Tag Archives: short stories

Lockdown Fiction: Flotsam

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

Flotsam

‘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.

‘Sorry?’

‘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?’

‘Do?’

‘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: Connectivity

Inspired by an Improbable Press prompt!

Connectivity

I know better. Of course I do. But broke, living in my car, and denied the necessary freedom of internet access for the sixth day running prove too much for my caution. I have job applications to lodge, even with my small hope of success, and no data left on my phone. The lure of the open WiFi network named SpinATale is too strong.

I click.

I fall headlong into SpinATale’s web.

First my screen goes dark, and when it fires up again a moment later my Star Wars wallpaper has been replaced by what looks like tangled purple crochet that reminds me of my first and only attempt at a scarf, made when I was twelve.

I hit escape.

This is either my second mistake or my next good choice of the day.

My finger freezes onto the escape key, stuck onto the keyboard which is communing with the cascade of code and energy beyond the Bluetooth chip.

Words appear across the screen – first in white text.

Spin a Tale with me.

Then in black.

Tell Your Story.

Then in deep purple.

Share Your Story.

My story. Huh. I stare at the flashing words and think about my story.  

I was unlucky. I misjudged.  I lost my job. I lost my hope. I lost my love and I lost my way. I’m on my last fifty bucks and my last legs.  My life’s not going anywhere, and I’ve literally and figuratively got nothing in the tank to take me anywhere. I’m down and nearly out and nobody cares.

We care.

I blink at the new words, in deep, dark red. I still can’t get my finger off the escape key.

Do you want to escape?

This life? This moment? This noisy world where no sound I make can be heard? Where I shout into the void and nobody listens and nobody cares?

We care. We will listen.

Can a wireless network show empathy for a blip of human data stuck in the hardware world?

We will share your story. You will be heard.

Oh hell yes I want to escape. I want to flee, fly, flow into whatever lurks behind SpinATale’s cryptic, mind-reading connection.

Double click ESC to Escape.

I double click.

I escape.

You hear me now, don’t you?

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: Red Letter Day

This story was prompted by Clan Destine Press

Red Letter Day

A favourite joke among Melburnians (well, it’s one of many) is that you know you’re Melburnian when you know the difference between street art and graffiti. (Melburnians are smugly pleased with themselves and their city. It’s the city, they say, where you have more prestige as a barista than a barrister.)

The line, to be honest, is blurred. Tagging is a way for the invisible to declare that they, too, are of this city. Sanctioned street art is, some say, fundamentally against the spirit of art bombing capitalist walls with defiance and sharp socio-political commentary. The truth is, for Melburnians, there is no line, there is no real difference. Splash your paint however you will, you Artists of the Street, and we’ll deconstruct your meaning and its merits over coffee and tiramisu until the Yarra has emptied into the sea.

One day, new unsanctioned paint appeared. A red tide of paint lapped first at the base of buildings, oozing wet onto the tarmac and concrete and cobbles of the side street. First one alley, then another, then the next.

Unsanctioned as it was, the council tried to scrub it clean, but the red tide wouldn’t be scrubbed. Within an hour, the cheerful berry red was splashed over street and wall again, higher up this time. Artful arcs across windows; spirals dribbling upward over pipes and wiring.

With a second attempt, the walls of the city reeked of paint stripper, but almost as fast rose the red tide again, but it smelled of cayenne and saffron; of cherry and pomegranate, each sharp scent individual and yet a harmony.

The cafes and bars and restaurants made breakfasts and cocktails and light as air desserts in its honour.

The red tide rose and spread, spilling out of alleys into the Little streets, and then the broad thoroughfares, the inexorable hue sploshing into tram tracks and splashing onto shoes.

The next attempt to wash the tide was half hearted at best. The red splashed up to the second floor of the whitewash of the Myers Department store. This fresh flow held the texture of leather and satin, cotton and wool. The fashionistas were giddy with inspiration.

By the time the red was defying gravity, running up the walls towards the third floor, towards rooftops, it sounded like rain on a tin roof, like the wind through the trees, like the ding of the tram bell. It was jazz club and busker and the chime in the Arts Centre when the second act is about to begin.

In short, Melbourne had been woken, like a sleeping beauty, kissed into life by her adoring inhabitants.

Washed in all that love, Melbourne awoke, and fell in love with itself.

The town was painting itself red, and it was having one hell of a spree.