She sounded disappointed. She looked around, as if she were thinking to re-join her friend.
“Wait. I’ve written some stories. Look! I hurriedly took out my phone and found my book on Amazon. Look, that’s me, David Bird. Stories from the Undergrowth.” There was a little picture of me.
She looked from me to the picture, and to me again. “Wow. So, you’re a famous author!”
“Sort of!” I thought it prudent not to tell her it was self-published and that sales were currently in single figures.
Her eyes lit up. “Look, it sounds exciting. Maybe I could help?”
“Ah, I dunno.”
“Look, I’ll go around the bar, see if I can hear anything interesting. I’ll pretend to look at my phone, OK?”
I decided to humour her, I could always make my escape. “All right, thanks. What’s your name by the way?”
She smiled. “Leanne, I wondered if you’d ask!”
“Pleased to meet you, Leanne.” I shook her hot, clammy hand.
.
There was a restaurant area, about half full, and a large bar, separated into three levels, presently quite crowded, where you could also eat food. I’d discovered this was a good place for eavesdropping, and two stories in my book owed their genesis to it.
In a far corner I could see a middle-aged couple who looked like they were arguing. She was large with long platinum hair, small oval black-rimmed glasses, and a lined, saggy face. He had a short grey moustache and beard, and a skull that would have made a billiard ball envious. I wended my way towards them, aiming for a nearby cigarette machine, simulating a conversation with a talkative partner on my phone, giving time to eavesdrop on a tête-à-tête worthy of a modern-day Rabelais.
“All I’m saying, Jack, is to put your foot down a bit. She’s living in our house and while she’s still at home, she should abide by our rules.”
“I know, darling, but she’s twenty-four, she’s got a life of her own now. It’s not easy communicating with her, you know.”
“Maybe, but she comes back at all hours, drunk usually, crashing and banging about. And then there’s her … well, I hesitate to call them boyfriends.”
“Well, we were young and randy once!”
“Well, maybe you were. I preferred to keep my knickers on – unless I was having a piss or a shit.”
“Yes, I noticed!”
“Never mind that, something must be done, Jack, d’you hear me?”
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Leanne beckoning from across the crowded room. She looked worried. I went over to her. “Did you get anything?”
“Yeah, some men playing pool, ‘round the corner. They were talking about beating someone to a pulp.”
“Oh, my god, did they say why?”
“Yes, apparently some guy is shagging one of their wives.”
“Did they say who?”
“Yes, one David Bird esquire!” She glared at me.
I felt my stomach go queasy. “Look, I think I’d better go. It was great meeting you.”
She looked concerned. “I think you should. Will I see you again?”
Just then, Jack came over. “Leanne!”
“Oh, hello Dad, fancy meeting you here!”
That seemed as good a time as any to take my leave.

—-

To purchase the stories up to June 2017 in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 500 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 240!

On Strings


.

puppet on strings

(800 words)

“Manager of data security and hacker extraordinaire! May I introduce the head of MI7, Baronetess Zilberstein?” The Speaker of the House of Commons gestured towards a short woman with the face of a man. Her hair was black and greasy, and reminded Grant Balfour of the ‘pudding basin’ haircuts he’d endured as a child. Her features were pudgy and grey, as if moulded from ancient Plasticine. She dipped her head perfunctorily, but her thin, straight lips remained compressed.
Grant had been welcomed into the spacious chamber, carpeted in a deep ruby-red, by the Speaker. As a newly elected Member of Parliament he was burning with pride and ambition. One step at a time, he’d told himself, but he was in an era and a place where he could make a real difference, both for his constituents and the wider world.
After a week of finding his feet in the myriad corridors and offices of the Houses of Parliament, he’d been summoned to a ‘highly confidential’ meeting. There were eight chairs, one presently unoccupied, at a huge circular table. Around it, sat the leaders of the five main political parties: The Conservative party, the Labour party, the Liberal Democrats, the Ulster Unionists, and the Irish Republican Party, Sinn Féin.
He gazed around at portraits of MPs from the combative past, hung on ancient oak-panelled walls. They glared back through their cracked varnish.
The Speaker continued, “Thank you for coming Mr. Balfour. Now, this meeting is to remain strictly confidential, and it is also independent of any party politics, you understand?”
Grant nodded, wondering what it was all about.
The Speaker gestured around the table. “I believe you know the rest of these gentlemen?”
Grant smiled. “Yes, I’m familiar with the Right Honourable gentlemen. I believe I’ve crossed swords with one or two already!”
A polite ripple of laughter went around the table.
A door opened and a man with silver-grey hair, neatly parted, wearing a blue pin-stripe suit, came in.
Grant almost fell off his chair with surprise. “But … but you’re ….”
The man stroked his thin grizzled beard and laughed. “Reports of my death were greatly exaggerated, to quote a famous homosexual.” He took the remaining seat. “Now, Mr. Balfour, no doubt you’re wondering what this is all about. Well, I’m not going to beat about the bush. You were elected to serve your constituents and our Queen, yes? A very noble desire. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as that.”
“What?”
“You see, Mr Balfour, we are The Seven and we have certain other … er, loyalties.”
The others murmured in accord.
“We receive … ah, certain directions … from time to time, via the good Baronetess ….”
Her thin lips twitched beneath the greasy black basin
“And it is our …, er, duty, if you like … to interpret and implement these directions.”
Grant wondered what on Earth the old duffer was on about.
“Once we’ve decided on the implications of these … er, directions, we pass them to the ‘inner circle.’ That comprises seventy MPs. They, in turn, communicate them to the Outer Circle – the remainder of our 650 MPs.”
Suddenly, something clicked in Grant’s mind. “You’re saying some policies are decided … um, externally of this house?”
The man slapped his hand on the table, making everyone jump. “Precisely!”
Grant felt indignant. He’d been elected to serve his constituents and his party, not some external … external what? “Who, may I ask, is sending us these … er, policy directives, then?”
The man smiled. “Ah, that I’m not at liberty to disclose. Let’s just say, a foreign government, several thousand miles away, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude.”
A wave of belligerence came over Grant. “And what if I don’t agree to the demands of this, … this ‘foreign government’?
“Ah. Well, as Monsieur Rabelais once said, ‘One falls to the ground in trying to sit on two stools.’”
“But what if I do what I was elected to do, vote with my conscience?”
The man put his hands over his eyes, as though he were protecting his soul. “Ah, in that case, er, something nasty will likely be found on your computer and you’ll have the whip withdrawn.”
“Thrown out of the party I’ve supported all my life?”
“Yes, if you want to put it like that, I’m afraid so. But if it’s any consolation, everyone else is happy, well more or less, to toe the line.”
Grant felt like he’d been punched in the gut. “So, I’ve got to kowtow to the Yanks or look for another job?”
There was a sudden silence in the room. Time was suspended, no one moved.
Somewhere a fly buzzed at the edge of audibility. Then Zilberstein coughed. The man cleared his throat. “Who said anything about America?”

—-

To purchase the stories up to June 2017 in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 500 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 240!

An Eye for an Eye


artifical eyes

(1400 words)

I stared in total disbelief. I’d returned home from work to find my front door hanging from broken hinges and the whole house surrounded with yellow tape, stating POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS. I looked around. There were no police vehicles, that I could see anyway, and nothing happening at any of our neighbours’ houses. All seemed quiet and deserted.
I ducked under the tape and went in. A table in the hall lay on its side, but in the lounge, everything seemed normal. Then I looked in the kitchen. It looked as if a giant arm had swept everything onto the floor. There were broken cups and plates strewn around everywhere. I spied a mobile phone amongst them, my son Jack’s, I thought. How odd. I picked it up and put it in a jacket pocket. As I did so, I noticed a dark stain on the brown kitchen carpet tiles, and what appeared to be speckles of blood all over the crockery. A saucepan on the stove, now cold, had a blackened base, as if it had boiled dry.
“You’re not allowed in the house, sir!”
I turned around and jumped out of my skin. A man stood in a yellow suit with a huge clear visor. Through it, I could see he was breathing with a respirator. He wore black rubber gloves and shoes.
“What’s going on. Where’s my wife and son?”
“Your wife’s in hospital and your son’s … being looked after. Everything’s being taken care of. Now, can you leave the house please, sir?”
“Why?”
“You need to go NOW, sir.”

“No, not until I find out what’s going on!” I felt an impact on the back of my head then … unconsciousness.

“Darling, come and look at this.” I turned my lava rock paperweight around under the desk light. Yes, there it was again. In one of the mass of tiny holes, something moved.
Sandra came into the room. “What is it? I’m busy. And you need to get to work.”
I laughed. “I thought it was my imagination, but I think there’s something alive in this rock, in one of these little holes.”
She showed surprise. “Where?”
I indicated the approximate hole.
Her interest perked up. “Let me see.” She opened a desk draw and took out a magnifying glass. “Yes, I think I saw something move. Yes, I see it now, it’s like a … like a tiny red maggot.” Ow! She dropped the paperweight and put a hand over her left eye.
“What’s the matter?”
“Ow, if feels like there’s something in my eye.”
“Here, let me look.” I couldn’t see anything. I took the magnifying glass and looked again. Against the pale blue iris was a tiny red dot.
She must have noticed my concern. “What is it?”
“Oh, I think you’ve got a speck of … er, dust or something in your eye. Here, let me look again. Hold your eye open.” I peered into her eye once more. Suddenly, like magic, there were two tiny red dots.
So, I’d called for an ambulance and tried to stall a rising panic. When I’d next looked at Sandra’s eye there’d been four red dots. I didn’t dare look after that. She seemed agitated, pacing around with a hand over her eye.
“Just keep calm, darling, they’ll know how to treat it.” I became aware that I was crossing my fingers.

It didn’t take long, although it seemed like an age. Two green-suited paramedics, a man and a woman, came in, carrying equipment. “Nothing to worry about, madam,” the man said to Sandra after a quick examination. The paramedics exchanged concerned glances before the man came to me, speaking quietly and out of Sandra’s earshot. “It looks like some kind of parasite. They can freeze the area and get it out with a laser. It’s painless but her eye might be a bit sore for a few days. She’ll be given some special eye drops. Just go to work normally, sir, we’ll be in touch to let you know how she’s doing.”

And that was that. Once at work I was sucked into a department-wide panic at parts not being ready for a machine we were supposed to be marketing the following week. Heads were about to roll and I wasn’t sure if mine wouldn’t be one of them. At lunchtime there was a call for me from nearby St. Margaret’s hospital.
“Mr. Jameson?”
“Yes, who’s calling?”

“It’s Doctor Menzies from Ophthalmology. Just to let you know your wife’s fine and that she’s been discharged. We’re running her home in a hospital vehicle. She’ll feel a little ‘woozy’ for an hour or two due to the anaesthetic, so she’s been told to rest.”

Now, I regained consciousness and the room blurred into focus. It seemed to be some type of hospital ward and I was lying on a bed. I got up and unsteadily made my way to a washbasin where I splashed my face with cold water. I looked at my watch. That was odd. It was two o’clock in the afternoon. I must have been given something to make me sleep, a whole day had gone by.
I felt in my jacket pockets and found my son’s phone. I was surprised it hadn’t been taken, but my wallet and other bits were there too. I took it out and looked at the messages. He hadn’t set a password. They were the usual teenage nonsense, nothing untoward. But on the phone log, the last number dialled was 999. That was timed at 3.43 p.m. the previous day.
I clicked on Photos and, after pictures of Jack fooling around and pulling silly faces with equally silly friends, I noticed the last item was a video. I clicked it to play. It showed Sandra in the kitchen. Her left eye was covered with a gauze pad. “Jack, what are you doing?”
“Just filming the ‘grand unveiling’!
“I’m only taking it off for a minute. I’ve got to put these eye drops in.” She pulled on the tape holding the pad in place.”
I could hear Jack gasp.
“Jack, what’s the matter? Jack?!”
I gazed in horror. Her eye was completely red and bulging outwards. As I watched, it pulsed three times, slowly, then suddenly exploded, covering the phone’s lens with blood and tiny, wriggling red creatures. I recoiled at her shrill screams, feeling sick to my stomach. Through the blood spatters on the lens, I could see a gaping, empty eye socket. Oh …my … God.
“Yes, it was rather nasty wasn’t it?”
I looked up in surprise. A man in a white coat had come into the room whilst I’d been absorbed with the horrific video.
“Unfortunately, the laser didn’t do the trick. Those little buggers were more resilient than expected. Let me ask you, where did that rock come from, exactly?”
“I found it on a beach, Theddlethorpe St. Botolph’s.”
“Hmm. Well the boffins have had a good look at it. Seems it wasn’t your ordinary volcanic lava rock after all. It’s a meteorite.”
“What?! Then that … thing that was in it was … alien?”
“That’s our presumption.”
“What’ll happen?”
“Don’t worry, all those little critters were flushed out and your wife will be given an artificial eye. It’ll be connected to her brain, so she’ll be able to see, … well, sort of. Jack’s more problematic.”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, this has got to be kept under wraps. A condition of us fitting the artificial eye is that you keep this … ah, affair, to yourselves. We can’t have the plebs, er, sorry, I mean the public, panicked by this. We’re worried about Jack blabbing.”
“Well, what’ll happen to him then?”
“Oh, he’s been packed off to a young offenders’ institution for a year. We think the regime there should help him forget about it. No one there’s going to believe him either, they’ve got … other stuff on their minds.”
“But, that … that’s horrible!”
“Look, you can say he’s gone abroad for a year’s study. We’ll make it up to him when he comes out, OK?” He smiled. “Anyway, let’s get you something to eat. You must be hungry?”
I was. I was starving. So hungry, in fact, I forgot to mention that when I’d picked up the rock, it had promptly broken in two. I’d donated the other half to a local charity shop.

—-

To purchase the stories up to June 2017 in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 500 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 240!

A Tall Story


970px-Church_of_St_Walburge

(1450 words)

Feeling the plank bending slightly under my weight, I crawled to the end, trying to avoid looking at the impossible drop beneath me. Although I had a good head for heights, I still felt queasy. My fingertips felt the surface, roughly planed and unfinished, whilst I smelt the scent of freshly worked wood. A mild, warm breeze blew on my face, and above, the yellow disk of the sun burned down on me.
Reaching the end, I closed my eyes and turned around on the plank by feel. Then I opened them again and looked back at Jessie, silhouetted against the top of the tall spire. I couldn’t see her face, just blonde hair blowing in the breeze, against the slate-grey tiles.
She was stood on a platform close to the top of the steeple of St. Stephen’s church, Budhaven, one of the tallest in Britain. Above, on the very tip of the spire, a small but ornate metal cross surmounted a thick strip of copper lightning conductor which ran down the side of the steeple and ultimately into the earth.
“You OK, Ben?” she called.
I gave a thumbs up sign. The plan was to photograph me for Facebook, standing at the end of a narrow plank with a four hundred foot drop below! Now, out here, the reality was a bit different. It was really quite breezy, it might be dangerous. I decided it would be safer just to dangle my legs over the sides. It would still look impressive.
Suddenly, a workman with a yellow hard-hat appeared behind her. Her father owned the firm undertaking reparations, that’s how we’d got access to the spire, although he would never have given us permission to do what we were doing, had he known.
The man walked quickly towards Jessie, his yellow hat pulled down at the front and his face in shadow. She heard his steps and began to turn around, though not in time to prevent him from shoving her hard in the back, sending her crashing onto a low barrier surrounding the platform. I heard her cry out in surprise. Before she’d had time to regain her balance, he bent down, took her by the legs, and hurled her out and over the edge. She didn’t make a sound and in total disbelief I watched her spiralling downwards, making an odd bounce before crashing onto a corner of the church roof with a distant, sickening, thud. I looked up and the man had gone.
Just then, I felt a sharp pain in my right hand. Ow! I looked to find a half-crushed wasp. I could see a dark mark at the base of my thumb where its sting had gone in. In a state of panic, I scraped it off and crawled back along the wooden plank to the platform, pulling myself over the barrier, oblivious to the pain. I needed to get down and get help. Jessie might still be alive.
The platform had been constructed using a huge crane and access to it was now via internal steps in the spire, then out through a door and up a specially erected ladder to a trapdoor in the platform. But, to my horror, the trapdoor wouldn’t lift. It appeared to be bolted shut from underneath!
With my hand throbbing from the sting, I looked around, nothing but a big wooden chest. Inside were a number of coveralls and hard-hats, a large number of poles – about two feet in length – connected together with a type of elasticated rope, a roll of some kind of wire mesh, about the same width as the poles were long, about twenty pairs of thick socks and, of all things, a large flag of Bahrain. There was also a battered metal box that contained a few rudimentary tools. But even if I could somehow access the ladder beneath, I could imagine the spire door to be locked.
I looked over the edge and saw two tiny distant dots beneath me. “Help, I shouted, waving frantically. HELP!!”
One of the dots turned pink, presumably someone looking up. Then I saw that they were waving back at me.
No, you stupid idiots, get help!” I yelled at the top of my voice – but they got into a car and drove off.

There weren’t many people about, there being no ecclesiastical service and the church tea room having shut some time ago. Those that were, either ignored me, assuming they could hear me from so far above, or else waved back, unsuspecting that I was in dire straits. In the meantime, Jessie’s body lay, unmoving, far, far below.

I awoke to the deafening sound of rotors. I’d spent an uncomfortable and largely sleepless night on the cold, damp boards of the platform, trying to forget the fruitless hours of shouting and waving and the agony of my wasp-stung hand, the pain of which had now subsided, fortunately. Thank God I wasn’t susceptible to anaphylactic shock, or I’d have been a goner! It had rained in the night too, so even having donned a coverall and hard-hat, I was wet and freezing. And, of course, there was poor Jessie. Tears of frustration filled my eyes. If only I could have got off this damned platform I could have summoned help. Now she was doubtless beyond it.
But now I was astonished to see a rope swinging down from a helicopter and at the end of it was something, which as the chopper moved in and the rope swung closer, turned out to be a harness affair. I looked up but could see no one, just the orange underbelly of the helicopter and the whirring blades. I unclipped the harness and, seeing how it worked, quickly put it on. Looking up again, I now saw someone waving. I clipped the harness to the end of the rope and gave them a thumbs up sign, shortly feeling my feet lift off the platform. Thank God!
The chopper rose and the rope began to reel in. I was swinging around, looking down from maybe a thousand feet, but I felt so disoriented from an unprotected night on the platform that it all seemed surreal and I wasn’t nervous. Soon two men were taking my arms and helping me aboard.
“Hello, Ben.” It was Jessie’s father, Maurice McIntyre, of the McIntyre Corporation.
I sat down and unclipped the rope. With tears in my eyes and a trembling lip, I said, “Maurice, I’m so sorry, I’ve got some terrible news. Some crazy workman pushed Jessie off that platform. I think she’s dead.”
“Oh dear.” His face was sombre, then to my astonishment, it broke into a smile and then he began to chuckle. The chuckle turned into a laugh, and soon the other fellow joined in.
“What the …?”
Still laughing, he gestured to the front of the helicopter. The co-pilot removed a baseball cap and long blonde hair tumbled down. The airman turned and smiled. “Hello, darling!”
It was Jessie!
“Jessie! What the hell’s going on?! Is it really you?”
She came over and hugged and kissed me. Yes, it really was her.
So, it had turned out to be a bet, based on a stupid prank, organised by Jessie’s brother, Fred, who had a YouTube channel for practical jokes. A drone had filmed me and someone on the ground had misled any would-be rescuers, telling them I was in on the ‘joke.’ Fred had bet his uncle Xavier a substantial sum that I wouldn’t manage to escape, whereas Xavier, God bless him, although he was wrong, thought I had the initiative to somehow get down from the platform, unaided.
Seems they’d strung the church roof with a special kind of camouflage netting for Jessie to land on, complete with sound effect. She’d been a talented gymnast when younger. Then, when I’d been preoccupied with shouting and waving from the other side of the platform, she’d quickly climbed down and a dummy had been substituted. Thousands of YouTube viewers were no doubt chortling at my distress at this very moment!
I’d been fuming with anger but Jessie had been touched by how upset I was and mollified me by suggesting we get engaged, so now I’d be marrying into the McIntyre Corporation, no mean achievement! Fred, buoyed by the boost in viewings of his channel, and the subsequent potential increase in advertising revenue, had agreed, albeit reluctantly, to hand over half the wager, a not inconsiderable sum in my current circumstances. So, ‘All’s Well That Ends Well.’ Though just how I was supposed to escape, I never did find out!

 

—-

To purchase the stories up to June 2017 in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 500 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 230!

The Ideomotor Effect


scary ouija board

(1250 words)

While I wait for news, and now my hands have stopped shaking, I want to record the incident that happened tonight.
My parents had gone into London to see an opera and still aren’t back at nearly half past midnight. They said I could have a couple of schoolfriends around as long as we promised to be ‘sensible.’ Fat chance! So, Shelley and Julie had called round, together, about seven o’clock. They’d brought some DVDs and Julie had snuck a couple of bottles of beer from her brother’s stash. Shelley had brought a large carrier bag. Like all teenage girls, we swapped news and giggled about the boys we fancied, then we put on a DVD, The Omen.
Well, it was pretty scary, and nasty too, the way people got killed, being sliced in two by a faulty lift and crushed between train carriages, for example. Afterwards, Shelley said, “God, that was horrible. Look, I brought something we can play, I’ll go and get it.” She headed for the kitchen.
Julie laughed. “Paul used to look like Damien when he was young. He used to get mad when we called him Damien!” Paul was Julie’s brother.
Shelley returned with a rectangular box. She opened it and took out a board with the letters of the alphabet and the numbers one to ten printed on it, along with the words ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ and ‘good bye.’ The board was decorated with star symbols and a sun and a moon, both characterized with evil-looking faces. At the top of the board was a skull and, on either side of it, bat-like wings.
“Oh, my God!” I exclaimed, “A Ouija board, this is scary! … I know, I’ll light some candles!”
Shelley laughed, “My gran used it to contact spirits!”
Soon we sat at one end of the dining table, two candles burning in holders in the centre of the table and the room lights turned off. Our half-drunk bottles of beer stood on coasters, we didn’t want to stain the table, being thoughtful girls at heart. I took a swig of mine, I wasn’t sure of the taste, but it made me feel good.
Shelley explained how it worked. “All put a finger on this. It’s called a planchette.” It was a heart-shaped piece of wood with a pointed end that ran on small castors. It moved around slightly under our finger pressure. “I’ll start.” In a serious voice, she continued, “Is there anybody there?” Nothing happened. Julie giggled. Shelley asked again and the planchette remained where it was. “This is silly,” I said, as Shelley asked a third time. Suddenly the planchette made a rapid movement directly to the word ‘Yes.’ My heart was pounding. It must have been Shelley or Julie moving it, surely? I was certain it wasn’t me. My finger was only pressing lightly. Shelley continued, “Who’s there?” The planchette spelt out ‘A F-R-I-E-N-D.’
We asked silly questions, the sort of things teenage girls ask. When will I get a boyfriend? Will I go out with Russell? Will mum and dad buy me a horse? The planchette would spell out the answer we wanted to hear, or else a jumble of letters that didn’t make much sense. After half an hour I was getting bored. “Let’s watch another DVD.”
Julie laughed. “I brought The Exorcist. That’s a good one!”
“Hang on, said Shelley, I want to ask it something. She hesitated, then, “When will I die?”
Julie and I looked at each other, disconcerted.
The planchette moved to the row of numbers. Again, my finger wasn’t pressing hard. I looked at Shelley and Julie. Their faces were serious and their fingers didn’t look to be moving the planchette. But surely, they must have been?
We held our breath as, slowly, the planchette picked out 2-0-8-7. “Phew, that’s a relief,” laughed Shelley, “wonder what it’ll be like then?”
Then my turn. The planchette spelled out 2-0-9-2. “Wow, I’ll be ….” My brain struggled. I was never one for sums. “Uh, ninety-three!” We all laughed.
“Let me try,” said Julie. This time the planchette moved away from the numbers and spelt out three letters, H-O-Y. “Hoy, what’s that supposed to mean, this is silly. C’mon let’s watch that DVD.”
We pushed the pointer to ‘good bye’ and Shelley put the board and planchette away in their box and took it into the kitchen. We extinguished the candles. I think we were all a bit spooked by that so we were geared up to be frightened by The Exorcist!
“Is there any more beer?” asked Julie.
“Here, you can finish mine.” I handed her my bottle which was still about a quarter full. I’d decided I wasn’t terribly keen on the taste of beer.
So, we sat, watching as a girl, about our age, became more and more ‘disturbed’ and ghastly things began to happen, the special effects team of the day going overboard with the gore. Suddenly the doorbell rang and we jumped out of our skins.
“It’ll only be Paul,” laughed Julie, going to answer. “They said they’d call round.”
Her brother, Paul, and his girlfriend, Maria, came into the room. Paul was a few years older than Julie, tall, dark and handsome, as they say. Maria, his girlfriend, was a few years older than Paul, had olive skin and long dark hair. I felt self-conscious, and envious of her looks.
We paused the DVD and Paul poured us all out some wine he’d brought. “Don’t tell your parents!” It was chilled and quite sweet. I liked it! I’d make sure the glasses were thoroughly washed and put away before mum and dad got back!
They asked what we’d been doing. When we said we’d been playing with a Ouija board, Maria looked shocked. “Dios mio, eso es peligroso – dangerous!”
Paul laughed, “Come on, it’s harmless fun, don’t be dramatic!”
“No, Paul, you can contact espíritus malignos – evil spirits.”
“It’s all done by subconscious movements, the ‘ideomotor effect.’ I’ve read about it, it’s all rubbish. Scientists have tested it out.”
Just then there came a soft tapping from the kitchen.
What’s that? Maria exclaimed.
Tap-tap-tap
We looked at one another.
It came again, tap-tap-tap-tap.
“I’ll go and see,” said Shelley.
We told Paul and Maria about the dates we would die and about the nonsense word. Paul laughed, “one of you was moving it subconsciously!” Maria turned pale. “H-O-Y, hoy, in Spanish, that means today!
A scream came from the kitchen and Shelley came running in. Her eyes were wide and her face white. “The planchette was tapping against the board – in the box!”
We looked at each other in disbelief. Suddenly all the lights went out. Julie screamed. “Oh, my God, I’m getting out of here!” She pushed past us in the dark and ran to the door, then out and down the hall. Some light entered the room as we heard the front door open, then there was a cry and silence.
The lights came back on. Paul went to see what had happened and came back grim-faced. “Julie’s fallen, she’s unconscious. She must have tripped on the step. She’s cracked her head open.”

We called an ambulance. Paul and Maria went with Julie. I’m waiting for them to call from the hospital. Until then, I can’t possibly sleep, just write this and hope that she’ll be OK. I know one thing, I’m done with Ouija boards – for good.

—-

To purchase the stories up to June 2017 in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 500 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 230!

When Something Stinks


wtc-collapse

(700 words)

“This is WKKZ, bringing you the brightest music and the brightest discussion!” announced the smooth voice of DJ Kenny Bright, “and just before the news at 1 a.m. we have Donny on the line, I believe. Donny, hello, can you hear me?”
“Hi, Kenny, yes, I can, how are you doing?”
“I’m great, Donny, how are you?”
“I’m good, thank you, Kenny.”
“OK. I believe you wanted to talk about cover-ups. Is that right?”
“Yes, Kenny, that’s right. You know, I don’t believe we’re told the truth about anything anymore.”
“Well, I know there’s been a lot of talk about ‘fake news’.”
“Well, there’s fake and there’s fake, isn’t there?”
“How d’you mean?”
“Well, for example, they tell us that plane, MH370 just disappeared off the radar. Damned pilot just flew off and murdered two hundred and fifty people!”
“Well, no one knows what happened.”
“That’s just it, Kenny, of course someone knows, probably quite a lot of people know, as a matter of fact. But the media here just follow the party line. Suicide-murder pilot and all the rest of it. Anything else is just a ‘conspiracy theory’!”
Bright coughed a phlegm-laden cough. “Excuse me.” He continued, “Surely they’re just reporting the information put out by the Malaysian authorities?”
“Well, you know that base we have, Diego Garcia, in the middle of nowhere?”
“Yeah, sure.”
“Did you know they closed it for twenty-four hours the night MH370 disappeared? Seems under the cover of darkness a very large unidentified plane landed.”
“So what?”
“So what, man?! Put two and two together.”
“Well, I’m not going to put two and two together to make five!”
“Listen, man, someone on that base blew the whistle. Told people that hundreds of passengers were taken off a ‘mystery plane’ that landed in the middle of the night, divided into groups and flown off to different interrogation centres.”
Someone on that base,” Bright’s tone turned sarcastic. “Like who?”
“Well, he gave that information incognito, obviously. But he gave evidence that showed he knew the intimate workings of the base.”
“And you’ve seen this evidence?”
“Listen, Kenny, man, you know I haven’t. I’m taking the word of certain investigators – Barney Murillo, Ruben Pemberton, Rhys Gray, you know those guys?”
“I’ve heard of them. Conspiracy theorists is about right. Although some might have stronger words to say about them!”
“Look, man, Barney Murillo was the guy who first blew the whistle on that English paedo DJ, Jimmy Saville. Everyone knew he was at it, no one spoke up. Barney wrote about it time and again on his blog, got called every name under the sun for it. Turned out, after Saville died, the British police announced he was one of the worst paedophiles ever!”
“Well, Britain … England has paedophiles coming out of the woodwork, that’s what they’re like over there.”
“Yeah, man, right. The point is that Murillo had a ‘conspiracy theory’ that turned out to be correct! Based on investigation and facts!”
“OK, OK, but, look, there’s a list of conspiracy theories out there as long as my arm!”
“So, let’s talk about another. 9/11.”
“Sorry, Donny, I’m not going to go there, I don’t want to upset our listeners.”
“I’m not going to go there, Kenny. I just wanna talk about the Solomon Brothers building, that huge office block that came down the same day.”
“Yes, it was set on fire by falling debris from the towers and collapsed due to burning office furniture. It was proven.”
“Yeah, it was in the report, sure. The government report. Problem was, a load of people heard demolition charges going off, just before it collapsed.”
“Rubbish!”
“It’s on camera, as is the building going down.”
“Maybe it was fireworks?”
“Fireworks, my ass, that building went down in free fall! Only way it could have done that was by demolition.”
“Says who?”
“Demolition experts. Want me to name ‘em?”
“Well, actually, no, Donny, we have to break now for the news. Well, thank you for your interesting … ideas. But the rest of us have to live in the real world. Nice talking to you.”
A jingle for a foot deodorant commercial cut in. ‘When something stinks ….’

 

—-

To purchase the stories up to June 2017 in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 500 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 230!

Don’t Dig for Bombs!


unexploded bomb sign

(1200 words)

Tweed Newsboy cap perched jauntily on my head, I pulled into a small car park and turned the engine off. The place was deserted, shabby even, with broken tarmac in places. I took my cap off, pleased to see in the mirror that my hair was still in place, and put the convertible’s soft top back up. I got out and took a long, deep breath, expecting to inhale the scent of the ocean. But the air seemed disappointingly normal, despite the grass-covered dunes surrounding the car park.
I walked over to a board, a map of the Skendlethorp nature reserve. Odd, it showed the sea as coming almost to the car park. I walked along a path, up a nearby dune, and gazed out, not onto the vast ocean, but onto a sea of purple flowers, stretching perhaps half a mile. Beyond was sand and in the far distance, the dark blue ribbon of the ocean. No wonder I couldn’t smell it!
The weather was hot, the sky a clear, bright blue and the sun a burning orange disc. Most unusual for the English East-Midlands! I’d decided to take a drive out to the coast, having lived within striking distance of it for a couple of years, but whenever I’d previously thought of it, the weather had been cold and wet, the climate we normally endured.
Now, it was as perfect as it was ever going to be. But the sea looked such a long, long way away. Hmm. I walked back to a nearby caravan park, proudly boasting its very own fish and chip shop, the English coastal obsession. The owner was friendly enough. “Oh, the sea comes well in, even up to the top of the dunes, just beyond the car park.”
“Well, why isn’t it there now?”
Apparently, it was the wrong season, tide, and/or year. I sat and ate my over-salted fish and chips on one of two benches, the totality of Skendlethorp’s visitor amenities, along with a rubbish bin, looking out to the distant sea.
In the foreground was a huge sign warning of buried World War Two bombs and missiles in the currently-desiccated marshland that stretched out ahead. It stated that no reward would be given by the Ministry of Defence to anyone finding one. Well, that kind of made sense, they wouldn’t want to encourage idiots digging for unexploded bombs!
It was six o’clock in the evening, but still very warm after an oppressively hot day. I deposited my chip wrappings in the Skendlethorp bin and slowly started to cross the purple-flowered salt flats, the soil cracked by lack of rain into a crazy paving-like landscape. I followed a well-worn sandy track, presumably bomb and missile-free, until after ten minutes, I reached the beach.
I rested on a nearby sand dune as a few families, fat, and spouting one vulgarism after another – “Wayne, wai’ for me, you cun’, I wanna get some fuckn’ chips” – came the other way.
“Balthazar, here Balthazar!” A small white dog scampered past my dune, pausing just long enough to spray a stream of foul-smelling urine onto the sand near my feet.
What a stupid name for a dog! Maybe it was trained to find myrrh, whatever that was!
It ran back to join an approaching woman, presumably its owner, fat and red-faced. As she passed, she looked right through me as if I didn’t exist. My cheery greeting stalled in my throat.
I felt tired and the sea still looked a long way off. But when would I come here again? I began to trek across the sand, noticing hundreds of sea shells, mainly pod razors, Ensis siliqua. I picked one up, marvelling at its hardness and lightness and the way the two halves were hinged together. I wondered about the little creature that had created such a miraculous artefact and for whom it was home. Where had it gone and had he/she had a good life?
With child-like pleasure I began to assemble a small hoard of shells and flotsam. Here, a purple-tinged scallop, there, a piece of jet – charcoal-black, fossilised wood. Then, the pride of my ‘collection,’ a small, paperweight-sized rock filled with tiny bubble-like air pockets; volcanic, I presumed.
Ten minutes later I stood at the edge of the sea. I looked back towards the land. The rise where I’d eaten my food on the bench was barely visible. I took out my binoculars and looked out to sea. There were several large tankers off in the remote haze. Another world on board I couldn’t even imagine. Then I looked up and down the beach. In one direction two people at the sea edge in the far distance. In the other direction, no one.
The sun, still hot, bore down on me. I reckoned I could see five miles in either direction and the sandy beach was a good half mile wide. A quick calculation told me that I was one of three people on probably five to ten square miles of sand. How different to the crowded resorts not far down the coast where people flocked in droves for fish, chips, and bingo!
I rolled up my trouser legs and ventured into the water, to my surprise wonderfully warm and shallow. I waded out a few feet, watching the waves gently rolling past and feeling the soft sand beneath my feet. How lovely. Suddenly, something black and round emerged briefly from the sea, perhaps twenty metres out. My first thought was a dolphin. How nice to tell my friends. Then it popped up again, but this time remained with its dog-like head out of the water. Through the binoculars I could see a dark muzzle, big black eyes and long whiskers. A grey seal. I wondered if it would swim closer, just as another one popped its head up nearer to the shore. Then there was another, and another.
Soon there were about a dozen of them, bobbing up and down, keeping a wary eye on me it appeared. I wondered if seals would ever come out of the water and attack? I doubted it, only in the mating season, perhaps. I didn’t know when that was, but remembered a seal-breeding ground, Donna Nook, just up the coast, a tourist attraction. Hmm. Well, I felt fairly confident of out-running a seal! I didn’t remember reading about people being attacked in the water by them, though, or even swimming with them.
Would I go in the sea if I’d had my bathing gear with me? Given their powerful bodies, sharp teeth and the isolated location, despite the glorious weather, I decided … probably not. Discretion is the better part of valour, after all.

Just then, there was a loud thud from behind me and a distant scream. I turned to see a pall of black smoke above the purple-clad marshland about half a mile away. I looked through my binoculars in time to see something small and white hit the ground. It looked like Balthazar had been digging where he shouldn’t have been!

 

—-

To purchase the stories up to June 2017 in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 400 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 230!

Earthbound


windsor-castle-2
.
(850 words)
Windsor Great Park was my destination, somewhere I’d never been before. I drove my little silver Toyota through the busy streets of Windsor, noticing in the distance a red flag flying above the famous Round Tower of ‘the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world,’ signifying that the Queen was in residence.
I followed the signs and found myself on less manic roads, finally pulling up at an impressive lodge, beyond which lay green fields and trees. A manservant in an antiquated purple robe came out. “Hello, Madam, may I help you?”
“I’m Sylvia Williamson, I’ve come to look at your ghost.”
His aged face betrayed no surprise. “Ah, yes, come this way please.” He led me into the sumptuously furnished building and along corridors, where faces of unrecognisable royal personages glared at me through the cracked glaze of ancient oil paintings, mounted in enormous gilded frames.
“This is Mrs. Sad-ov-ski.” He enunciated the syllables pompously, as a middle-aged lady, dressed in an olive-green trouser suit, came to greet us.
She smiled. “Good day, Mrs. Williamson. That’ll be all, Sidebottom, thank you.” The purple-clad manservant disappeared and she led me out through a door and along a path to an old cottage. “Thank you for coming, Mrs. Williamson. We spoke on the phone ….”
“Call me Sylvia, please. Yes, I’m pleased to meet you.”
She led me into a surprisingly spacious lounge with comfortable, modern furniture. She gestured towards a brown leather sofa. “Please take a seat.”
“So, where’s the haunting?” I asked, getting to the point.
Mrs. Sadowski looked embarrassed, coughed, and waved an arm. “Right here is the worst, but everywhere in the cottage really.”
“OK, can you leave me alone for fifteen minutes please?”
I’d received a phone call out of the blue. A lady had heard of my reputation at getting rid of unwelcome spirits. People would be reluctant to admit, even to themselves, that their house was haunted. But after months of things being moved around, bumps in the night, footsteps in empty corridors, you name it, they usually decided to admit, albeit reluctantly, that it was the case. Then my telephone would ring.
So here I was. I closed my eyes and tuned into the ‘world beyond the veil.’ Soon I became aware of an aged woman in a long black dress with a white apron, seated opposite me. She regarded me with large brown eyes and I noticed I could see through her to the material of her armchair.
Telepathically, I received her story. She’d had a harsh mistress in a large house nearby. The only person she had loved was the mistress’s young son, Alex, who had drowned in a local pond. For years she’d served, until the mistress’s death. Since then she’d happily lived alone in her cottage, without being at the mistress’s beck and call. In her own confused way, she believed Mrs. Sadowski to be her lodger.
“Don’t you have any family?” I asked.
“No.”
“What about friends?”
“I ain’t got no one.” The vulgarism fell naturally from her lips. She continued, “This cottage’ll last me out, it’s enough for me.”
“Last you out, what about when you die?”
“Die?” The old woman snorted. “That’s the end of you, ain’t it?”
“What about Heaven … and Hell?” I asked.
“Stuff and nonsense. I don’t believe in ‘em! Having this cottage to myself is all the heaven I want!”
“But what about Mrs. Sadowski, she lives here now?”
The old woman became confused. “I don’t know, I see her about, she … she’s my lodger, ain’t she?”
I had an idea. “Yes, she is. But she’s not well. I’d like you to call her a doctor.”
“A doctor, well, I don’t know … I ain’t seen one for years. I … I don’t see folk much these days.”
“Well, I’d like you to call one for her please, I’ll come back tomorrow to make sure you’ve done so.”
I returned the following day. Again Mrs. Sadowski left me alone in the lounge. Soon I made contact with the old lady, whose name I’d discovered was Agatha.
“Did you find a doctor for Mrs. Sadowski?” I asked.
“No, no, I never. Truth be told, I … I couldn’t find the village.” She sounded confused.
“Listen, Agatha, don’t you have any friends or relations who’ve passed over?”
“No, there was just little Alex, the lad who drowned. Look, I know what you’re getting at. Don’t tell me I’m dead. Please. I love my little cottage too much.” She began to cry. “I ain’t going, I tell you.”
I suddenly felt desperately sorry for her. “Look, there is a better life.” I said and called on my spirit guide for help. He’d told me he would be ready and able to assist.
Agatha’s sobbing suddenly stopped. “Why, there’s … there’s little Alexander!”
“Follow him into the light.”
Suddenly, the apparition vanished and the oppressive atmosphere lifted. I knew Agatha had done as I’d requested.
Mrs. Sadowski appeared. “Has she gone?”
I smiled. “Yes, she’ll be with loved ones and friends now. Even though she thought she didn’t have any.”

—-

To purchase the stories up to June 2017 in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 400 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 230!

Reflections of a Traitor


mirror maze

(1200 words)

Like something out of a James Bond film, I was to observe and photograph a Russian agent being handed secrets. The setting, Painter’s Fairground, set up for the week on a field just out of town.
It was getting dark and I wandered between the brightly lit and gaudily painted stalls, laden with brilliantly coloured boxes containing tacky plastic toys. I inhaled the smell of electricity, petrol engines and candy floss, whilst my ears were assailed by the noise and excitement of the rides. The bumper cars careening across their conductive floor, sparks flying from the connecting rods as they moved across the ceiling. Crazily driven by laughing teenagers, girls made up to look ten years older, twenty-five instead of fifteen, accompanied by lanky youths in coloured tops and tight jeans.
I passed the Ghost Train, hearing the vehicle thundering through the wooden shack, children screaming in faux fright, and always, the relentless chugging of generators everywhere. I tried in vain to imagine someone designing a Ghost Train and the ‘spooky house’ it ran through. And factories manufacturing them in some godforsaken place.
“Hey, Pal, wanna try your luck?” A barker with a time-worn face and pork-pie hat addressed me from a shooting gallery where little ducks ran on rails.
“Sure.” I put two pound coins into his brown leather hand and took a rifle. It was equipped with ten .22 calibre metal pellets and unnecessarily heavy. He showed me how to load the rifle, then walked to the other end of the stall, leaving me to it, to talk to what looked to be a grandfather with his grandson, a gangly youth with thick-lensed glasses and acne.
My first shot told me that the sight was slightly out of alignment, presumably to handicap the shooter and save on prizes. Allowing for the discrepancy, there was a satisfying ‘ting’ as a slow-moving fat duck went down. Then another. I aimed at the row behind, where the ducks were smaller and moved faster, giving correspondingly higher points for a hit. My first shot missed but ‘ting,’ ‘ting,’ ‘ting,’ three in a row! I noticed the stall-holder looking at me curiously and the youth gaping with admiration. Deciding it would be prudent not to show my hand too obviously, I aimed at the back row, where the ducks were smaller and faster still, and deliberately missed three, finding my aim for the last shot. ‘Ting.’ One went down to my satisfaction.
“Well done, buddy,” the barker forced a grin. “Looks like you’ve done it before!”
I made a non-committal sound as he gestured to a shelf of prizes appropriate to my score. I selected a large soft toy – a basset hound – and handed it to a small girl nearby. She smiled shyly and ran off to her mother, pointing me out to her.
Time to move on. I walked through the noisy throng to the merry-go-round, blasting out up-tempo fairground music from what appeared to be an authentic organ engine. Rows of brightly bedecked horses rotated, moving up and down, mostly without riders, but some with smaller children. Then, to my astonishment, mounted on a gold horse with a red saddle, my ‘target’ came into view. Known simply as Oleg, he was sixty-two and a professor of linguistics. He wore a black suit, his hair matched his suit and was Brylcreemed and parted on the right, his nose was long and beaky, and his lips were thin. He looked straight through me as he passed, smiling and giving the appearance of enjoying the ride. What on Earth was he playing at, drawing attention to himself like that?
I feigned interest in a darts stall whilst waiting for him to come around again.
There was a little girl in a green dress with blonde hair I remembered, then two boys, brothers I presumed, both with curly ginger hair, then … no one. Oleg’s horse was now unoccupied! I ran around the carousel in case I was mistaken but, no, he was nowhere to be seen. How was that possible?
The information we’d got was that the switch was to be at quarter past eight. It wasn’t even eight yet. Had he met his contact earlier than planned? I started to feel worried. If I blew this assignment it would count against me and there was another agent, the arrogant Toby Mellors, younger and ex-Oxford University, vying for my role and the substantial salary it carried.
There were many people milling around still, parents and grandparents with their young and not-so-young offspring, and groups of teenagers, fooling around as teenagers are wont to do, good-naturedly swearing at each other.
I passed a mirror maze and there in the kaleidoscope of hundreds of reflections, right at the back, or what looked like the back, I thought I saw a black suit and parted, greased-down black hair.
I paid my entry money to a woman with an aged gypsy-like face and incongruous bright blonde hair and went in, feeling satisfaction at the reflection of my athletic appearance and what I hoped to be nondescript look. Music was blasting out from a crowded, nearby Waltzer ride – Green Onions, that perennial fairground favourite.
The maze confused by having plain glass panels as well as mirrors, but by finding and sticking to a likely pattern of turns – left, left, right – I made my way towards the back, catching sight of what I perceived to be Oleg’s reflection from time to time. There was someone else too, moving around, as if playing cat and mouse with either Oleg or myself or both. I reached into my jacket pocket and reassuringly caressed a small revolver, equipped with a silencer.
The mirrors here reflected solely myself – fat, thin, even inverted. Suddenly I found myself in a small open space with two men, surrounded by a crowd in the mirrors about us, and I looked from Oleg to the other man and back with total astonishment. Oleg handed me a notebook and smiled. “Low tech,” he said, with a trace of Russian accent.
I glanced inside it. Written in English, it said ‘British Spies – Moscow, Leningrad, Saint Petersburg and environs.’ The next two pages had been torn out. The rest of the book seemed to contain a kind of journal but using some sort of code I didn’t recognise. Oleg opened his jacket to show the missing pages in a pocket and laughed, handing the book back to the other man.
I took out my revolver. “You know I could kill you both, right here?” I said.
The familiar face spoke. “I don’t think so, old man, you see, I fitted your gun with blanks this afternoon. Mine on the other hand, are the real McCoy.” He pulled out a squat black revolver, quickly screwing a silencer on and hardly flinching as I pulled the trigger of mine, producing a ‘phut,’ barely noticeable above the general fairground hubbub. He laughed and pointed the gun at my forehead. “Time to start a new life, old man, looks like I’ll be moving up in the organisation after all!”

—-

To purchase the stories up to June 2017 in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 400 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 230!