Super cliched story about ‘loss’ for creative writing class.

The warm gun is clutched in my hand tightly as I stand by my apartment window, opening onto the smog-filled street below. It’s done, now. That man will never hurt anyone else, no more families will be torn apart. A shaky sigh escapes me. I think about what lead me here, as I look out at the grim cityscape.

I remember the day my brother, Jimmy, ran away more clearly than anything else from my childhood. Years later, I would find out that he had been killed, but before I knew this, I felt the betrayal of his leaving keenly. I was only seven and he, seventeen, was my idol. I was the annoying kid sister who followed him around everywhere, wanting to be just like him. Looking back, I can see that he secretly loved my adoration despite all of his grousing.

Then, one day, he was gone. Another teenage runaway, the cop who came to our house told us. My mother wouldn’t believe it. She waited by the window every night until her heart couldn’t take it any longer. An ambulance took her to the hospital, and she never came home again. It was just my father and me, after that.

As I got older, I started to think there was something wrong about Jimmy’s disappearance, something that didn’t sit right. Fancying myself a Tennessee Nancy Drew, I set out to find out what had truly happened. I tracked down Jimmy’s old friends, and started piecing things together.

I stumbled across a truth I could never have imagined in my fourteen year old mind: Jimmy had become entangled with some local small-time criminals, running moonshine. A bigger crime syndicate didn’t like these small-town guys muscling in on their racket, so they sent someone to ‘deal with it’. I was told that Jimmy wasn’t meant to be there that night but he was, and he got caught in the crossfire, trying to protect a friend. Jimmy was loyal to a fault and it cost him his life.

My world was shattered all over again, but at least I knew that Jimmy hadn’t left us. He was taken from us. I told my father, but not long after he died, too, leaving me alone in the world with only the thought of vengeance to keep me warm at night. I spent the next few years tracking down information about the gang but I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied until I found the man who was at the top of it all. Without him, the trigger would never have been pulled and my brother would still be alive.

That is how I come to be, at the tender age of seventeen, standing in a rundown apartment in the city, holding a gun that just half an hour ago had been used to shoot the man responsible for my brother’s death. I set the gun down. With shaking hands I light a cigarette. I blow the smoke out of the window, to join the polluted city air. I don’t know what will come next for me, but it is done.

Yet another writing class exercise. This one was to write something thinking about synathesia, sort of.

Her heart was beating hard in her chest, as her feet pounded against the ground. The cold taste of fear filled her mouth. It was dark and metallic, not quite like blood; the taste was almost indescribable. Perhaps a little like metallic rain drops trickling down the back of her throat. But it was definitely very cold. So cold that she almost choked on the taste. It was stronger, tonight, as she hid in the grey shadows but this was what fear always tasted like to her. For her fear was never just heart racing or blood pumping, but was always accompanied by the overwhelming cold metallic taste in the back of her throat.

Another exercise for writing class. The instruction was to listen to classical music while writing from a keyword. The piece I listened to was Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns and the original image/word was ‘forest’.

The fog settled thick and low in the clearing of the forest, obscuring the ground from view. The young woman who had been running through the trees stumbled and fell, hands coming out to break her fall. Beneath her hands she felt velvety moss as she pushed herself up, again, brushing off her knees. She panted, out of breath, and looked around; her mind was a whirlwind of thoughts, some of them scared, some melancholy.

There was a sepulchral air in the night not helped by the gloom, the fog and the limited moonlight filtered through the silvery grey trees. The young woman shivered, pulling her arms tight across her chest. The warmth she had felt from the blood flowing quickly through her veins was starting to fade the longer she stood in the clearing, uncertain as to what to do. Damp from the ground had seeped into her tights when she fell, making her feel even more cold.

A faint buzzing sounded from her pocket and she pulled her phone out, relieved that it finally had reception. ‘I-I don’t know where I am. Could you come find me?’

Another rough exercise for a writing class:

A song blares from the jukebox, the words ‘little red corvette, baby you’re much too fast’ filling the air in the smoky dive bar. Above the noise of the synthesisers rattling the cheap speakers, I hear a scream. It makes my blood run cold. I look around through the haze of cigarette smoke, but no one else seems to have heard anything; everyone is still chattering away about something or other, the mundaneness of life, perhaps.

Shaking off my apprehension, I take a sip of my drink and convince myself that I must just be hearing things; an auditory hallucination, a sinister part of my mind supplies, trying to suggest that I may be losing my grip on reality. But, then, I hear it once more. I sit stock still for a moment, straining my ears, for another heart-stopping shriek. There is no other sound over the music, now, but, still I excuse myself, needing to seek out the source of this preternatural scream. I need to know if it was real.

I take one final gulp of my rum before leaving the table and exiting the bar. A fluorescent light flickers above the door, and my eyes take a moment to adjust to its bright glare. To my right, something moves. A glimpse of strawberry blonde hair and red lips. I gulp, scared, and go after what I have seen, driven by instinct. From the sky, rain starts to fall, but I need to know if I had really heard anything.

A rough/first draft exercise for a writing class:

I remember the lights in the mirrored tent, as he spun me around the rickety dance floor. How odd it felt to be close to someone, and to have our friends watching as we danced. I don’t remember what either of us were wearing. I know my lips were painted red, and his long hair was pulled back at the nape of his neck. Other than that, the memory of those kinds of details is fuzzy. But the feeling of awkwardness, of feeling completely without grace or elegance, as his lithe, graceful body danced with mine, is clear in my mind all of these years later. I vaguely recollect a friend muttering ‘isn’t that sweet?’ or maybe it was ‘cute’, but the sentiment was the same. There was no hint of sarcasm in her voice, just a tone that said ‘awwww’. The song could have been anything, but I know it was something old-fashioned. We were there with other friends, all keen on old-timey jazz music, so it makes sense that it must have been an old song playing as we danced. I remember thinking ‘this is nice’ but still unable to let go of my feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment. Sometimes, I completely forget this night, this memory, and something will make me remember it. A song, a dream, a scene in a film. And I wonder ‘does he remember it, too?’ I have a feeling that he wouldn’t. That this would only be something significant to me, because of how few memories like this I have. I remember dancing with other friends, and feeling just as special, though, years before, at other places. A synthpop song blaring, being held close, sticky floor beneath my feet. Being told ‘I love you’ and wondering if my friends just told me that because they were high, or if they really loved me. I was always drinking water, always sober, and so I remember it all. Well, yeah, not all of it. No one ever could…could they? But I remember enough. Enough to make me smile and make me sad and make me wistful. The nostalgic feeling bubbling up as one memory of a night of dancing leads into the memory of another night, with someone else, at a different place. The night in the mirrored tent, might always be the most special, though. Until another memory takes its place.

Four pieces of old old flash fiction:

1. I looked at the ostentatious diamond glittering on my ring finger and fantasised about dissolving it in my champagne, like Cleopatra was meant to have done with a pearl in vinegar. It would be marvellous, I thought, to consume this evidence of our engagement, and I could drive away from you in my lemon-coloured corvette and you would never have to be ashamed of my recycled shoes ever again.

3. The small child watched the spectacle from behind his father’s trousered leg. Fireworks exploded in front of the moon and melted, like fairy dust, into the dark night sky. Surrounded by legs and legs and the awe-filled voices that floated down from the heads above him, the boy clung tighter to his father, waiting for the moment that the last firework would explode and he could stop pretending that he was not scared.

4. The machines were practically silent - the sounds they made merely whispers to human ears - as they crawled up out of the sand. They traversed the distance to the village from the dessert whence they emerged in a matter of minutes and slipped into the secret worlds of sleeping townsfolk. The tiny machines penetrated the villagers’ dreams and turned them into nightmares; a child dreaming of yellow fields was now lost in the fiery depths of hell watching her skin shrivel as the water evaporated from her body. An old man, sleeping fitfully from the aches and pains that come with age, tossed and turned with greater fervour as the printing press he imagined in his slumber began to draw him in, like a giant, metal monster eating its screaming victim slowly. The sleeping villagers, so lost in the world of nightmares, could not even feel the machines as they crawled across their bodies, along their chins and into their noses; they would not know when they woke, trembling, sweaty and confused from a night of horror, that their bodies were no longer their own but belonged to the insect-sized machines, that had claimed their brains as their new homes.

5. She came to take me away on a dragon; my window shattered from the force of the airborne reptile’s taloned feet. As I took her hand, clambering through the remnants of the window, she said ‘If you leave with me, tonight, you can never return.’ I swallowed and nodded my head quickly, assuring her this was what I wanted to do. As I settled in behind her, my hands clutching desperately at her waist for fear of falling off, I heard her say ‘Good, because I don’t want you to regret this.’
 A second later, the great winged beast took off and I felt everything drop away completely, her heartbeat and the scales of the dragon the only things grounding me to reality.
 I kept my eyes firmly shut the whole time we were flying, too scared at what I might see if I opened them. When we stopped and I opened my eyes I gasped at what I saw - a house, more like a palace out of long-forgotten fairytales, with its foundations somewhere in the cotton-wool clouds. She turned to me and smiled widely at my expression. ‘It’s yours, darling, it’s all yours.’

Two unfinished pieces of flash fiction inspired by the prompts ‘candy apple red’ and ‘I didn’t go there’ and written on the 26th & 27th of January, respectively:

'She's candy apple red with a ski for a wheel…'

The lyrics floated out of the open door, and over the body laying prone in the grass. It was Christmas and the air was warm, and very still. The figure – a young woman, about nineteen or twenty – groaned and started to shift a little. Her arm lifted from where it was laying by her side, to over her face, shielding her eyes from the high midday sun.

She couldn’t remember how she came to be lying in the grass but her head was throbbing and, moving a hand to the back of her head where it hurt the most, she felt a wetness matting her hair. Looking at her fingers through blurred eyes, she saw that they were red with blood. Perhaps she had fallen and hit her head or, a darker thought crossed her mind, perhaps someone had struck her. She couldn’t think why anyone would, but she also didn’t seem to recall anything that had happened that day. The days preceding seemed fuzzy in her mind, too.

Read more

"She sees the shoes in the department store window every day on her way to and from work…"

First posted to LiveJournal on April 28th, 2011

She sees the shoes in the department store window every day on her way to and from work…there they are, shiny and new. So tempting in all their sumptuous red patent glory. The long, thin heel, the peep toe, the ankle strap that she fantasises about doing up just that little bit too tight…she clears her throat, embarrassed at her own thoughts. Feeling her cheeks grow hot, she hurries away from the window, and to her office down the block.

The first time she saw them she could have sworn that her heart skipped a beat but it was ridiculous, surely, to think that someone could have such a reaction over a pair of shoes. Still, though, she stops each morning and each evening and just looks through the window at the shiny red shoes that make her feel so much.

Soon, thoughts of the shoes consume her every waking moment – at home, at work, at dinner with her parents – until, finally, she gathers the courage to go in to the store to try them on, at least. But once they are on her feet, oh, she cannot leave without them.

Even though she is embarrassed to buy them, she steels herself and takes them to the counter. What must the clerk think as he looks at her? She wants to make excuses, pretend they are a present for someone else (but, maybe, that would be worse – to think she was buying such things for another person) for what would a girl like her do with shoes like these? Her mousey-brown hair and shrinking violet nature are at odds with the sensuality that exudes from every inch of the heels being tucked neatly into a black cardboard box, nestling into the tissue paper inside.

The entire ride home she clutches the box to her chest, barely allowing herself to breathe, then rushes into her apartment and carefully sets it down on her table. She bites her lip, starts to take off the lid…and then stops. She picks the box up and blindly shoves it to the back of her wardrobe as hot tears of shame fill her eyes. How could she have been so foolish? What would she ever do with shoes like that? So bold, so bright, so unlike her!

Yet, despite all of this, she tears the receipt into tiny pieces and thinks of the shoes at the back of her wardrobe every day, just as she thought of them when they were still in the store.

After they have been sitting at the back of her wardrobe for a week she finally yields – she dims the lights, puts on her favourite records and kneels on the carpet, fishing around in the back of her clothes to get to the shoe box. She casts furtive glances around her, as though there may be someone watching, just waiting to laugh at her for thinking she could ever wear such shoes! She shakes her head to clear it of such nonsensical thoughts, and reverently slides the shoes from their tissue paper bed.

She holds one up to the light, she inhales the scent of the other and then, at last, she slides one shiny, red beauty onto her stockinged foot. The other follows immediately and she does the ankle straps up, just a little too tight, and takes them for a walk around her apartment. She looks at herself in the mirror, loving the way the six-inch heels push everything up, make her walk differently, more cautiously. She notices that the record has stopped so she puts it on from the beginning again.

Then, she lies on her bed, feet resting on the wall above her, legs outstretched, turning her feet this way and that and just looks. She just looks.

A piece of flash fiction inspired by the prompt ‘suitably warm’, written on the 25th of January, 2014:

The red-headed woman sighed as she bit into her slice of cherry pie. It wasn’t piping hot as the sign above the diner had proclaimed, but it was warm enough to not be disgusting. It got warmer still as she rolled the pastry and fruit filling around in her mouth, before finally managing to swallow it. The pie was just another in a long line of disappointments she had endured in recent months, so she wasn’t really surprised.

She looked around the diner, noticing the salt-damp on the walls, linoleum of a nondescript colour peeling at the corners, and the ancient radiator rattling beside a worn-out Wurlitzer. The other human occupants seemed as dull as the sky outside, washed out by the buzzing fluorescent lights overhead.

The dishwasher stained fork clattered to the table as she fumbled it, too distracted and too tired to notice her grip on it had loosened. She sighed, again, and picked the fork up in preparation to take another bite of her pie, then discarded it along with the idea of eating. She dabbed at her mouth with a napkin, which she crumpled into a ball and placed on top of the unappealing slice of pie. The rubber stoppers on her chair squeaked against the floor as she pushed her chair away from the table, the sound louder in her ears than the murmuring song filtering out of the jukebox.

It had been a bad idea to stop here, today. There could be no respite for her, not on the trip she was taking. She took one more look around her table, making sure she hadn’t left anything behind, before leaving the diner and the latest disappointment inside.


She Knew Too Much

First Part - The Dame & the Office

Written c. 2009

The rain was pounding hard at the window of my third floor office like a guy who’s had too much to drink and can’t find his keys. The late afternoon sun was hidden behind some rainclouds and didn’t look as if it would come out of hiding anytime soon. It was dark enough to be nighttime, so I flipped on the light and poured myself a whisky. I sat down in my chair with a sigh and crossed my legs on the desk in front of me. It was one of those days where it wouldn’t make a difference if it was blowing a hurricane outside or if the sun was shining bright for the foul mood I was in. It was one of those days when you just had the blues but no one could tell because the picture was shot in black and white.

I was itching for a new case and thinking maybe it was time to quit the private detective game and move out west. Maybe I could make a new life mowing lawns and helping old ladies cross the street. And maybe being a gumshoe was all I was cut out for. Just as my head was filled with ‘maybes’ there was a knock at my office door.I called out for whoever it was to come in and the door eased open; a small dame with black hair and black eyes walked in. She had nice legs and bad intentions. But I didn’t find out about her intentions until it was too late.

'Are you Sam Samuels?' she asked. She was trying to look calm but I could tell she was nervous - I'd seen a lot of nervous people in my line of work and this dame had the jitters like a mouse playing hide-and-go-seek with a hungry cat.

Read more