Why I Write

This week Chuck really pulled the rug.

It’s the first Terribleminds Flash Fiction: Non-Fiction Challenge (That I’m aware of)

The task is to write a blog post. The Topic: Why I Write.

Why I Write

I’m not like most writers. I never knew from a young age what I wanted to be. I went through a string of things: vet, race car driver, marine biologist. But I wasn’t bookish; I didn’t spend my early years suckling stories from the bosom of the local library. Books were present; my Mum always read, and my Granddad was halfway through a different book every time I visited. I’ve always had an active imagination, but the stories I did digest avidly were in the form of television and movies. My toys were how I crafted my stories, and how I played out the vivid images my brain relayed to me.

My adolescence took me farther from epiphany; I was convinced I would work with computers, and with that settled I rested on my laurels. In my mind I was already programming computers, working on state of the art video games, and building multi-million pound online businesses. School was just a hurdle I had to jump in order to reach my goal, but I never jumped; I simply crept underneath. Video games were the new narrative in my life; I lapped them up while the toys gathered dust.

An ankle injury kept me inside. To stave the boredom I read old books I found lying around. Hours of my life devoured, but never wasted, by the magnolia pages. When they were done, I rummaged through the contents of my Mum’s books, in search of the next fix. I continued to read while the Playstation gathered dust.

Ankle healed. I left the books inside and headed back out into the world. My affair was over. We wouldn’t meet again for some time.

As the delusion of a teenager goes; I was the unstoppable force, on a collision with greatness, or whatever I hit first. I didn’t know how, I didn’t much care either. But then I met the immovable object. She would be the still cool water that quenched the irrational and undirected fire of my youth. We spent a summer in Cyprus; Sun, Sand, Sea, and an old love I had secretly harboured: we both raced to finish Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince. She won; so did I.

Fast forward: June 2nd 2006. I’m pacing the speckled blue linoleum of the hospital floor. I’m about to take the biggest step of my not so long lived life. At 12:25 I welcomed my son into the world. At 12:28 I welcomed my daughter. In the space of a few minutes, my entire world had changed.

From that day, I would begin to find out who I was, what I was capable of. I knew I had to help my children go right, where I had gone so wrong. I owed it to them, to my better half, and to myself to be everything I could. From reading them bedtime stories, and picking up books again, reading for my own pleasure, I had a revelation: all my life, in one form or another; creating, imagining, and experiencing stories was a continuing point of joy; a focal point, the epicentre of my happiness. A faint whisper echoed inside my mind. Could I do this?  Could I write? I decided to see if my capability could match my desire. It didn’t, I was terrible, but I loved it all the same. My desire far outweighed my capability, still does to this day, but it’s what keeps me going; striving to put on page what my brain makes so flawless and effortless. I doubt I’ll ever reach the dizzy heights of my desire, but I believe that’s the point. Through writing I’ve discovered things. Things I never would have discovered had I not wrestled my mind for the thoughts it contains, for the small pieces of my soul that the words reveal. There are things I understand, but only writing exposes them. There’s knowledge within me, but only writing brings it to the surface. It has been the making of me. To write, for me, is to feel alive; to feel connected with something larger than myself.

Why do I write? Because if I didn’t, I would simply exist.

Why do I write? Because without writing my heart would beat simply for necessity

Why do I write? Because I have no choice. I’m a writer.

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Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge: The Subgenre Boogie!

This weeks flash fiction challenge over at Terribleminds.

We had to pick (randomly. preferably) two subgenres; one from either list of twenty.

The RNG gave me 13 and 18. Which translates to Superhero and Noir.

Now, I’ve blurred the lines here a little, but hey, as far as I’m concerned Hercules is the archetypal Superhero.

Which leads me nicely into part three of – The Twelve Labours of Herc.u.Lees

Part one is here, and part two is here.

The Second Labour

I awoke to a pounding inside my head. I felt like my brain had been dropped from the tenth floor. It took a few minutes before I realised the thumping in my head was an echo of the thumping at my door. I got up and stumbled across the room. I opened the door; the thumping stopped, but the light from the hallway hit me like I owed it money.

‘Oh, Mr Lees!’ she exclaimed, barging past me.

‘Come in’ I said to myself

‘Mr Lees, I’ve been trying to contact you’ she said in a panic ‘something terrible has happened’

As my eyes readjusted to the dim of my office, I got a look at her; impeccable as always.

‘Are you listening to me Mr Lees?’ she asked

‘Sure’ I said with a wave of my hand walking back to the couch ‘terrible things’

I picked up the cigarette packet from the table, and set to killing myself slowly.

‘Mr Lees’ her tone demanded attention

‘Herc’ I said

She rose an eyebrow in distaste; I couldn’t tell if it was the cigarette, yesterdays suit, or the informality of my suggestion.

‘Mr Lees’ she continued ‘I have rushed here with great urgency; I told you I have the most distressing news, and you don’t seem to care, have I placed my trust in the wrong man?’ she asked sternly

‘Most people place their trust in the wrong person, but they don’t usually know until it’s too late’ I quipped ‘this might very well be one of those occasions’

She snorted in derision, taking a seat in the armchair opposite me. Her golden hair shimmered in the rogue strands of light that filtered through the venetian blinds.

‘You said you would help me’

‘I said I would take a look and let you know’

‘Well?’

‘I looked’ I said ‘No’

‘No?’ she seemed hurt

‘Miss Athena’ I tried to be tactful ‘I’m not the man to help you recover your horse’

‘Pegasus’ she said

I ignored it and continued ‘This goes way over my head, and I don’t feel you’ve been straight with me’

She frowned, her thin deliberate brows came together as she sought her most innocent of looks. It was good.

‘I don’t understand Mr Lees, I told you everything I know’

‘Your father’

She looked down at the handbag she had rested on her lap, toying with the clasp distractedly; like a child.

‘I didn’t think you’d take the case if you knew who my father was’

‘You’re right, I wouldn’t’

‘I wanted to find Pegasus before he knew what had happened. I believed it to be petty criminals. But if Daddy knew…well’

I took the last drag of my cigarette and stubbed it out in the astray.

‘Well it would seem that the culprit is anything but a petty criminal’

‘You know who it is?’ she sat forward, her eyes lit up at the possibility.

‘Nope’ I said ‘I don’t want to, that sort of information will get me killed, and despite the contradiction’ I gestured to the empty bottle of scotch, and the ashtray ‘I like being alive’

She seemed deflated, as though she was slowly accepting the fact I wasn’t going to help. She opened the clasp of her bag, and pulled out a folded piece of paper.

‘I received it this morning’ she offered it to me across the table.

I don’t know why I did, but I took it. I unfolded the paper, and the same crude letter cutting had been applied to this one too, it read:

IN  LERNEA  LIES  THE  SERPENT  TONGUED  MESSENGER

‘Who?’ I asked

She shrugged ‘I’ve never been to Lernea’

I was getting too old for this, and I wasn’t likely to get any older if I continued poking around in shady waters. But something about the sad eyes of a beautiful woman make me do the craziest things.

‘I’ll see what he knows’

She looked up at me, the tears glistened in her eyes; she smiled, though it was an exhausted smile.

 

***

 

The sign in the window read:

Paul Hydrakampf – The Answer to Your Legality Issues

I smiled to myself. Should’ve known a serpent tongued messenger would be a lawyer. The fluorescent beacon in the door said open. I went in. It was a typical office; a reception desk sat in front of an arrangement of chairs.

‘Can I help you?’ The receptionist asked

‘I’m looking for Mr Hydrakampf, is he here?’

‘One moment please’ she picked up the phone on her desk ‘There’s a gentleman out here for you’

She eyed me over the rim of her glasses ‘he looks like a dick’

‘No, a private detective’

‘One moment’ she moved the mouth piece away from her lips ‘your name please?’

‘Mr Lees’

She spoke back into the phone ‘Mr Lees’

She looked at me again ‘What’s your business?’

‘Detective work mostly’ I said with a smile

She stared at me unimpressed.

‘I’m here on behalf of a client, Miss Athena Athens’

‘Uh-huh, okay’ she said to the phone before placing it back in its cradle.

‘He’ll see you now, go on through’

She gestured to the doorway off to the left. I followed it through to his office. I knocked once, and then entered. The office was mahogany; floor, walls, furniture. He sat behind his desk, the proverbial saw thumb: he wore a dark purple velvet suit, a mauve shirt, and a bright green tie.

He gestured to the seat adjacent to his. I obliged and sat. His smile was as wide as it was false, and his lips were so thin, they were almost non-existent; while his amber eyes clashed with his attire.

‘Sorry about all the questions, but in my game, you can never be too careful’ he extended his hand across to me ‘Paul Hydrakampf, but most people call me The Hydra’

I shook his hand and replied ‘Is that because you’re slippery?’

He laughed. ‘No’ he said and swung his foot up on the desk ‘on account of these’

I stared at a snake skin boot until he lowered his foot.

‘Now, what can I do for you?’

‘I’m here on behalf of a client; she received a note stating you might have some information for her’

‘I see’ he said ‘I write it?’

‘Nobody wrote it’ I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out the note, and slid it across the desk to him.

He unfurled it, studying it with a squint. He leaned back in his chair.

‘You see Mr Lees’ he said ‘In my profession, sometimes you have to do some things for people who are’ he paused looking for a suitable word ‘suspect’

He must not have found it.

‘I understand that’ I said

‘Good, because I wouldn’t want you to take this personally’ he opened a draw in his desk. I half expected him to be holding a .22 when his hand came up, but instead he held envelopes. He laid them across his desk, placing each one down with equal importance. When he was done there was nine manila envelopes on his desk; each one identical.

‘These are your options Mr Lees. Only one of these envelopes contains the information you seek: the truth’

‘The others?’

‘Almost certainly death’

‘That’s a lot of promise for such a small envelope’

He chuckled. ‘The information inside is not like to kill you, but rather where that information should lead you might’

‘So what’s to stop me from taking all nine envelopes?’

‘Certainly not me’ he replied ‘but when you open one, it will release a toxin into the air. If you should open the others, the toxin will react with the ink, and you’ll be left with nothing but blotted paper’

‘Of course, why didn’t I think of that’ I said ‘So I’m just supposed to pick one, open it, and follow the information, with an eighty-nine percent chance I’ll die’

‘No greater odds than life; every decision we make can lead to death’

‘Do I get to ask some questions, or am I just playing lucky dip?’

‘You may ask me three questions, to which I will answer yes or no’

‘Great’ I said

He smiled at me. I smiled back.

‘Did you write these?’ I asked

‘No’

‘Were they delivered by the writer?’

‘Yes’ he smiled ‘Last question, do ask wisely’

I eyed the nine envelopes in front of me. Each one a duplicate; even the way he placed them made them seem like the limbs of some ominous creature. The words of Nemean began to ring through my mind. “She will always get her way”

I took a deep breath, and noted a scent in the air. I picked up an envelope. The Hydra looked perplexed as I sniffed it, placed it down; smelling each one in turn. When I was done I sat back in my chair.

‘Got any good places to eat around here?’

He looked stunned, and slightly bewildered

‘Is that your final question?’

‘Yeah, I’m starving’

Confused he replied ‘No’

I shrugged ‘I’ll wait until I get back into town’

I stood up and made my way to the door.

‘Mr Lees’ he called

I turned and gave him a questioning look.

He gestured his hand to the desk ‘your envelope’

‘Ah, yes’ I said.

I walked back to the desk, and chose the envelope directly underneath his upended hand. He looked up at me astonished.

‘It was the one I was going for, since it had the strongest smell of perfume, but you just confirmed it for me’

I gave him a wink and a smile, and walked out of his office; leaving the snake alone with his lies.

 

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Terribleminds: Pick An Opening Sentence And Go

This weeks challenge over at Terribleminds was to take an opening sentence from the previous weeks challenge, and turn it into a story.

I went with Lisacle’s: Waking up next to a dead man will ruin your entire day.

And this is where I went with it.

The First Labour

Waking up next to a dead man will ruin your entire day. Still, I’m alive; guess I’m the lucky one. I sat up and gazed out the window at the puss coloured sky. I Looked over my shoulder, and wondered: ‘am I?’

I pulled a smoke from the packet on the side table. They weren’t mine, but I figured he wouldn’t mind. I took a few drags, and waited for the liquor haze to free me from its grasp, and the morning wood to subside. The cigarette only heightened the alcohol; giving it means by which to rush round my body, and the wood remained present.

I don’t know what bothered me more; the dead guy or that I was aroused. Truth be told, none of it bothered me, I’d been doing this too long, and the inappropriate firmness was just a morning ritual. I’m not sure how I got here, or where here was, and as for the stiff – the body I mean – fuck knows. I finished the cigarette just as it burns my fingers. I like to get my money’s worth, even if the money’s not mine. I stood up and took a deep breath. The room was a mixture of smells; blood, sweat, liquor, sex, and the faint hint of a broad.

I headed to the bathroom, hit the switch, and the light returned the favour; I saw stars like a caught a right hook. I took a leak, but seemed to be pissing sideways. I looked over my shoulder toward the bedroom and wondered ‘how drunk was I?’

I shook it off, the thought too, and headed back to the bedroom. I rooted around for my clothes. I’d been here too long, and the only thing that should linger around a body is the smell. I pulled my clothes on and straightened myself out the best I could, then I examined the stiff.

It was not a face I recognised; twisted with terror and pain. I riffled through his pockets. He’s holding nothing but a silenced .38 in a shoulder holster, and his wallet. Inside is nothing unusual, or rather, there’s nothing at all, which is unusual. I checked it over, and found a card: The Lion’s Den – a joint downtown. On the back is a name written in red ink: Nemean.

I put the card in my pocket, and walked back to the bathroom to make sure I didn’t look like the sort of person who wakes up next to dead people. A message was scrawled across the mirror, written in the same red lipstick that was smeared across my face. It said: Are You Ready For Your First Labour?

***

Back at my place I took a shower, trying to wash away the fog of last night. I got dressed, and made myself two eggs, two rashers of bacon, and two cups of coffee. After that I reached for the phone.

‘Phil?’

His voice came back through the phone, as gruff and irritable as ever.

‘Yeah, what do you want Herc?’

‘I need you to run a name for me’

‘Shoot’

‘Nemean’

‘The owner of the Lion’s Den?’

‘It’s on the back of their card, so I’d take a stab at that’

‘Yeah, what of him?’

‘Who is he, and how likely am I to be able to speak with him?’

‘Heck if I know, he’s a dirt bag, but we’ve never had anything on him’

‘How’d you know he’s a dirt bag then?’

‘I’ve got a nose for these things’

‘Alright, I’ll watch my step’

‘That’d be a first’

I hung up and headed for the door.

***

 

I made my way downtown to The Lion’s Den. I figured it’s the only place to start; quite what I was starting I had no idea. I walked in and spoke to the cute barmaid.

‘Hi’ I said

‘Hi, what can I get you?’

‘Nemean’

She looked perplexed, and after a survey of the bottles behind her, she said ‘No, we don’t have that’

I smiled ‘I’m looking for Nemean, the owner’

‘Oh’ she said, her cheeks turning a little red.

The doorman came over; he was as big, as she was pretty.

‘Can I help you?’

‘No’ I said ‘she’s doing just fine’

He grunted and gave her a look. She slunk off down the bar, and busied herself with the stock.

‘Can I help you?’ he asked again

‘Sure, why not’ I smiled ‘I’m looking for the owner’

‘I’m afraid the owner’s out of town’

‘That’s fine, I’ll wait’

‘You’ll wait for him to get back into town?’ he frowned

‘Sure, I figure he’s got to pass through here some time, and it’s kind of important’

He grunted, and then walked away, heading through a door beside the bar. I sat waiting. He returned a minute later and said ‘Mr Nemean has returned, he’ll see you in his office’

I smiled at him and walked through the door, following the long corridor. Coming toward me was a woman; she was loaded with sex, and walked like she wasn’t afraid to use it. We exchanged a look, she smiled; her eyes were hungry, and she looked like she’d devour me, but not in a way I’d like. She left a familiar scent in the air, but I was too distracted to remember it. I continued toward the door at the end. I knocked and entered.

Sat behind a big mahogany desk was a large man. He wore a gold suit that seemed to shimmer in the light, and had a mane of black hair that joined a large beard.

‘Nemean I presume?’

He nodded and gestured for me to sit down opposite him. I did. The chair was comfy.

‘And who might you be?’

‘My name is Mr Lees, I’m a private detective’

‘A detective?’ his eyebrow rose ‘and how can I help you Mr Lees?’

‘Well, I’m just making inquiries into a man I met this morning’

‘Oh really’ he said ‘what’s his name?’

‘I don’t know’

‘He didn’t say?’ he asked

‘We didn’t talk much’

‘Ah’ he said with a smile; he had a mouth full of teeth, each one of them looked like they’d hurt ‘then what makes you think I can help?’

I took out the card I had found on the stiff and slid it across the desk. He looked at it, and said

‘That’s a business card Mr Lees, they’re easily obtained’

I turned it over, showing the name scribbled on the back; his name.

He looked at the card, and then back to me.

‘Mr Lees, I’ll ask you again, what is it you think I can help you with?’

‘The man who had that on him, was a hired gun’

‘And this affects me how?’

‘I’m sure it affects you quite a bit, I’m sure right now you’d expect me to be a ghost’

He smiled broadly, each one of his large sharp teeth on display. His eyes were making promises; none of which I wanted them to keep. He’s a large man, so it took me aback when he vaulted over the desk like a domestic feline.

He pounced on me, and the chair tipped back, breaking under our weight. His hands wrapped round my throat. His eyes were manic, and he ran his tongue along his teeth. As I struggled to pry his hands from my throat, he leaned over me and spoke with the same calm as when he was sitting in his chair.

‘You’re right Mr Lees, you should be a ghost, let me help you with that’

I raised my knee into his crotch. He yelped and relinquished his grip as he keeled over in agony. I got to my feet. I knew I wouldn’t have long to compose myself; I took deep breaths trying to get as much air back into my lungs as possible.

He began to get to his feet, but he’d lost some of his swiftness; a knee in the nads will do that. He leered at me, furious, but still smirking like a mad man. He lunged at me. I ducked right, and he clattered into the wall. He turned quickly like a ball on the rebound, coming at me, all teeth and powerful arms. I picked up the first thing on his desk, and as I side stepped him, hit him hard on the back of the skull. Luckily it was a paper weight and not the stress ball sitting next to it. The blow stunned him, and he remained on all fours, panting, as a wet patch formed on the crown of his head.

‘You had enough?’ I asked

He continued to pant as he got slowly to his feet. I held the paperweight just in case; he was pretty quick for a big guy, and I knew if he caught me, I was fucked.

He walked to his desk and sat behind it, in his big chair. He continued to pant a little; his eyes had lost their craziness and were now vacant and dilated, like a night’s sky with no stars. He focused on me, and began to chuckle.

‘What’s so funny?’ I asked

‘It doesn’t matter what you do Mr Lees, your days are numbered’ he said smiling

‘Well, I was never good at math, so don’t be surprised if I get it wrong’

‘It doesn’t matter that you survived the man I sent, nor does it matter that I haven’t finished you. Something will get you Mr Lees; she will always get her way’

‘Who does?’

His smile broadened, and he began laughing again.

‘Who’s after me?’ I asked loudly

He continued to laugh. I walked over to him, placed the paperweight on the table, and grabbed him by the shirt.

‘Answer me dammit!’

His laughter continued, it increased, filling the room.

I began to shake him by the shirt, but he continued to laugh, louder and louder. I grabbed his red tie and pulled on it; the knot pressing against his tree trunk throat.

Still he continued to laugh.

I drew it tighter hoping the lack of air would subdue his laughter, and bring him back to reality.

He began turning red. He laughed still. I drew it further. He started to turn purple. His laughter began to dwindle as he struggled for air. He looked at me, his eyes bloodshot and bulging. Before I could come to my senses, his eyes closed, and he ceased to laugh. He was limp when I loosened his tie. The skin was pale where it bit into his neck. I checked his pulse; it was faint, but present. I stepped back from the desk, took a last look at this beast of a man in his golden suit, and headed for the door.

I walked up the corridor, straight past the doorman, and outside. I was grateful for the fresh air, so reached inside my pocket and pulled out a smoke. I lit it and took a long drag. As I walked off down the street, my hands were still shaking.

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Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge: The Subgenre Blender

This week’s challenge can be found here.

The task: To pick (ideally at random) two subgenres; one from each list of twenty, and blend them together.

I went to RNG for my two subgenres, and that got me

  • Greek Mythology
  • Noir Detective

This is what I did with it.

 

Pegasus

In this business, you think you’ve seen it all; then suddenly, you’ve never seen anything like it.

It all started with a knock on my office door.

‘Come in’

She rounds the door, and closes it shut behind her. I’ve seen some beautiful things in my time, but this dame could make you forget your own name.

‘Mr Lees?’ she asks

I gesture to the seat opposite mine. She glides across the room; her dress is expensive, so too is her perfume, a scent like sunsets and flowers. Everything about her speaks money. She takes the seat; crosses her legs, and places her bag on her lap.

‘What can I do you for Miss…?’ I hold out my hand

‘Athena’ she says, taking it.

We shake politely; her skin is soft and smooth, like dipping my hand in fresh milk.

‘Well what brings you here today Miss Athena?’

‘Well Mr Lees’ she eyes the name plate at the end of my desk

Herc. U. Lees – Private Detective

‘Can I call you Herc?’ she asks

I nod. She continues.

‘You see Herc, I’m in need of your services for a most sensitive matter’ she reaches into her bag, and withdraws a few sheets of paper; handing me one across the desk. It’s a photo of a large white horse.

‘That’s Pegasus’ she says ‘He’s been abducted’

‘Abducted?’

‘Yes, two days ago’ she continues ‘I thought maybe he’d jumped the paddock and ran away, that was until I got this’ she hands me another piece of paper; with letters cut from a newspaper, it reads:

WE WILL RETURN THE HORSE WHEN YOU GIVE US WHAT WE WANT.

‘What do they want?’ I ask her

‘That’s just it, I don’t know’ she withdraws a tissue from her purse and holds it to her face, her eyes begin to tear.

I place the note atop the photo of Pegasus, and reach down into my desk draw, the lowest one. I study some of the bottles and, reluctantly, I withdraw the Dionysus. She’s a classy broad, and that’s the best wine my money can buy. I pour her a small glass and pass it across the table. She mumbles a thank you through her tissue, and drains the glass. I give her a minute to compose herself.

‘Why not just go to the police?’

She hands me the final piece of paper. Another note made out of paper clippings.

IF YOU CONTACT THE POLICE YOUR HORSE WILL BE KILLED.

I place that on top of the others.

‘They’ve never said what they want?’

‘No’

‘And you have no idea?’

‘No’ her eyes shimmer with tears.

‘What about your husband?’

‘I’m not married’

‘Boyfriend?’

‘No’ she shakes her head, and begins to put away the tissue, finding composure.

I nod ‘Okay Athena’ I say ‘I’ll look into it, see what I can find out’

‘You will?’ she says, smiling for the first time.

I nod again, returning her smile. I saw her to the door, exchanged a brief hug, a thank you on her part, and told her I’d be in touch. I studied the three pieces of paper she left me, and still couldn’t find an angle. I put on my hat and coat, and headed out the door.

***

I walk into the bar. A few dregs are in there, but otherwise it’s quiet. I walk up behind a man wiping a table.

‘Hey, Hermes’

He jumps, then turns and glares me ‘Chrissake, Herc’

‘I need some info’

‘Yeah, what’s new’

‘I’ll be fair’

I place a Drachma note in an empty glass he’s reaching for. He walks away, leaving the glass where it is. I catch up with him again at the bar.

‘What is it you want?’ he asks

I lean in, keeping my voice low ‘Pegasus’

His eyes flash with recognition, and then he says ‘What?’

I smile. Never trust a man in sandals, without a beach beneath him.

‘Pegasus’

He shrugs, avoiding my eyes, and walks round the other side of the bar.

‘What’s it going to take Hermes?’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’

‘Bullshit’

‘Hey whatever man, I don’t know everything’

‘Damn straight you don’t, or you wouldn’t be thinking you can slip one by me’

He busies himself with the glasses, as though hoping I’ll disappear.

‘One last chance Hermes’ I said it like I meant it.

‘Okay, okay’ he knew I did ‘meet me out back’

I left the bar and made my way down the side to where they kept the bins out back. A few seconds later Hermes came creeping out the rear door. He surveyed the alley, left and right, and when he’d satisfied himself the alley was clear, he started to talk.

‘Look, you know I don’t like to jerk you around Herc, but I gotta be careful, ya know’ he rubbed the back of his neck and continued to talk ‘this Pegasus shit, I can’t be getting caught up in it’

‘Caught up in what?’

He gave me a suspicious look ‘you mean you don’t know?’

I couldn’t bring myself to say it, but the look I gave him confirmed it.

‘Ah shit, the P.I don’t know dick!’ he said with a chuckle

I cut it short by putting my forearm against his windpipe and pinned him to the wall.

‘Tell me what you know dipshit, or I’m going to uppercut you out those sandals’

‘Wha..Get…Ca…Can’t’

I listened intently, until I realised he was turning purple. I took my arm away from his throat, and let him drop to the floor. He sat panting for a minute, while holding his throat.

‘You trying to kill me asshole!?’

‘Spill it’

‘I thought you knew who owned the horse’

‘Some dame, so what’

He smiled slightly. But the glare in my eye melted it quicker than butter in a hot skillet.

‘Yeah, but it’s who that dame is that should help you understand. Her daddy bought her the horse as a present, and whoever took it, is sending him a message’ he continued, though his tone, and eyes became very serious ‘her father is Zeus

‘Zeus?’

He nodded slowly as though the very word made him drunk.

‘Head of the Olympians?’ I asked

‘The King himself’

Shit had hit the fan, and I need to make sure I stay clean. I walked back up the alley.

‘Hey, Herc!’ I heard him call

I stopped and looked back at him; still slouched against the wall.

‘How about you tip the messenger’ he said, rubbing his thumb against his forefinger.

‘Put it on my tab’

 ***

I made my way downtown. I needed to find out exactly what was going on, and be sure my name was not up on a list somewhere just waiting to be crossed off.

I traipse the busy streets in search of my source. He’s never in the same place twice, but he’s always here. Eventually it’s my ears that find him. Standing beside an upturned hat; swaying, and playing his flute like the sound of the forest.

He notices me but continues to play. A few people walk by and chuck him a few shekels; he winks at the ladies, and most of them giggle. I wait a few minutes for the song to finish before I approach.

‘Hey, Pan’

‘Come on’ he says ‘I need a coffee, and you’re buying’

I follow him to a coffee shop a few doors down. We order our coffees, and find a quiet table in the corner. He pours in some sugar and says

‘To what do I owe this pleasure?’

‘I need to know what the word on the street is’

‘I meant specifically’ he says with impatience ‘you don’t come to shoot the breeze’

I watch him stir his coffee for a minute; he’s got a few more grey hairs in his goatee than I remember, but his attitude is about right: unless he’s consoling a bottle of wine, or a lady, he’s a miserable old goat.

‘Pegasus’

He stops stirring, and looks up from his coffee.

‘You like life Herc?’

I smile and say ‘I’m still looking for a reason not to’

‘Keep searching this one, and you just might find it’

‘I just need to know a few things, I’m not looking to get involved in this’

‘Good, because that way lies death, you know who owns that horse right?’

‘I heard’

‘Well then hear this: He’s out for whoever is involved, and if you go snooping around, you’ll end up in the cross fire’

‘How’d you know I’m not working for him?’

He nearly spits out the mouthful of coffee he just took ‘yeah right, the mighty Zeus hires a P.I to track down his horse’

‘Fair point; now tell me something useful, who’s supposed to have taken it?’

‘And if I do, will you go home and put your feet up?’

‘Do you care?’

He shrugs ‘you’re a good source of income, and I like you Herc’

I can’t help the smile I give him, which makes him uncomfortable

‘Well, I mean you’re alright, but whatever you do I don’t care’

‘I just want to make sure my name isn’t floating around town. You’re right, if I’m seen to ask questions, it could be a whole heap of shit I don’t want to deal with, but if I know my name is out there, then at least I can take necessary precautions’

He takes a deep breath, and lets the air out through his nostrils. ‘Herc, you’re a big guy, and hell I know you can look after yourself, but these are Olympians. I’m begging you, use what I’m about to tell you to cover your ass, and sit this one out – I don’t care how gorgeous she is, this isn’t worth dying over’

I nod. He continues.

‘Rumour has it the thief could be within their own fold. I mean think about it, nobody would be brave enough to make a move on the mob, except maybe the mob’

He makes sense, and my instincts have already agreed with him, but I need a name, just for my own peace of mind.

‘Who?’

‘You’re name isn’t out there, so stop asking questions’

‘Give me a name Pan’

He looks into my eyes, and can see I won’t be letting up. He sighs, and leans in closer.

‘Hades’

***

I walked back to my office. The fresh air and the stroll gave me time to think. The whole scenario is not worth getting tied up in. I’m not involved, and decide quit while I’m ahead. I get into my office, place my hat and coat on the stand, and head straight for the draw. I pour myself a glass of the good stuff, knock it back, and pour myself another. I reach across the desk to get my diary; I’ll call Athena now, get it over with – sorry lady. That’s when I noticed it. Sitting on my desk as though it’d been there for years; a cream envelope with my name written across the front. I study the room, checking I’m alone. Satisfied, I pick it up, open it, and pull out its contents: a single piece of paper with a message across it:

ARE YOU READY FOR YOUR TWELVE LABOURS?

Posted in Flash Fiction | 4 Comments

Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge: Must Contain Three Things

This weeks challenge can be found here.

My three things were:

  1. A Talisman
  2. A Shopping Mall
  3. A Magician

I give you

Real Magic

Daniel stood at a distance; contently licking his chocolate ice-cream, and staring at the Magician. People bustled by, ignoring the man in his outlandish attire. Daniel considered the idea that only he could see him, and continued to watch him perform. He pulled multi-coloured handkerchiefs from his cuff, over exaggerating his movements, and waving his white gloved hands, while his coattails flapped after him.

Daniel continued to lick his ice-cream. His mum had told him to wait there while she was in the shop; searching for lady garments. He liked the mall, but never the shopping part. He was happy to come along, get an ice-cream – chocolate, it was always chocolate – and watch people scuttled too-and-fro, as though the shops might close any moment.

The Magician gestured to passers-by; holding out his tall hat, showing them the inside. No one was interested, although a man did chuck in an empty sweet wrapper. Daniel saw the Magician scowl and empty his hat. Defeated by ignorance the Magician reached into his hat, and began to pull something out.

Daniel watched as the Magician’s hand came slowly out of the hat. He stopped licking his ice-cream, and looked on as a rabbit rose from the brim. He had seen the trick on Television; in cartoons, and Saturday night talent shows, but seeing it in person was different. The rabbit was as real as his ice-cream, and the Magician had pulled it from the hat; No – from nowhere.

Daniel walked toward him through the streaming Mall traffic. He stood before the man; this Magician. He was withered, as though each of Daniels steps had aged him a year. From a distance his suit was a distinguished piece of clothing from a bygone era, but up close; faded, worn, and unwashed. Daniel stared at the Magician. Having noticed his audience he began to perform for Daniel.

He pulled the handkerchiefs from his sleeve; he made a red ball of cotton into three before making them disappear completely. Daniel continued to stare, his ice-cream ran down his hand; the Mall lights were having their share. Several minutes passed. The Magician continued to perform to the unimpressed boy before him. Eventually the Magician, beaten by the dead stare of a chocolate covered eight year old, stopped dancing around and spoke.

“Look kid, if this isn’t entertaining you, perhaps you should move along”

Daniel continued to stare.

The Magician unimpressed, and thin on patience, tried again.

“Go on kid, beat it, scram”

Daniel stared for a moment, but as the Magician was on the cusp of a tirade, he spoke.

“That’s not real magic”

The Magician cocked an eye-brow, amused by the kid and his chocolate goatee.

“Well kid, I gotta hand it to ya, you got me. I’m all out of magic”

“You’re a fraud”

The eyebrow plummeted and joined the other in furrowed displeasure.

“Look kid, I’m just trying to make a few bucks so I can eat tonight. Why don’t you do us both a favour, and go find you’re Mummy”

Daniel, unmoved, said

“Show me some real magic”

The Magician sighed, and leaned down on the balls of his feet.

“I’ve done things your eyes wouldn’t believe, that your mind could not ever conceive, but that was a long time ago. Right now, the best I’ve got is my friend Buster here”

The Magician removed his hat, and withdrew the white rabbit. Daniel could see it shaking, not with fear, but with age. It was old, as old as the man holding it by the ears.

“That’s not real magic, that’s just a rabbit that lives in your hat”

“Ha, I wish it was that simple”

The Magician stowed the rabbit, and placed the hat back on his head.

“Well that’s it, my show stopper, nothing more to see here kid”

He got to his feet and turned back toward the mat he laid out for his show.

“Show me some real magic” said Daniel.

The Magician looked back at him; squinted through his old tired eyes, straight into the boy’s baby blues, which shimmered with youth. He walked back toward him, and again, crouched down, steadying himself and his weight on the balls of his feet.

“Your Daddy ever tell you, be careful what you wish for?”

Daniel shook his head

“My Daddy’s dead”

The matter of fact tone took the Magician aback, nearly losing his balance.

“Ah, sorry to hear that kid”

Daniel shrugged.

“Well, if he wasn’t, he might have said that. Because today, you get your wish”

The Magician pulled a chain from around his neck, on the end of which was a pendent. He lifted it over his head and placed it in the boy’s empty, un-chocolate covered, hand. Daniel studied it: the chain was silver, as was the pendent, which had strange markings, and in the centre of it sat a blue stone.

“What is it?” asked Daniel

“A Talisman”

Daniel frowned at it, searching his mind for meaning.

“What do I do with it?”

The Magician smirked.

“You make real Magic”

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Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge: Spammerpunk Horror

This weeks challenge can be found here.

Our task was to write a Horror story in the context of a spam email. I didn’t fulfil the Horror quota, but there is one sentence that sends a shiver down my spine.


Halo Sir,

Good morning/night/day (delete as apropriate). My name is Normal, which means I am. I am no scam or foolish people. Myself and my partner Honest are founders of SuperRichExcellenceMoneyCool. We would like to offer you the opportunity to join us with this once in a life time offer. To become a member of SuperRichExcellenceMoneyCool all you have to do is provide us with some nonessential, unimportant, information. We will need you’re bank account details, you’re mothers before married name, and you’re place of living. Then we can start to transfer you the millions that are waiting. Please believe I am writing you from my huge Yacht and Honest is writing me from his Jet!! You have every rite not to join SuperRichExcellenceMoneyCool but we message you because we no your knot foolish person. Send us quick the details so we no you are who you say. Then you can start being SuperRichExcellenceMoneyCool. We will also send you FREE VHS of Barbara Streisand Live as extra insensitive to become member.

Best wishes,

Sir Normal.

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Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge: Picking Uncommon Apples

This weeks challenge can be found here

We had to pick, three, from a list of uncommon apples.

Mine were

  1. Rosemary Russet
  2. VonZuccalimaglios Reinette
  3. Lacy

And this is where i went with it, i give you

 

Golden Delicious

 

“Lacy!”

“Coming, Mr Tobin” she replied, struggling through the door with a large wooden bowl.

“Where have you been girl” he growled

“Washing the tankards” she placed the wooden bowl on a lower shelf behind the bar.

Tobin muttered something to himself, and strode through the door from which Lacy came. She began to dry the tankards. The noise of the tavern was so familiar, she failed to notice the man approaching the bar.

“Hello child”

Lacy looked up; the accent had taken her aback, but the image of the man made her gasp: He was tall, even without the top hat; he was the tallest man she had ever seen. His skin was a reddish-brown, and his elaborate moustache curled at the ends.

“Do not be alarmed” the man smiled; it was warm, but she noted his cold, cobalt eyes did not match. “May I speak wiv zee Innkeep?”

Lacy did not know what to say; she nodded, and quickly made off through the door behind the bar. A moment later Tobin came through it, with Lacy in tow. Agitated by the disturbance he frowned at the eccentric man with the cape, towering over the bar.

“Can I help you sir?” he grumbled

“Guten Tag, my name is VonZuccalimaglios Reinette” he maintained the same smile “I am searching for an old friend: a lady” he reached inside his coat and withdrew a photo, and handed it to Tobin. Lacy caught sight of the very old picture; her eyes widened as Tobin said “that’s Rosemary Russet.”

 

Lacy banged on the wooden door; the rain was fine but constant, the kind that looks tolerable, but soaks you through. The door opened, and Lacy rushed in.

“Rose!”  she yelled, gasping for air.

“What is it?” snapped Rose.

“There…There’s a man” she stammered, trying to catch her breath.

“Shhh” Rose wrapped a woollen blanket round her, and said “slow down, catch your breath”

After filling her lungs with air for a minute, Lacy began again “There’s a man at the Tavern, he’s looking for you”

Rose squinted at her “go, on”

“He had a picture” she said “it looked very old” she seemed confused by the image. She looked up at Rose, studying her “but it looked exactly like you now”

Calmly, Rose asked “what was his name?”

“Va…Van…Von” she said, trying to remember

“VonZuccalimaglios” said Rose

Lacy nodded, her eyes wide with the memory. Rose grabbed her arms on either side “Lacy, listen to me” she said with graveness in her voice “you need to return to the Inn, and go about your duties”

“But…”

“Don’t fret over me, go, now”

As Lacy turned reluctantly the room fell into darkness; all the candles had extinguished, as though the October winds had entered the house. Rose looked round; to the window, where only an instant before the wind was howling. The air was still, as though the world had stopped turning. Rose ushered Lacy behind her: their backs to the fireplace; they faced the door. It swung open, and the world turned once more; the rain lashed down, and the wind began to wail. Standing on the threshold was VonZuccalimaglios.

“Ah” he said with an eerie joy in his voice “your papa is looking for you child.” He was speaking to Lacy; barely visible behind Rose.

“Your business is with me Reinette” said Rose

“Dah, and how long has it been my sweet” he said “one, two, three hundred years?”

“Not long enough” replied Rose

He smiled; his tombstone-like teeth, to big for his mouth, were accentuated by the gap between the front two. He said “for the past five-hundred years, I’ve been happiest when pursuing you”

“And like last time; I’ll send you back where you belong”

“My dear Rosemary, as stubborn as ever. You are the last of your kind; you should not exist”

The moon was the only source of light in the room, illuminating them both in a wash of silver. Time stood still; Lacy stared in awe, her stomach knotting with anticipation.

“Vell, shall ve get this over with?” asked Reinette

The first movement was slight: his cape twitched. Rose outstretched her arm, and twisted it as though grasping something from the air. She span round, and threw the contents of her palm into the fireplace. There was a flash of blue light, and Lacy was thrust backward into the flames, with Rose on top of her.

 

The room was dark again. Reinette was alone. Rose and the girl had disappeared through the fireplace. He took a deep breath; the sweet scent of singed apples filled his nostrils. He ran his tongue along his teeth, and said “Delicious.”

 

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