The Friday Fiction with Hugh Roberts

 

 

Wahaaay! Author friend and blogger, Hugh Roberts has just released GLIMPSES, his first book! I’m well-jell of that gorgeous cover! Hugh is a fellow member of the Bloggers Bash committee, and I can honestly say you couldn’t meet a more lovely guy. Not only that, but he’s seriously talented when it comes to penning the quirky and the strange, and he’s a master of the compelling trademark sting-in-the-tail, didn’t-see-it-coming conclusion. Meet your new favourite author, and Give the Gift of a BOOK this Christmas!



The Truth App
London, 28th November, 2030

Melanie Carter had saved for months and was about to change the course of her life.
She left the Everything People’s Electric Gadgets store with a brand new purchase in her possession. She’d fallen in love with the ‘iPad 13’ as soon as she had read about it. The review written by Joan Withers, in a national magazine, had persuaded Melanie to buy one.
On going through the front door, the voice of her father called out to her.
“Is that you, Melanie?”
She wondered why he always asked this question given as they were the only two people now living in the house. Her mother, who had been an expert in computer technology, had died just before Melanie had reached her eighth birthday, and some mystery had surrounded her death. A man had been arrested and charged with the murder, but he had always claimed he was innocent. He had written to Melanie many times, but her father had intercepted all bar one of the letters. However, the one letter she had read had frightened her and she immediately destroyed it. She would never know that he had sent many more letters before and after the one she had read.
“Yes, it’s me, Dad. Have you eaten?”
Without answering, her father nodded his head and continued to watch television. He did little these days but watch television and occasionally surf the web to complete the family tree he had started to put together just before retiring from his job.
Melanie climbed the stairs to her room and closed the door gently, almost as if it was the middle of the night and she did not want to wake her father. She was eager to get her new purchase out of its box. It took her less than a minute to set up. The shop assistant, Greta, had offered to, but she was eager to get home and politely turned the offer down.
She immediately went to the App Store and scrolled through all the wonderful applications that were on offer. Many were free, but some would require payment. Nonetheless, she wanted to start downloading and to use some of them that evening.
Ten minutes later, Melanie had downloaded three free games and a couple of applications that promised to organise her busy lifestyle. These had cost her a few pounds each, but the reviews were very good and she thought it money well spent. Then, out of the corner of her eye and towards the bottom of the screen, something caught her attention.
It was the name of the app that intrigued her. ‘The Truth App.’ It was a strange looking app containing the face of a woman who was smiling. When she placed her finger over the app, Melanie was convinced that the woman was smiling at her, but when she moved her finger, the smile faded away and the woman began to look unhappy. She’d never seen anything like this before and thought it must be something new that only came with the new device.
“Download me,” whispered a woman’s voice. Melanie paused and looked around the room. The sound must have come from the television downstairs as only she and her father were in the house. Her finger once again hovered above the app and, this time, she pressed it.
The download took a few seconds. Melanie pressed the ‘open’ button and immediately looked for information on what the app did; nothing but a blank screen appeared. Even the review section was blank. Scrolling, she flicked her finger gently up the screen of the device. Nothing. She scrolled again, faster this time, but still nothing. When the scrolling finally came to a halt, a tiny door appeared on the screen. There was nothing else on view other than the tiny door and it got Melanie’s heart racing. Her finger hovered above it for a while before finally pressing it. Immediately, a fuzzy video clip started.
What Melanie saw took her breath away. There, in front of her eyes, she recognised her father arguing with a woman. The woman’s face seemed familiar and it wasn’t long before it struck Melanie that it was the same face of that of the woman on the app. They were arguing about money and then about not having anything in for dinner. The woman threw a plate at her father. It missed him by inches, smashing against a wall.
“I know exactly what you have done,” shouted her father on the videoclip. “When you married me you said you would be faithful to me and only me.”
The woman started to cry and held her hands to her face. Then it clicked. This was her mother and father she was watching.
“I’m so sorry, but I love him,” said her mother, as she dropped her hands away from her face. “You and I were never meant to be together, you know that!”
Melanie heard the sound of glass smashing. It was coming from the video clip, elsewhere in the house. She watched as her mother turned around to witness who had entered the house. To Melanie’s amazement her father picked up a knife and ran towards his wife. The screen then went blank.
“NO!”
She tapped the screen, but nothing appeared. She picked the iPad up and shook it, but still nothing. Then she remembered something she had heard many times before when this kind of thing happened with electrical items. She turned the iPad off and back on again.
For some reason the device in her hands felt strange. She fumbled for the on off switch, shaking the device hard.
“Hurry up and start again, please, I don’t have much time!” What must have been a matter of a few seconds seemed like hours, and tears rolled from her eyes as the screen of the device lit up again. She immediately looked for the apps which had been downloaded. Five of the apps were still there, but the one she didn’t ever want to see again was gone. She pressed the App Store icon and searched for the missing app by name, but it was nowhere to be found.

***

Downstairs, Frederick Carter had gone to the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea. He opened the cutlery draw and took out a teaspoon just as a noise from upstairs disturbed his thoughts of what he was going to watch next on television. He walked to the bottom of the stairs and started to climb them. He was sure it was Melanie he had just heard shouting yet her voice seemed different. Now, as he climbed the stairs, it was crying he could hear.
“Are you alright, Melanie?” he gently asked as he got to the door of Melanie’s bedroom. The crying suddenly stopped. He hesitated before putting his hand on the door knob. Turning it slowly, he paused noticing the house was now in complete silence. Even the television seemed to have gone silent. Fredrick pushed open the door. “Melanie?”
To his amazement it was not his daughter he saw sat on the bed but the strange ghostlike figure of his wife. Speechless, his body froze on the spot.
The figure moved off the bed and glided towards him. There was no struggle or noise until his body fell down the stairs.

***

As her father’s body hit the floor at the bottom of the stairs, the noise it made startled Melanie and she woke from the shallow sleep that had engulfed her.
“Dad? Is that you? Dad, are you alright?”
The door to her room was open. She was sure she had closed it when she had come into her bedroom. Melanie got off her bed and walked out of her bedroom to the top of the staircase. The sound of the television coming back on was met by a terrifying scream.

***

Over a hundred miles away, at exactly the same time Melanie Carter screamed, Joan Withers decided to take a look at the App Store on her new iPad. She was delighted with the review she had written and had been paid well for it. Something caught her eye on the screen of the device. She pressed the app, which seemed to have the image of her father on it. He had been sent to prison for a murder she was convinced he had not committed. She’d never seen anything like this on the iPad before.
Pressing the image of a tiny door which was the only thing that now appeared on the screen, a fuzzy video clip started.


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About Author Hugh Roberts
About Author Hugh Roberts

Hello, my name is Hugh, and I live in both the town of Abergavenny and the city of Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom.

I have always enjoyed writing and the fact I suffer from a mild form of dyslexia has not stopped me. Yes, I get things wrong with my reading and writing but I always find those mistakes humorous and always laugh about it. I no longer allow dyslexia get in my way. Now in my fifties, I thought it about time I let my writing become public and becoming a blogger seemed to be the perfect way for me to do this.

I share my life with my civil-partner, John and our Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Toby, who I both cherish with all my heart. I have a very positive outlook on life.

I started writing short stories at school but was never really encouraged to continue writing them. Then, many years later, I discovered blogging and wrote and published several short stories on my blog. They soon became hits and I was encouraged to publish some of the stories in a book. Now, finally, my dream of becoming a published author has come true with the publication of ‘Glimpses’ the first volume of 28 of my short stories. If like me, you enjoy shows such as The Twilight Zone, Tales Of The Unexpected, The Outer Limits and Tales From The Dark Side, then my short stories will hopefully take you on twists and turns to unexpected endings.

If you decide to buy and read my book then I’d be delighted if you would consider leaving a review on Amazon. Reviews help all authors and feedback is vital to improving my writing

I’ve always considered myself as a peoples’ person and I love to hear from anyone. Please do feel free to contact me.


where in the world is hugh?

Faded #writephoto

Faded #writephoto Image (c) Sue Vincent www.aliisaacstoryteller.com
Faded #writephoto Image (c) Sue Vincent
http://www.aliisaacstoryteller.com

I never liked roses. They are over-blown and gaudy, just like the woman he ran off with; their scent cloying and sweet, like his shirt after he’d been with her; their thorns sharp and piercing, like the words we exchanged before he left.

My life fell apart then, like loose petals tugged by the wind. I drifted like fallen leaves tossed into life’s gutter. I saw myself in the winter trees, de-nuded, laid bare, stripped of youth and beauty.

But trees bud and blossom and green over, year after year. Their splendour only intensifies as they age. The roses revive and bloom, vibrating colour as if it compensates for the barbs they hide. Me, I just faded away.

I never liked roses, until the day I was given a handful of pink rosebuds, and then it was too late. They bobbed like tender kisses atop their smooth stems, their petals tightly furled, the shade of a young girl’s blush, or a baby’s yawn.

Then, like me, they faded and died.


I wrote this story for Sue Vincents Thursday photo prompt #writephoto

The Egg Stone | A Short Story for #Easter

The Egg Stone | A Short Story for Easter http://www.aliisaacstoryteller.com

An oldie I wrote a long, long time ago, before computers, mobile phones and x-boxes. That’s right, kids, these innovations came into being within my life-time. Hard to imagine, right? Happy Easter to all!


When I was seven years old, I was sent to spend Easter with my granny in the country. I loved Easter more than any other occasion, even Christmas and my birthday, although all were eagerly anticipated for the treats they would inevitably bring.

My passion, however, was for chocolate eggs, and of course these only came once a year, but in all shapes and sizes, and I would happily gorge until I felt distinctly ill, smearing all in my vicinity with sticky fingerprints, making my annual Easter mark on the furniture and the walls.

On this occasion, my mother was expecting the imminent arrival of my sibling, and experiencing complications, was admitted prematurely into hospital. I was not unduly worried; the excitement of a train journey, several extra weeks off school and the indulgence afforded me by my grandmother far outweighed my impatient interest in the new addition to my family.

Granny’s cottage was situated amongst open fields on the outskirts of a tiny village. The cottage itself was quaint and antiquated with practically no amenities. Every inch of space was crowded with a lifetime’s collection of memorabilia, creating for me days of endless fascination. The fields round about were perfect for hunting wild man-eating bears, fighting scalp-hunting red Indians, chasing robbers and other boyish occupations far too numerous to mention. In those days, WII and DS were futuristic fantasies, and few benefited from the luxury of television.

When I came down to breakfast that Easter Sunday, Granny said that she had a surprise for me on our return from church. Looking round, I discreetly noted a distinct lack of chocolate eggs. Disappointment set in. How could Granny forget? Easter just wasn’t right without  chocolate eggs. But what of the surprise? I decided nothing would compensate for an egg-less Easter. Yet, curiosity tightened within me like a coiled spring, and I could not sit still through the service but wriggle and squirm as a means of release. Granny pretended not to notice but there was no mistaking the half smile of amusement which crossed her features.

After lunch, Granny turned to me with an enigmatic glimmer in her eye and said, “I have hidden something for you in the garden; if you can find it, it is yours.” Then she took up her crochet and would say no more.

Something hidden for me in the garden, I mused. It must be my chocolate egg. But how was I to find it in this rambling chaos my granny kindly referred to as her garden? I begged and pleaded for clues and directions, but when none were forthcoming I set about my task, a mission which to me equalled life or death – chocolate egg, or no chocolate egg!

After two hours of searching I was hot, sticky, red in the face, becoming increasingly irritated, and still had found nothing. What was I looking for? I started again… and again… and again. I left no leaf untouched, no stone unturned. I befriended every slug, snail, beetle and spider co-habiting there, and by teatime was just about to give up, when… there it was, sitting patiently and obviously in a place I had searched dozens of times to no avail.

‘It’ was a very SMALL cloth-wrapped package. Very small, and very singular. I was indignant; all this effort and heartache in just one day, and my only reward was a single tiny egg? Rebellious thoughts rushed through my head.  I snatched up the object. It was very heavy for something so small, far too heavy for an Easter egg, and I would know, this being my area of expertise. What, then, could it be?

I carefully unwrapped the cloth and into the palm of my hand tumbled… a pebble.

As I examined it, I realised it was no ordinary stone. It was so tiny that it fitted snugly into my little hand. It was smooth and perfectly egg-shaped, and bitingly cold to the touch. Rich translucent amber in colour,  dark veins ran through it, drawing light into its heart where they merged, which writhed like flames in slow time. I was entranced.

I decided I liked the stone after all, although I was at a loss as to what to do with it. Granny would know. I rushed to her side.

“Thank you for the egg-stone, Granny,” I said.

“Ah, so you have it, then.” Her voice was gruff, her hands moving faster over her crochet.

“Er… what is it?”

“Why, its an egg-stone, of course. What did you think it was?”

“Well, what’s it for? It took me ages to find.”

“You don’t find an egg-stone. It found you. Now, listen.” She leaned towards me now, eyes intent, crochet forgotten. “It found me too when I was your age. Look after it, and it will look after you. You must polish it occasionally, and hold it every day, but you must never ever let anyone know about it, or see it.” Her eyes burned into mine, and if she hadn’t been my granny, I would have been scared.

“I promise.” I put aside my thoughts of chocolate. I was aware that Granny had passed onto me something far more precious, and I was intrigued.

I hid the egg-stone at the bottom of my bed, beneath the mattress. Later, I took it out to examine it more closely. This time, it felt quite warm, cupped in my hands. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with homesickness, and a longing to be with my family. A little chocolate egg would have gone a long way towards cheering me up, I thought sadly.

Then I was shaken from my thoughts by Granny’s voice calling me downstairs.

“There is a visitor for you,” she said.

Strange; I had no friends from the village.

I skipped down the stairs to find a large woman and a small girl standing in the hallway. The girl smiled shyly and offered me a straw basket, in which nestled three small, perfectly-formed mouth-watering chocolate eggs! I gazed at her in jaw-dropped amazement. I understood the magnitude of this sacrifice.

We sat among Granny’s rambling flowers and shared the eggs while the grown-ups chatted over tea.

The next day, a telegram arrived. Granny read it in silence, then smiled a slow smile.

“You have a baby brother, and your mother and he are both doing well,” she announced.  “I am to take you home on the next train.”

I went upstairs, sat on my bed, and took out the egg-stone. I felt very uneasy.

“You’ve done this,” I whispered to it.

All the things I had wished for the night before had come true; a new friend to ease my loneliness, the gift of chocolate eggs, the return to my family. Of course, it was coincidence. Or was it? The heart of the stone glittered.

Back home, Granny fussed over the baby, and my parents fussed over me. My new brother was not what I expected; I wanted a brother I could play football and climb trees with, but all this one did was eat, sleep and cry. But I was happy to be home, and there was even a host of Easter eggs decorating my room.

There was only one dark cloud on the horizon.

School. And that meant Brian.

Brian was the typical school bully; every school has one. Big, fat, stupid and mouthy, with the weight and the cronies to back him up. He had picked on just about everyone in the school at one time or another, and had yet to be defied. I knew with a sickening certainty that now it would be my turn. I took the egg-stone with me for  support.

On my arrival at the school gate, a crowd gathered around me. Well, I had just had an extra fortnight off school, been to the country, and had a new baby brother. Brian did not like anyone else to be the centre of attention and so in the lunch break he made his move.

“Got a new baby brother have you?” he sneered. “Bet he’s an ugly ginger speccy four eyes, just like you!”

His friends joined in the cruel chorus. He took a menacing step towards me, and began pushing me backwards with each jeer until my back was pressed hard against the wall.

“And now do you know what I’m going to do?” he taunted. “I’m going to smash your specs and then I’m going to give you a black eye.”

I braced myself, slipping my hand into my trouser pocket, and felt the egg stone nestling there, smooth and reassuring. Unfortunately, this did not go unnoticed.

“What you got there then? Get it, lads! “

A hundred hands reached for the egg-stone at his command, taking the opportunity to aim a few well-directed thumps in my direction as they did so. Struggle as I might, I could not resist them.

“Well well, what have we here?” Brian turned the stone over curiously in his meaty paws.

“It’s only a lump of rock,” complained one of his accomplices.

“It’s an egg-stone,” I muttered sullenly, “and its mine. Give it back.”

“Finders keepers,” trilled Brian, and with that my resentment flared into anger. I lunged at him. At the same time, the egg-stone began to glow fiercely. There was a shriek from Brian, and it fell from his hands. It hit the tarmac with a resounding crack and shattered into a million pieces.

There was shocked silence, broken only by Brian’s blubbering. He was blowing on his hands, trying to cool them. They looked badly burned. All eyes were on me. Full of righteous rage, I flew at Brian, hating him, wanting to kill. After a few seconds pause, the whole yard full of children poured around me, screaming their encouragement, some even joining in the attack.

Of course, I was punished both by the school and my parents, but I didn’t care. Brian and his mates never bullied anyone again, so it was a small price to pay.

As for the egg stone, to this day I still keep a shard of it at the bottom of my bed, beneath my mattress.

A Christmas Short Story Santa’s Gift

A Christmas Short Story | Santa's Gift www.aliisaacstoryteller.com
A Christmas Short Story | Santa’s Gift
http://www.aliisaacstoryteller.com

I watch my children launch themselves gleefully at the pile of presents under the tree, but take no pleasure in their joy. My heart feels cold and hard as a stone, and the bitter taste of guilt catches and won’t wash away in the back of my throat.

Sarah is the oldest. Always the thoughtful one, she organises her younger sister to sort the parcels into three piles, one for each of them. It’s meagre pickings, I think dismally, but they don’t seem to notice. Caitlin normally resents Sarah’s bossiness, but on this occasion normal hostilities have been temporarily cast aside. Jojo, not even a year old, crawls happily through the chaos, more absorbed in the crunch and rustle of the bright paper than what it conceals.

My brave bold trio, who already in their short lives have seen a side of it no child should have to witness. I won’t have their childhood stolen away from them, I just won’t.

I pull Jojo onto my lap. She wriggles, trying to free herself.

“Girls,” I say. “Open some pressies for your little sister.”

They show her how to tear the paper, and she cottons on quick, squealing with delight, shredding the paper and mashing it into a squidgy mess with damp, pudgy hands.

When all the secrets have been revealed, it is Sarah who comes to me with a hug. I am surprised to see sadness in her eyes.

“But Mammy,” she says solemnly. “There’s nothing here for you.”

I gulp back the lump which has formed in my throat, and force a cheery smile. “Santy only brings presents for the children, didn’t you know that? Anyway, your Nana will be over later, and she will have a little something for all of us.”

“Hooray, more pressies,” whoops Caitlin, who has overheard, and Sarah rolls her eyes.

“You’re so materialistic,” she says smugly, and I stifle a grin as she stumbles over the unfamiliar word, my first genuine smile of the day.

I set Jojo back down, and go to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. The window is a black square; it is still early, but I can see lights twinkling vaguely in the windows of some of the neighbouring houses, and know that inside, the same ritual will be playing out, only without the guilt.

I lean on the worktop as panic overwhelms me. I am gasping for breath, my heart hammering so hard, that for a moment, I fear a heart attack.

It was the worst thing I have ever done, and I will never forgive myself, but if I have to, I will do it again. For my girls.

“Is Dad coming today?” Sarah is standing in the doorway, clutching her new Barbie. Of the three of them, she was always closest to her Dad, and his leaving hurt her the most. He hadn’t even said good bye. Just woke up one morning a couple of months ago and said he’d had enough, walked out the door as casual as if he was heading to Tesco.

I can’t say it surprised me. He’d threatened it many times, but I never believed he was strong enough or desperate enough to see it through. And at first, I just felt… relieved. No more rows, no more accusations, no drunken violence. To be fair, all of that only started after he was laid off the previous year, and couldn’t find work. I’d thought we’d muddle through, that love would lift us up above all that. Of course, I was wrong. Everything always comes down to money in the end.

Then the relief faded and reality kicked in; Christmas was coming, I had no man, no money, and no one to turn to for help. But I was fiercely determined to make Christmas special for my girls.

I sold my wedding ring, paid the gas and electricity bills, and bought a frozen chicken and a Christmas pud. The girls wouldn’t notice the difference between a turkey and a chicken. They probably wouldn’t even eat the pud, but Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without one. That left precious little for gifts.

Nevertheless, I was drawn to Toys R Us, even though I couldn’t afford to buy anything. I drifted up and down the aisles like a ghost with big, hungry eyes. Sarah wanted the latest Barbie. And there she was, the last one on the shelf. I gazed at her longingly. She was beautiful, layers of puffy princess-pink organza wrapping her svelte tanned form, an impossible confection of overblown feminine perfection smiling blankly from the chaste prison of her box. I reached towards her.

“Excuse me.” An arm snaked past me and snatched the doll from the shelf. Outraged, I turned to glare at the thief. It shouldn’t have mattered; I couldn’t afford it anyway, but for a few moments, in my head, that doll was Sarah’s.

A woman in a grey coat with a fur collar and very pink lipstick deposited the Barbie on the summit of a mountain of toys in a shopping trolley, and wheeled it past me. It was full of girl toys, all the things I would have bought my daughters, if I could. Next to Barbie nestled Frozen’s Elsa, which had been top of Caitlin’s wish list. Tears stung my eyes.

I rushed out the store, mind in a turmoil. What was I going to do? My head ached, and I leaned against the cool shop window, thoughts fluttering as wildly as my heart, searching desperately for inspiration.

When the woman in the grey coat emerged with her purchases all bagged up in the trolley, I followed her. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t have a plan. I was just obsessed with the over-indulgence of her shopping spree, and the unfairness of it all. Her daughters were getting too much, while mine were getting nothing at all.

She had parked in a far corner of the car park beside a crumbling brick wall. Badly, I noticed contemptuously, as the wheels of her car protruded into the neighbouring space. I lurked behind a big four wheel drive, watching. Tall whispering evergreens shielded us from the main road beyond.

There was no alarm on her car. She piled the bags in and locked up, pushed her trolley back to the store, and then headed towards TK Maxx.

As if you haven’t spent enough, you bitch, I thought, made irrational with jealousy.

In that moment, my passions consumed me; anger at my husband for abandoning us, fury at my helplessness, jealousy of this woman’s affluence, fear of my children’s disappointment on Christmas morning, repugnance at my inability to provide for them.

These terrible, powerful emotions took control, they moulded me into the shape of someone I barely recognised, an aspect of myself I abhorred, but did not resist. I thought of my daughters’ happy smiling faces, and that was all the motive I needed.

I worked a brick loose from the wall, and hurled it as hard as I could at the passenger door window, more from rage than anything else. The glass shattered. I didn’t expect it to, but it did. I knocked some of the shards out till the hole was big enough to fit my arm through, then reached in and unlocked the door. It clicked open.

I stared at the treasure inside in disbelief. It couldn’t be that easy. But it was.

I didn’t take everything; I couldn’t completely destroy their Christmas. I just grabbed two bags and ran, hoping one of them contained Barbie and Elsa. When I got home and emptied them onto my bed, there they were, glorious and bright and beautiful.

But as I wrapped them, my hands trembled, and with the adrenaline gone, feelings of self-loathing began to push at the boundaries of my mind.

Dad does not come, but Nana does. The girls jump on her immediately, and give her no peace until she laughingly hands out her gifts.

“Where’s Pete?” she asks, looking around and noting his absence. “I bought him a book. Does he know how to read?”

“Mam, don’t,” I protest, and burst into tears.

She wraps me in her arms for a moment. “I’m sorry love. But he does wind me up, the way he treats you sometimes.”

I push her away and retreat to the kitchen. The chicken is roasting, pots bubbling away on the stove, giving the false impression that I am in control. The window is lined softly with steam, whilst outside a grey sky drizzles relentlessly.

“He’s gone,” I say, and the whole story comes out, a torrent which cannot be dammed. Only when the flood has abated am I able to stop and sip at the mug of hot, sweet tea Mam places in my pale, shaking hands.

“Oh love, why didn’t you tell me all this before? I could have helped. You’re not alone, you know.”

“You’re a pensioner, Mam, struggling as it is. I couldn’t burden you with my problems too.”

“But stealing…”

“I know. There’s nothing I can do about it now. I can’t give them back. I have no idea who she is.”

“If I ever get my hands on that rotten good-for-nothing husband of yours…”

“Stop it, Mam. He’s still their father.”

“I know. He doesn’t deserve them. Or you.”

Our conversation is interrupted by the ring of the doorbell.

“Daddy,” shriek the girls, rushing to answer.

“Talk of the devil,” Mam mutters darkly.

But it isn’t Pete. Two tall policemen fill the doorway. I feel so weak, I think I will faint. The girls gaze up at them shyly, clutching the evidence. Behind me, I hear Mam’s sharp intake of breath, and am aware of her scooping Jojo off the floor.

My heart sinks. CCTV. The car park must have CCTV.

“You’d better come in,” I say, leading the way back into the kitchen. “Mam, make another pot of tea, will you please?”

“Sorry to do this to you, Sue, today of all days, but we’ve got Pete again. He’s in the nick now, drunk as a skunk,” says the elder of the two.

I sit down quickly, before my legs give way. So they haven’t come for me after all. I let out a long, shaky breath.

“He walked out on us, about two months ago, Ed. Haven’t seen or heard from him since.” How many times has this happened in the last year? So often, I’m on first name terms with the local coppers.

He left, I say to myself. He is no longer my responsibility.

“You’ll want to come and get him,” Ed replies, taking something out of his pocket and laying it in the middle of the table. A little square of paper.

“What’s that?”

“It’s a lottery ticket,” bursts out the younger officer, face pink with excitement. “That’s why he’s so drunk;  he’s been celebrating. He’s only gone and won the lottery!”

Ed scowls at him, but then directs a smile at me. “It’s true. We checked. I know that man has taken you to hell and back over the last couple of years, but he’s asking for you and the kids. Maybe he can finally clean up his act, with your help.”

I can’t speak.

“Do it for the girls.” Mam’s voice comes out as a croak.

But I can’t, even for them. They are my life, yet I will not be bought. I have hit rock bottom and committed a crime. I won’t make things worse. I won’t condemn them to a life with a drunk and aggressive father.

“What will happen if I don’t help him?”

Ed shrugs. “He’ll get turfed out when he’s sober, cash in his winnings, and use them to drink himself to death most likely.”

There is a sob from the kitchen door. It is Sarah.

“Mammy, is Dad dead?”

“No darling,” I soothe, opening my arms and enfolding her. “He’s just not very well, that’s all.”

“We can look after him,” she says, wiping her eyes, and pulling away to look at me hopefully.

Ed clears his throat. I know what he’s thinking; the money will make everything better. “It’s a considerable sum,” he says.

I level a cool stare at him. “I married Pete for love, not money. He was the one who let money come between us. Keep the ticket. We don’t want it.”

“Susan, no,” gasps my mother, but my mind is made up.

The two men gape at each other. Raw, ugly greed darkens their features as they weigh up my offer. Ed pockets the ticket.

“What ticket? I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says, getting stiffly to his feet.

I shrug on my coat and kiss the girls. “I’ll be back soon,” I say to Mam. “Take the chicken out of the oven at three.”

I hold my head high as I step out the door, fully aware of all the neighbours’ curtain twitching.

As we leave, Ed ruffles Sarah’s hair and winks. “All I wanted for Christmas was the day off.”

“I asked Santy for my Daddy back. I’d rather have him than a hundred Barbies,” she announces.

“The big man was obviously listening.”

She nods solemnly. “I’ve been very, very good.”

He looks uncomfortable, can’t meet her steady gaze. “Well, that’s more than can be said for the rest of us.” Then he follows me into the police car.

 

Friday FREAKY Flash with Ed Mooney, Geoff le Pard and Jane Dougherty

Friday FREAKY Flash http://www.aliisaacstoryteller.com

Last week, it being the season that’s in it, I called for ghost stories. This was your prompt…

Give me your greatest, gruesomest, gory, ghoulish ghost story. have you got what it takes to frighten the life out of me?

Well, the short answer is yes, without a doubt! First up I am so delighted to welcome lovely blogger friend, awesome photographer and Ruinhunter, Ed Mooney, to the challenge…

The Hunter

Many years ago we lived under the sun. The land and sea provided us with everything we needed to live. Times were simple back then, but people were happy and life was good.

Then the darkness came, and with it, a cursed evil, like a pestilence that plagued the race of man. No one was safe, neither man, woman or child could escape it. Even the Sun and the Stars went into hiding.

It started with just a few, but as their thirst grew, so did their attacks. Farms, villages and eventually whole towns were over run and decimated. The lucky ones were drained and died. But as time went on, mankind began to defend itself and fight back. This was no war, it was a battle for survival. Then they began to turn their victims whom joined the ranks of the unholy walking dead.

As the enemy grew, the leaders of man made a pact with the vile creatures, and a truce was made, but at what cos. People were herded like cattle to the slaughter, sold out by their fellow man. The attacks continued but this time by the humans.

I never knew my family, for most of my life, all I have known is the hunt. It is all I know, and I am good at it. It does not matter to me, be they an Evil one or a human conspirator, when I find them, they will die…

Some may call it a curse! This was a path chosen for me, a lonely life. But it is my cross to bear and I shall bear it gladly. Who else can take a stand against this evil? Why should it not be me?

Ed Mooney, Ruinhunter. The man behind the camera. www.edmooney.wordpress.com
Ed Mooney, Ruinhunter. The man behind the camera. http://www.edmooney.wordpress.com

Creepy story, huh? I think Ed has the beginnings of a novel here. Thanks, Ed… I hope this is the first of many stories you will share with us. You can find Ed and his beautiful images of ancient Ireland, along with their legends, on his blog, Ed Mooney Photography.

Next up, it’s the effervescent, energetic, prolific Geoff le Pard, who is no stranger to this challenge or this blog. Last week’s story was macabre enough, but wait till you read this one…

A Question of Position

I’m very rational. Of course I can be startled, surprised and I’ll be the first to admit there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio.
But ghosts? Spirits from beyond? Give me a break. Sure weird stuff happens but it’s only weird because we haven’t worked out how. There’ll be some modification of Newtonian physics, some subtle exception that explains it.
And then there’s the man at Victoria station, who, I’m about to meet.
It started on Monday. The station was chaos. They’re doing these rebuilding works. It was while I watched the indicator board, hoping my train would show as being on time. That is when I saw him.
I was in my favoured spot, near to the farthest left hand gate. The works have meant I’ve not been able to claim my spot but, happily, today I could. The works have moved.
I was staring up at the board when I saw him. For a moment I was sure he was hanging, and I must have gasped because the chap next to me asked if I was ok. He’s stood next to me for ever and that was a first. Name’s Gerald apparently.
I started to explain, but when we looked the man has gone, replaced by a workman in a hiviz jacket. I thought I must have been mistaken.
The next day, and the next I saw the man. Just glimpses. By the Maccy Ds. Going into the gents. It’s odd – it’s like he wants to look at me but is forcing himself not to.
Thursday, he was on the platform – no one else was there. He must be an employee, though the heavy blue coat looks like one of those old pictures.
I asked Gerald if he’d seen this fella but he said no. He made a joke about it, accused me of seeing a ghost.
When we reached the station on Friday, all sorts were going off. They’d cordoned the spot where I stand. Apparently they’d found a body. Seems like he had been buried there for decades and the ticket bloke said he’d heard he’d been buried deliberately.
We were all moved around, because three platforms were out of use. I saw him, as I knew I would, by my spot. I knew Gerald hadn’t seen the man even though he was there plain as anything. That’s when the man turned. He looked deformed, one side of his face damaged.
Even though the station was its usual noisy self I heard him say, ‘You!’
Like he knew me.
The weekend, I was anxious. The papers said he’d been buried alive. They did a mock up, in the uniform he was wearing. They said his face has been smashed. Like the man I saw.
I knew I’d see him on Monday. I knew we’d speak. I was responsible somehow. Maybe standing on top of him upset him. Or maybe there’s no logic to how ghosts choose those they seek to haunt.

Spooky story, well, I did ask for it! Thanks Geoff. Geoff has recently published his new book, My Father and Other Liars. You can read an excerpt from it here, when he stopped by my blog a couple of weeks ago. His first book is called Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle,  and you can buy them both here. You can catch up with Geoff on his blog.

And so we come to our final story from the very talented wordsmith, Jane Dougherty, who has another eerie, spooktacular tale for us today which she claims to be absolutely TRUE!

Dolly Mixtures

I noticed them up ahead, the young man in a dark-coloured hoodie, and a tiny tot dressed up like a dolly mixture. The tot was weaving unsteadily between the trees, chasing starling chicks. Light flickered between the tree trunks. Light but no sound. The man sat down on the steps by the side of the path and beckoned to the child. She sat down next to him, quiet and obedient, as he got out his tobacco and ciggie papers.

Tiny tots have an unsettling habit of running towards big dogs, shrieking with pleasure and their arms outstretched to give the cuddly thing a huge hug. Their parents generally follow at top speed, also shrieking, in terror. If you want to freak out a nervous dog, there is no better tactic. Not wanting any accidents, I bent down to clip the lead back on the dog’s collar. When I straightened up, the man in the hoodie was rolling up his cigarette, but the child was nowhere to be seen.

There was no reason for me to be curious, no reason to walk the ten yards to where the man was sitting with his back to me, head bent over his fingers as they flicked over and over. No reason, but a strong, morbid compulsion. I looked down the steps where he was sitting, up and down the cycle track beyond. A cold, damp sensation crept along the bare skin of my arms. There was nobody there. No child with her hair tied in a little blonde fountain on top of her head, no pink tee shirt and shorts, no pink sandles. Nothing. In front and behind the view was barred with the trunks of ornamental trees, tidy and neat, of the strip of parkland. To the right, behind a wall too high for a child to climb, lay the overgrown bank of the river.

I turned, a question ready on my tongue, but the hoodie was bent over his roll up, his face in darkness.

He’ll think I’m mad. Or a child abductor.

The dog whined and tugged on his lead. I walked away, troubled. At the end of the path I turned. He was still there, hunched over his cigarette. Alone.

Three days later, returning from our walk on the same path by the river, the dog slunk back to me, head down, whimpering unhappily. Voices came from the park benches ahead, irritated, loud. A young couple having words. She looked tired. Her hair was wild; a tiny baby in her arms was crying. He sat on the edge of the bench rolling a cigarette. The hood of his jacket obscured his face. A few yards away a tot dressed like a dolly mixture was chasing the pigeons.

A cold damp sensation crept over my skin, like water rising around the refuse trapped in the mud of the river bank.

Hmmm… I can feel a cold damp sensation creeping over my skin just reading that! Thanks, Jane. Jane is the author of The Green Woman Trilogy, and Grá mo Chroí, Love of My Heart, Love Stories from Irish Myth (which is FREE on Smashwords, btw!), which she co-wrote with yours truly, as well as numerous poems and short stories published in various fine magazines and anthologies. You can check them out on her blog, and buy them on Amazon.

Thanks everyone for being such good fun and sharing your fabulous stories with us. For this week’s Friday Fantastic Flash writing challenge, I want you to write about a building which has significance for you…

Friday Fantastic Flash Writing Challenge http://www.aliisaacstoryteller.com

Tell me about a building which is important to you; are its walls ancient and crumbling, or modern shining glass and cold steel? Does it mean home to you, or prison? What happened here? Why do you care?

You can submit here, I will include links to your blog and books. Entries must be under 500 words, but please remember that I write YA, so there may be young people on this site… please keep it family friendly. Please send to me by next Thursday 5th November @ 12:00pm. I really hope you will join me and take part in the craic!

 

Friday Fantastic Flash with Geoff le Pard, Sacha Black and Rachele Baker

 

So the challenge I set you on Friday Fantastic Flash last time was all about…

Conflict: you’ve had a row. Harsh words were spoken, which can’t be unsaid. Do you fall apart, or kiss and make up?

First up it’s the Geoffle with a masterclass in dialogue and a very unexpected ending…

‘You used the f-word.’
‘Yes, but I…’
‘Dawn says if you are getting so angry, maybe I should worry about what might happen next…’
‘You’re not serious…’
‘I’m just saying, Dawn thought…’
‘But what do you think? Do you really think I could, what? Hit you?’
‘It’s in the paper ever week.’
‘Sure it’s in the Express. Hardly the home of accurate reporting.’
‘I don’t think I deserved to be treated like that. I was only asking…’
‘You said I don’t want you here.’
‘No, that’s what you wanted me to say.’
‘I’m sorry?’
‘You’ve never wanted me here.’
‘That’s what you said to me.’
‘What did I say?’
‘I really doesn’t matter.’
‘That I didn’t want you? I would never say that.’
‘It doesn’t matter.’
‘No, if I’ve said something wrong tell me.’
‘There’s no point.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘You’re my mother. I can’t divorce you or send you home can I? Shall I make some tea.’

Geoff has just completed a gruelling blog tour to promote his new book, My Father and Other Liars. You can read an excerpt from it here, when he stopped by my blog last week. His first book is called Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle,  and you can buy them both here. You can catch up with him on his blog.

Next, it’s Sacha Black with a piece entitled Verisimilitude, which also has a sting in the tail of the last line. Mind you, I love the very first line, too…

“I like my nails long, Paul. French polish, because it makes them tidy yet elegant.”

I walked round the chair he was tied to and stopped at his back. I leant into his neck and drew a nail up his skin digging as hard as I could. A trickle of blood oozed down his throat. How far was he willing to go for this?

“After what you did, Paul, I willingly sacrificed them. Can you feel their razor sharp point?”

“You’re a psycho, Shona, untie me.”

“You have to be joking, you’re never getting untied. In fact, you’re never doing anything again.”

I picked the hunting knife off the table and tapped the point.

“Excellent,” I breathed. It was just as serrated as my nails.

“Shona, this isn’t funny. I said I was sorry. Now, let me the fuck out.”

I slammed the knife down into the chair right between his bare legs. The point punctured the wooden base and stood erect like a soldier at attention. Sweat trickled from his forehead and splashed onto his thighs. I bent down and licked it off.

“Scared are we?” tingles of excitement raced through my body. I wasn’t even sure what I would do, what I could do. What was allowed?

“Shona, sweetie. Please.”

“Shh, now.” I said, placing an index finger onto his lips.

I drew level with his face, tension narrowing my glare to a cold slit.

“Are you ready?” I said, curving my hand round the knife and pulling it out of the seat.

I slammed the blade into the chair. His scream echoed around the theatre as applause erupted from our audience.

I turned and bowed. Paul gave a nod, still tied to the seat. The judges stood. My shoulders relaxed, tears spilled down my face as I breathed relief. We had smashed the audition.

Sacha currently has her first novel, Keepers, in the editing phase, and is also busy writing her second novel, Adultland, as we speak. You can find out more on her blog.

And now, I am honoured to welcome a new writer to Friday Fantastic Flash… welcome, Rachele Baker! Rachele is not new to writing, however, as you’ll see. Her piece is entitled The Courage to Love.

Marissa stared out at the grey sky. Rivulets of raindrops made their way down the window. “Perfect,” she mused. “Perfect weather for the mood I’m in.” Her mind was suddenly filled with an image of Jeff’s face. His intense blue eyes, his thick dark hair that was always a little unruly, his chiseled features that softened when he laughed.

“Why now?,” she thought. “Now, when everything was so perfect. Now, when, after all these years of carefully guarding my heart, I finally got up the courage to take a chance on love. And look where it got me,” she thought bitterly. “Brokenhearted. Just like I feared.”

She replayed the events of the previous night in her mind again. How excited and happy she had been that Jeff was finally back from his overseas assignment in Germany. He had been gone for months and she had missed him terribly. Everyone had told her that it was difficult to maintain a successful long distance relationship. But she had hoped that their Facetime chats, their frequent emails, and the little gifts she sent him to surprise him would keep their romance alive.

Reflecting on the last several months, Marissa realized that she had noticed a subtle change in their relationship that she had been unwilling to acknowledge. Jeff had seemed distracted when they chatted on Facetime like he was not fully engaged in their conversations. His laughter had not come as easily as it used to when she made little jokes. He did not seem as enthusiastic as she expected him to be when they had discussed what they would do when he finally came home.

Last night was a disaster. She had been so excited to see him. She had purchased a sexy new dress that she thought Jeff would love. She had left her long brown hair loose and flowing – just the way he liked it. She was wearing an exotic new perfume that she was sure would drive him crazy.

When she heard his knock on the door, she rushed to open it – slightly breathless and smiling happily. One look at him and she knew. The smile disappeared from her face. Her legs suddenly felt like they might not support her. A slew of emotions raged through her body. Disbelief, pain, anger.

Marissa stared at the man that she had been falling in love with. He stood silently on the doorstep and made no move to come in. When his gaze met hers, his eyes were no longer full of light and love. They were blank and devoid of feeling. It all seemed a little unreal.

She waited for Jeff to speak. Finally, in a voice she did not recognize, he spoke. “Hi, Marissa. How are you?” he said mechanically. They were only standing a couple of feet apart from each other but the distance felt cavernous.

Rachele is a veterinarian by day, and a writer at all other times. You can find her on her blog, where she dispenses great tips about looking after your pet, as well as information on various pet complaints and treatments. She has also published a very moving account of her mother’s final months with malignant pleural mesothelioma, Eighteen Months to Live. I have read this book; you can see my review here. You can buy Eighteen Months to Live on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

So, a mixed bag of wonderful stories for your delectation, and thank you very much to all this weeks participants for gracing the Friday Fantastic Flash.

And now to this weeks challenge, inspired by something Sacha Black said recently.

purple prose

I want your purple prose. Give me all the adjectives, adverbs, zombie nouns, and metaphors you can. Forget the rules, they’re made to be broken. Lay them on me, but make them classy, not trashy. No dialogue, just description. I want original, not cliché. So lean and mean is the fashion du jour in the writing world, who cares? We make our own fashion. You can describe a scene, a person, an incident, anything you like. Go for it.

You can submit here, I will include links to your blog and books. Entries must be under 500 words, but please remember that I write YA, so there may be young people on this site… please keep it family friendly. I really hope you will join me and take part in the craic!

Friday Fantastic Flash No.4 with Sally Cronin, Geoff le Pard and Sue Vincent

So this was the Friday Fantastic Flash Challenge last week;

You come face to face with a serpent, winged and fire-breathing, or venomous and land loving, you decide, and tell me all about it.

There were three entries; first off the blocks was Geoff le Pard with a cheeky little poem… methinks he probably wasn’t taking things too seriously, or else he’d been knocking back the old vino!


Snake
Shapes
Slither
Hither
Sliding
Hiding
Can’t miss
Each hiss
I Piss
Myself

Geoff has already written these two books, and is currently working on at least another two that I know of, including a dark YA fantasy, which I have just had the privilege of beta- reading for him. You can buy them here. You can catch up with him on his blog.

I was very honoured indeed to receive an entry from Sally Cronin this week. Sally writes beautiful short fiction, is a great supporter of Indie authors, and has written many books of her own.

 Surprise

There were a couple of things that Darren liked to conceal from people. One was his pathological fear of snakes that did not sit well with his athletic, masculine and gym-toned public persona. At five years old his well-meaning parents had bought him a Jack-in-the Box type toy for his birthday. He had screamed like a girl when a two foot and very life-like banded snake had launched itself at him from the stupid thing.

The other secret was his little gambling habit. He did love those horses but unfortunately they did not love him. Lucky for him he had the good sense to have married Becky, daughter of a multi-millionaire retailer. Darren played at being an Estate Agent, but with the downturn, his commission was as extinct as a Dodo. Recently the account with his bookie had plummeted deeply into the red. Their frequent telephone conversations had become downright hostile.

His wife, though pretty to look at, was a bit of an airhead and with a generous allowance from Daddy, rarely bothered to check her bank balance. Darren decided to do a little mining into her account and knew she would never notice. He gradually syphoned off thousands of pounds to cover his debts over the next two months.  To celebrate he suggested that he and Becky head off to Thailand for a second honeymoon.

They stayed at the best hotel close to the sandy white beach where the calm waters invited the visitors in for swimming and water sports. For the more adventurous, deep sea snorkeling was on offer, and surprisingly Becky took to the activity like a duck to water. She headed off with one of the undersea guides every day for several hours.

Darren was a little miffed if he was honest. He got a bit bored lying by the pool and sipping a selection of exotic drinks off the cocktail menu. At the start of the second week Becky suggested that he might come with her out to a small reef just a five minute swim off shore. He donned his mask and after some tips from Becky on how to breathe and dive with his apparatus, they headed away from the beach.

He had to admit it was pretty stunning seeing all the brightly coloured fish and coral life and he relaxed into the adventure. Suddenly, Becky appeared right in front of him with her hand behind her back. She gestured to him to rise to the surface.

They both removed their masks and as the warm water lapped around his neck he saw her gloved hand reach out towards him rapidly.  He felt the sharp pain in his neck and looked down to see the brightly coloured, writhing body of a snake. As his vision blurred he screamed like a girl and looked at his wife treading water calmly.

As his eyes met her cold and steady gaze, she mouthed just one word.

“Surprise.”

Sally’s links: Blog : https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com

http://uk.linkedin.com/in/sallycronin1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sgc58

All books available in print and E-versions

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6


And finally, whilst not strictly a piece of flash fiction, Sue Vincent had a narrow escape when she came face to face with a real, live adder when rambling her beloved hills, you can read about it here. Sue is a prolific writer, and has sixteen books to her credit, here are just a few of them. You can buy them here.

So to this weeks challenge.

Conflict2

Conflict: you’ve had a row. Harsh words were spoken, which can’t be unsaid. Do you fall apart, or kiss and make up?

You can submit here, I will include links to your blog and books. Entries must be under 500 words, but please remember that I write YA, so there may be young people on this site… please keep it family friendly. I really hope you will join me (and Geoff) and take part in the craic!