Monday, September 27, 2010

Mr. Cynical Goes To Sea

I was never one for the ocean – I could get seasick in the bathtub – but the wife had insisted I come along for the trip. Sharon had been pretty convincing, too; food, alcohol and poker were all mentioned as enticements, but I think it was the striptease and raunchy sex that finally won me over – not that I need persuasion in those matters.

We had set off two days later from the jetty down at the marina in a boat (and I use that word rather loosely – the proverbial lead balloon would have floated better) heading for the tiny island off the coast. Sharon had conveniently forgotten to inform me of our guests for the day – her boss, Karen, and partner Jock – and my thoughts about this tin-pot transporter were getting darker by the moment. I think sinking would have been a brighter prospect than spending the day with people that I had nothing in common with, nor had any interest in. A day on Flinders’ Island would have been wonderful had it just been the two of us – now it was going to be a nightmare.

“Oh, sailing, I remember when I was just a young girl...” I instantly didn’t like this woman but, to be fair to Sharon, I tried not to let it show. “...isn’t that right, Matthew?”

I had been ignoring her childhood regression like a teenager ignores housework. “Hmmm? Yes, you are most definitely right, Karen.” I replied, more out of hope than of understanding. I hadn’t the faintest idea of what she was prattling on about – something to do with family and castles and expense accounts. To me, she sounded like a reject from the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire auditions.

Several hours later, we came within sight of the small island harbour. Unfortunately, the rusting hulk hauling humanity started to give some signs that maybe we should have spent the extra fifty bucks and upgraded to the ‘condemned’ level. The engine began making noises that were normally only heard on those David Attenborough documentaries but, luckily as it turned out, we were able to float the rest of the way to our destination. Sharon’s boss, Karen (all boobs and no brains), told us all quite confidently that her husband, Jock, was a tram engineer and would be able to get us back on our way rather quickly. I had my reservations on that count.

“Oh yes, Jock has worked on all kinds of engines, haven’t you, Jock? I am sure he will be able to complete all necessary adjustments and calibrations before we head back to the mainland. Won’t you, Jock?”

Our maritime Saviour was silent. I think he was too scared of her to respond.

Unfortunately, no sooner had we stepped onto the white sands, the boat blew up; I don’t mean the engine – I mean the whole boat - exploded, erupted, blew itself into tiny little pieces and scattered its earthly remains across the majority of the beach – I guess it had had enough of the Self-Serving Bitch banter as well. A sacrifice I could well understand.

For the first hour or so, we sat around in a circle, trying to devise a plan (I didn’t hear anything more about Jock’s talent with engines – funny that) but we came up with nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada. So we moved onto exploring the island for food sources. That seemed more like my kind of thing – food and I have a very good relationship and one I was looking forward to reacquainting myself with. It was decided that I would scout the around for food and shelter, leaving Jock behind “in case the women needed protection” – from what, I didn’t know. I wonder if they knew what the word deserted meant. I decided they didn’t.

“Now, don’t forget Matthew, if you see the wild Altherea berry, please get some for me. They are great for my skin.” I tried to judge if she was joking, then berated myself for forgetting that she wouldn’t recognise a joke if Jerry Lewis himself wrote it in the sand with big letters and flares all around – maybe someone removed her funny bone when she was younger. Maybe she had her brains relocated to her chest – although, if that were true, she must have been one smart woman. I do love a woman’s brain...

Morning high-stepped its way into afternoon; afternoon marched into evening. We had discovered no edible food on the island (I thought all deserted islands were under copyright law to at least have tasteless but edible berries) and shelter consisted of a few tall palm trees – sure they were pretty but not much good in the case of a tropical cyclone. Maybe if we all gathered under Karen’s chest we could be covered from any passing storm (not to mention the dribble that flowed from her lips.)

I began to wonder how long it would take before we started eyeing each other off. I remember hearing about a football team whose plane crashed in the mountains and that the survivors chowed down on their dead team mates. I considered relating this story to my fellow castaways. I doubted they wanted to hear it.

We cranked up a fire and sat around contemplating the future. Bad jokes about Gilligan and Ginger were aplenty – we all tried to laugh but it was hard...until I discovered that Karen wasn’t aware of who Gilligan and Ginger were. I made sure that Karen got the impression that Gilligan was the intelligent one (and you are just like him...) She pushed out those chest puppies in pride and, not for the first time, I felt like asking if she had gotten a building permit for them. But I guessed she wouldn’t appreciate it.

The evening closed in and Karen and Jock fell asleep by the fire; they were spooning – he was behind her (they had already worked out it couldn’t go the other way) and I looked at Sharon. She looked tired and hungry, but when she was sure Dumb and Dumber were asleep, she produced a Snickers bar from out of her top. We quietly nibbled on the bar that really satisfies (which, I may add, is false adverting) and lay down on the sand together, arm in arm – but still damn hungry.

Not exactly the perfect end to a perfect evening but, if worse came to worse (like it did for that football team)...that Karen looked like she might have a nice thigh, not to mention the breasts...

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Fires of Eden (Amelia & Kelsey)

Here is my piece for Heather Fitzpatrick's guest challenge 'The Edge' at A Reader's World. JM Prescott has asked a few of her friends to guest host over the last few weeks and it has unearthed some amazing stories.

The Fires Of Eden

Amelia waited at the top of the crumbling stairs; crouched, ready for action, using the lengthening shadows as cover. Agent Kelsey, her bodyguard and protector, had taken a few steps into the cave and was gesturing for her to follow him.

“What is..?” Amelia felt two fingers on her lips.

Kelsey whispered to her – she could barely hear him and edged closer, feeling his body against her, his hot breath against her neck. He had removed his gun from its usual spot in his belt. The tail of his shirt was visible under his dark jacket. “Are you ready?”

Amelia could only nod as she followed him down the dusty steps.


The cold struck them both as they entered the open cavern. Amelia tried to pull her windbreaker tighter around her body – Kelsey just shrugged and moved on.

Amelia’s eyes wandered over the walls of the vast caves; torches burned in golden sconces on the sandstone walls – which had been hewn from the very mountain. In the centre, a huge altar had been erected; Amelia recognised the carvings in the backrest. She grabbed Kelsey’s arm and indicated the throne.

“That is not a good sign. Do you know who these people were?”

Kelsey surprised her. “Yes, Amelia, I do.”

Amelia thought about it some more. “So, that means you lied to me about what we are doing here? You lied when you said we were looking for an ancient amulet...”

“No, Amelia,” Kelsey placed his hand on her arm, “I didn’t lie – I told some creative truths. You are here now – do you want to help me recover this artefact or not?”

She took a deep breath and looked Kelsey straight in the eye. “Let’s do it.”


Kelsey began searching through grottos and wall cavities. Amelia had started around the altar; her mind’s eye trying to interpret what she was seeing, trying to make connections to things she had learned. She ran her fingers over the etchings in the throne, sensing the workmanship that had gone into creating such a work of art. She took a step to the side of the structure and, inadvertently, knocked over a mound of smooth stones. Her head shot up and looked for Kelsey. He was off to one side of the room, staring intently at the ground. Amelia wandered over to him.

“Found anything yet, Kel...what is that?”

Amelia found herself staring into a pit – that wasn’t right; a chasm would be a better word, she thought. The sides of the gaping hole were surrounded by large stones and held together with an adhesive that Amelia had never seen before. She couldn’t see the bottom of the abyss. She slowly backed away.

The first burning arrow landed beside her foot. She recoiled immediately, screaming at the same time, stamping at the flames with her boots. She heard Kelsey call her name and his heavy footsteps as he came beside her, grabbing her by the waist and pulling her.

“Where are they?” Kelsey pushed Amelia behind him, as he searched the walls and upper reaches of the cavern. Three more flaming missiles hit the floor around them, setting fire to the dry and rotten timbers that must have been lying there since the creation of the altar.

Amelia backed up some more and found herself at the edge of the precipice – unable to move forward due to the ever-widening fire.

“Kelsey, what do we do now?”

“It doesn’t look like we have too many options, Amelia. We...we have to go that way.” He pointed to the hole in the floor. “That seems to be our only choice.”

Amelia shook her head in defiance, even though she knew he was right. She just wanted it on the record that she had objected.

“Hold my hand, close your eyes and step off...”

Amelia stepped right to the edge and closed her eyes. She could feel the heat beating against her skin – a direct contrast to the cool air she could feel coming up from the shaft.

“On three – one, two...” and Amelia let herself fall...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Erin Cole - Grave Echoes BUY IT NOW!

The nightmare is real…
Kate Waters suffers from narcoleptic hallucinations, which recently involve her unreachable sister, Jev, and a mysterious key. When Kate receives the terrible news concerning Jev's fatal car accident and acquires the strange key from her visions, she unlocks her sister's world of perilous secrets involving witchcraft, poltergeist, and a heartless killer determined to get back what is his.

The danger lies in whom to trust.
Terrifying paranormal encounters, a trailing wolf, and an attempted murder of one of Jev's friends, forces Kate to turn to the one she fears most, the priestess of Jev's coven, Thea. She challenges Kate's beliefs and provides her vital clues about her sister's murder, but will Kate overcome her fears before anyone else dies? To do so, she will have to trust in a world where the possibilities are unbelievable and the consequences are deadly.

You can buy Erin's book HERE in both paperback and eBook formats from Author House, and HERE from Amazon.

You know you want to!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Days of His Life - I Dare You Challenge

A different challenge this week at JM Prescott's blog 'A Reader's World.' Heather Fitzpatrick issued the following Dare:

Challenge Yourself

We live in cities, in societies (online and in person) and in areas that have landmarks at key places. They serve to remind us of an event, a loss, a hero, or anything else we should never forget. We also have milestones in our lives that we either celebrate or disregard, but either way we are left changed. Bring a landmark, real or fictional into your story.

So, here is my take on this theme...

The Days of His Life

Katrina put down the telephone and screamed into the silence of the empty room. Her heart was breaking into a million little pieces; fragments of her life coursing through her body on the back of each of those millions of pieces. She sank to her knees, hoping that there had been a mistake – knowing there hadn’t been.

Jacob had been a small child when he had spoken his first words; Katrina and her husband had argued – albeit in jest – about what that word had been. She had thought he said mama (as mothers will) and his father had been adamant that the word was manna. Jacob’s father was proud of the boy – his faith was strong, and he felt that strength also in his son. Katrina admitted (if only to herself) that she would have been proud, too – if she could convince herself that Jacob hadn’t said mama.

She remembered the morning when he had taken his first steps. She had been in the kitchen, cooking their breakfast (how he ate, even at that age) and she felt something brush against her skirt. Looking down, she saw her son – all smiles and bright-eyed – shuffling along in an awkward gait. She had rejoiced; she had prayed for this moment (Jacob was a little slower developing these essential skills than the other boys in the neighbourhood – Katrina had often felt ashamed that their son wasn’t like the rest of the boys) and she immediately telephoned her husband to give him the good news. He had cried and laughed during the conversation, and left work early – just to be a part of yet another landmark day.

The choice of school for Jacob had been an important decision. They knew that they had to choose a school that would satisfy both their religious needs as well as Jacob’s educational ones. Once the decision was made, and Jacob was ready to start that first year, Katrina had been dealt a terrible blow. Her husband, working on the manufacturing press at the aluminium factory, had been involved in an accident which had taken his life – and her hope. She was inconsolable; only the desire to give Jacob the best life she could, kept her looking forward. His first day of school had been one of her brightest – yet saddest – days of her life.

Jacob had excelled at everything in the school environment; he was constantly at the top of his class – if not year – in most subjects, and became an excellent football player and runner. Katrina’s joy at Jacob’s selection in the All-State team in Athletics was unbridled. She could see his father in him, she knew he was looking down on their son and watching over him. College had followed, as had further recognition of his educational high standards and sporting excellence. She was as proud of her son as any mother, but she also knew that she loved him, regardless of his successes or failures.

The day Jacob proudly announced he had signed up for the Armed Services had shocked Katrina – not just that her little boy had grown up but he turned his back on his upbringing. Her disappointment was tempered by his desire to achieve and she couldn’t deny him his future.

The phone call had come, without warning, in the middle of the night. She screamed into the silence of the empty room.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Welcome To My World - Guest Dare Winner

My story Welcome To My World has been chosen as the "winner" for this week's guest I Dare You challenge at JM Prescott's A Reader's World.

Thanks to Julia Archer for the challenge; it was a little different for me to think that way - and I loved every minute of it. Thanks again!!

I also look forward to next week's challenge...won't you come play, too?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Guest Challenge - Julia Archer

Another week, another guest challenge at JM Prescott's A Reader's World. This week, Julia Archer has issued the challenge which can be found HERE.

For those of you who played along last time, I want to thank you again and, please, have a look this week and see what you can come up with. Should be interesting...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dog Days of Summer at the NOT!

The Magnificent Michael...that's what we should be calling Michael Solender with his latest creation - The Dog Days of Summer e-Chapbook. With the criteria for his selection process being the story should be exactly 101 words long, and must incorporate the words "summer" and "heat", he received nearly one hundred entries.

The selection process couldn't have been easy but his final decision has been made: congratulations to Sam Adamson for the Grand Prize winner entitled "The Pit of Hades". Darkness and humour in 101 kind of storyteller.

Right now, get over to the NOT and have a look at the great e-Chap that Michael has done, plus the winning entry and others besides. Also a mention must be made to Kristin Fouquet for the excellent photography that really adds a wonderful touch to this collection.