Friday, 19 December 2014

Mid Week Blues Buster The Black House

I’d heard stories. A place where anything goes and no questions asked. A place called The Black House. Although the building was dark and uninviting, I guessed the name stemmed from what went on within the walls rather than its decor. A young boy came for my horse and a flicker of excitement twitched on his face. I smiled, tossing him a ha’penny before entering where no decent man would tread.  

Everything stopped. Not even a breath was heard. It seemed my reputation beat me as every eye followed me through the smoky haze. I sat in the darkened corner by the rear exit, at a small wooden table and immediately a tankard of ale was placed in front of me, shaking his head at my offer of payment. A large oaf of a man, fuelled on ale and stupidity stumbled towards me. His speech was slurred but I think he was telling me not to hide behind my mask, to reveal who I was. I think he insulted me. I’m sure I made out the word ‘coward’ before he was dragged away by two very sensible, apologetic men, and my hand released from my pistol. I hated killing, really I did. But kill or be killed in my game and I obviously had a reputation to uphold.

I sipped my ale. It was warm and not the best I’d tasted and everyone carried on with their business, mainly getting drunk but plotting and exchanging of maps, money and weapons went on in huddles across the room. The odd fight caused excitement until they were thrown out.   

The door opened and I saw the cloaked figure approach. I didn’t care for people being late.

“I don’t have long.” Her voice was unmistakable.

“What do you mean?”  This wasn’t the plan.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“What have you done?” My voice was on edge. Control was leaving me, taking me to unknown territory. I reached for her hand. It trembled. With the other hand, I removed her hood. Her once beautiful face now smeared in blood as a cut ran deep across her cheek.

“I was ambushed, betrayed. You have to leave now,” she said with anguish. Terror filled her dark eyes, her skin pale. She winced, slumping towards the table. Jumping from my chair, I was at her side, gently holding her up when  I saw the spread of red on her white tunic. “Leave me, save yourself.”

“No,” I hoisted Emma from her chair, kicking open the rear exit. A redcoat stood, his gun aimed. Stillness descended on the bar as redcoats burst through the front. My pistol was trapped between me and Emma, my knife wouldn’t beat a gun. I was running out of time. I could not die here, or be arrested, for the gallows was my fate, the fate of any highwayman and his accomplices.

The redcoat advanced. I could see he was already thinking of glory at my capture. But I held my ground. A shallow moan left Emma’s lips. I couldn’t leave her. Maybe this was meant to be, dying together, here, right now. What a legend that would make. If I knew these drunken men, they’d embellish my fight for survival. Shame I wouldn’t live to hear it.

A flash of silver sliced across the redcoat’s throat, his life spilling out as he slumped to the floor. The horse boy stood, the knife in his hand.

“Your horse is ready!” he shouted before fleeing. It was a heroic gesture but the redcoats behind me would gun me down. But that boy, he awakened those men of The Black House, showed them what we all were, why we were there and they bore down on those redcoats with bloodied fists as I rode into darkness with Emma.




Thursday, 18 December 2014

A Few More Hooks and they'd be done Hanging Thurs Threads

A few more hooks and they’d be done hanging, observed Delany before switching off the monitors. He didn’t need to see it being done to know it would be done and done properly. That was the art of delegation and he knew it would be ready by morning.   

Delany was last to arrive at the table, not uttering a word as he sat before the seven men gathered before him. He sipped on a glass of iced water, seeing a couple of the men squirm in their seats. He liked that. Already, he was winning.

“You know why you’re all here,” began Delany. “What’s it to be?”

“You can’t run everything. We fought hard for territory,” said Frazer, the one Delany had to convince as the others would follow like sheep to the slaughter. He liked the pun.  

A vague curling of Delany’s thin lips passed for a smile. “This will change your mind.” He picked up the remote control, turning on the large flat screen. With his back to the screen he watched the faces in front of him, all focused, trying to make out what they were seeing.  Then the rapid realisation took hold, their faces contorted in spasms of shock, the colour draining to leave a grey mask. One fled the room, his retching echoing along the hallway.

“My boys must have done a good job.” He inhaled deeply, pausing the image. “Now, I’ll ask one more time. What’s it to be?”  


Written for Thursday Threads over at The Weird, the Wild and the Wicked hosted by Siobhan Muir. x

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Mid Week Blues Buster Changing Winds (judged 2nd place)

This story won me second place. Yay. xx

The whispers were true. Rosalind was back. As John watched from his high, stone walls, Rosalind rode in, escorted by his guards who made sure she was brought immediately to him. She stood before John, silently staring at him. It was happening again; he was losing himself in her green eyes, vibrant like an early spring morning promising excitement of the hunt.
  “Aren’t you going to offer me anything?” she asked. “It’s been a long journey.”
  “Rosalind, I banished you from the kingdom. Knowing upon your return you would be sentenced to death, why on earth are you here?”
   “I do not question where the winds take me, nor do I fear the consequences,” she replied, taking the goblet of wine offered to her.
    “It’s that kind of talk, witch talk that got you trouble in the first place.”
    “You haven’t changed much,” Rosalind said, walking towards the window. “Neither has the condition of your townspeople.”
    “There is a war to be funded.”
    “A war in a place these people know nothing about.”
    “You haven’t come back to discuss my taxes?” he asked, standing close behind her, his fingers entwined in her long raven hair. “I’ve missed you.” Rosalind felt his hot breath on her neck as he scooped her hair away, revealing milky white flesh. “I can over turn your death sentence Rosalind,” he murmured.
     She turned to face him, cupping his face in her hands and softly kissing him. “I will not change,” she whispered. “I am who I am, a free spirit who cannot be tamed. Even by a king.”
     The grip on her wrist tightened, his eyes dark and cold. “Then the people you care so much about will continue to suffer as I suffer, unless you renounce your ways.” His grip loosened.  “I love you Rosalind. And offer you everything.” His lips pressed on hers, demanding a response but none came. “You have sealed your fate,” he spat, his hand forming a vice around her neck. Rosalind, remaining calm, tried to pull his hand away, her nails digging in his flesh, breaking the skin.
   “And you have sealed you’s she panted as he released his hand, blood trickling down his arm from her nail mark.
    Rosalind didn’t know why the winds lead her back to John. And as she lay on the cold stone floor, her ankles in shackles, she didn’t question why. Even when she heard the stacking of wood outside, she didn’t question. She accepted everything, even meeting an apothecary along her journey who insisted her nails were painted with a clear liquid, to protect her from harm.  
      That now, was clear to Rosalind. Everything was done for a reason. Now to find the reason for her death as she was lead to the pyre. A muted crowd watched as she was tied to the steak and more wood was piled up around her.
    The flames licked and danced around her, spreading and growing, crackling and spitting. Soon, a wall of fire ate away at her as smoke drifted up and carried on the wind.
     The wound on John’s arm sent him into a fever. From his bed he smelt burning, could see the smoke swirl up high. He cried out as the pain in his arm spread throughout his body, until too weak to even moan. As life ebbed away, a breeze rolled over him, whispers surrounded him. The voice of Rosalind echoed in the air, her sweet voice, gentle laugh. “I am free,” she sang, “free to roam wherever the wind takes me, where you can’t harm me.”
   “Rosalind,” said the hoarse voice of John. “What have you done?”
    “You were right about sealing my fate John. My fate was to be free from you forever and to free the people from you.”   Stillness and silence enveloped John as the breeze, the wind and Rosalind left him to die alone.   
Written for Mid Week Blues Buster over at .      

Friday, 5 December 2014

Midnight Bake Story Advent Calendar

Midnight Bake

Hannah lay on her bed, looking at the book she threw across the floor. Her gran was only trying to help. It wasn’t her fault the oven stopped working. It wasn’t her fault Hannah had volunteered to make gingerbread biscuits for her school’s bazaar, which incidentally was tomorrow. But thinking reading a fairy tale would make everything alright? A fairy tale. Hannah was eleven not five. She continued to stare at the book, guilt creeping in. Her gran wasn’t cross when Hannah threw the treasured book across the floor. She didn’t even pick it up before she left, closing the door gently behind her.
        Hannah eventually pulled herself up, picking up the book, smoothing out crumpled pages of The Elves and the Shoemaker. She remembered wanting her gran to always read it to her, snuggled together under the crocheted blanket. Even at Christmas, Hannah wanted to hear about the elves, imagining they’d left the busy North Pole to help out the overworked shoemaker. She nestled the book under her pillow and turned out the light.
          It took a few moments for Hannah’s eyes to adjust in the darkness, waking from a deep sleep. She strained her ears, certain she heard something. Met by silence, Hannah tried to settle. But a crash made her jump. At first, she lay still, not even daring to breathe. Straining her ears, she made out faint kitchen noises. Creeping from her bed, she opened her door, very slowly and listened. The warm aroma of ginger wafted around her, and relaxing she walked down stairs, feeling even more awful about being mean to her gran when she was up in the middle of the night baking.  
    “Gran, I can’t believe you got the oven working,” she said, stopping suddenly in the doorway. The kitchen looked like flour bombs had exploded. Icing dripped from every surface into sticky puddles. A leaning tower of gingerbread biscuits toppled. Hannah waited for them to break, hitting the floor but what she saw made her eyes widen. Suspended in mid air were the biscuits. They rose and lay on the kitchen table.
    “That was lucky,” said a childlike voice.
     “Lucky? No luck at all,” the other said, chuckling.
     Hannah couldn’t move, unsure what she was seeing. Two what looked like small children, wearing very bright red and green outfits, were baking biscuits in her mum’s kitchen. Their little hats tinkled every time they moved filling the night with the gentle sound of Christmas bells. But they weren’t children. Hannah knew that without seeing their pointy ears tucked underneath their hats. They were exactly like the characters in her book.  Crouching down, Hannah slid across the floor and sat in the corner, hidden by the Christmas tree.
She watched the two elves work, creating beautifully designed biscuits, nothing like she could ever have done but still managing to look homemade. Hannah really wanted to try one. Her tummy rumbled. The smell was making her hungry. As she contemplated sneaking a biscuit, footsteps padded into the kitchen.
    “You’re making too much noise. And look at the mess,” Hannah’s gran said in a whisper.
    “Relax. You know we clear up after,” one of the elves replied.
     Hannah’s gran sat at the table, eyeing a biscuit before taking a large bite. “Wonderful,” she mumbled, crumbs falling from her mouth. “Just like I remember. Thank you for helping my granddaughter out.”
     “Don’t thank us. Your brother let us leave wrapping to come and help.”
     “Well I would thank him if he ever decided to allow me to visit. How is he anyway?”
      “Busy. Busy. Busy. It’s Christmas after all. Right, we’re done.” The elves stopped, smiling from ear to ear, admiring their work.
     “Not until you tidy up!” Gran said, in a voice Hannah knew well. The elves snapped their fingers and the kitchen was spotless in seconds. “That’s better.”
      “We fixed your cooker too,” an elf said. “Do you want us to unfix it so you don’t have to explain?”
      “Oh no. Thank you but I think my daughter will be so relieved, she won’t care.”
Hannah stifled her excitement, the urge to be seen and speak, to shout at her gran that she knew but she bit her tongue and squeezed her knees tighter to her chest. She watched as her gran picked up some boxes of gingerbread biscuits, leaving the kitchen to place them in the car. The elves lifted up the rest, taller than them and looking like they’d fall but Hannah was sure magic was stopping them. As they walked by, Hannah froze, just her eyes following them. The first elf walked by but the second looked directly as Hannah and winked before gifting her a biscuit. it floated down into Hannah’s hands. He raised a finger to his lips, signally for her not to speak before smiling broadly and leaving.      

A little story for Becky Fyfe's Story Advent Calendar blog hop.      


You Watched The Whole Thing Thursday Threads (Won an Honorable mention)

The following tale won a Honorable Mention. Yay. xx

Mason sat on the porch, swigging an ice cold beer as the cool, salty air rolled over him, caressing his skin. Large fluffy clouds drifted by and he remembered laying on the beach seeing how many animals he could make. Today he admired their purity as they drifted elegantly across a pale blue sky which met the ocean in a sharp defining line.
    The sinking sun caused the horizon to blur with the sky, never ending bleak grey devouring the ribbons of red sunset. Was this what the world would be like now? Grey. Black. Dark. Always dark. He inhaled deeply, the air fresh, sending chills through him but embracing every ounce, the last second of day.
He wasn’t alone as the delicate floral scent hit his nostrils.
     “Impeccable timing,” Mason said.
     “Every second of the night counts,” she replied.  “I take it you watched?”
     “The whole thing. From sunrise this morning to darkness.” Mason turned, meeting the pale porcelain like face staring back at him, framed in a bed of loose, dark curls.
     Her blood red lips broke into a grin. White fangs glistened. “Don’t worry,” she said, reading his mind. “It’ll only hurt a bit. Just a teeny, tiny, bit.” Her kiss was tender. Mason held his breath as her cold lips travelled to his neck, soft like a feather before plunged her fangs deep within. . .
     “Welcome to darkness,” she purred as her blood coursed through his veins.  

Written for Siobhan Muir over at The Weird, The Wild and the Wicked for Thursday Threads.    

Monday, 1 December 2014

Christmas with the Crooked Cats A Christmas Wish

A bunch of Crooked Cat authors are filling the Christmas season with daily postings of short, festive stories, poems and Christmas articles (like a story advent calendar) which can be found on their blogs via the facebook page Christmas with Crooked Cats where you will find plenty to get you in the spirit of Christmas. This is my first outing as a Crooked Cat author; my debut novel The Adventures Of Katie Button will be released in Spring 2015. Until then, here is my festive short story for Christmas. Love Lizzie.

A Christmas wish

“Where’s your Christmas spirit? Haven’t you got anything better to do?”  Daniel tried to ignore the grumbles as he slapped on the handcuffs and escorted the man to the car. Why did people think he had nothing better to do? It was Christmas Eve. He should be at home with his family. With his children, hanging up their stockings, leaving out a few mince pies. With his wife, sharing a glass of wine as they waited for the impossible task of their children falling asleep whilst intoxicated with excitement.
     “Do you honestly think I’d rather be here with you than with my own family?” Daniel replied bitterly, driving past the town Christmas tree.  The stench of stale alcohol and curry filled the car. “I’m here with idiots like you when all I want, more than anything, is to be at home  right now with my family. So please, do me a favour and shut up.”
Daniel sighed heavily. He felt like he wasn’t making a difference at all.

      “I love Christmas Eve,” Becky said, snuggled into Daniel. “Daniel?”
      “Sorry . . . I . . . something at work.”
      “Well, it’s Christmas so switch off. You’re all ours for the next four days. Don’t stay up too late. You know they’ll have us up at four if last year is anything to go by.”
      Daniel sat in front of the TV just as the local news came on. A news report on a drunk driver wiping out a whole family on the motorway filled the screen. He watched, saddened by the tragedy as the officers spoke at the scene, officers he recognised. The news report held Daniel’s full attention now. He frowned and paused the TV, staring at the mangled wreck. The number plate. He recognised it. But that was impossible.
      He paled.  
     Unable to explain what he saw and why he recognised it, Daniel walked outside hoping the fresh night air would clear his muddled thoughts.
         “Think you don’t make a difference?” A voice said from the darkness as a man appeared in front of Daniel.
         “Excuse me?”
          “You questioned whether you made a difference, unfortunately coming to the conclusion you did not.”
          “Who are you?”
           “Every now and then, I and others like me show ourselves to those doubting their worth, especially at this time of year. Call it Christmas spirit, an early Christmas present.” He smiled as he sat next to a silent Daniel. “That family you saw on the news just now? They were on their way home. But they didn’t make it. A drink driver, who naturally walked away without a scratch, well staggered.”
        “But I recognise the car. I remember stopping him . . . didn’t I? How do I know that car?”
         “It’s a shadow of what was, what could be. But shadows move, change direction. You could have stopped him, saved that family. But you wished to be home Christmas Eve. You wanted to be with your family. You said you made no difference.”
         “I don’t understand.
          “It was your wish Daniel. I granted you that wish. Unfortunately, no one was there to stop that car with that man full of booze.”
          “But . . . That family. . . You have to do something! It’s unfair.”

           “Unfair? You’re not the one sitting in the back of a police car handcuffed!” Daniel peered in the rear view mirror, meeting the gaze of an angry drunk, as they drove past the town Christmas tree. A man stood under it, smiling broadly before fading into the night. Tears ran down Daniel’s face from his uncontrollable laughter. Stale curry and beer never smelt so good.