The following are a collection of flash fiction I wrote on a Facebook page.
Łuck : September 1940
“Go outside and get your sister, Peter,” my mother said to me the day she died. I looked everywhere for her and just as I was about to give up I heard the thunder of the tanks pass through the town.
I found her body at the side of the road as a man ran quickly by, he pulled a little girl who stared at her body with wide, frightened eyes.
My sister had three, perfect holes in her dress; all in a row, left to right.
She bled on the street and there was nothing I could do for her, so I left her staring at the sky.
Father and Son
“Right,” the old man said as he heaved the guillotine blade up. A man shook and wept below the raised blade, his neck exposed. “We’ve got two options. We can either behead him or you can drill a couple of holes in him, y’know have a bit of a mess abaht with him. Know what I mean?”
His son looked up at father and nodded. He took his lollipop from his mouth and grinned. A radiant light the old man recalled. “Can I…” He put a finger to his lips in deep thought, grinning, “Can I hit him with a hammer!”
“Course you can, son!”
The lumbering hulk came to a rest and from the sides the doors were opened. Out spilled a community in all manners of shades and shapes. Some were artisans, poets, thinkers and lovers. Children clung to their mothers and I could see in some the dawning truth. The music played and we smiled. I never smiled again when I saw where they went. We were never told, but Walter saw the pyramids of people as they crawled to the light. I saw them for myself and wept; a filthy and grotesque sculpture of human tragedy. But it was our tragedy, not theirs.
“Do you think we should go here?” June asked Marjory.
“We can’t leave anyone out, can we?” June’s guardian applied the handbreak and paused for a moment. She kept her eyes trained on the house. It was separated from the rest of the street. But the garden, that was something else.
The garden presented an oddity of sorts. It might have been classed as a junkyard, but to some it looked more like a disused Kindergarten. Vines crawled into and out of the lattice fence like the long spindly fingers of an old man. A small red scarf hanged on the open gate. The scarf stood out like a desert rose. Marjory looked down to June who held onto the book with both hands.
“Come on,” Marjory urged. They both stepped from the car and a breeze, like a passing train swept by them. Paper and dust scuttled by in rattling notes.
As they crossed the road June pointed to the houses either side of their intended visit. “They’re empty. Empty. It’s like they were infected,” June said. It was then that Marjory saw the brittleness in June. It was her flaw; God’s design failure. June looked upon the world with a brutal innocence. She wasn’t prepared for this. She wasn’t ready for the ignorance of the world and its vile ways.
As dark as ink, a crow swooped and plucked the red scarf from the gate. The scarf trailed into the air like ticker tape from a plane, and over the crooked, lonely house.
The house loomed high over us. Its windows were covered with old curtains and newspapers.
“Come on,” I said to June. June stood by the gate.
“Someone’s looking at us. She looks sad.” June was looking up at the bedroom windows.
“The girl. She’s lonely.”
I stood back and looked up. A curtain had been moved aside, but a cavity with no one there. “Let’s get this over with.” I felt an icy damp on my shoulders. I took June’s hand and marched to the front door.
I paused before knocking, took out a handkerchief and wrapped it around my knuckles.
A minute passed and I knocked again.
I jumped as the latch moved. A bolt slid and the door opened. I could barely see the person behind through the gap. I think it was a person. I peered lower at where I’d talk to a child. It opened a fraction more and I could see a pair of tracksuit bottoms. The man in the tracksuit bottoms stared down at me.
“Have you thought about Jesus?” I asked.
“All the time, Treacle,” he said, a wide grin spread across his face too quickly, ”All the time.” He opened the door wider. “Would you care for some tea? We’ve been waiting for you.”
I looked at June and she kept her head down, chin rested on the book. I entered the hallway and only noticed then the absurd dress sense of the occupant, a tatty tweed jacket and tracksuit bottoms.
I beckoned June to me into the hallway and as I looked at him again I noticed his face was baby, mannequin smooth; no wrinkles, no creases.
“Come on, June,” I beckoned.
“Oh don’t worry about her,” the old man said, “Wait till I show her the doll’s house. She won’t want to leave.” His unblinking gaze didn’t falter and slowly, he licked his lips.
The old man nodded, “Yes. A dolls’ house. That’s right,” he said to himself as if answering a question. “We’ve got horses for them and places to groom the horses. Well? Come in, June. I don’t bite.”
Stairs led up into darkness. And in the dim light from outside I could see. Watching me.
Judging me; a naked doll at a tiny table, halfway down the stairs. One eye lolled open slowly.
Dark, musky, leather bound chairs were in the corridor like slain beasts. The walls depicted canvas works of art: a happy family eating their dinner together. But in all of them, an anomaly of colour sat at the end of each table. A sombre man, whose face held dutiful lust and need. I looked again and could see something more in the eyes of the man in the painting, something dark and deep and primitive and as old as humanity itself. The children were oblivious.
I felt something inside and it fought with the love I felt. The love of Christ and my mother. The old man looked at me quickly and could see I was fighting. He looked at June again. “Perhaps you’ll join us for tea?”
He closed the door and June steps inside. A fly scuttled over the man’s face. He grinned at the two of us; his long arms were in an outward expression of appraisal. “Ladies. Please,” he motioned to a door.
I stepped through and what I see took hold of my tongue.
“A banquet,” the man said.
“But the food is plastic,” I could barely manage to get this out because I the smell of urine was overpowering.
“Don’t worry about that. They always urinate,” the old man whispered.
Unfinished – To be continued.
What’s wrong with us?
A whisper, a sigh, and a shake of the head. We turn and walk.
Mrs Smith was a sweet old lady and she gave us cakes at Easter.
She had gnarled, old fingers that made Bobby cry.
She’s not moving now. And I falter in my tracks.
Bobby and Stew turn with me and there it is. It’s with Bobby. A tide of pent up anger. His own demon in charge.
Bobby lifts her head up by her hair and jabs a screwdriver into her face. Mrs. Smith liked to see Bobby cry, he was cute when he cried. Blow holes of blood piston out of her face as the devil rides Bobby.
4 pounds of pressure reassured the tiny bag of life. Its fingers gripped her mother’s in an ounce of pressure. 3 pounds of pressure from an index finger squeezed a chemical reaction from a 2 foot length of metal. 62,000 pounds of pressure from metal that makes a zip line to the mother’s forehead at 1,800 miles per hour. The mother stands for 4 seconds before gravity takes her at 9.8 meters per second per second. The 3 pound bag of life peals to the sky at 110 decibels giving wake to 80 years of hatred.
A Viking Incursion
There, in the shadow of the morning, they surged like the emergence of a wave to crash down upon the line of men. The line, steady in parts, faltered in others and through their gaps poured a stream of murderous intent. Far behind, in banks of stone and quarry rivulets of refugees trickled with fraught and hysterical children. Silent men, aged beyond fighting use, led them and waited the inevitable minute to come.
When the sough of blade and edge sang through the air, the stars danced for the fallen and the web of time broke for them.
Lives are turned on their heads when the car turns over and over. The car leaves road at over 100mph. The tree it clips sends it in a deadly cartwheel. Inside, there can be no words among the passengers as they await the crushing blow of the earth.
It comes with a welcoming darkness.
Time stretches until the first opens an eye. Cheek in glass, heat on body and the mewling of a baby. She closes her eyes.
Not a baby. It’s not a baby, it’s her father. She feels the percussion blow of heat transcending from the engine.
One night in Sangin
“Alright Darlin’! What’s the weather like over there!?” Mum says, bless her. She ain’t got a clue what’s going on. I put a hand on my stomach to keep the pressure on. “Fine mum. I love you. And..”
“Don’t be soft. Remember that Sandy out of Eastenders!?”
I’m bringing up my own blood now. I cough it out. Got to keep quiet. They’re near. “Is Dad there?” I whisper.
“He’s in’t yard doin’… What’re you whisperin’ for?” She yells.
“Put him on then.” It’s all in my mouth.
“Y’know Sandy out of Eastenders!?” I put the sat-phone down as a rifle is pointed at my head. “Y’still there!?”
Arcs of light lance across his visor in splinters of colour and his focus is drawn to the clouds over Gibraltar. The clouds are like drops of milk in a pool of translucent water. He moves his right arm. The gloved hand covers the rock and unite both Europe and Africa. Beneath, there stretches a guttural roar into maddening distance. Child and maker alike gaze at each other. He is a microbe suspended by the lack of gravity and the Earth beneath him is a fury of life ready to snuff him out in his failing orbit.
My fingers don’t seem to work anymore. I look at Jane.
“What’s wrong, Daddy?” She asks.
“Nothing, babe. Just.. Just..” I say and she puts a tiny hand on my shaking hands, clamped as if in prayer. They steady and I can see now. I see the future. It’s hers. It’s my duty to keep her alive.
I smile at Jane and stand. There’s strength in those eyes, they fill me with a quick, gilt edged fury to live.
I lead them from the town. And I know columns of black smoke rise slowly behind me.
We sat by the pit and watched the rose tinted hues of the sun glance off the white shrouds. Yuri offered me a cigarette and I took it. I sucked it in, the ember flaring, a moment.
“Reminds me of Srebrenica,” he said and I could see something beyond the glazed eyes. A twisting, coiling remnant of guilt locked in a losing battle with reason.
I dropped the cigarette and turned. The roar of the Bulldozer ripped through the melancholic silence.
“Come, Yuri. There is more work to be done,” I beckoned, but left him alone.
“What do we do with him?” I ask Fred.
“Can you keep a secret?” He asks me in return.
“I think we need to get moving. I’m freezing.”
“I think we need to sort him out,” Fred points to the prisoner behind me.
“Hey. Guys. I’m an American.”
“Only when it suits yer,” Fred replies.
“Come on. Leave him.”
“No. We’re told to sort him out. You know. Sort him out.”
I know what he means. Of course I do. This can’t get out and I can’t see this. I crawl away under cover from the Argentineans to my platoon.
There’s a crack and a thud. The Lancaster cajoles and I think we’re done for. Sounds like the hull has been ripped open around me.
“Ian. Check the cabin pressure! Ian?” I feel something between my legs. It’s like a football, but much more heavy.
I look down. Ian? “Ian? What?” Ian’s head is rolling around like some crazy toy that won’t give up. I kick it away. My god – I’m kicking and all I can think of is it’s heavier than a football.
“Peter? Oh my god,” my payload master says behind me, then, “You alright, Peter?”
Now, I can still hear the thud of his head. In every movement, in the footfalls my daughter makes as she runs to me. She sees the shift in my expression and gently kisses my cheek.
The course of the river
A river dragged a course through the sun faded landscape. Its silvery tongue led under canopies of trees that warped and bent. Loops and whorls of barbed bushes chaotically fragmented the order of the banks.
The pair of men silently walked past the steel ruin of a car, its occupant lay on the bonnet in a dried, brittle display.
Jethro took a watch from the corpse and held it to his ear. He grinned to his brother.
“Work?” Trev asked.
“Aye. It’s a tickin’.”
“’owt else in there?”
They searched the interior and left with a book to build a fire with.
The Black Widow
He’s not gonna be like me. I’ll make sure of that. A good education’s what he’ll get and a clip over the lug hole if he doesn’t do his homework. Jimmy certainly shoots better than me. He pulls back the elastic of the Black Widow catapult. The image of the spider is gone now through years of being in the loft. He closes one eye and exhales. Then…. twang!
There’s a screech and a thump. Oh fuck. He’s actually hit something. I can see the excitement in his eyes. It’s his first kill, I think as we both scramble to the rear of the garden. Near my half attempt at a cabbage patch I can see the rise of fur from the ground. The wind rustles the weeds around our legs and I think – is that the cat’s spirit?
Awesome fucking shot, though. It went right through its head. So where?
I stand and peer over the garden fence where the cat was. We’re backed onto another row of houses. Their gardens are next to ours and I can see right into the other house. I check for damage; smashed windows, smashed windscreen or a body.
“Can we skin it?” Jimmy asks.
“No!” Christ! “Bury it. Get the spade before your mother sees it.”
The American Dream
With every turn of the wheel, it notched up a fury, ratchet locked, no turning back and boiling like hard water by the time the beggar reached the crowd. There they were. The nine eleven lot. He looked up at one girl holding up a banner that demanded fair treatment for 9/11 victims.
“What happened to you, lady?” He asked the young girl.
She could barely hear him. “What?” She had that irritating look he got every time he asked for a dime. Like he was scum.
“Why are you here?” He shouted up to her.
“Can’t you read!?” She yelled, then stopped and sighed. “The sign says ‘Compensation for the victims of 9/11’.”
“If you’re a victim then why aren’t you dead?”
“Were you in the 9/11 attacks?” She asked, looking down at him and his mode of transport; a makeshift go-cart for his stumps.
“No. I was on the beaches of Iwo Jima in 1945.”
“Oh,” she knelt, but turned her head slightly, a look of distaste, “Thank you for your service.”
“Thank you? Thank you for your God Damn service!? What good did that do me when I trod on a nip mine! And this piece of metal,” he held up a circular piece of metal. Strips of purple material feathered from one end. “Four years in an asylum for mental health problems and you lot are complaining about a bit of dust!? Cos that’s all it is, Isn’t it? Dust?
“Where’s my compensation, Lady? When do I get to live the ‘American Dream’? You’re living it now. You’ll get no compensation. No compensation.” He turned the go-cart and pulled himself along as he had done for 50 years.
A British Soldier lifted his head. His legs were sheared off at the knee. His blood shot rhythmical squirts over his dead colleague. A hazy figure emerged from the wobbly mass in his sight. It was a woman, that much he could work out.
“Please,” he managed to say. It was a dry and brittle sound that threatened to break in the hard wind.
The woman threw a belt and a length of rope to him. She knelt by the guts of his friend, pulled out a magazine of ammunition and some water. She took one look at the water then threw it to the dying soldier.
The soldier fixed a stare at her and knew she wouldn’t kill him. He grabbed the belt.
Winter is Coming
Old Ned picked up the solitary chip from the floor. He brought it closer to inspect, an inch from his left cataract. He carefully wiped it down and placed it in his pocket. He tapped its fold and gave a toothless grin. His tweed jacket bristled with insects, its fabric seemed alive as if he were the hive. He shuffled on, head cocked, his good eye scanning the ground for any aberration of light and shape.
“Have you seen it?” He asked a passerby. “Excuse me, madame. Have you seen my ring?” He asked again and began to sniff. The woman brought her scarf tighter around herself and trotted, her heels clacking like hooves.
Winter is coming.
Relocation: October 1939, Poland
Father stands with his back to the wind. The easterly wind has an edge on it that no clothing can take away. It digs into my bones and makes me gasp. The air unfurls in ribbons of steam from my mouth.
Father has the map in his left hand and the key in his right. It’s like he’s weighing them both up. He looks up and from under those furrows of silver hair I see a haunt of guilt in his sparkling, intelligent eyes.
“Come,” he commands us and walks to the empty, cold house that had been warm and full of life only hours before.
“You’ve got issues,” she says to me. Issues? Fucking issues? I’ll give her issues!
I clamp down on the toothbrush. It’s a deafening zzzzz through my teeth and into my mind. It jars my sight and knocks my heart into a skip. I remove the Tesco carrier bag from the door handle and out comes the waste food from a rip.
I stand up. Head vibrating. Heart charging. I hold it in.
“Dad!! What’s that on the floor!?” The eight year old boy is pointing to the slop.
What does it fucking look like? Head buzzing. Teeth splitting. I let it out.
An Astronauts’ Lament
I brace myself for the impact. I am an embryo in the core, relying on numbers that were crunched, months and hours before. The seasons of my memories race before me and through the window there is a light. Its curving trajectory threatens to blind me.
It’s summer again in St Louis. The feathery warmth of the grass binds me to the soil. The Earth is Mother I remember thinking as my fingers dug into the turf. I close my eyes, a silent prayer to the Earth. I am bound to you and will never leave you again.
“See you later, buddy,” I say to Mike. His hand still grips mine. He looks up to me, his balsa wood hair awry in the wind and a question in his watering, pearl drop eyes. “I’ll visit.” I get down on my haunches and look over to Sandra. She stood dutifully by the Chevrolet the passenger door open for Mike. I silently questioned her.
Mike held onto me and I lifted him up. “Time to go.” The steps to the car seem infinite and I feel lost with each pace.
I’m losing my family.
In the pancake light of the moon a man in black rode toward me on a horse as jet as oblivion. His robes were like flames in the wind. In one quick second he leapt from the beast and stood before me, almost confronting me. He pointed a gloved finger to me and uttered one word. The sound echoed in the hollow of my mind. My mind had grown cavernous since my imprisonment. I’d learnt to keep it safe from the others in this place. I followed him as he walked toward his steed and the knots of fear in my stomach tightened.
A hunters’ moon played hide and seek with the clouds. My back protested at the digging. Chill bit into the fingers of my gloves and seeped into the hand that clutched the spade. We made good our work for over an hour until the metal of the spade struck solid wood.
Caltrop the rascal was on top of the box scrabbling away the dirt with bony fingers.
“Mother…. mother!!” He called.
I kicked him over and cleared an area over the coffin.
Together we prised open the lid and were presented with a stomach gripping smell and a grinning corpse that was ever so eager to get out.
The Post Office Embrace
They were pinned up against the wall of the Post Office, like lovers it seemed to many who passed. She had her hand up under his shirt as if to caress him intimately. Slick, warm tubing coiled over her hand like spaghetti as she moved the blade sideways.
He looked at her with a question and uttered a noise. He tried to speak. Bubbles of scarlet boiled from his mouth. She dropped the blade and reached up. He frowned and with a shuddering spasm, opened his mouth. She could feel the muscle thundering for survival and grasped it like a tennis ball.
Dialogue from Stockton
“Look a’ that.”
“Bloody blacks takin’ over the country.”
“What? Pharoah? He’s only 10. He’s not thinking about taking over the country just yet.”
“I’ve been to Birmingham y’know.”
“Aye. Full of blacks. Takin’ over the country they are.”
“Your ancestors must have had the same jip.”
“Just imagine what your ancestors must’ve felt like.”
“What’d’yer mean? My family’s all English.”
“Yer Celts, man. It’s there in yer ginger hair. Youse lot must have had no end of grief.”
“Eh? Ah mean all these blacks ‘liggin’ around daein’ nowt.”
“Y’speakin’ German now. Liggin’s German for lying down.”
“German! Me father fought the Germans.”
Otto looks to me, the colour has gone from his face. He turns and steps outside into the gilded day. I hear the sounds of morning, the birds, the cow bells ringing and a…
Another boy stands and walks out. There are twenty of us in here, praying for the leader.
One by one they leave, until I am alone. I feel the pistol by my hip and stand. It’s time.
Outside, the bodies of my colleagues lie in various shapes, some laying on each other. Pistols in hand, blood running from their heads.
I put the pistol to my head.
“Hey…” A whisper? “Hey…” Behind me. I turn and see Paulus. He beckons me. His swastika lies at his feet. I sit by him. The day is gilded and each branch of tree bears its weight in light.
I tear off the swastika and we listen to the birds.
There they were, all sat, petrified in time. Caught in the rupture of a thousand shells that burst asunder. Their demise was instant and simultaneous. A heart failure; young and old. On the bus, forever on that journey to Dresden’s Altstadt. I stepped over the barrel of a corpse and peered in. Motes of ash sailed through the holes of melted glass that laid like slovenly wax. I touched my chest and felt it beat, realised that they were all staring at me. Some were on the cusp of mild surprise before they were snuffed out.
With trembling hands, steadied by an unknown force, I shut out the sights and sounds of my Wife’s rape from my three year old daughter. We’re in the attic above the defilement, like damned ghosts.
The men take their time. When the howls of my name fade, they trail an echo in my mind. She is silent. It’s a silence that echoes ahead in my dreams. She saved me from myself. Saved me from the madness of loneliness.
I cannot return the favour. I hold my daughter tightly and bite into my lip.
I will save my daughter from this.