When things don’t go as planned

Featured Fiction 2The opening sentence for the Featured Fiction writing prompt wouldn’t leave me alone this week. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t written anything in a while, and it makes me edgy. Since I had a minute or two today I decided to go with it. It turned into a lesson in what happens when you don’t plan! I often write like that, just see where the story takes me. Afterwards I can generally repair the damage, make sure there’s a beginning, middle and ending – you know all those ingredients a story is supposed to have!

In the end I’m not sure where I was going with it, but at least I learnt something and I’m writing again!

I decided to share it with you regardless, because just maybe you’ll be able to tell me what my inner writer was thinking – I have absolutely no idea!

The Fun House

Who invented the name ‘Sod’s law,’ that’s what I want to know and, is it the same as Murphy’s law, because I’ve got to tell you, here, in this house, the rule of thumb is to expect the worst.

It’s not what the brochures say, the skillful words written by someone who missed their calling as a best-selling author – of fiction. No, the publicity points to a home for children with emotional difficulties (air quotes optional). What the material doesn’t say it that the place is filled with whack jobs, and I’m only talking about the staff.

Sure, the house looks pretty, one could even say idyllic, but here at the funny farm they believe in labels, and we’re paraded like cattle, depending on merit. I never get put on show, they’re too nervous about what I’d say to the plethora of civil servants who march through here congratulating everyone for their service.

The deal is, the powers that be are supposed to be preparing us for integration into society, whatever the hell that means. We’re educated, which is the same as coerced into thinking we will go on to lead independent lives. I guess, in one respect, my solitary confinement teaches me how to be independent, and if it weren’t for the drugs, I might actually like this gig. Most people leave me alone, mainly because they’re afraid. I don’t just hear voices, you see, my friends have the ability to look into the heart of a person and see the truth.

I’m not completely alone. One of my occasional bunk mates, a paranoid schizophrenic who I affectionately call Sam, has a thing for contraband. During his more lucid periods he sneaks me gifts, one of them being this journal, the one thing which keeps me sane. The rest I steal from the barrage of nurses who come to poke sticks at me.

But I’m getting a little off the point. I was talking about the house, and the fact that at least on the inside, things rarely go as planned. It’s like the very foundations are angry at the behaviour of those who preside here. I used to wonder what we had done to deserve such punishment. When we weren’t being abused by our so called guardians, we were being shafted by the house itself; whether it be equipment failure, power cut or something worse.

What I’ve come to realise is, the house is protecting us. So whoever Murphy is, and whether he agrees with Sod’s law, as the staff are prone to muttering, for us, expecting the worst has become our salvation. It kind of blows your mind, doesn’t it?

If you’re reading this, it means Sam got out. He didn’t belong here, anyway, not really. He has good people waiting for him on the outside and though there’s nobody who cares what happens to me, I know there will be people who question his take on the events. Those labels are there for a reason, after all, and not everyone can trust the word of a paranoid schizophrenic, or that’s what I’m told. Whether they will accept my word remains to be seen. But it will make one hell of a story.

You see, we’re tired of living in a place where people want to take away our souls, to exploit us and mould us to fit their own values and expectations. We’re special and so is this house. So we’re going to take it back, and not in the way people expect. This time nobody will see it coming, and even the laws of physics will not be able to explain how a group of children disappeared without a trace.

Worry not, we are where we were meant to be. And perhaps that brochure was right after all. The house is a safe haven for tortured souls the world forgot. So, if you are reading this, my name is Constance Edwards, and I am free.

***

I hope you’re enjoying the holiday season, and I hope to catch up with you soon.

Mel

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Interrupted – FF#25

Featured Fiction 2Before I get to the story, I must apologise that I’ve ignored the sentence starter again, and all the other prompts! I’ve spent the past couple of weeks with some of my favourite characters so when crime came up this week on Featured Fiction I jumped at the chance to spend time with them again. I haven’t broken all the rules – it is related to the genre at least 🙂

I hope you enjoy.

 

Given that the sauna had been out of action for near on twelve hours, the small room should have been free from the suffocating heat Detective Charles Macavoy associated with such facilities. But even with the door propped open by a wedge of drift-wood, the air clawed at him, and there was a good reason.

The bloated, greying body of a man lay naked on the top tier of the seating unit. Nothing about him looked peaceful or relaxed; even in eternal sleep he looked bitter and twisted.

Charlie looked away from the wide-eyed, vacant stare of his victim and focused on the words scrawled across the far wall. They were written in blood. He’d bet his badge on it being the victim’s.

“Jesus!”

He turned towards his partner, who stood at the entrance, covering his nose in the crook of his arm.

Bobby’s eyes shot to the words then. ‘This one’s for you,’ he read, brow creasing. “That’s a new kind of twisted,” he said, meeting Charlie’s eyes.

“At least this guy has all his body parts,” Charlie responded, thinking about their last case.

He gave the victim one final look and pushed out into the main spa. “I need some air,” he said, over his shoulder and walked past the pool towards the exit.

The forensics team swarmed inside on his brief nod and got to work processing the scene.

“Peter’s up at the main house,” Bobby told him a few moments later.

Charlie took a deep cleansing breath and scanned the area. Peter Green had inherited the land from his parents. After leaving the military he’d set up his own practice in self-defence coaching and extended the property for his purposes.

The building behind them was used as a spa, with a well-equipped gym tagged on at the far right. In front of them stood the training studio, where Peter ran his classes.

Charlie’s eyes ran up and over the single story building and paused on the flat roof. The tall, composed figure, dressed in combats and a black t-shirt should have looked out of place. He didn’t.

“He got here about five minutes ago,” Bobby said, following his gaze. “I played with him a little; made him show me his credentials,” he added, wiggling his brows.

Charlie smiled and forgot about his annoyance at finding him there. “Give me a minute. I’ll meet you up at the house,” he said, and walked across the path towards Jonathan Jukes.

“What are you doing here, JJ?” Charlie asked, waiting until green eyes swung in his direction.

JJ shrugged. “Just getting a feel for the land,” he said, in a calm, controlled voice. “It’s my first time in Pete’s sanctuary.”

In two fluid movements he was down on the ground and facing Charlie with a grin. “I’ve had the speech, so you can save it. I’m nowhere near your crime scene.”

“You shouldn’t even know there is a crime scene, so why don’t you try answering my question,” Charlie shot back.

JJ worked for Morgan and Fairchild, a security agency Charlie had worked with a time or two. The fact they were friends wouldn’t prevent him from asserting his authority if JJ stepped out of line.

“Pete called it in,” JJ said, shrugging again. “He’s a friend and as very little spooks the guy, I offered our services.” The grin widened. “Just a few security measures.”

“Why do I get the feeling you know more about this than we do?” Charlie asked.

“If you weren’t here shooting the breeze with me, Pete would be filling you in,” JJ said, glancing up towards the house.

“Cut the crap, JJ. What’s going on here?”

“The guy in there,” he answered, gesturing with his head towards the spa. “Is Stuart Warburton. He’s the reason Pete left the Marines, so you can imagine how it’s going to look.”

Charlie took a moment to process the information. “I’m going to need to speak to you later,” he said, resigned to the fact JJ wouldn’t let this go. “You can give me your report.”

JJ gave a brief salute. “I’m here to serve.”

“You got that right,” Charlie muttered and turned to walk towards the main house.

Saying that Peter Green was spooked, turned out to be an understatement. Charlie had never seen Peter look anything but composed. He usually had a quiet, unhurried manner and a serenity that put people at ease. None of that was evident in the man who met Charlie at the door.

His thick blonde hair was a mass of untidy grooves and plains, where his hands had journeyed in an unexpected nervous habit. His dark blue eyes were haunted, his athletic body buzzing with so much tension it made Charlie’s head spin.

“Mac, it’s good to see you,” he said, practically jumping to one side to let him in.

Only one other person called Charlie by that name, and he wasn’t surprised to see Justin hovering beside Bobby.

“Here, drink this,” Justin said, shoving a glass of dark coloured liquid in Peter’s hand.

Charlie took a moment to watch Justin’s features. He too looked tense, with a worried crease marring his features – his concern for a friend. It was just plain weird to see such a grave expression on the kid’s face. It was normally alight with his sense of mischief.

Peter knocked back the drink in his hand and then started into the empty glass for a few moments. When he looked up, his eyes were sad.

“I know who’s doing this,” he said. “And it’s all my fault.”

Charlie put a hand on his elbow and steered him towards the living room. “Why don’t we take this one step at a time?” He waited until Peter was seated on a high-backed chair. “How about you start from the beginning.”

“We used to joke about it,” Peter said, his voice faraway. “About what we would do to get back at our enemies. It was just talk, Mac, I swear. I’d never want this…never.”

Charlie walked to take a seat beside Bobby, who handed him his note-book wordlessly. It wasn’t hard to follow his short-hand, or get the gist of what he’d learnt so far.

“Peter,” Charlie began in a voice that held more patience than he felt. “I need you to talk me through what happened this morning, and we’ll fill the other pieces in from there.”

Peter nodded, gathering himself before launching into the events which had led to his call. As Charlie listened he also watched his reactions. He didn’t hear anything to prove Peter’s suspicions and he had an uncanny feeling that the case was about to get a hell of a lot more complicated before the morning was through.

***

Thanks for reading.

Mel

Torn in Two – FF#24

Featured Fiction 2“I’m not sure how much more of this I can take,” Cynthia said, stretching her long, jean clad legs in front of her. Her feet were bare, which was so rare she knew her friend still had trouble processing the sight of her polish-free toes. The combat boots she favoured were tossed in a corner; also out of character.

“This last few days have been hell on earth,” she added, taking a swig of beer.

Justine eyed her over her own bottle. Her long dark locks were piled haphazardly on top of her head. A fine layer of sweat stood out along her skin, despite the thin camisole and the blast of air conditioning from overhead.

In contrast, Justine was clothed in a jumper and still had to utilise her magic to keep out the chill. “What happened this time?” she asked, snagging her own beer.

“Put it this way…the postman smiled at me this morning and I almost jumped him.”

“That’s one dog bite he’d never forget!” Justine said, cackling at her own joke.

Cynthia clicked her fingers together and all four legs on Justine’s chair snapped like twigs, taking her down hard.

She recovered quickly, and by the time she was on her feet, a frothy foam of beer was running down Cynthia’s bottle and onto her stomach.

“What did I tell you about calling me that?” Cynthia muttered.

“I can’t help it if you’re like a bitch in heat,” Justine shot back, walking to another chair.

She waited for retaliation, and was surprised when Cynthia threw back her head and laughed hard; she hadn’t seen her laugh in weeks. Not since she’d been bitten.

“You’ve got me there, my friend. And if I ever find that son of a bitch he’ll be…”

“Dog meat?” Justine supplied and grinned.

They lived in a world of magic, one not only hidden, but guarded by strict protocols and centuries of tradition. Cynthia had dispatched more supernatural beings than anyone in the coven and yet, somehow, she’d been defeated by a werewolf.

“How did he get the better of you anyway?” Justine asked. So far Cynthia hadn’t given up the goods. It hadn’t helped she’d been out of it for days, and though her magic had finally returned she wasn’t herself. Not by a long shot.

The fact Cynthia had been infected by the bite and was now displaying symptoms of the change was a first among their kind.

Cynthia shook her head. “It’s humiliating,” she said. “The worst of it is, I think he was trying to help. A group of skin-walkers ambushed me and I was holding my own, kind of having fun actually, when he came in and ruined everything.”

“You’re going to tell me your arm got in the way of his teeth?” Justine snorted. “Because that sounds completely reasonable.”

A pink blush rose in Cynthia’s cheeks, which was pretty hard to spot, considering her face was heated to boiling point.

“I might have struck out a little and pissed him off. Nobody was more surprised than me when he drew blood. If he hadn’t dispatched the motley crew after that I would’ve been toast.” She shrugged. “Major power cut the moment he broke skin.”

“It’s a wonder you got it back at all,” Justine said, having a hard time believing the story.

“Tell me about it. So now I’m a what? Werewitch?”

A grin slipped onto Justine’s face. “Or a Witchhound.”

“Hilarious,” Cynthia droned.

“You have a bigger problem,” Justine said, glancing out of the kitchen window. “The moon will be up soon. So instead of wanting to jump every man with a pulse, you’ll want to tear him limb from limb.”

“Maybe I won’t discriminate against gender,” Cynthia muttered, scraping her chair back from the table.

More uncharacteristic behaviour, Justine thought. Cynthia rarely wasted energy. She had certainly never paced.

“It’s a moot point anyway. Because I’m not changing. No way am I growing fur.”

That was the least of her worries when, two hours later, she was writing in pain. It wasn’t the change that hurt, it was the fact her body opposed the transition. The heat inside her was like an inferno. It pushed against her skin and scorched every cell in an effort to break free.

The problem was, her witch would never let the beast win. It was a battle of wills and Cynthia was losing, because the wolf wanted out – even if she had to die.

“Stop fighting it,” Justine gasped. “You have to let it happen.”

“I can’t,” Cynthia panted. “I have no control. I…” a scream tore from her lips as her internal organs began to expand, only to be forced back.

Her senses were so heightened she swore she could hear the splintering. Then her little house shook and she realised the door had been smashed from its hinges.

A pair of silver coloured eyes stared out at her. So intense they seemed to increase the heat along her skin. She felt the reaction to him immediately. She’d felt it that night, though she would never admit it to Justine.

He filled the doorway. His large, bulky frame heaving with the effort to hold his beast in check. His dark hair was cropped short to his head, but she recognised the colour. In wolf form it had gleamed in the moonlight, casting a silver glow across his back.

The vision wavered for a moment as her body convulsed; the two halves of her competing until the end.

“Let. It. Out.” A voice demanded and she knew it was him.

It was like he spoke directly to the wolf and, as though obeying the command, it tore out of its cage.

Cynthia leapt into the air, her body changing mid-flight as she launched herself at the man in her doorway. When they collided she sank her teeth into his neck and her wolf howled in triumph.

***

I know there are a few POV errors. I decided to leave it unedited, and hopefully that didn’t take anything away from the story.

Thanks for reading

Mel

The Welcoming Committee – FF #23

Featured Fiction 2We fed on blind adventure, devouring each course it laid. It was nothing more than a game, a way to appease the adrenalin monster. It lived in both of us; craving violence and danger the way other people craved coffee.

Looking back we should have known it would lead to trouble. The very essence of our role in the government was covert and we were drawing too much attention to ourselves.

So, abseiling down the tall, expensive building in central London, I began to suspect our winning streak had just run out. The civilians staring up at us were one thing, but the bullets pinging off the side of the building were the real kicker. The only thing worse would be if someone reached the roof and severed the rope securing our line. Still a part of me craved the challenge of it. Clearly I needed a new job.

“Son of a bitch, that was close,” Chris said from beside me, swinging left and right to make himself a smaller target.

My eyes snapped to the building opposite and I caught the flash a moment before he did. The glare from a sniper’s rifle meant the fun was over.

“I think we get off on this floor,” I told Chris, drawing my weapon.

“I’m right behind you, buddy.”

Bending my knees I swung off the side of the building and raised my gun. On the forward swing I shot out the window and let my body follow the momentum of the glass. The landing was harder than I anticipated.

When I looked at my rope I saw why. A sniper’s shot had sliced right through it.

“Now that’s close,” I muttered, waving the rope at Chris.

He merely pushed a finger through the hole in his uniform to accentuate his point.

We were pressed against the floor beneath the ledge, keeping ourselves well out of the sniper’s sights. The rumbling vibration from the hall meant we didn’t have much time to hide, because we had company.

Chris reached over to drag the pack from his back. “This hard-drive must be pretty damn important.”

“What gave you that idea?” I asked, rolling my eyes at the thunderous sound of running feet.

“We could just hand it over and play nice.”

I fought off the urge to laugh. Hell, I didn’t want to make it easy for them. “Where’s the fun in that. Besides, they’d take it, and then shoot you in the head.”

The grin was quick and arrogant; his green eyes dancing with merriment. “Nah, I’m bullet proof.”

“I told you we should have brought more weapons,” I muttered ignoring him to roll towards one of the desks.

Chris’ hand went inside the backpack to bring out his favourite knife. “Have this, pretty boy. Those bullet won’t last forever.”

Our welcoming committee took that moment to announce their arrival. It was fairly predictable; bursting in with all guns blaring like someone had yelled ‘Action.’ Only this wasn’t a set and the redecoration costs were going to cost a fortune. Not that I gave a damn. I had other concerns, like staying alive for example.

I tapped the mic on my black shirt. “It’s been fun,” I said, meeting Chris’ eyes. I knew the earpiece would pick up my words despite the deafening boom of gunfire.

“See you on the other side, my friend.” He moved quickly, rolling between the furniture like a gymnast and firing his gun with perfect aim. Three men hit the ground in quick succession, and I couldn’t help but pause to admire his handy work.

Me, I’m a bare knuckles kind of guy, but I roll with the punches; pun intended.

I crawled into position and, as five men rushed forward, I slung my leg out. The first brave soldier went down hard. He twisted at the last minute, his finger seizing on the trigger and sending a wave of bullets into the ceiling. Thank God he hadn’t fallen onto his side, I thought, although I didn’t get off pain free. A chunk of ceiling tile fell down and caught me right on the back of the skull.

I fired into the guy on the floor before he could swing my way and took out the two directly behind him, ducking out of the way when another opened fire. Talk about unfriendly.

Chris, always ready to back me up, disengaged two more without breaking his stride. If we got out of this alive I knew he would ride me all evening for saving my ass.

When we were crouched over the bodies of seven men five minutes later, alarm bells began ringing in my head. We were two of the best trained killers in the business and it was nowhere close to our record, but something sure as hell wasn’t right with the picture.

“That was too easy,” I said, swinging my eyes in Chris’ direction.

“Shit,” he muttered, jumping on board. “They were a distraction weren’t they?”

He spun on his heel, eyes narrowed for a moment as he surveyed the room. His gaze honed in on the only computer in the room that wasn’t decorated in bullets, and a second later he was moving.

Plugging in the hard-drive we’d been sent in to retrieve, he brought up the goods. As I stared at the contents in the file I felt a cold chill creep up my spine. Only two files were saved on the terabyte of data and each name was a death certificate; Drake Joshua Tobias and Christopher Theodore Mills. Every mission, every one of our kills was right there in black and white.

“They wanted us to find this,” Chris muttered a moment before he put a bullet in the computer screen.

“Which means that they,” I nodded over my shoulder. “Were just the warm up act, and our contract has just been terminated.”

“I never liked the job anyway.”

I laughed and slapped him on the shoulder, just as the other window blew out and our new guests arrived.

A Welcome Surprise (Part 2) – FF#22

Featured Fiction 2Joshua watched his mother and sister being escorted to the ambulance and wished he could go to them, to express his joy that they’d been found, to stop the flow of tears, the grief etched in new lines around his mother’s face. But he couldn’t.

He was stuck, living outside his own body, too afraid to move in case he disappeared completely. The paramedics were working on him. He could feel the discomfort in his chest, kind of like a twinge, whenever they sent a shock into his heart. The real shock had been discovering he wasn’t dead. Not yet. Now if he could only find a way back. He might have a chance.

The scene blurred for a moment and then dropped away completely. When his eyes readjusted to the new information he realised he was in the back of a police car beside Sandra. She didn’t appear to see him this time, and he wondered what that meant. Perhaps he was hovering between life and death and she couldn’t detect his presence. But if that were true, then why had she seen him the first time.

It crossed his mind she might be ignoring him. She’d tried so hard the first time, but he’d taken her by surprise then.

She didn’t look very happy. He didn’t know her, but he sensed she didn’t like to share her gift and the officer was bombarding her with questions. When she communicated she did so with every part of her body; expressive face, gesturing hands. It was like an orchestrated dance.

It reminded him of how he’d found her, twirling around her kitchen, lost in the music. He’d been so mesmerised by her, he’d forgotten to be surprised she could actually see him. Nobody else had.

He’d regained consciousness with the memory of being beaten, the pain still fresh in his mind. And then he’d realised he couldn’t feel anything. The moment he opened his eyes he understood why. He was dead.

At first, when he’d looked down at his broken body, he’d experienced an odd kind of detachment. And he was detached, in a way. Incomplete, that’s how it felt, as though he were missing a vital ingredient. The fear had rode in on the coattails of understanding and he’s leapt towards his mother, even knowing she couldn’t see him.

He’d stayed with them for a while, thinking bitter thoughts about his fate and wondering how he could avoid the white light if indeed it existed. Then he’d started to plan. He could help his family. If he could somehow get a message to his father, to the police, anyone who’d listen.

The thought of it had been a catalyst, one which sent him hurtling towards the unknown and injected him into a sunny kitchen with music blaring over the speakers.

A physic. That had been his first thought when he saw her. It could have been programmed into his brain, it was so strong. He knew what and who she was, even though he was surprised by her appearance. She wasn’t what he expected. A stereotype was the only thing he had to go on, because he didn’t really believe in such things. Or he hadn’t before the life of his family depended on it.

She had long, pale blonde hair, dyed candy floss pink at the tips and her pretty, expressive face was devoid of make-up. There was a self-deprecating air about her, and a quirkiness he found compelling.

It was a shame he couldn’t get to know her, because who wouldn’t want to spend time with a woman how made cartoon pants look hot.

But his time was running out. He could feel himself fading. The tingle in his chest was spreading throughout his entire body.

Thanks for your help,” he whispered, but the sound didn’t reach his ears.

A loud blip drowned everything else out as it pulled him into a cold, dark place. Then the pain was so real, all he wanted was to escape it.

“We’ve got a rhythm!” he heard somebody shout, and he wondered if they were talking about Sandra.

The image of her twirling around her kitchen filled his mind again and he clung to it, until he was twirling with her. He felt dizzy, and a little sick, but he liked looking at her so he went with it.

After a while it felt more like floating, and he was so happy he let himself sink into it. He wasn’t even surprised to see SpongeBob join them for a dance.

It took him several days to realise he’d been sedated, and yet he never lost the happy. It wasn’t only the thrill of being alive, of surviving the ordeal. He knew why two weeks later when Sandra walked into his hospital room, partially hidden by a SpongeBob balloon.

She wasn’t wearing pyjamas this time, but he held onto the hope that it was only a matter of time before she wore them for him. He’d never felt more like dancing.

***

Apologies for the cheesy ending 🙂

Thanks for reading

Mel

A Welcome Surprise (Part 1) – FF#22

Featured Fiction 2Sandra cranked up the volume on her music player and let herself fly to the music. She was happy, damn it, and singing along to the Pharrell’s energising words almost made her believe it. Besides the sound drowned out the voices, and it didn’t get much better than that.

As the early morning sun peered through her window and cast a cheerful glow across the work-surface she began to twirl around the room; exhilarated and getting closer to happy with every turn.

Eventually the spinning made her dizzy, but she didn’t stop. Not even when she saw the glint of tanned skin, as though she’d brought the singer into her home by the sheer force of her will.

As his face began to emerge she stopped, so suddenly she almost collided with the fridge when she pitched forward.

For a brief moment she considered ignoring the stranger, going back to hiding in the energy of the song. But he looked so miserable she didn’t have the heart to continue her charade. He wasn’t happy, and neither was she.

Walking to the music station she muted the track and felt the silence like a slap. Her visitor was watching her with open curiosity; which meant he was probably wondering why she’d been gyrating like a lunatic. But hey, it was her house. If she wanted to embarrass herself at least it wasn’t in public.

Staring back turned out to be the wrong thing to do, because he was totally distracting and she could feel herself falling into the trap. She knew better than to engage with the dead and she was usually good at keeping her distance.

It was the eyes she realised, a minute too late. She’d always been a sucker for nice eyes, and calling his nice was like saying she was a little sensitive to psychic energy. Nice didn’t even come close. They were stunning. A deep shade of blue that radiated with intelligence.

His dark skin was covered with a hint of stubble. It swept along a strong, angular jaw line, and drew attention to his mouth. Her eyes dropped lower, taking in the athletically trimmed body and then stopped when she realised what she was doing. She was ogling a ghost for gods-sake. There was something seriously wrong with her.

Not that he was an ordinary ghost. He’d been all over the news for days. In the flesh, or certainly spirit, he was as enigmatic as he appeared in all the sound-bites.

“I need your help,” he said, and even his tone was commanding. It was deeply sensual, with a low vibration that walked her mind straight to the bedroom.

That reminded her she was still in her pyjamas and she blushed, looking down in horror. They just had to be her SpongeBob pants, didn’t they? Terrific.

“I’m not sure that there’s anything I can do,” she said, and it made her sad instead of angry. They all expected something from her; some explanation as to why their life had been cut short. And she knew diddly-squat about the laws of the universe. Well, except for the fact he’d been handed a bum deal.

He moved towards her, his expression hopeful. “You have to find my family. I can show you where they are.”

The O’Donnell’s had been kidnapped from their home in Chelsea. It had been a fumbled attempt and now every news station in London was covering the story. The kidnappers had yet to come forward, probably because of all the media attention. They’d already cocked it up once.

She’d been about to tell him to go to the police, until she remembered the whole invisibility thing. “If you describe it to me, I can put a call in,” she offered. She rarely broke her golden rule and got involved. But this was different. Something she couldn’t ignore.

“I don’t know how,” he admitted, a little confused. “I could show you.”

Sandra looked down at her pyjamas again. She already had nightmares about leaving the house in her underwear, what with her being easily distracted. But what the hell, her neighbours already thought she was weird.

“Okay, let’s go.”

She grabbed her keys from the side and, without waiting for him to catch up, she rushed to her car. Since her next-door neighbour was out mowing the grass, she gave him a friendly wave and made sure he got an eyeful of SpongeBob; it would give him something to talk about other than the weather.

Twenty minutes later she pulled into a side street and followed her new friend to get a better vantage point. He’d talked incessantly in the car, walking her though the details of the abduction until she felt like she’d been there with him. He was the reason the job went south; he’d gone home to surprise his parents and discovered two masked men bundling his mother and sister into a van. Not the kind of surprise he was looking for.

“In there,” he said, pointing to an abandoned warehouse.

They were in one of the more affluent areas of North London, so the place stood out like a woman strolling along in her pyjamas. Oh wait, that was her.

It was an ugly building, but she liked its air of defiance. If she was inclined to abduct people for money, she’d probably use it too. But she wasn’t that desperate to leave the secretarial pool, and sometimes hiding in plain sight was the wrong thing to do.

Her hand automatically went to her pocket for her phone. But clearly she didn’t have a practical bone in her body because she’d left it behind with other useful items, like clothes for example.

“I need to find a phone,” she muttered and turned to jog back in the direction of her car.

Half-way there she had a better idea and found a friendly sort who answered their door to a woman wearing cartoon pants and dishevelled hair. They probably felt sorry for her, or more likely they wanted her to go away.

It was the strangest conversation of her life and she was skilled at avoiding the subject of her so called gift. Luckily the tip-line couldn’t discount her as a hoax, so she waited by her car and wondered exactly how much trouble she’d be in when the police arrived.

***

I couldn’t get these characters out of my head all day, especially Sandra. She kept singing Pharrell’s song to me until I gave in and sat down to write her story. It turned out to be longer than I would like, so I’ve split it into two parts. I’ll post the conclusion later in the week. I welcome feedback on the humour within the piece. If something doesn’t work please let me know. I’m sure you can imagine how loud Sandra was in my head so, if anything, it’s a relief to get her out!

Thanks for reading.

Mel

The Bane Twins

Featured Fiction 2Their small frame belied their blistering strength and at once, he knew he was in for the fight of his life. Not that he was afraid of a good fight. In fact, when the enemy looked like the Bane twins, it was almost pleasurable. Man, but they sure knew how to torture a guy.

As a package they were a fierce and foreboding weapon. Individually he never knew whether to dual with them or throw them to the ground. Which was part of their charm, he supposed. Like every cliché in the book their purpose was to distract and conquer; honing in on a man’s weakness and going for the kill.

He wished he could say he was different. He wasn’t. God or not, he was in this mess because he had a weakness for a pretty face.

That didn’t mean he underestimated their fighting skills, nor was he afraid to mark that pretty skin. It wasn’t an equal fight, there were two of them after all, and this wasn’t their only form. But he had a trick or two up his sleeve.

Admittedly, his tricks weren’t as pretty as theirs. Even now their power swirled around them, as deceptive and innocent as their smiling faces. The smoky red of its energy pulsed outwards, creeping ever closer to his position. It spread across the ground, gathering in places as though eager to meld with the colour of his blood.

Behind them he could see the Almada Temple, his current goal if he was ever going to beat the curse.

“Throw down the sword and we’ll allow you to pass unhindered,” the twins said in unison.

He hated it when they did that. It was creepy. “What, you’re afraid of a little steel?”

They hissed as one, cranking up the chill factor. He hadn’t expected them to play nice, but they didn’t have to enjoy it so much.

A moment later the ground began to shake. Their power, which was currently blanketing the ground like a dense fog, flared bright and shot into him, knocking him off his feet.

The move was predictable and he was almost anxious to see the twins’ true form, that of the Amphisbaena.

A blood-curdling scream filled the air, as both heads turned in his direction. It was all for effect and didn’t faze him.

With a heady anticipation he raised his sword, and watched its reflection in the deep red sheen of the creature’s skin. The scales were deceptively soft, and as beautiful as the twins. Their faces were still human, still hypnotising if you made the mistake of looking too closely.

Shifting his gaze he put two fingers in his mouth and let out a short, sharp whistle. He didn’t wait to find out if his signal was answered, he rolled forward into the creature’s path and sprang up towards the belly of the beast.

He felt his blade take root and pulled downwards as he fell to the ground. The moment he had his footing he struck again and felt the power shoot up his arm and strike a beating rhythm in his heart.

“Now,” he shouted, and welcomed the sound of a dozen arrows whizzing past his shoulder.

The earth shook when the twins went down. They howled with frustration and the rumbling beneath his feet meant he only had a few seconds to spare. Leaping onto the dragon like body he swung his sword and with a one, two swinging arc he severed their heads.

He turned when he heard footsteps and jumped back to the ground, watching Zara’s approach with an appraising eye. A roll in the hay had cost him dearly, so he might as well enjoy the side benefit. Her self-assured gait was one of the things that had drawn him in. Had he known she was a sorceress he would have given her a wide berth.

Even now he could feel stirrings. Her long hair, the colour of sunlight was a contrast to the darkness in her soul. Her eyes were equally deceptive, a bright blue that brimmed with innocence, until the mask cleared and they were as cold and hard as ice.

He’d been bound to her for years, and now at the last hurdle, he knew she would set a trap for him. One that would seal his fate.

“Do you honour your bargain,” he said, watching the sway of her hips as she sauntered towards him.

He’d carefully positioned himself so she couldn’t see the carnage, and gloat in the face of her triumph.

“That all depends on your next performance,” she responded, turning greedy eyes to the temple.

He looked down at his feet and saw the beginnings of a fine red mist. “In all your years, I imagine you’ve never come across the Amphisbaena,” he said, watching her eyes return to him.

“Would you accept a prize for defeating the monster?” she asked, swaying closer to him.

“Perhaps I’m the prize,” he said and stepped to the left as a huge, clawed hand swiped into the air and scooped Zara from the ground.

“The thing is, to kill one you have to drive a sword straight through the heart.”

He saw Zara’s eyes grow huge as she looked into the newly formed twin faces. She was transfixed in their gaze and unable to call on her own power.

In one swift strike he jabbed his blade through her heart. Her eyes blinked in shock, burning with an anger he knew would turn the tables if he didn’t act swiftly. He brought his sword up and cut off her head as brutally has he had the twins.

For a moment the air was arid with a sulphurous stench and the plume of smoke stung his eyes.

When the dust settled the Bane twins were before him once more, and he suspected the real trouble was about to begin.

Let’s try a little experiment

In my last post I gave tips on writing comedy, gathered from resources I’d found and felt worthy of sharing. Armed with these tools I began to experiment. I’ve hit a few snags. Mainly my reluctance to plan, because comedy, it seems, is a genre which requires careful planning.

The next problem relates to finding a suitable sounding board, and then I thought of you –  my audience. What better way to gauge what works and what doesn’t than seeking the advice of my WordPress family.

So, I would welcome advice and feedback on what I’ve got so far. I must warn you, I’ve fallen into some of the usual traps, but I’m confident I can turn it around with your help!

The Sequel

“It’s me. Again. If you’re trying to make me paranoid it’s working, because now I’m convinced you’re ignoring me. I’m tired of talking to this machine, Mikey, the Schwarzenegger impersonation can only go so far. Right now I want to hasta la vista your ass, and the fact you’re forcing me to make such a terrible joke just pisses me off. I’m not kidding. You might be the funniest thing since sliced bread right now, but I’m far from amused. Pick up the god damn phone and CALL ME BACK.”

The machine stuttered a little before it succumbed to the silence. It was probably age, either that or a deep-seated loathing for people who hung up in the midst of a temper tantrum.

“That didn’t even make sense,” I muttered to the machine, my new-found friend and fielder to the world, or at least my agent. “What’s so funny about sliced bread?”

“Exactly,” I said to the ensuing silence.

Unhealthy perhaps, but then I was living like a poor man’s Howard Hughes. I’d spent days, or maybe it was weeks, barricaded in my office. My only goal – to write a sentence that would evoke more than an uncomfortable grimace. I was going to be funny if it killed me. At this rate it probably would.

My desk was brimming with plastic cups, each loaded with the balled up remnants of my latest manuscript – a writer’s version of beer pong, only there was no alcohol and I definitely had no balls.

I’d gained my fame under false pretences. I was a one hit wonder. A fake. The critically acclaimed comedy was a sham of epic proportions. A happy accident. Basically, I was buggered.

Now I was expected to write the sequel, and I could feel the literary sharks circling, hungry for my blood. I tried to picture the headline, but that only made me want to bang my head against the desk because nothing came to mind. Still, it would be funny, as long as somebody else wrote it.

It would detail all the ways I’d failed; the comedy fell short, the gags were old, laughs cheap. And the saddest thing of all – it was all true. My current attempt was so forced it bordered on excruciatingly and it was about as funny as a punch to the face.

The keyboard had become my enemy, my pen an instrument of failure. My eyes were burning and my stomach was rumbling from a lack of nutrition coupled with the humiliation of succumbing to coulrophobia. Only clowns weren’t the real enemy. That was all on me.

This time I did bang my head against the desk, and when I was through, I kept my head down. Perhaps sleep would help, I thought desperately. Who could be funny when they were suffering from sleep deprivation? I didn’t really want to answer that and so I succumbed to the land of dreams.

By the time the machine kicked in again, I was floating on a wave of happy.

“I’m coming over, and if you don’t have anything ready for me I’ll kick you from there to Timbuktu…”

“Who even says that anymore?” I wondered, and what made her think she could follow through on the threat. She was five foot nothing with the grace of a dancer, though granted she had a serpents tongue… “Holy shit,” I muttered reaching for the phone. Why didn’t I think of it before?

****

Thanks in advance for your comments.

Mel

Better the devil you know – FF#17

Featured Fiction 2The scream pierced the cold night air and echoed around the park, coating Helen in humiliation when she realised it was just a cat in her path.

She was out after curfew, jumping at every shadow, and cursing herself for her stupidity.

Her heart pounded every time she thought of the recent murders. Blandford was a quiet, rural town; nightmares like this one were for movies or in the deepest corners of sleep.

A sound behind her had the scream building again. She spun towards it and clamped a hand over her mouth.

Someone was out there, someone who had the ability to rip their victims’ limb from limb. If her only defence was a scream, she was screwed.

“Where’ve you been?” David demanded as he stepped into view. “You should have been home hours ago.”

Helen knew her mother must be worried sick, hence the cavalry. David was her shadow; her best friend.

“I told you I was going to the library,” she said, looking to his left at the Healy twins. They gave her the creeps, had done since they’d moved next door.

“Let me guess,” David said grinning. “You feel asleep with your books again?”

Her eyes flicked to Jerome, at least she thought it was Jerome; she’d never been able to tell them apart.

His expression was almost gleeful.

“I wonder if anyone else heard the scream?” he said, and his voice was breathy with excitement.

“Stuart,” David said, his voice a warning.

Helen’s brow creased in confusion. It didn’t matter she’d mixed the twins up. It only mattered they had never looked more menacing.

A twig snapped, making her jump and clutch at David’s arm.

They all turned at the same time, searching out the origin of the new sound.

A man stepped hesitantly onto the path. “Everything okay here?” he asked, relaxing a little at the sight of the teenagers.

Nobody spoke for a moment. Helen watched the stranger edge forward and couldn’t help feel a sense of dread.

It prickled down her spine, making her shiver.

“Do you want to see something really cool?” Stuart whispered and his eyes were predatory. So cold and dark they didn’t look human.

David’s mouth flapped open and closed as though trying to form words that wouldn’t come.

But Helen’s eyes were drawn to the twins, they were circling the stranger, their body language like jungle cats waiting to pounce.

She frowned when they each took one of his arms, straining to hear the mumbled words; whether they spoke to him or each other, she couldn’t be sure.

“RUN!” David shouted and grabbed hold of her hand.

Her own throat had closed, paralysed with a fear so great it was impossible to squeeze a sound through her vocal cords.

If David hadn’t dragged her with him as he darted through the trees, she would have seen, rather than heard, the horror behind her.

It wasn’t the ripping sound, or the agonised scream from the man who’d stopped to help, it was the guttural noises coming from the twins. They sounded like animals tearing into their prey.

Helen tried so hard to block out the sounds, but she couldn’t.  Her legs were unstable as she ran and she tripped more than once. Then her heart began to beat so fast it was the only thing she could hear. A powerful drum beat in her ears. It only scared her more because she had no idea what was behind her, or how far away.

“Don’t look back,” David panted, pulling her onto the road ahead of the park.

She felt a wave of relief when she saw the police car and started towards it automatically.

Her arm vibrated with tension as she felt the resistance. David was pulling her in the opposite direction.

“NO!” he shouted, pulling her so hard he almost yanked her arm from its socket.

It was then she saw the blood. It was smeared across the windscreen, led in a trail down the road, and she didn’t want to think about what she would find if they followed it.

She dropped to her knees and vomited into the street.

David tried to pull her back up, but the heaving wouldn’t stop.

“We have to go,” he said, his voice urgent now. “Please. You have to get up.”

Her breath came out on a sob, but she managed to pull herself to her feet.

“You missed the show,” one of the twins shouted behind her and felt terror race up her spine.

Without thinking she set off running. This time she took the lead, pulling David with her as she headed towards the houses on the corner of Jubilee Park.

She heard the twins behind her, taunting her, like it was all just a game.

Her only thought was on the green door she saw directly in front of them. If she could get to help, they had a chance.

She stumbled as she ran up the three short steps and David’s hand slipped out of hers.

It didn’t deter her. They were almost out of time, she could practically feel the twins breathing down their necks.

She fell against the door, pounding her fists against it. “Help. Please. We need help,” she croaked, her throat so dry the words were barely more than a whisper.

“They can’t help us,” David said behind her.

It was the tone of his voice that had her turning. He wasn’t facing her. He was looking at the twins.

She felt bile rise and swallowed it back down. The pair were covered in blood, like they’d bathed in it.

“Why don’t you tell her, David?” Stuart said, grinning. “Tell her what we are.”

Helen felt her body grow cold. There was a pit in her stomach, a dread she couldn’t escape from.

Her eyes fell to the back of David’s head. She couldn’t look away, even when he began to turn slowly on his heels. His face wasn’t the familiar one she’d known most of her life. It was different now; feral.

It pierced her heart and brought hot tears to her eyes.

“David?” she whispered, even knowing this was the real danger.

“Give me the word,” he said and the command in his voice was unmistakable. She’d always been drawn to the confidence in him.

For a moment she wasn’t sure what he meant. She couldn’t think.

“Do what you have to,” she said at last, but she didn’t know where the words came from.

He took a small step towards her. “Are you afraid?” he asked, almost gently.

Yes. She nodded her head, unable to speak past the lump in her throat.

“Good. You should be.”

With a small smile he turned again and moved on the twins.

Helen closed her eyes and stood listening to her greatest nightmare, and perhaps her only salvation.

Super-charged – Featured Fiction #13

2014-02-16 17.35.22

This week, the suggested theme for the Featured Fiction Prompt series is Fan-Fiction. Thanks to Callum for challenging me to take part. The following is a piece of fan-fiction focusing on Rogue from the X-men (Marvel).

Super-charged

“Rogue, I could use a little help here, Cherie,” Gambit said as he dodged another of Apocalypses’ flying missiles; this time a 1950’s Chevy.

She turned towards the voice, confused by it, and the chaos going on around them. The earth shook beneath her feet and the smell of ash clogged her nose, sealing her confusion.

Images and sounds roared through her head, memories, so many memories, and not her own.

“Gambit could sure use some help about now.”

An arrow of irritation pierced through her brain. That much was recognisable, she thought sourly. Why did he always insist on referring to himself in the third person?

She snapped out of her fugue state just in time to dodge the rain of bricks falling from a third-story building.

Then she was up in the air, flying towards Gambit and plucking him off the ground and away from Apocalypse’s wrath.

She dropped back down just as the others decided to make an appearance. The team was led by Wolverine; he looked feral and ready for a fight. That much she remembered too.

“You okay, kid?” he asked, eyes narrowed as he surveyed the action. His eyes pinned a sheepish looking Gambit. “I thought you might need this.” He threw the staff towards him and turned back to Rogue.

“Look out,” she said and took off to intercept Apocalypse as he charged forward.

She barrelled into him, knocking him off his feet and stunning him momentarily. It was easy to take advantage. He was right there for the taking.

“Rogue…stop…”

It was too late. She had her hands on his head; skin to skin. The connection was immediate. Power surged through her body as energy wrapped tight around them, making it difficult to breathe.

Images of violence ripped through her, along with a bitter hatred that filled her entire mind. She screamed, the pain of the memories too intense to control.

Behind her, Gambit did the only thing he could. “Hang onto something,” he shouted to the others and slammed his staff into the ground.

She felt the spike of additional energy, felt the ground buckle and shake, and then she was flying into the darkness; into the unknown.

It was a welcome darkness and she sank into it. There were no more images buzzing like a hive of angry bees in her head. She felt nothing, and it was glorious.

Here she was Anna Marie again. She had no powers. She’d taken a cure and she was human. She was free to touch, to love, and to be rid of the guilt that followed her everywhere she went.

It didn’t last. Soon the carousel of images began again. This time, at least the memories were her own. She remembered getting her powers back, of crawling into a pit of self-pity when she realised she would never escape.

She remembered Professor Xavier – his stubborn determination to help her accept who and what she was. It had been working, until she was taken. She could have lived with it, of being away from those she trusted, but she’d been too vulnerable to resist the mind tricks.

The persistent manipulation had led her to Carol Danvers and she could never forget that chance encounter, or the battle that had changed her life forever.

The powers she’d absorbed came with a price tag. Not only were they permanent, they effected the very foundation of who she was. She couldn’t separate herself from Carol, not for long, and it was getting harder and harder to remember who Anna Marie, who Rogue had been.

Xavier had begged her not to engage, warned her not to use her powers when she was not yet in full control of them. But then Remy had goaded her into the fight. Damn Gambit and his ability to get under her skin.

It was only as a means of escape from the madness, which had her opening her eyes and forcing herself towards the light.

“You scared me, Cherie.”

The voice came first, then the image of her tormenter. Gambit towered above her, his grinning face in the centre of her vision.

“Give the girl some room.” Xavier’s voice. She felt relief just to hear it. “How do you feel?” he asked.

“Like knocking that smile off his face,” she said, eyes still on Gambit.

“That’s all the thanks I get for saving the day.” His smile widened. “Don’t I at least deserve a kiss?”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Sure you do,” she said. “Come a little closer.”

Gambit laughed and jumped back. “You’ll live to fight another day, Cherie.”

The response died on her lips when she saw Logan appear in the doorway. “Good to see you up, kid.”

She smiled, and with the help of Xavier sat up. “What happened to Apocalypse?”

“You took the power out of his swing, at least for a while. But he’s the least of our problems.” He turned to Xavier. “I’ve gathered the others,” he said.

“I don’t suppose I can convince you to rest?” Xavier asked her, as he moved across the room.

She could hear the smile in his voice when he answered without waiting for her response. “In that case, let’s go. We have work to do.”

Rogue ignored the hand that Gambit held out for her, and jumped off the medical table. When she followed Logan and Xavier from the room she heard the chuckle of his laugher behind her, and couldn’t help the smile.

***

I hope you enjoyed my little dally into the genre. I had a lot of fun.

Thanks for reading.

Mel