The Dream Diary
It was after she started the diary, that Cassie realised her dreams were precognitive.
It was mostly little things: a song on the radio, re-arranged shelves in the supermarket, a wasp sting. Then she dreamed of her sister, crying over baby clothes. When the pregnancy was announced Cassie offered uneasy congratulations. The miscarriage came days later.
People said she was crazy when she tried to warn them about The Big One. The experts would know, they said. Strange, how many experts were out of the country when it happened.
Cassie burned her journal. Now she takes sleeping pills, and mourns.
Perched atop of the open window, the Cat’s keen whiskers feeling the cool breeze. Wind-milling Gulls crossed her vision, an unwanted distraction as she scoured the fog wrapped coast.
Electric charged her fur as a distortion developed within the fog bank, whisping light greys darkening as a pirate vessel emerged from the milky depths.
‘He’s here’ she whispered, cascading onto the bed, pawing the feet of the crew to awaken them.
‘Wake up, Blackbeard’s advancing on our position, man the 68 pounders’, but they merely sleepily rolled over. Why do they always ignore me? She thought, sprinting for the guns.
The heart of the war raged on the summit of the great mountain Dykh-Tau. Immediately, I searched for the heads of each army so that I can end this war.
I found them in the core of the summit – Sir Odium to my left, Lady Invidia to my right; both armies preparing to go for one final all-out clash.
In haste, I flew to the middle. I aimed to my left, shot Odium; then, to my right and shot Invidia.
When the two rulers met in the center, both of them halted unexpectedly.
They dropped their weapons, ran… and embraced.
The couple crossed the border, eyes wide with relief. One huge hand rested beneath her buttocks, the other wrapped around her waist as he carried her, weaving between the crowds on the bridge. This tiny doll of a woman reached up and ringed Goliath’s neck with spaghetti-strand arms. Tears streaked her pale face.
Their intimacy lacked passion. It was born of human need.
Nearby a man lifted his cell phone to capture the moment and, stomach rigid I knocked it to the floor. My outrage outpaced his. Her stumps, still too new and red-raw, had no place on social media.
“Surely nobody this sick can live?” I whisper bravely.
“Can you describe the symptoms?” the pretty doctor asks.
At last someone who'll listen! “The pain's enough to make childbirth negligible. My temperature puts Jalapeño peppers to shame; I'm losing a gallon of sweat every hour. Each cough is a volcanic eruption. The Richter scale records every sneeze.”
“Can you eat?”
“If it's something really fancy made specially for me, I manage a little...”
I plead with the Doctor, “What rare, terrible condition do I have?”
She breaks the awful news, “You’re a man and you have a cold.”
This Is How It Ends
Don looked to where V lay sleeping. He had always struggled with foreign names, all those crazy accents. Hence, V.
He remembered what V had said on that first night: a Lincoln quote (unusually):
‘Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?’ And he’d smiled that wicked smile.
Warmed by the memory Don spooned V pressing his fake tanned belly into V’s back.
The Russian President snuggled in close to the U.S. President.
‘I love you, sweetie,’ Don whispered.
V stirred and with eyes still closed he smiled that wicked smile.
‘I luf you too, sveet-chicks.’
"Mother always said, never follow foxes", read the pseudo-profound writing on the picture of a red fox drawn on a size A3 piece of cardboard. She was standing in the dimly lit room by the window and now had a clear view of the events. The garbageman, as if he knew, after a brief second of hesitation threw the drawing to where it truly belonged: on top of the pile of stinking rubbish. It hurt at first as the fox slowly but surely faded into oblivion as they pulled away. She wiped away a tear. Mother was, after all, right.
The Fateful Question
'I love you.' He says heavily, as if to justify something terrible he is about to do. Walking along the beach, they see a group of people in the distance. Huddled around what looks like a bonfire, patches of light glow among the figures.
'They're lighting candles. I wonder why?' She says.
'Let's find out.' He responds.
As they near the huddle it separates and flames read: 'Marry me.' He gets down on one knee, taking her hand. His face conveys a mixture of emotions: sadness, guilt and pity. He knows better than her what kind of husband he'll be.
The chill breeze lifts the tablecloth corners, flips one end over the birthday cake. She flips it back, but it’s already picked up a stain. The movement catches the attention of someone she had resolved to ignore. Small things become signals – calls to action. Brushing a fly from her arm. Flicking her hair out of her eyes. Wiping peanut butter from Sally’s cheek. His look asks a question she’s desperate to respond to. She looks away, concentrates on pine needles dropping on the grass, wavering candles. She looks back, sees only what she wants from him; not her damaged future.
Day after day I waited, Enduring the hate filled glances of surrounding children and the pitiful looks of adults as you promised you’d return . What would happen if I had to spend my childhood alone. Mama come back, even if you hurt me or love me with fists I’ll withstand it. Just take me to a place I belong, just no more loneliness. People say cruel things, they say you lied when you told me the pain you inflicted was for love. But that can’t be true because that’s all the I have. So that’s why please, save me.
“There’s an urban legend that Ernest Hemingway wrote a six word story that made men cry.” The new kid said.
“So?” I scoffed.
“So that’s pretty impressive, right?” He insisted.
“What was the story?” I had to admit, I was curious.
“I don’t know, I don’t remember.”
“Why did you start telling me this story then?”
“I’m bored,” He sighed. “I’m just trying to pass the time.”
I couldn’t blame him. I mean, babies don’t walk, and their feet grow quickly. Often, we get customers returning baby shoes never worn. Working as a baby shoe salesman is slow, dull work.
“I thought they might be worth something?”
The jewelled marbles picked up the honeyed glow from the skirted lamp, as he slowly combed his eyes over my blinking offering.
“Might be, but did you ever come across a rainbow pearl?”
I shrugged, and the old collector shrugged too.
I felt the pearl burn in my pocketed hand, as I willed the ponderous seconds to pass.
“Not much to me without it”
It was over. The old man was my last hope. and now the marbles are mine forever, but I’m not letting go of the last pearl you gave me.
No Fault of My Own
James Doyle walks along the River Liffey. Suddenly he notices a slight movement. Its 2 am, why would there be anybody else around. He becomes tense, his senses heightened, believing something suspicious is at play. Next thing he’s no longer there, never to be seen again. Nobody has any inkling what could have happened to James, where he could be. His wife begins a hunt to find him, not knowing whether she will uncover her husband alive or dead. Upon entering her own home she sees him, lying on the floor a message tied to him. ‘This is your fault!’
Freezer ice had melted into grey beards grown on what was once bread. I pulled at a plastic bag; its bottom emptied. Out fell putrid slime.
I smelled damp; cabbage; urine. I remembered stacking the fridge head-high with healthy tomatoes, butter and cream from the farmers’ market; bright root vegetables.
Your fridge magnet still spelled: ‘dinners in oven’. It was a disaster of a lasagne, but I probably shouldn’t have flattened your skull with a mortar because of it.
I had told you I didn’t like green peppers.
After six years in Holloway, I had learnt to appreciate their taste.
Luca loved the eerie seediness of the travelling carnival. It was dark when he wandered under twinkling lights through the tawdry stalls, scoffing a cheap burger while watching fire jugglers and performing dogs.
Luckily ‘‘Maestro the Magician’ was just starting his show. He sniggered as a hapless young woman was dragged from the crowd, stuffed in a coffin, and ‘transformed’ into a poodle.
Not so funny when Maestro picked him, “Young man, your turn!” The mob roared as the lid slammed shut. Luca froze, panic rising. Then relief and freedom as he ran for home, straight into his handler’s arms.
“Honey, there’s a package,” shouts Mrs Crimson Mist from the front door. If she sounds like a super-villain, that’s because she is.
“We’re not expecting the plutonium until next week,”
I say. The box is about two feet cubed, filled with packing straw. I half expect a litter of kittens or a crying baby. Instead I find nine sticks of dynamite taped together. There’s even a little clock on top.
My wife clears her throat. She grips the detonator, her face explosive red. “Now tell me, hotshot, who’s the Silver Vixen, and why was her number in your super-suit pocket?”
Henry and His Hod
It was yet another day full of unwanted surprises for Henry.
Spectacularly unsuccessful in school, Henry’s working life became even worse.
The careers teacher foolishly encouraged employment in hod carrying on a local building site.
Henry had killed several of his fellow workers before lunchtime. In the blink of an eye, the hod and twenty-five bricks fell onto the men below.
Their hard hats did not help, their skulls cracked like eggshells. Without the weight of the bricks, the handle of the hod swung around like a helicopter blade and killed another two.
Before the police arrived, Henry was fired.
The Unlived Life Of Tom Scruple
"Is that a smudge?" Mr Arfwick went quite pink. His jowls trembled.
"Erm...," Tom stammered for a response.
His boss didn’t wait for one.
"Here at Nitpicker & Scruple we believe in fastidious accounting. It may only be your second day, but as heir to the Scruple name I expect you to know better. Start again!"
Tom trudged away. Hours of work wasted, and all for a blot of ink. His life could have held so much excitement, but that ship had sailed, quite literally.
Why on earth had he let his father talk him out of being a pirate?
A Deal in the Desert
A fierce wind blows through the Arizona wastelands, rocking the dilapidated trailer. A sharp, chemical smell hangs heavy as I dip a finger in the white crystals and rub my gums.
“Walter White couldn’t do any better,” Kush says.
“Very nice,” I say, thinking of the commendation I’ll get for the bust.
“I’m strictly cash up front.”
“How much do you want?”
I give Kush a grin. “All of it. I’m Special Agent Summers. My colleagues from the DEA are right outside.”
Kush laughs. “They sent a rookie. How cute. You guys always give me the best prices.”
He wanted to escape but he knew that the policeman standing outside the door, a silent brute of a man, would just follow him. What should he tell them? The whole story and be done with it, or a half truth? His whole life seemed to have been based on half truths, and he smiled, albeit a wry one. What was truth? What was true? He wanted true friends he could talk to, but his last visitor had merely brought his lunch.
Then the inevitable knock came at the door.
“The press are ready for you now, Prime Minister.”
The Cat Burgler
Gently, he eased his head and shoulders through the open window, careful not to touch the frame with its deadly squeaky hinge. Earlier, from his hiding place, he surveilled the little princess go out for the night. Providing he was quiet, the parents would sleep on and the booty would be his.
One foot in front of the other, he crept across the linoleum floor, guided by his special night vision equipment.
There it was, tucked into the corner: the treasure was here.
He lowered his head and started to eat.
Next door’s biscuits were so much yummier than his.
I sit on Dad’s old bench and listen to the change ringers practise. After a shaky start, they have found their rhythm and the bells are gaining momentum.
A pair of fat wood pigeons bicker and jostle for space upon the church's bent weather vane. The tenor bell tolls and the birds take flight towards the salt marsh.
‘I think I’ve found one,’ she says, lowering herself down next to me. ‘Be honest, though. Don’t laugh. Do you promise?’
‘Promise,’ I say. ‘Go on, fire away.’
‘What do you think of Elsa?’
'Elsa. Not bad.’
I hate it.
Lost to Me
Grains of sand slip through my fingers. I stare into the rising sun, glimpse an image so clear tears sting my eyes. Waves lap against gold-red rocks. A ferry bound for somewhere hogs the horizon.
So much left to say.
The smell of your fragrance on the breeze. Subtle. Sweet. Tempting. Footprints swirl and merge until there is no beginning, no end. Music. Dancing. Laughter.
Will I ever laugh like that again?
We talked. Not long enough. Memories, thoughts, haunt me. To hold you once more. To feel your breath upon my face. To remember how you made me feel.
Old world looked at old man, and the man, stared back.
Both knew each other well, companions you might say, of a sort.
His world was forgotten after Fran. Rude, really, for old world wasn’t a bad chap.
Wouldn’t be hard to say goodbye, more excited, than scared.
Why world revealed himself now was a mystery?
Perhaps, he still had things to share, and needed old man.
Time, slow, then quick, lace glove dropped by delicate hands, open tram, warm kiss.
Old world smiled.
Old man’s eyes closed, but his journey to return the lace glove, had only just begun.
I'll Never Forget Your Service
I look rough; my panda eyes bloodshot and weary, on my fifth night shift as we swim against the inevitable current in the Emergency Department.
He looks worse; forlornly dipped head, wrists slashed open, dirty aside from the wheelchair’s sheen, strapping in his wasted, camouflaged khaki-adorned legs which haven’t worked since his last attempt. He cries, lamenting the wife who left, the country who forgot, the tours that haunt his dreams nightly. I console him, tending to his deep wounds as best I can. He asks me where I’m from. I answer quietly: Iraq, as his sobs grow ever louder.
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