A short story for Miranda Kate’s sixtieth Flash Challenge, which this time does me great honour by using one of my own photos.
Georgiana Harvey sat outside the Cove Cafe, sipping lukewarm, watery tea, and watching the sunlight flicker across the wide waves. The tide was going out, slowly revealing wet sand, shining pebbles, tiny scuttling crabs, and the giant metal shell that sat on the beach near the cafe: a spiral, steel sculpture large enough to climb into. Twice daily it was swamped by the tide, water spurting from a blow-hole as the water rose, before the shell became completely submerged. At low tide it became completely visible.
Georgie did not need to check her watch – it would not be long now before she could walk down to the beach and clamber into the structure, as she did every day. She would, as usual, listen to the sounds of the sea from outside, and read the words that the artist had etched into the metal. The time she spent in the shell was precious. In there, she could forget, for a beautiful moment, her life of drudgery, and instead imagine faraway worlds, and dream of escape to a life of adventure. It was as if the shell was imbued with an unusual, hidden, power. She believed that without her daily tryst with the steel shell on the beach, she might go insane.
Georgie’s reverie was interrupted by a woman sitting down heavily beside her. She was short, with a shock of pink hair, and wore a uniform of dark blue. Georgie did not recognise the insignia on her shoulder.
“You have to run,” the woman hissed. “She’s coming for you.”
“I beg your pardon?” Georgie snapped. She was not pleased to have her fanciful musings interrupted.
“Run, you fool!” The woman whipped her head to the left. “Shit! She’s here!” She jumped to her feet, knocking her chair backwards. “RUN!” she shouted, and took to her heels.
There was a sharp sound, PFIZZ, and Georgie’s teacup exploded, shattering in her hand. She jumped up, bewildered. Had that been a shot? She looked to the left, eyes wide, heart thumping. A dark figure in a wide-brimmed hat stood by the sea wall, pointing a glowing blue tube at her. The figure’s hand twitched and a thin line of sapphire light speared from the tube. PFIZZ. The teapot on the table shattered. A sharp shard of china flew across Georgie’s cheek, slicing open a deep cut.
In panic, she twisted and took to her heels. A blue line flew over her shoulder and hit the ballustrade in front of her, sending fragments of stone flying. She swerved towards the beach, taking the steps two at a time. The cut on her face hurt, and she felt warm blood mixing with salt tears of fear and running to her chin. She sobbed, and jumped the last few steps.
As her feet sank into the wet sand she turned left. PFIZZ. The mud and pebbles by her feet exploded. She squealed, and twisted the other way, towards the shell. That was it. She could hide there. Her shell would protect her.
Sand and small rocks flew from her feet as the sprinted towards the metal spiral. One of her sandals flew off, but she dare not stop to retrieve it. Her heart pounded, her breath tore at her burning lungs. She flung herself inside the wide mouth of the shell and collapsed. As she lay, panting, on the cold, wet metal, she looked back at the entrance, fearing the arrival of the figure in the hat. Instead, the pink-haired woman’s face appeared.
“Sorry about this,” she said, then spoke into her wrist. “Activate.”
The inside of the shell began to glow, then in a blinding, impossibly- white flash Georgie was gone. The shell was empty, wind whistling coldly through the metal. A person in a broad-brimmed hat walked up to the pink-haired woman.
“So,” she greeted the newcomer with a salute. “That’s how you got to the future, Commander?”
“Yes, Sergeant Lolo. Thank you for your help.” The Commander put down her plasma-rifle and ran her fingertip down the old scar on her cheek. “God, that young girl is so terrified right now.”
“Time Force wouldn’t exist without her, though.”
“I know. This day is sewn into the alpha timeline, but still, I hated doing that to myself.”
“Tempus fugit tardius,” Sergeant Lolo quoted the Time Force motto. “What’s next, Commander Harvey?”
My thanks to @mistressboom and @pariahsickkid for the use of their names. Cafe Cove exists, in Cleveleys, close to the Mary’s Shell sculpture on the beach. It’s by Stephen Broadbent, and is totally worth a visit, as is his Sea Ogre nearby.
Spurred on by my desire to move away from Lulu’s ridiculous P&P charges for people buying my paperbacks, I’ve been re-editing Warren Peace prior to moving it to a new home. I’ve been amazed at how much there is to change. When I first wrote it I thought it pretty good (and 100% of reviewers clearly agreed, giving 4- and 5-star ratings), but I’ve learned so much in the ten years since I wrote it that I shudder to look at it with my now-wizened author-eyes.
The punctuation is Naff City, baby. That’s the first thing to clear up. Also, the pacing at times lags woefully, becoming leisurely when it should be frantic: I’ll be fixing all that too, while removing a few clichés and instances of head-hopping.
What might interest you most, though, is that I’ll be writing the long-planned sequel, Bunny Prince Charlie, and publishing it NOT as a standalone book, but as an extension of the re-edited version of the original novel. Is this a good idea? Who can say, but it makes sense to wombats.
Oh, and the image there is not the final cover. That will be a LOT snazzier.
The Joy of One Star – a new strand in which I enjoy 1-star review comments left on Amazon about various popular items. Click here for No.1 – Thor:Ragnarok.
According to Amazon, this is The Holy Bible “by King James (author)”, although to be fair the product description does say it contains the words of God. Reviewer vine voice is not impressed: “if God wrote this, as the product page asserts, why is it 99 cents?”, while sactomike complains that God “blows up my Kindle every time I re-load this bible.”
Others are similarly unimpressed. Charlotte Gresham, bless her, takes time out of her busy day to tell us that she has “never order this or received it. So it should not receive any stars.” That’ll teach King James. Amazon Customer makes no sense by telling us “This dosent make sense where is the triple 6 at.” (sic), while enchantress6274 is fuming. “This version is blasphemy!” she rants. “I was ashamed! I am trying to be a wonderful and loyal wife to Christ but this book takes his title of deity from him!”
There are a few more considered, literary criticisms. Tatiana Vain says “If the writer was going for the avangarde and a post modernity, then he failed as well.” And here’s Amazon Customer again (although now I think of it probably not the same one) – “Probably more than 31 million murders in this over the top book. To make it worse, the mysogony is way over the top and the glorification of owning slaves makes this an unbearable travisty. Skip this one! You will be happy you did.” Consider me warned, Mr. Customer. Kiyura Good is concerned that “the main character didnt feature until halfway through the book and was far to predicable as the ‘nice guy — (goody to shoes)’”. Stupid, predictable do-gooder Jesus.
As usual, I’ll leave you with my favourite review, from a Jeremy Dinsel – “Where’s the dinosaurs?”
Here’s a short story I wrote for Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge – Week 56, inspired by the picture on the right there.
A shadow crossed the cave mouth. Wolf raised his immense head and eyed the newcomer. A boy, draped in the red cloak of a supplicant. Wolf gave a low growl, and the boy stepped forward. Wolf nodded his permission for him to speak.
“I am looking for a painless death, Uncle Wolf,” he said, eyes downcast, looking at the sandy ground.
“Ain’t no such thing, sweet boy,” said Wolf, his voice deeper than summer thunder. “All death causes pain, even if that pain ain’t your own. How would your ma feel?”
“She died bringing me into this world.”
“Your friends then?”
“My knife is my friend.”
“Well, then, me? It always hurts me when one of my subjects dies. What of my pain?”
The boy looked him in the eye, a brave move. “If the pain is not my own, then I do not care.”
Wolf smiled at the temerity of the lad. “Well, now, there’s a selfish point of view.”
“You say that as though selfishness is a bad thing.”
“Oh, I make no judgements, sweet boy,” Wolf said. “I ain’t a creature worthy to set his self above others. If those same others choose to lift me above ‘em, who am I to argue? But don’t ignore what I’m saying here – death is pain. That’s its … what’s the word, now … essence.”
“Pain is my friend.”
“That’s told plain by the scars that criss-cross your arms. But you’ve named two friends, now. Knife and pain are …” Wolf’s low rumble quietened as the boy’s grey eyes glared angrily at him. It would be a pity to waste such furious passion. The boy’s rage, if harnessed in the correct way, had the capability to do great good. Of course, such refinement would take time. Wolf sighed, a sound like a dying hurricane.
“Yes, you’re right,” he said. “Metaphorical friends don’t figure. Tell me then, why do you now seek oblivion, rather than, as you have before, the exquisite release of slicing your own flesh?”
“There’s no point.”
“To any of it. To existence. Or at least, if there is a point, it is to gain pleasure from the things we do, for as long as we breathe the air.”
“And now you gain no pleasure? Not even from cutting yourself?”
“None. I enjoy nothing. I do not laugh. I do not smile.”
“Does the warm sunshine not make you glad?”
“No. And before you ask, a spring breeze is nothing to me, nor the laughter of girls. All the world is empty and dying.”
“Then, sweet boy, I pity you. And … I grant you your pain-free end.”
The boy smiled, and bowed his head to await a killing blow from Uncle Wolf’s massive paw.
“My decision pleases you?” The boy nodded. “Then you can still feel pleasure. Yes, I grant you a painless death … when you are ninety-seven years old.”
The Joy of One Star – a new strand in which I enjoy 1-star review comments left on Amazon about various popular items.
Bad reviews tend to fall into two categories – reviews of the thing itself, be that a film, book or whatever, and others that review either Amazon or the postal service, like this one for Thor-Ragnarok – “I have yet to watch this movie. This is a review about the physical blu-ray case.” Really? You’re reviewing a case? Well … OK, why not, I guess? But at least have the decency to give the film itself 3-stars while you’re at it. After all, one should never judge a DVD by its case, should one? Others of this ilk include “Don’t buy this does not play.” and “Disc broken.” Why are these people telling us, rather than sending it back for a replacement?
There are those who really don’t like the film, of course. “Bollox” says evabraun (no relation, surely?). I’m not sure whether that’s a criticism or a request for a future porn version. (Thor:Ragnabollox). Reviewer EMJAY is on some sort of misogynistic crusade – “PC culture being implemented to appease a minority … male characters are feminised, and female characters are shown as the champions of the day? A piss take too far”. S J Thorpe sums up the disappointment of all of us who went to see the film for a treatise in Nordic mythology – “the plot was nothing like the tale from the Edda from the Nordic folklore.”
I’ll leave you with my favourite review. “One word – really disappointed.”
It was a little bit of a shaky start as people got used to the idea of a summer without sausages, but the excitement grew as the day went on, and those who had correctly predicted the number of whoopsie-daisy pies realised how much fun it was to steal opponent’s wickets. #SausageLeague Champion @jayalay was an immediate target, and is already down to one wicket.
Your early front runner is @captain_doodle, who with 8 for 3 got BOTH of his guesses (total and whoopsie-daisies) correct, and therefore takes a maximum 7 points. Hot on his heels are @crowmogh, @moorseyl, @thatnuttyfanboy and @happymouffetard, although this last pair have both lost a wicket.
Controversy simmered when @purplequeennl questioned the referee’s judgement as to the number of pies. This is the sort of thing that we can well do without in #PieCricket, Geoff, and she was lucky to escape receiving the first ever #PieCricket yellow card, and a summary spanking with a well-oiled bat.
With 7 points on offer every week, and the ability to prevent your opponents scoring at all, there’s plenty to play for, and once you all get used to the Pie Standard at Mans 2000, I expect this summer to be really EXPIETING. See what I did there? God I’m funny.
Basically #SausageLeague with pies, but with an added twist, #PieCricket runs on Twitter on Fridays, between the end of one #SausageLeague season and the start of the next. The current run of #PieCricket began on 11th May, and the final day will be 27th July. It’s based on pie-guessery, and here’s all you need to know in order to WIN WIN WIN!
You predict two numbers – the total number of pies on display, and how many of those will be upside-down (a “whoopsie-daisy”).
You score points depending on how close you are to the total pie number: 5 minus the difference.
If you’re spot-on with the total, you get a bonus point. If you ALSO guess correctly the number of whoopsie-daisies, you get another bonus point.
But wait, there’s more! Correctly guessing the number of whoopsie-daisies allows you to take an opponent’s wicket, regardless of whether you got the TOTAL prediction right.
You start with 3 wickets. If they drop to zero, you’ll score no points at all the following week UNLESS you get a spot-on with the total, when you’ll get the usual. Then your wickets will bob back up to 3.
A year or so ago, when I first idly photographed the goodies on display in the hot cabinet of my local takeaway, I little realised what magnificence I was unleashing. One or two followers on Twitter began to guess how many sausages there would be, then each week a few more would join in. It became a beautifully silly oasis in a desert of depressing world news. Eventually I realised that you lot needed some sort of reward for your enthusiasm for the ridiculous, and the league itself was born.
The final table for the inaugural season is over there on the right. I doubt you’ll manage to read it without clicking to see the larger version. @MoorseyL’s thrilling run of four spot-ons and a 4-pointer in the final five games saw her surge from 19th to within a chipolata of the top. She just failed, however, to overcome the mighty @Jayalay’s long-standing lead, built on a consistent closeness to actual sausage presence.
Perhaps @MoorseyL’s disappointment on just missing the glittering prize will be eased by the news that she topped the averages table. Both @MoorseyL and @Jayalay win an actual prize for their sausage expertise, and can choose any of my pocketbooks, which I’ll sign so that it’s worth more when I cock me clogs.
Other stats: @MoorseyL scored the most spot-ons during the campaign, five – just one more than hot-and-cold, injury-prone performer @ekctafc. My most consistent predictor was the luscious @kjcollard, whose “one lonely sausage” did not miss a single week.
My most disappointing moment? That no-one drew me a sausage beast after this @magentakoru tweet. And so the #SausageLeague season draws to a close. It will be back after the summer break, when EFL2 kicks off next year. During the close season, we will be playing Pie Cricket, which is nothing at all like cricket but that’s what folk play in the summer.
Finally, thank you all so very much for being as daft as brushes, and making #SausageLeague such a ridiculous success.
Basically #SausageLeague with pies, but with an added twist. In #PieCricket you have to predict the number of pies that will be on display at the takeaway (so far, so much-the-same), and will score points just as with the sausages. However, should you also successfully guess how many of these pies will be upside down, you get to take an opponent’s wicket. Each player starts with three wickets, and if they drop to zero will score NO points the following week UNLESS they get a spot-on. Then they’ll bob back up to three wickets, obv. I have ZERO idea how/whether this will work well, but it’s only for a few weeks until the sausages start again, so let’s see, shall we?