I’m off to get another brew

Two hours in and chapter one is done. That sentence feels pretty good, but I know for a fact I write at twice that speed when I have an outline to play with. Writing without one is clunky and stilted, like that time I was flying freight in the R’tari system and had to utilize a loading suit to see off some pesky space pirates.

Being slow isn’t all bad. Sure, the chance of me getting out 20k today is slim (my previous record is only 17.5 anyway). The plus side is a simple lesson; write one word at a time. When I’m a little stuck for what happens next, hit a few keys and get the next word out. Rinse and repeat until things start flowing again and worry about making things make sense later. That’s probably the best way to view this post, thinking about it.

Anyway, the dogs are going crackers and I need more coffee.

I’ll get back to you in a bit.

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I’m gunna need more coffee

Morning Chinchilladors,

I’ve got an unexpected day off on my hands. That’s no great shakes when you run a business. I’ve been thinking about sitting around moping (okay, I have been sitting about moping), but it’s a complete waste of time and I got the bills to pay.

It’s been eight months since I churned out Scavenger Hunt. I’ve been pretty unproductive since I hit the publish button on that one (Hi Orchid!). I figured an unexpected day off would be the perfect opportunity to crank something out.

Unlike Scav, I’m going to hit this one blind (maybe more a short-sighted kind of thing). Since I’ve got your attention, I’ll rattle off something from the Perl-based generator and have a go at sharsies.

This is what I got:
Your genre is Splatter Punk
Your protag wants to get something physical
Your character faces a Physical death
Your ending is Positive
your length is 20 thousand words

20k words unprepared in a genre I’ve never before written? It’s lucky I had my 4-egg piri piri omelette before jumping into action!

I’ll update later, even if it’s just a ‘what was I thinking?’ tweet. Now off you go. I’ll catch you on the other side.

What’s in the bag

Flash Fiction Friday posted their weekly thing. Since I haven’t updated here for a while, I figured I’d have a pop. Turns out not only can I not keep to a word count, but I also can’t play along with all the other stipulations.

Also, to be honest, if you’re offended by shite fiction, it’ probably best if you look away now. It’s been a while since I’ve put down some words and bugger me if it doesn’t show.

WHAT’S IN THE BAG?

She looks at the bag, eyes wide and teeth worrying her bottom lip. It’s a simple affair brown canvas with white leather handles that are stained and cracked from years of use. There’s no emblem on it, no tag on the basic brass zipper. There is no label on the base.

The bag is not her own and this worries her. She can only assume she picked it up when she rushed from the crowded bus, reaching out a hand and blindly snatching at cool leather grips that felt as familiar as those on the blue sports bag she’d owned since college.

The prospect of finding its owner worries her too. The embarrassment of admitting her mistake to a stranger is already heating her padded cheeks. The prospect of opening it to find an clue to its rightful owner scares her more than anything.

She runs a hand through her long blonde hair, exhaling indecision into the small apartment.Her mouth is dry, her tongue swollen from the dehydration of a long workout. She doesn’t move for water. She simply sits and stares at the object, willing herself to reach out and open it.

“Grow up, Jen.”

She snaps the words to an empty room. Instead of finding strength in the harsh sentence, she pushes herself away from the table and got to slake her thirst. She tries to ignore the way her fingers tremble when she holds a glass under a running tap. She pretends her heart isn’t slamming against her chest as she pulls up a possible list of owners among her memories of the crowded, sweat-humid bus.

A face jumps forward. A young man in his late teens or early twenties. He is bad hair, raw-looking skin and a scowl. She remember the tinny music leaking from his head phones, his dark eyes alternating between the screen of his iPhone and sweeping the other passengers with long, emotionless stares.

“Books?”

Jenny slides back into her chair. Brown eyes looking for the tell-tale edges and spines disfiguring the brown fabric.

“No,” she says, “books are too heavy”.

She extends a hand, tempted to feel for any sign of academic tomes weighing the stained bag but the tick-tick-tick of her clock punches into her thoughts, seizing her imagination. Wooden chair legs screech against black and white floor tiles. She pushes herself from the table a second time.

“Shit,” she gasps, hands clutched at her throat and eyes so wide her brow begins to ache.

She pulls up his memory again, sees the anger and fear in his dark eyes. Other youths on another bus years before spring to mind. The stench of burning described by solemn news anchors flag in her brain.

“No,” she says, the word forced more by fear than rationality.

Jenny can see his music player, his phone and twins straps of a rucksack hanging loose on his shoulders of his red sports jacket. A smile plays across her lips as private embarrassment tingles in her face. Thick relief eases the staccato rhythm in her chest. She brushes a strand of hair from her face.

“Not a bomb,” she decides, surprised at the tension audibly draining from her voice.

A second figures pushes into the mental image. He’s broad-shouldered, male and maybe in his early forties. Pattern baldness has been tackled with a close run of barber’s a barber’s clippers, leaving nothing but peach fuzz on his scalp. She remembers his black suit over a white shirt. Pale drawn and waxy skin. Dark circles under his ice blue eyes highlight a private battle with insomnia. She checks the mental picture for a bag, a briefcase. She recalls nothing of the sort.

Maybe he’s a dad, she thinks.

She rests her elbows on the table top, cups her chin in her hands and imagines an expensive plastic dolly wrapped in pink paper and ribbons hidden inside the faded brown fabric. Her imagination swims with images of a golden-haired princess on a summer day. Cake and chocolate are smeared around her mouth. In the background a bright red bouncy castle sways and bulges under the force of childish adventure. She sees Mr Suit walk up the path. Exhaustion still rides his expression, but there’s a smile on his face that shows his love for the girl as clear and as bright as the afternoon sun.

“No,” Jenny mutters, remember Mr Suit’s perpetual scowl, his hard eyes and flattened knuckles that and nose.She remembers his aura of menace, a demeanor that kept the other passengers a good six inches away at all times despite the cramped and crowded bus.

“Oh God.”

Jenny snatches for her water, soothes the dry tightness in her through and pushes away memories from a hundred or more action-thrillers that rattle through her mind. She wants to believe the guy’s a bouncer or a boxer or anything but a psycho hit man carrying tools, weapons or worse in the bag. She tries not to imagine severed body parts, but she’s as successful at that as she is keeping her eyes from the rust-red blotch scarring the brown fabric.

Fighting the tidal wave of panic crushing her chest, she walks to a cupboard and reaches for a half-bottle of Shiraz tucked behind pasta and beans. She pours herself a large glass, allowing herself the luxury of noticing the tremor in her fingers. She uses them as an excuse to pour wine to the brim but the tremble makes her spill thick red liquid onto her hand. She licks her finger clean of the sharp fluid, pauses with a digit in her mouth as the mental copy of Mr Suit returns to her imagination, grinning as he licks clean the bloody blade of a vicious Bowie knife.

She empties the glass with one long swallow before refilling. Fear and tension nip at her calves and lower back. Moving around her kitchen with short, sharp steps focuses her on the passengers, searching for options that won’t reveal the tools or grisly trophies of murderous intent.

She focuses on salt-and-pepper hair. Wrinkles crease a pair of eyes peering at the world from behind dark spectacles. A light tine competes with the bus’ engine as the old woman hums away her journey. Jenny takes another, smaller, hit of her wine. Tugging the lobe of her left ear, she glides back into her sear. Her laugh is the sound of wind chimes and a summer breeze as she reaches for darkened and cracked leather. She can see balls of wool and long, blunt needles tucked away for ease of transport.
“You’re a ditzy blonde, Jenny Wade,” she says, taking a sip of Shiraz and forcing herself to remember Granny tucking knitting into her bag and pushing it next to Jen’s.

Jenny places her glass on a coaster. Her chest is light and the first touch of vino is maker her brain swim. She can feel a little concern and sadness creeping into her thoughts. She’d hate not to find any identifying information among the needles and yarn.

Lips turned down at the corners, she grabs the handles and pulls the bag toward her. Plastic studs on its bottom scratch up the table top. Its cumbersome weight hints that it contains something heavier than the light-weight tools of an old lady’s past-time. A crease appears on the bridge of Jen’s nose as she catches an acrid and not entirely unknown stench from the disturbed fabric. Maybe it’s the wine, maybe the evening’s stress, but Jen drops the handles, reaches for her glass and steps away.

She tastes nothing when she finishes her wine in a single gulp. She’s too aware of the smell she remembers from college parties and her university dorm. Cool sweat breaks on her temple, the slow trickle in direct opposition to the hammering in her chest. Her mind pulls images from TV broadcasters and tabloid headlines reporting the increase of golden-years dealers supplementing their paltry pensions. She throws a look to the worn bag, switches her gaze to the empty bottle on her worktop then to the iphone on her table. She clears her throat, presses a finger to the hollow of her neck just to feel her panicked heart thrash.

“This is ridiculous.”

Her voice is a whisper, partly because of the gravel in her throat but mostly because she’s unsure whether she’s talking about the thought process or how she’s going to explain a sports bag stuffed full of weed on her kitchen table. She stands for a moment, stillness and silence enveloping her body. She draws on the moment, fixtes on the sensation of peace. She lets it guide her hands toward the brass zipper, allows it to weigh down her eyelids as metal teeth purr and separate.

For a long moment, she stands with eyes closed and hands forcing open the bag’s mouth. She breathes deep, counts ten more clicks of the clock’s tick-tick-tick. She inhales, forces her eyelids open and finally forces herself to uncover the receptacle’s secret.

“No,” she screams, her voice a tight gurgle.

“Please god, no!”

END

See, told you it’s a pack of shite. I guess that means I owe you all a good one.

Corpse

The flash challenge this week went something along the lines of ‘throw a corpse into the first paragraph’. What I finally came up with is nothing like my initial ideas. Anyway, here it is…

Corpse:

The corpse lays spreadeagled in her trailer. Bare-backed, bloated and face-down, she knows his face will be rictus-twisted and plastered with the chunks of puke pooling around his jowls. She knows the vomit will be lodged in his nostrils and clogging up wind pipe. She knows, too, that if she rolls his dumb arse over, takes a knife to his livermortis man tits, hacks through ribs and sternum and plucks out his juicy, tar-blackened lungs, she’ll find a puree of half-digested nachos, beer and burger clogging him up. It’d be the lump of spew that turned his face red then blue before letting gravity take over and settle on rotten-blood-purple.

She plucks a knife from a draw on uneven rollers, considers an excavation into the world of death by asphyxiation. She can imagine his belly peeling open beneath the blade, pink skin giving way to a carpet of yellow fat. She supposes it won’t be much different to hacking up a fresh-shot hog, only maybe slightly smellier. She thinks about digging around inside her man just to see if there actually was a heart beating beneath the lard and the moobs and the nicotine-scarred lungs.

She realises she’s two steps closer, squatting next to the corpse with the off-brand carving knife in her hand and a cool breeze whirling up her denim skirt and around her naked cooze. She can’t tell if his stink is better or worse than when he was alive, but she feels a glimmer of relief that the slow tightening of his hands, arms and shoulders isn’t going to end up earning her two black eyes and a fresh gap between her teeth.

Slowly, she rises out of her crouch, replaces the blade in the dysfunctional drawer and catches her reflection in dirty glass. She turns her head left to right, examining the lacklustre state of her greasy blonde hair. Midday sunlight glances off her pasty skin, shading in the pimples and acne scars dimpling her flesh. Nose wrinkling at the taste, she sucks down a breath and leans one last time towards the body.

For the first time in twenty years, her rock-steady fingers pinch his brown leather wallet, slip it from his jeans before sliding it into the hip of her skirt.

“It’s been a funny day, honey,” she say, turning toward the open door, her right hand mussing her oily locks.

“I’m going out to get me a treatment. Don’t wait up.”

She steps from the shadowed confines of her home-on-wheels. For the first time in a long time, the sun feels warm against her skin.

Red Expanse

This is in response to Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge (here).  The title I got is the title I used. After about a thousand false starts, this is what I got:

Red Expanse.

My struggle with the finer points of chow mein creation ends when Nikki’s scream begins.

Her diamond-tipped wail cuts through my apartment, shredding my nerves and my ears with the push-pull action of respiration.

In a half-second of silence, my body breaks under the sonic assault. My legs and arms twitch but won’t move. My heart skips and flutters in my chest.

She does it again.  Her shriek shatters whatever spell’s holding me in place, smashes the frost around my joints and limbs.

I dart from the kitchen, head down, chest tight.,

“Nikki,” I bellow, bull-eyes scanning the five-room box.

“Daddy! Help me!”

The bathroom door’s down before I realise my foot’s raised. My fists are like hammers and my mouth is a desert.

“Daddy?”

Her little voice trembles along with her bottom lip.

My baby’s in the tub, wet hair plastered to the sides of her head. Her hands reach for me, trembling and pale. Her shock-white skin stands in sharp contrast against the vermilion water.

I take a step on shaking legs. My eyes flash from the tub to her water-jeweled wrists. There’s no razor on the edge and….

“It’s okay baby.”

I grab a towel and scoop her up. Her wet hair chills my face as she wraps her arms around my neck. She hugs me so hard I can almost feel her teeth against mine. Her body trembles in my arms.

“I’m scared daddy,”

“It’s going to be okay,” I say, reaching for the plug chain then backing out so she can’t see the water draining away.

I walk her through to the sofa, pull my phone from pocket. I don’t know what to do, what to say, but I know someone who does.

“You want me to see if Sally can come over?”

My ten-year-old beams and it makes me feel bad. I should know about these things, how to care for my kid. I’d always just assumed Jenny would have been around to tackle them.

END

It’s pretty much the first coherent thing I’ve written in about a year so I guess I owe Mr. Wendig some thanks.

Passive Aggressive

Original prompt here:

Bitchery:

The inciting incident doesn’t matter. It never
has. It never will. What that matters are
the words forming behind glazed eyes,
twin marbles dipped in two colours of vinyl
matt paint. The lips are important also.
Spittle-flecked, pulled tight over crooked
yellow teeth. Meat-slab tongue darts back
and forth across them, lubricating the path
of another vicious verbal assault.
The breathing is worth noting. Calm and
rhythmic breaths flow in through distended
nostrils, inhaling clean air and goodness.
The exhale is loud, although the venom-
heavy miasma is not the rasp of struggling
lungs but the staccato assault of
machine gun fire. In with the good. Out
with poison vomit.

The posture, shoulders hunched and spine
curled slightly as if that of the inferior,
tells a story almost as sadistic and red as
the words.
Oh, those words…

Cold and clinical. Logical reason
verbalised into scalpel blades. Each
syllable an incision. Each vowel and
consonant a gutting slash or impaling
stab. A surgeon’s cool warmed impossibly
hot. Ice melting under its own destructive
heat. The words come. The words burn. A
leviathan of jagged hate upon a lava sea.

Murder in prose. Savage, dragon-breath
beauty. Air vibrates and shivers under
pulmonic force. Tendons strain. Orchestral
violence reaching a crescendo. Twitching
hands chop at nothing, a loathsome
conductor directing vocal murder. A
psychopath painting with a victim’s
entrails.

Words do their worst. The subject
shrivels. Tears and snot. Head in hands. A
sleek, perfected yacht smashed upon
jagged reefs. It rocks beneath the verbal
waves, sobs as the flow weakens and rage
dissipates.  The words finally, thankfully,
stop.

A god of foul torture surveys his kingdom.
Blackened, burnt, ruined. Nothing of
beauty remains. Love, passion, trust. They
smoke oily tendrils upon the altar of
suppression. They are gone forever. Lost.
Burned-heart-stench, bitter, black,
scorches his throat. His prize, his treasure,
lays tarnished and broken at his feet.

In sudden darkness, unbearable cold, he
sifts through his authentic, deliberate
attacks. Guts sour, he hugs his shoulders.
He wonders why the words cannot come
when he needs them, why they this stick
in his throat until his world burns. Why he
cannot speak gently and be a man.

Colours, textures, tastes

Instigating prompt here:

Han Solo.

It’s being Han Solo in Cloud City. Betrayed by his friends. Hunted by his enemies. An experiment of the Dragon lurking in shadows. One minute, it’s rage and aggression, a balled fist and a curled lips. He’s there, he’s there, he’s fighting then…

There’s a stumble, a hiss and it all goes black. Sensation leaches from the body with the weeping, unnoticed insistence of a slow puncture. Motivation. Motion. They’re sucked into oblivion through a gaping chest wound. Thick black nothing fills the resulting cavity. Black is thematic, but it’s not the world. Existence isn’t that interesting. It’s a cold, muted grey.

It’s not always carbonite. It’s often a cloak. Soft to the touch. Warming. It slides across the shoulders, brings comfort to a tired mind, tired body. The embrace soothes exhaustion, tugs away strands of panic, stress, pain and regret. Threads unravel, tapestries of personality vanish leaving the familiar, muted grey.

An admiral soars in deepest winter. Red wings flash in contrast against a dull, sleeping world. A heart flutters in time to beating wings. Beauty, agility and the unusual capture the imagination, the soul. Insectile grace steals the attention, paints the heart with a warm glow. Gaia’s soft hum pulls the dancing butterfly into the distance. Filaments of emotion, of clarity and of self become tangled in six tiny legs. Pulled away, they leave nothing but charcoal bleakness.

Han’s present at the finishing line. Crawling from carbonite, numb bones aching, eyes blinded by renewed sensitivity to light. He again hear his friends, feel the nearness of those he loves. It’s not over; soul-death ice still contaminates his body. Numb confusion gnaws at his brain. It’s a struggle to move, a struggle to breathe, but the symptoms dissipate into memories before phantasmal smoke. It aches, but it’s an improvement.

For all his suffering, Solo’s the lucky one. Solo got frozen in carbonite only the once.