Tag Archives: Clan Destine Press

Lockdown Fiction: Flotsam

This story comes from Clan Destine Press’s 1 June writing prompt.


‘It’s not really umber, is it?’

Didi, pressed closed to Galatea’s side, ceased peering at the sea to blink her bemusement at her new companion.


‘The umber ella. It’s not umber. Perhaps like raw umber, but more like bone. And white, of course.’ Galatea’s dark eyes were open wide as she considered the pretty damask canopy over her head. The sunlight streamed through the thinner white fabric of the pattern, dappling Galatea’s milk-white skin prettily.

Alabaster skin, thought Didi, and an hysterical giggle bubbled up. She almost asked how Galatea knew what to call damask fabric, since the Middle Eastern weavers who first created it came long after Galatea’s time, but honestly, that was the very least of the questions that arose from Galatea’s presence.

Didi decided to stick to the basics. ‘It’s not an umber ella. It’s an umbrella, or more exactly, a parasol.’ The Greeks had parasols 4000 years ago. It should be a no-brainer. ‘Parasols are for the sun, umbrellas for the rain.’

Galatea absorbed this clarification about the not-umber, bone-and-white coloured parasol. She flicked at the little strip of cloth that wound about the body of it when closed.

‘I don’t like this piece,’ she said. ‘You should cut it off.’

Didi side-eyed the fastener, then Galatea, then looked back out to the horizon.

‘Why don’t you like it?’

‘It looks like the bindings that held me prisoner beneath the sea.’

‘It only binds the parasol so it doesn’t flop around the place when it’s closed. It’s useful.’

Galatea scowled. ‘Polyphemus found it useful in his jealousy to bind and keep me, so that I may only partially live and not breathe and watch the world from underneath the waves.’

‘Well, Polyphemus was a creeper and he’s not here, and you are, so sucks to be him and you win, so do you think we can decide what we’re going to do now?’


‘I know you’re a nymph and marble statue and a myth come to life, so maybe you’ve had some experience with this shit, but it’s all new to me. I’m just a cannery worker and I’m not even that any more since they closed the factory. All those goddamned men in charge pushing the fish stocks to nothing, foreclosing on the mortgages, setting us all up to fail. I’m unemployed, I’m homeless, and I’m desperate. All I’ve got in the world is my car, my clothes, this bloody parasol because it belonged to my gran, and fuck-all skills. I’m nobody.’ The weight of all her losses pressed Didi down, made her shrink, made her small. She remembered the disdain of the bank manager refusing to negotiate a new payment plan; not a shred of pity or kindness in him.

Galatea gazed at Didi as though she were mad. ‘You rescued me.’

‘I found you.’

‘You unbound me. Thank you.’

‘You’re very welcome,’ Didi replied. ‘But I still don’t know what to do next.’

The nymph who had been a statue who had been bound and trapped and hidden in the ocean depths until time, tide, erosion and seismic activity had washed her ashore at Didi’s feet – this Galatea of myth and unexpected reality bent to kiss Didi’s cheek.

Galatea slipped her soft, slender, white fingers between Didi’s brown ones. ‘Let us hold hands,’ she said, ‘and be friends.’

Didi looked at their entwined fingers and squeezed. Galatea’s hand was warm and small in hers. ‘I’d like that.’

Galatea’s beautiful face broke into a smile that was wholly human. No longer marble, flushed pale pink now with the sea air, one of her canine teeth a little crooked. She was lovely. Lovelier than the statue could ever be.

‘And then we shall find a purpose we can share,’ Galatea declared, ‘and never again be imprisoned or discarded by men who wish to keep all good things to themselves.’

‘Smash the patriarchy,’ muttered Didi in agreement.

Galatea’s next grin was less human and it caught at Didi’s heart, made it grow with hope and fire.

‘How do we begin?’ asked Galatea eagerly.

‘Do you mind if we take your bindings with us?’ Didi asked.

‘You mean to use them on our enemies? Then yes!’

‘Great. Let’s visit the bank.’

Lockdown Fiction: Party Trick

This story was inspired by the 26 May Clandestine Press story prompt.

Party Trick

“Never have I ever been late for a date!” declared Mira with a grin. Of the four others playing the game, only Alec took a drink with her.

“Unholy demon of punctuality,” Daisy said, making a wobbly sign of the cross.

“Courtesy costs nothing,” replied Mira primly, then roared with laughter because she was punctual for sure but nothing like prim.

“Never have I ever,” said Alec, taking his turn, “kissed a girl.”

Alec and his boyfriend Chris gulped a mouthful of beer.

“This is a bit wishy washy, isn’t it?” said Daisy. “Let’s get down and dirty. Let’s talk about crime!”

She flashed a grin at Hannah. They were exes, but amicable. Hence tonight’s drinking game with all their mutual buddies who had seen them through the transition from lovers-to-enemies-to-friends. Alec and Chris, who’d been so supportive of Hannah through the brief burst of fighting and had so kindly and patiently reasoned with Daisy about her inability to let it go. Mira, who had given Hannah a place to stay when she’d fled Daisy’s desperate entreaties of “we can work it out! Don’t go!”

The whole mess had taken weeks to sort out, but there were no hard feelings, none at all. Hannah wanted to go, Daisy couldn’t make her stay, but that was all water under the relationship bridge. Just because they couldn’t be lovers, that didn’t mean they couldn’t be friends. Pride had been dented but not smashed.

“Crime, eh?” Mira raised an eyebrow. “Is there something you want to tell us?”

“Not me. Are you scared of spilling your secrets?” Daisy countered.

“I’m the one who did time in juvenile detention,” pointed out Chris. It was an open secret. A month for attempted arson. He still wasn’t entirely sure he hadn’t meant to burn down the family house, and he still wasn’t entirely sure he was sorry, but at least setting fire to the Californian bungalows of homophobes to whom he was related had not become a habit.

“Why don’t you start, Daisy,” Chris prompted. “Since it was your idea.”

“Okay. Never have I ever robbed a bank!”

All five of them swigged their beer.

“My turn!” shouted Alex, boozy and eager. “Never have I ever sold drugs!”

Gulps all round, except for Mira, who shrugged. “A bit of weed, but it counts. My turn. Never have I ever stabbed someone, even if they deserved it.”

Chris didn’t drink that time. “Don’t judge me. It was a tough month in juvie. The dude only needed four stitches and they didn’t try to gang up on me in the showers again after that.”

The general consensus was that the bastard deserved it and was lucky he hadn’t had anything actually chopped off. Chris took his turn next. “Never have I ever stolen anyone’s wallet.”

Five drinks all round and then the glasses were empty.

“Refill!” called out Daisy. She ran to the table to get a fresh bottle. It took some effort to get it open and she had to fiddle with it a bit. Finally, she sloshed it freely into glass after glass. “Hannah, your turn! Hey, hey, Hannah, hey, remember that thing we talked about last Christmas? About my gross Uncle Glen?”

Hannah, flushed pink with drink and fun, giggled and nodded. “Your awful Uncle Glen! Ew! Okay. Never have I ever spiked someone’s drink!”

Hannah, Alex, Chris and Mira drank heartily.

Daisy just smiled while all her friends gulped their beer and belched and turned glassy eyed. And one by one they clutched their throats and swooned and dropped like flies. Hannah fell sideways into the remains of the party pavlova. The crunch of the meringue sounded like someone breaking to shards inside. The strawberries and jam and cream smeared on her shirt like blood.

“Never have I ever,” Daisy whispered at the dying light in their eyes, “been murdered for petty revenge.”

She took a sip of beer. “Feels pretty good, actually.”

Daisy drank her beer to the bottom of the glass and waited.

Lockdown Fiction: The Red Shoe Blues

This is another response to a Clan Destine Press writing prompt. The bands referenced in it, Ground Control and 187 Lockdown, are real UK garage bands.

The Red Shoe Blues

When Dave texted, Skinny Mae responded. She should have been locked in her room, with her ears plugged shut with wax, like her physician instructed.

But Dave promised her music again, and though she knew she shouldn’t go, Skinny Mae went.

She found Dave sprawled in a swivel chair, in jeans and unlaced, sparkly purple high-tops and a net shirt. Louche, lazy, come-hither. He had one speaker of a high-end set of Bose headphones clamped to his ear.

She tried to repress her desire but, as always, it got the better of her.

“What you listenin’ to Dave?’

‘Bit o’ garage, yeah?’

 ‘Like, what kind?’

‘UK speed garage,’ he said, grinning. ‘Like, you know, 187 Lockdown, Ground Control, bands like that.’

‘Same mob, different name,’ said Skinny Mae, who knew her history. The roll call, the beats, the chord progression were still in her blood. ‘Danny Harrison, yeah? And Julian wassit.’

‘Jonah. Julian Jonah.’

‘The producer. Yeah, but those two ere 187 Lockdown, then Gant, then Ground Control.  Few more names after that. Like that Monty Python sketch about Dead Salmon.’

A musical bloodline remembered in her blood, despite everything.

Dave, the bastard, removed the cushioned speaker from his ear and held it out to Skinny Mae. ‘Have a taste.’

‘You forget something, Dave?’

‘I haven’t forgotten.’ Dave waggled the headphones at her. ‘You miss it, but.’

Damnit, she did.

‘If I do this,’ said Skinny Mae out loud, for herself just as much as Dave, ‘It’ll wake up the infection. Red Shoes will take me over. All in my blood and body, I won’t hear nothin’ but the music. Won’t speak nothin’ but the song. Won’t move except to dance to it. I’ll live the music till I die of it.

Some cruel nerd with a vicious sense of irony had cooked up the infamous Neuro-Aural-Obsession Virus, but those who caught it called it Red Shoes. It hotwired the brain to take music and drown in it. The whole history of each song, each genre, each musician, unspooled and colonised that soft grey matter.

Mae Donnelly, singer, pianist, violinist, had begun half consumed by the music in her life. Then an incautious tab of E at a post-Festival rave turned out to be a vector for the Red Shoes Virus and she became a slave to the rhythm. She’d forgotten to sleep, to drink, to eat for so long that she nearly died.

Three years in rehab, recovering, learning how to eat instead of falling under the thrall of music. She emerged with a new moniker and medical advice that music would never be hers again. It could kill her.

God, she missed it.

‘What a way to go, eh?’  wheedled Dave, still holding out the headphones.

Dave had a point. Living without music was only life after a fashion. Mae had undergone years of retraining so that she even walked without establishing any kind of rhythm, in case it set off the obsessive pathways again.

Mae poked in her ear with a finger, dislodged the plug that blocked out all the music. She put her hand out for the headphones. Pressed the soft vinyl of one speaker to her ear.

Heard nothing.

Dave’s head was nodding along with an absent beat.

‘Aw, Dave,’ she said sadly. ‘You did it.’

‘I did,’ he confessed, waving his arms in the air like he just didn’t care. ‘I got the music in me, Mae-by Baby.’

‘It’ll kill you, Dave.’

‘Nah. I’m invincible!’ Dave lurched out his chair, sending it spinning, and danced, hips gyrating, feet flashing.

Mae couldn’t hear the song in Dave’s neurological pathways, but the virus in her cells called to her.

Instead of plugging her ears, instead of returning to her tuneless, heartless life, Skinny Mae took Dave’s hands in hers and began to dance.

What a way to go.

Lockdown Fiction: Punch line

This story was written for an Improbable Press blog prompt. If you need to give your writing mojo a leg up, give the Improbable Press and Clan Destine Press writing prompt posts a go!

This story is very silly but hey, it’s what my brain gave me. Sorry/Not Sorry.

Punch Line

The legend of the Loch Ness monster hides a truth behind the lie. Underneath that deep and murky water is a joke waiting to happen.

P’neth-ac’c cannot describe what a disappointment it is that nobody on Earth has figured it out yet.

(For the record, to pronounce the name P’neth-ac’c correctly, you require a lot more teeth than you currently have, plus four extra oral appendages and a tonal range only dolphins can hear, but that’s by the by.)

P’neth-ac’c is considered a genius by his peers, in case you’re wondering.  They, too, are waiting for that ripe and perfect punch line to finally hit the beat.

It’s become the thing to act out the expected denouement at gatherings.  That is, at hatchings, matings, poetry duels, and on the high holy days when fledging art is exhibited and the most artistic achievers watch with pride while their work is eaten by the runners up: Absorb the art, absorb the talent, as the Creator says.

With tentacle, tooth, song and sonnet, mime and dance, the great enactments are performed, and the funniest rendition of the exact same story wins the prize. (No person is eaten, of course. They’re not barbarians. The winner’s set, however, is an open smorgasbord.)

It boils down to this. Humankind, determined to solve the mystery of the Loch Ness legend, will either send a sophisticated submariner device into the murk, or they’ll drain that mighty lake. Settled into the mud, the human explorers will find a large metal orb covered in green algae. The preserved wreckage (note, it was never wrecked, it never flew) comes complete with dead engines, defunct wiring, a suggestion of desperate last days.

Inside that slime-coated orb, that sphere of a space ship, they will find a smaller articulated vessel, shaped like a ripple, like a row of hills, all rises and falls, the skin of it dark, the head of it a peculiar periscope.  The sight of it, in the plays, is always greeted with a sudden silence, gravid with anticipation.

‘Aha!’ the humans cry, alarmed and yet satisfied that the mystery is at last being solved. ‘Aliens!’

That’s not the joke.

The joke is that the rippling serpent-shaped exploratory craft is full of skeletons.

Chicken skeletons.

(That’s still not the whole joke.)

And no matter how hard they look, the humans will never find a single egg. Because all the chicken skeletons are roosters.

(Still not the punchline.)

The human explorers will, however, find a star map and they’ll believe that the Space Chickens traversed the great expanse of space only to reach this lonely death.

And once the humans translate the language, they’ll discover that the putative Chicken People called this great expanse…

The Road.