Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Whisker and Tail

A Whisker and Tail
By Scott Wilson
Word Count 897

Achilles licked his paw until the dirt, firmly wedged in his toe pad popped out like a cork and hit the trash can like a bullet, ringing loudly in the quiet back alley. If there was one thing he hated, it was toe-jam; not as much as wearing shoes to prevent the toe-jam, but almost. A stray moggie sprung out of one of the bins further down the alley, startled by the ricochet.

“Sorry about that chief.” Achilles said apologetically.

The ginger and white stray looked at Achilles and wiped a streak of crusty gravy from his whiskers.

“You could kill someone with a careless aim like that, my friend.”

Achilles winked at the stray and continued cleaning his other front paw. The moggie slinked off down the alley, looking back over his shoulder once before turning left into Queen Street.

“You can come out now.” Achilles said.

Three tall, thickset black felines slithered out from behind a pile of rotten pallets near the back door of a sporting goods store. The biggest of the three slowly strutted across the rubbish filled ground, swaying its hips as if to distract Achilles from the other cats.

“We’ve been expecting you, Achilles.” The cat purred.

“Well, I wouldn’t want to disappoint you now, would I Angelina?”

The two slinky, sleek black felines walked to either side of Achilles, leaving the dominant female the only cat in view. Achilles knew where they were standing, and could strike out with his paws, knocking them off balance before they could leap.

“Didn’t we agree?” Angelina said in her husky meow. “That my girls could work this side of the city without any harassment from the fuzz.”

“I’m not here to bust your chops, Angie.”

“Why else would a straight laced cop like you stroll into this side of town?”

Achilles felt the two cats approach within swiping distance diagonally behind. His tail stood on end, and the silky fur on his back prickled.

“To help you.”

Angelina moved forward and rubbed her head against Achilles’ broad chest. Purring heavily in his ears to distract him.

“Why would we need your help, my sweet?”

Achilles realised he allowed himself to be cornered, distracted by the charms of this sleazy, kitten of the night. He knew he had to get his message through, and quickly.

“The bureau has gotten the scent of bad news. Bad news for you kitties, Angie. The humans have setting traps in this alley. Too many cats coming and going brought the attention down on your little operation. Now more felines are coming in than leaving.”

He felt the felines behind ease up their stand over tactics and back off.

“We’ve been very discreet. How could this happen?”

“Someone tattled, Angie. Someone who wanted you out of business. Do you know who would want to shut your girls down?”

Angelina licked her paw, and then brushed her brow slowly. She thought deeply, and then flicked her tail when recalling an odd character that recently moved in at the Thai restaurant down the end of the alley.

“This Siamese cat moved in. He strutted down the middle of the street, proud as can be. ‘Till one of my girls made fun of him, being neutered an all.”

“Thanks, Angie. I think I shall pay him a visit.”

“We’ll come with you, Achilles. You know how sneaky those Siamese are, I don’t think you should confront him by yourself.”

“You stay out of sight while I talk to him, okay.”

“We’ll be close by.”

The four felines strutted down the dim alley to the Thai Boat restaurant. Angelina and her girls slinking into the shadows before they reached the fly screen door at the back, leaving Achilles to front the new cat on the block alone.

“Wha you wan offica?” The Siamese said after nudging the screen door open.

“Just like to have a chat, um...Sorry didn’t catch your name.”

“I Hariuka. No ploblem at all. We chat inside you like?” The Siamese said motioning for Achilles to follow him back inside the kitchen.

“I think we should stay out here, Hariuka. You know how humans are with cats they don’t know.”

“My master like all cats, you be safe.”

“I’ve only got a few minutes, so let’s chat out here.”

“Okay, mister. What you wanna know?”

“Have you noticed any cats being trapped around the alley? You know, in those cages the humans use.”

“Me no see anysin’ likea that.”

“How long have you been in the neighborhood? I haven’t seen you around before.”

“Me move in not rong ago. My master buy restaurant and set up here couple weeks ago.”

“Don’t get out much, hey. I pass by most nights on the way home. Haven’t seen your whiskers out and about.”

Me no like to leave my master. He take very good care me. Feed me well and make sure me plenty happy.”

Achilles did not see the small Asian chef, in black clothes approach the kitchen door until it was too late. The door flung open, knocking Achilles into the trashcans and dazing him. The chef lunged at him and threw a bag over Achilles before he could spring out of the way.

“My master, do chop, chop on you now mister. No ladies laugh at me again when no boys left to buy kiss, kiss from them anymore.”

Saturday, November 29, 2008

HOORAY: Christmas Crackers

My Story Christmas Crackers has been published by Spec The Halls,

HOORAY: The cover of Darkness

My story, The Cover of Darkness, has been published by The Tiny Globule

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Billy Bad Boy

Billy Bad Boy
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 2389

Frankie gathered up the supplies scattered around the rocky ledge, saving anything not damaged in the fall. He was the supervisor for a small group of people with intellectual disability and this was the fifth annual camp for them. Lying on the sharp rocky ledge, battered and bleeding was Tom, the youngest of the group of eight. Frankie pulled the zip up on the sleeping bag, covering Tim and securing him in place with ropes and tent pegs. It would have to do until he could get the rest of the group back to the ranger’s station and return with professional assistance. By the look of Tom’s head injury, Frankie thought there would be no chance of him regaining consciousness before he returned with medical help.

He took one more look around the ledge, regretting that there was no way he could carry Tom back up by himself. Frankie grabbed hold of the thick nylon rope and began the slow and painful ascent back up the cliff face to the hysteric group of scared campers.

“How is he bossman?” Danny Freidman asked.

“Not good, Danny.”

“Why he no come up with you?” Nicole Betterford asked.

“We have to hike back to the ranger’s office. They will be able to help get Tom back up to the top of the cliff.”

Jimmy Strong walked up to Frankie, pat him on the back, and smiled.

“I can carry him back up, Frankie”

Frankie looked up at Jimmy; he was six foot seven tall and built like an ox.

Frankie had no doubt that Jimmy could physically carry the weight by himself in one hand but there was no way he would risk his life to retrieve the unconscious body of their companion.

“I know you can, Jimmy. But it is not safe. We need to get the professionals to help us now.”

“Maybe, Billybadboy help.” Billy Jones said. “Billybadboy thinks Tom be scared down there, all by hisself.”

Frankie did not want to tell them their friend was unconscious and probably suffering from a near fatal head injury, and wouldn’t feel scared about anything anymore. However, he needed them to keep it together until he got them back to safety.

“He won’t be scared, Billy. But we need to go and get help now.”

“Maybe Billybadboy stay here, just case he calls out for you.”

“No, Billy.” Frankie said, patting Billy on the shoulder as a father would to his son. “We all need to stay together now. The sooner we leave, the sooner we can get help for Tom.”

Jimmy cracked his knuckles and pushed his chest out then said, “You heard what the boss said, we gotta go now.”

“Grab your backpacks but leave everything else. We need to get to the ranger quickly so don’t worry about putting your tents down or packing up. Just make sure you have your water bottles and enough food for lunch and dinner.”

“Maybe Billybadboy go and give Tom his bag, case he gets hungry.”

Frankie stopped Billy before he could walk close to the edge of the cliff and fall over it to.

“I left everything Tom needs down there, Billy.”

“Look, Tom’s hiding in his sleeping bag.” Trish yelled from the edge of the cliff.
Everyone turned around, startled by Trish’s loud shrill tone when she called to them. She was standing right on the edge of the cliff, peering over the edge at the ledge Tom’s body lay on.

“Get back from there, Trish.” Frankie yelled.

“It’s okay, boss. I’m sa…” Trish ended her sentence in a scream as the rocky ground beneath her feet crumbled, sending her over the edge.

Nicole screamed, waving her arms in a fury of panic and horror. The oldest of the group, Beth Patterson, fell to the ground, fainting from the tension and shock.
Frankie ran to the cliff’s edge, dropping to the ground as he reached it and crawling like a crazed lizard the rest of the way so he did not fall over the ledge himself. He could not see Trish on the ledge Tom fell to. He knew that that she had gone passed it, plummeting to the river below, and her death.

“Trish!” yelled her best friend Sally Anderson.

Sally ran toward the ledge and Frankie grabbed at her from the ground to stop her toppling over. He managed to get hold of her right arm as she stumbled past him. Pain shot up his shoulder when it stretched to its limits, as she fell over the edge and would have plummeted to her death to if he had not grabbed her. Frankie gritted his teeth together, the searing hot pain shooting down his arm from the weight of Sally’s heavyset frame. It felt as though his arm was being torn from its socket, stretching beyond its natural limits. A thick, muscular arm shot past his head and grabbed hold of Sally’s shoulders, pulling her up the cliff and over Frankie’s head. He let go before his arm was flung back with Sally, spinning around to see the towering form of Jimmy, holding Sally in his tree trunk thick arms.

“You okay, boss?” He asked.

“Yes, thank you Jimmy.”

“Trish, I want Trish.” Sally cried.

Frankie looked at the scared and terrified faces of the group. He trembled, felt vomit build up in the back of his throat but chocked it back. He had to stay strong for the group or someone else would get hurt.

“Where’s Billy!” Frankie said.

Frankie surveyed the campsite and could not see Billy anywhere. He hoped that Billy was in one of the tents, gathering his belongings, but knew better. Although Billy was thirty-two, he had the mind of a twelve-year-old boy. Billy had the reckless nature and bravado of a child who had not yet experienced the horror and disappointment of adulthood. He would most likely be looking for a way to climb down to the ledge and save his friend Tom.

“Jimmy, I need you to help me find Billy.”

Jimmy walked towards the campsite and put Sally down on a canvas chair next to Nicole and Beth. Beth had come round and was sitting up rubbing her head where she bumped it when she fainted. A small trickle of scarlet blood ran down her forehead and dripped off onto her top. She wiped it with her right hand and fainted again. One less to worry about for the time being, Frankie thought to himself.

“We are going to look for Billy.” Frankie said to Sally and Nicole. “I need you to look after Beth, okay.”

Nicole nodded and put her arm around Sally, rubbing her arm as a caring sister would. Once out of sight, the tragic events were out of Nicole’s mind. She had a limited memory and felt calm again now there was no apparent danger in her sight.

“”We’ll be okay, won’t we, Sally.”

Sally rocked back and forward in the canvas chair. She did not have the luxury of a limited memory and shook with shock. Frankie decided that he would be able to have a quick look with Jimmy around the area surrounding the campsite for Billy before he would have to take the girls back to the ranger’s station.

“Let’s go.” Frankie said to Jimmy, and they headed into the pine trees surrounding the campsite.

The morning sun rose on the horizon, seeping into the forest with a river of golden light. Dew drizzled off the leaves and branches as Jimmy and Frankie brushed past. Frankie looked around as they walked, hoping to see tell tale signs of disturbed dew on branches from Billy. Seeing no signs of Billy’s track, Frankie assumed they were travelling in the wrong direction.

“Let’s go back and check the other direction, Jimmy.”

“Sure thing, boss.”

They headed back towards the campsite; saw Nicole in between Sally and Beth, stroking their heads like one would pat a pet lovingly. Frankie was feeling better about leaving the girls there for the time being and picked up his pace to try and find Billy before he hurt himself.

“Let’s try over near the right side of the cliff. Maybe he was looking for a way to get down and help his friend.”

“Look here, boss.” Jimmy said.

“What have you got, Jimmy?”

“Bear poo.”

“Ain’t no bears in Australia, Jimmy. It is probably possum or kangaroo poo.”

Frankie sighed. For a minute, he felt like he was searching for the lost man with another person of the same capacity as himself. Jimmy could act like a highly intelligent man sometimes then a minute later display the attributes of a ten year old. A lathe almost scalped Jimmy when he was an apprentice, leaving him with permanent brain damage and an IQ of sixty-eight. At times, Frankie thought Jimmy got a faint glimpse of the life he used to live as a bright, attractive young man. He would stare blankly into space, not hearing anything that happened around him or responding to any of his five senses. Then, just as suddenly as he spaced out, he would be in the land of the living again and carry on as though nothing occurred in the preceding minutes.

“I thought you’d found him, for a minute there Jimmy.”

“’fraid not, boss.”

“Okay, let’s keep looking.”

Jimmy followed Frankie into the forest on the other side of the campsite. They scoured the trees and foliage for signs of disturbance; broken branches, marks on the dew or footprints. Each step they took was a track that they could not go back over if they missed anything. Their movements left a trail on the damp leaves like that of a giant snail trail, covering anything they missed on their way past.

The rising sun began to warm the forest and evaporate the dew, making the chance of finding a trail even harder. Frankie and Jimmy’s clothes were saturated from the moisture and the heat of the day starting up began to dry them out. If Billy came this way, he would be waterlogged to, so his hay fever would not be such a problem until later in the day. It appeared to Frankie that the odds were stacked against him in finding poor Billy.

“Better go back soon, boss.”

“I think we might have to, Jimmy. Get the girls back and get a search party out for Billy.”

Jimmy followed Frankie back to the campsite. Nicole, Sally and Beth were huddled together inside Beth’s tent when the two men arrived back to the tent, as they were sitting in the safety of a cocoon.

“You okay, Beth.” Frankie asked.

Beth shook her head.

“We should start walking back to the ranger’s office before it starts getting too hot. That way there will still be some daylight left for the emergency services to look for Billy.”

Jimmy helped the women up and they began the four-hour hike back to the main road, and safety of the ranger’s office.

The well worn dirt track winding in and out of the trees seemed to take twice and long and hard to maneuver as the trip out to the campsite. They were full of excitement and anticipation during the walk out and the backpacks and gear did not seem to bother any of them. Now, the light day backpacks they carried their water and food in, seemed to weigh them down like bags of concrete. Frankie knew it was their sorrow that weighed them down though. Each step was an effort as no one wanted to leave their friends behind.

By the time, they reached the ranger’s office it was just past lunchtime. The ranger organized a helicopter with the SES to fly back, retrieve Tom from the ledge, and send out a search party for Billy.

Frankie rode back to the campsite in the ranger’s Nissan four-wheel drive, accompanied by Jimmy in the back. Jimmy refused to stay with the medical crew at the ranger’s office.

“I’m gonna help find Billybadboy.” Jimmy said.

“We will find him, Jimmy.”

It only took half an hour to drive back to the campsite and Frankie cursed himself for not driving there with the minivan to start with. The road was too rough for the van and he knew it was not his fault the group hiked there on foot. Over the last five years, the group enjoyed the fellowship of one another during this peaceful walk through the pines. The campsite overlooked the vast forestry and was situated far enough back from the cliff ledge for it to be a safe site for camping. When the Nissan reached the campsite, Frankie couldn’t believe his eyes. The SES helicopter was sitting at the edge of the campsite, with Billy, Tom and Trish being attended to by the medic.

Frankie and Jimmy ran to their three friends, beaming with happiness and confusion.

“Billy, Trish what happened?”

“Maybe, Billybadboy helped Tom and ‘rish.”

The SES helicopter pilot shook his head and patted Billy on the back.

“Dandiest thing I’ve ever seen. This young fella was sitting on the ledge down there like Florence Nightingale, looking after his two friends. Don’t know how he got down there in one piece?”

“But, Trish fell over the edge.” Jimmy said. “We all saw her.”

“Maybe, Billybadboy saw her hanging on near Tom. Maybe, Billybadboy had to help friends.”

Trish lay propped up on a stretcher, oxygen mask covering her bloody and bruised face, right arm in a sling and left leg in an awkward position. She sure looked like she fell off a cliff and had the scars to prove it. Frankie could not understand how she had managed to grab hold of the ledge on her way down the cliff.

“How did you manage to survive?” he asked Trish.

Trish was too doped up on morphine to answer Frankie, but he was just glad no one had died.

Billy put his arm around Frankie and gave him a bear hug.

“Maybe, Billybadboy be second boss at camp next year, boss.”

Frankie smiled and ruffled Billy’s hair.

“Maybe, Billy. Just maybe that ain’t a bad idea.”

The End

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Cover of Darkness

The Cover of Darkness
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 1584

Thick black clouds with the texture and color of burnt marshmallows hung in the midday sky, causing a darkness to fall over the city like nightfall. Terry moved away from the window and headed to the bathroom to wash the sleep and grim from his bloodshot eyes. He didn’t know why he looked out the window as soon as he woke up, darkness covered the horizon like a blanket no matter what time of day it was. After five years, he still had not become use to the effects of the cataclysmic storm that changed the world.

Religious leaders said it was the Armageddon and they were living in the end times. They called the veil of darkness the cloud of sin. It circled the globe, covering every nation and continent and hiding the sun from mankind as though the light of the world had been taken from it.

Scientists said the atmosphere was the effect of greenhouse gases, caused by man’s pollution and decadent lifestyle. Either way you looked at it, man had brought it upon himself.

Terry pumped the water into the grim, mould-covered basin, and splashed the cool water on his face. He looked into the mirror, disgusted at his appearance. Five years after his wife and two sons died in the storm, Terry had let himself go. He stopped working out, started eating a diet of high fat, greasy take-away and began drinking and smoking excessively. His sick pack stomach was now nothing but a flabby sack of hot chips and Chico rolls. Walking up to his tenth floor unit took away his breath and made him sweat as if he had just run an Olympic marathon.

“You sad, sorry, sack of shit.” He growled at his image and punched the mirror. If he hadn’t installed a metal backed mirror, it would have smashed until his daily abuse.

Terry lifted the folds of fat on his gut and watched the waves in the mirror as they bounced and shook when he let go. He took the packet of Marlboros from the top of the medicine cabinet and lit the first of many for the day. Walking out to the kitchen, he tripped over a pile of dirty clothes, almost falling into the flat screen TV. Not that it would have mattered, the government took the news channels off air two years back after radical groups kept breaking into the stations and hijacking the news with their own agendas.

Terry rummaged through the pile of food encrusted plates and cups in the sink, giving up when he thought something smiled at him from the dark, deep recesses beneath the month old crockery. He resigned himself to having a liquid breakfast and took a long pull of Southern Comfort straight from the bottle.
Terry went back to the bedroom, bottle still in hand, and pulled his shoulder holster, ankle holster and utility belt on. The .44 Magnum revolver in the shoulder holster was very old school compare to the Beretta hanging from his belt, but it still packed a punch and helped him get out of many tight situations on the beat. He picked up his SPAZ12 Semi-Automatic Shotgun, headed to the stairs, and began the decent to the grueling working day.

“Top of the morning to you, sir.” The concierge said cheerfully as Terry walked through the main foyer.

“Mornin’, Charlie.” He replied.

Terry did not know how anyone could be cheerful with the planet over-run by winged creatures that looked like a cross between a human and a bat. With the constant darkness they roamed free, unabated and on a constant feeding frenzy with a taste for human flesh. The religious fanatics said they were demons, released onto mankind as punishment for their sins and years of living in sin. Scientists dismissed them as mutants, men infected by a virus that spread under the apocalyptic conditions of perpetual darkness and unbearable humidity.

Terry waited for the concierge to release the security door, and then walked out into the despair that had once been the main street of the bright and cheerful city of Brisbane. His squad car was parked directly in front of the building’s entrance. Surveying the sky for any flying threats, he made a dash to heavily armored vehicle, pulled the door open, jumped in and slammed the door shut behind him. The streets were clear of pedestrians, but littered with abandoned cars, trucks, buses and bikes. The government cleaned up the main roads after the storm, well kind of. They made clear paths down the centre of the streets but didn’t worry too much about the state of the sidewalks. As long as the police and army could maneuver their vehicles to and from where they needed to go nothing else seemed to matter. Civilians stayed indoors, apart from when they had to use the subway to get to work or anywhere else, they had permits to go. The only people allowed above ground now were those trying to clean up the streets and hunt down the demons, which were becoming harder to find. Either they were becoming smarter and better at hiding from the hunters or they were slowly dwindling in numbers.

Terry drove down the street, hung a left and was almost at the Central Police Centre when he heard an explosion and felt the ground shake beneath his armored car. A bright flash of searing white light exploded from a few streets ahead of Terry. He turned the scanner up to see if there were any reports floating around the priority channels. He pushed his foot to the floor and the squad car’s engine roared like an angered lion. As Terry approached the light, he saw it came from a squad car that was ripped in half around a light pole. The office lay in the middle of the road in an unnatural position with his torso folded over like a piece of hate mail tossed carelessly on the ground.

“Back-up required in sector A312. Officer down, I repeat officer down.” Terry yelled in to the radio.

He slammed his foot down on the break and grated the car out of gear with the harsh crunch of metal against metal.

“Dispatch calling Alpha Quattro. We have five squad cars on their way. Turn your vehicle cam on; all we are getting is sound back here.”

Terry flicked the switch and the four micro CCTV cameras flicked into life, sending headquarters visuals from each side of Terry’s squad car. A dozen of the winged demons surrounded the demolished police car, hissing and screeching at the body on the road. The largest of the demons moved forward in jerking and uncoordinated steps, like a baby learning how to walk. In the air, these creatures were almost graceful and nimble, but on the ground, the thick membrane behind their legs hindered their mobility.

Terry picked up the shotgun from the passenger seat and pumped a round into the chamber, ready to take a shot at the beast if it moved any closer to the injured officer. At the sound of the gun’s action, the demon turned and hissed at the vehicle, as though its breath were venomous and capable of melting away the armor plating.

“Get the hell away from him!” Terry yelled through the car’s pa.
Six of the other demons turned to face the squad car, as if just noticing Terry’s arrival. They slowly and awkwardly began to move towards Terry, hissing and screeching like primeval beasts. Terry pumped a round into the closest demon and it fell to the ground, holding what remained of its right arm and face with its left winged arm. Terry emptied his shotgun into the pack of hideous creatures, killing or critically injuring all six. He reloaded fresh shells into the searing hot chamber of shotgun. Four more of the demons approached the police car, blocking the leader from Terry’s view and clear shot. He could see the creature leaning over the prone body of the downed officer, its large reptilian fangs and forked tongue glistening in the fire light.

“Leave him alone, you bastard!”

Terry emptied his shotgun into the approaching pack, hitting three of them and killing them, but missing the fourth one. It was on top of the bonnet of his car before he had the chance to reload. He tossed the shotgun to the passenger seat and pulled out the .44 Magnum, ready to blow out the windscreen and hope that the reinforced mess screen covering it would remain secure to the vehicle.

Before he could pull the trigger, the demon was blown from the bonnet of his car by a shotgun blast. To his left, Terry heard the backup pumping rounds into the last of the demons. Before any shots could hit the leader, it flew straight up, darting quickly behind the cover of the adjacent building.

Terry quickly flung the door open and ran to the injured officer. He dry retched when he was the headless body and the trail left where the demon ripped the spine out when flying off.

“We’ve got problem, mate.” Chief Inspector Jones said, putting his hand on Terry’s shoulder.

“Not as bad as this guy’s I’ll bet.”

“Worse. The demons have been sighted in the underground network.”


“It appears that the pickings above ground have become too slim for the bastards. They have started venturing into the transportation network.”

“Great, the planet really has gone to Hell then.”

Saturday, November 22, 2008

An Unexpected End

An Unexpected End
by Scott Wilson
Word Count: 995

Earl ran down Elizabeth Street with the old woman’s handbag dangling from his right hand like a chicken limply swaying back and forth from a fox’s mouth. He turned into Edward Street then cut across into Mac Arthur Chambers, quickly grabbed a flannelette shirt off the rack in Big W and headed into the change room. Ripping his shirt of and placing it on the seat, Earl proceeded to empty the handbag onto the soft and sweaty cushion to hide the sound. He rummaged through the pile of tissues, make up, medication and smiled when reaching the purse. Inside the fake blue crocodile skin purse, Earl found a thick wad of fifty and twenty dollar notes.

“Bingo.” Earl said slightly louder than he wanted. “I love pension day.”

He stuffed the notes into his jeans pocket and rattled the contents back into the handbag, tucked it under the bench, put his t-shirt back on then left the change room. The quirky young sales assistant with the nose ring and piercing in her eyebrow gave him a smile as he handed back the tag. Earl purchased the shirt and slipped it on before leaving the shop by the Elizabeth Street exit. He crossed the busy road and quickly climbed the stairs to the St John Chapel across the road.
At the front of the cathedral, the Catholic Priest finished his sermon and asked the collection plate to be sent around. Earl quickly sat down in the back row; thinking today was a great day for him and eagerly waiting for the collection to come to his row. He pulled a five-dollar note from his pocket and made out as if he was putting it in the collection tray. He smiled directly at the old man holding the tray as he pulled out a handful of notes without him noticing Earl’s real intent.

When Earl rose to leave the service, the priest at the door took his hand and held it firmly, not letting him leave without Earl listening to what he had to say.

“If you are in need of help, my son.” The old priest said. “It is never too late to repent of your sins and receive forgiveness. “

“Thanks, but no thanks.” Earl replied. “I don’t need any help.”

“Repent, my son. While you are alive, you can always turn around and seek salvation. Avoid the fiery pits of hell, while you still can.”

Earl felt a shiver run down his spine, shrugged it off and pulled his hand away from the priest. He thought that the old geezer must have seen him take a wad of money out of the collection plate, but he was just giving him the usual sales pitch.
A loud screech, smashing of a car window and the screams of pedestrians on Elizabeth Street made Earl stop and turn his attention to the main road. Lying on the road was the mangled body of someone a Ford Falcon just hit. Earl couldn’t see the person’s face, but by the angle of the legs and back, he wasn’t looking like he would be able to run the Bridge to Bay marathon this weekend.

In the distance, Earl heard the siren’s roaring and horns blaring in response. By the time it reached the scene of the accident there would be a crowd of rubber Necker’s and would be doctors, all helping or offering help to the poor sap bleeding his life out on the main road like a burst water main. This meant that he would be able to slip away in the confusion without worrying about the police who had been chasing him wasting any more time on him.

A man in a deep purple suit and black beret bumped into Earl, turned and smiled in a wicked pearl white grin. Before Earl had a chance to tell the guy to watch where he was going, the businessman spoke.

“I hope that guy was right with God.”

Earl felt a shiver run down his spine again.

“If you believe in that sort of stuff, sure.” Earl replied.

He was about to walk away, when the businessman grabbed his arm and clenched it tight, hurting Earl’s muscular forearm.

“Oh, I believe.” The businessman said in an acidic tone. “And I think you will believe in time to.”

Earl tried to pry his arm free, but the grip was like a two hundred pound crocodile had latched on to him and was preparing for a death roll.

“Hey, dude. Let go, or I’ll mess you up.”

“Do you know what happens if you haven’t made your piece before you die, Earl?”

“How do you know my name?”

“Oh, I know a lot about you, Earl. If you don’t repent, you are condemned to eternal damnation.”

Earl could not escape the tight hold of the purple suited man as he dragged him along the footpath away from the cathedral.

“Are you a cop, dude? Look, I’m sorry about taking the money. Let me go. I’ll give it back, both to the church and the old bag.”

“Oh, it’s too late for that, Earl.”

Earl pulled the wad of money out of his tight jeans pocket. Money scattered on the footpath like amber leaves from a tree in autumn, as he fumbled. Earl felt that cold shiver run down his spine again, but this time it would not stop. The businessman in the purple suit was beginning to freak him out. Earl wondered if he were a vigilante, a serial killer or just some gangster he had upset once.

“Look dude, I repent. That’s what the priest said to me. If I repent then my sins are washed away.”

“Sorry, Earl. It is too late for that, much too late.”

“I repent.”

“Once you are dead, it’s much too late.”

The man pointed to the corpse under the car and Earl was shocked to see it was he.

The Field

The Field
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 950

Jessica walked across the flat field of brightly radiating sunflowers in a day dreamy haze of pure bliss and ecstasy. Her heart fluttered in her chest like the rainbow of butterflies weaving in and out of the beautiful flowers like a climactic ballet performance. She thought her chest would burst with excitement before she reached the large, rolling hills at the far end of the field.

Although she was just seventeen, she knew that she was madly in love with the tall, dark and brooding musician in her drama class, Jimmy Sterling. Jimmy would be waiting for her already she thought to herself. He was quite nimble and athletic for a guy who played no sport or outdoor activities, and it amazed her how much strength and stamina he had in that small but manly body she loved to embrace.
Jessica could see his tall and lean silhouette atop the hill in the scorching afternoon sunlight, erect and alert like a scout on the lookout for his battalion. She surged forward and hurled herself up the hill, panting and puffing from the strenuous marathon from the high school. If she could find this kind of energy in athletics, she would break every world record with her undying enthusiasm.

“Jimmy,” she said, leaping into his awaiting arms.

They kissed deeply and passionately in a hot and sweaty lovers embrace for what seemed to be hours, but were but a few minutes. Jimmy brushed her long black and wavy hair from her face and kissed her on the forehead.

“I missed you today, Jessica.” He said softly.

“I hate Wednesdays. No drama class. Why do they have to have sport every week for half a day?”

The young passionate couple slowly lowered themselves to the picnic rug Jimmy laid out a few minutes before. They embraced again, intertwining arms and legs as if they were part of the same creature. Lips locked and tongues flickered and darted in and out of the moist caverns like angry bees, collecting pollen from forbidden flowers. Jessica could feel her boyfriend becoming hard as she rolled on top of him, exciting her almost to the point of no return.

“When can we tell them?” She asked tenderly. “I want to tell everyone we’re engaged.”

“It has to be soon, my love.” Jimmy said. “Dad told us last night he received a promotion. It means he will have to move to the city by the end of the month.”

“No, Jimmy.”

“It’s okay,” Jimmy said, caressing her cheek softly. “I have scored a job at Bay City Records. It is only a janitor job to start with, but it’s with the best recording studio in Brisbane. I’m sure I can work my way up, promote the band and make the big time.”

“No, no, no.” Jessica said, tears welling up in her eyes. “You have to take the scholarship to the music academy. You’ve worked so hard for it. I won’t let you throw it away.”

“But if I do, we will only see each other a few times a month, maybe each weekend at the most.”

“I love you Jimmy. I won’t let you throw away your chance at a brilliant career to stay in this hick town just for me.”

“It’s not throwing it away; it’s just going to take a bit longer to get there. The band is good. We can make it if I make contacts at the studio.”

“No, Jimmy. I won’t let you do it.”

Jessica sat up abruptly, did up the top button of her blouse, then covered her face with both hands to hide her tears from Jimmy.

“Don’t cry, baby. Things will work out for us either way. I mean, we’ve got the best of both worlds no matter which way you slice it.”

“You have to go, Jimmy. You’re a fool if you give up the scholarship. There’s no way you’ll ever get another chance like that.”

“Okay, Jess. I’ll go if you promise we make this work. I don’t want to lose you.”
Jessica took her hands away from her face and unbuttoned her blouse to reveal her pert and firm breasts. She flicked her hair back and lowered herself back on top of Jimmy.

“You’ll never lose me, my love.”

They made passionate love until the sun set in the horizon, by which time they ran out of condoms, otherwise they would have kept on going all night. Jessica did not want to let Jimmy out of her for fear of losing him forever. She wished that they could stay joined together forever in a lover’s embrace, not having to face the cruel harshness that the world thrust in their faces. While she did not want Jimmy to go, and kind of thought that making love to him like she did would make him think twice about leaving her in this backwards town. She did want him to succeed and become the best musician he could through the scholarship he worked for since picking up the guitar when he was seven.

“Promise me you’ll come back every weekend, Jimmy.”

Jimmy was covered in perspiration and couldn’t believe he had another erection, seeing Jessica straddling him with her spotless, olive skin and dark hair aroused him deeply. He did not want to leave her, but knew it was the best decision for their future.

“I love you, Jess. I’ll drive back every Friday and stay until Monday morning. I promise.”

They lay back down on the picnic rug, enjoying the warmth of each other’s naked body as the evening slowly brought down the night on them like a star speckled blanket.

Plan D

Plan D
By Scott Wilson
Word Count:879

Judith went into the doctor surgery with her husband, trembling with anticipation at the thought of a long term fix for her type one diabetes. She was selected to participate in the test pilot group for the new drug destined to change the medical world. The drug would replace the need for someone with diabetes to inject themselves with insulin daily. One injection would repair the pancreas, enabling it to produce insulin again.

“Okay Mrs Smidt, this is going to be a great day for you.” Dr Samson said.

“Are there any side effects that I should be worried about, Doctor?”

“It is still in the experimental stage, but there have been no adverse effects in the animal trials.”

“I can’t wait, Henry.” Judith said, turning to her husband. “No more blood tests, no more injections three times a day.”

Henry took his wife’s hand and squeezed it lovingly.

“It will be good, won’t it?”

Dr Samson opened the bar fried under his desk and took out a vial of clear fluid with a slight milky tint. He drew ten millilitres of the fluid into a hypodermic needle and tapped the air bubbles out. This was the hundredth patient Dr Samson injected with the trial drug, making it the last of the subjects for his surgery. Across the country, a select group of medical clinics trialled the new drug on one hundred patients; a total of two thousand subjects. Judith was the last.
Judith felt slightly nauseas immediately after the injection and had a faint headache swirling around the back of her head like whirlpool. Only a few minutes later, the pain and nausea dissipated and she felt better than she had in years.

“The feeling doesn’t stay with you long.” Doctor Samson said reassuringly. “I’ve been told it is the serum entering your system immediately and beginning its repairing process. You won’t feel sick again, from the feedback the other patients have given me.”

“Thank you Doctor.”

“We will see you again in a week to check you travelling along well. I’m not expecting any problems, though.”

Judith and Henry left the surgery and drove directly home, just in case there was any ill effect from the injection.

Henry was worried and nervous. After forty years of making sure Judith took her injection before breakfast, lunch and dinner, it was quite unsettling, not having to be so vigilant. He could not help but think Judith would go into a diabetic coma if she ate her lunch without the insulin. By that evening, Henry was a nervous wreck. By the end of the first week, Henry was only slightly used to not checking up on Judith’s medication around mealtime. One month after the injection, Henry finally stopped going to the fridge to retrieve the small vial of insulin for Judith.
Judith enjoyed the freedom of eating whatever she wanted to without fear of going into a high from too much sugar in her blood. She didn’t realise how painful the daily injections were until she stopped needed them. All was going well after one month, and Judith was glad she volunteered to be part of the trial. It was not until exactly thirty-one days after the injection all hell broke loose.

Henry was sitting in the downstairs lounge room, watching the midday news when the phone rang. He was engrossed in the story about the outbreak of the walking dead and did not get up to answer the call. The reporter was talking about the nationwide epidemic of people who appeared to die of a heart attack, only to come back to life minutes later with a craving for human flesh. Anyone bitten by the infected died immediately of a cardiac arrest, then returned as a zombie, similar to the one that just attacked them.

Judith was taking a midday nap upstairs and Henry finally tore himself away from the news flash to answer the telephone. He walked backwards, trying to keep his attention on the television and did not see his wife standing in the doorway.

“You startled me.” He said, bumping into Judith when he reached the door. “Can you get that call please love? There is a medical alert I am trying to hear on the tube.”

Judith did not answer Henry. When he turned to face her fully, his jaw dropped, seconds she tore it from his head, at the sight of his wife with crimson eyes and a wicked snarl like a possessed animal. She lunged at him, raking his face and snapping her jaw like a hungry piranha. Chunks of flesh fell from Henry’s face under the relentless barrage of powerful bites. Bones jutted from the tips of Judith’s fingers, severed and shredded from pulling teeth and broken spectacles from her husband’s face. The sharp talons tore and caught on Henry’s jaw, tearing it from his face with the inhuman strength behind the once human hands.

“Anyone on the medical trial of the insulin replacement program, known as Plan D, please seek medical aid urgently.” The reporter on the news said in the background as Judith blindly stumbled over the furniture with her husband’s arm hanging from her mouth.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Nice Bunch

A Nice Bunch
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 207

Sally put out the sign advertising fresh flowers by the side of the road, then went back to her two daughters sitting under the beach umbrella. She liked Mother’s Day. Spending the time with her two girls, selling fresh flowers, and making about a month’s worth of income in a single day.

A Range Rover pulled off the road not long after she had the sign out. A well-dressed woman in her thirties hopped out and walked over to look at the buckets of flowers surrounding Sally and her girls.

“Perfect,” the woman said, picking up a bouquet of bright yellow carnations. “Mum always loved these.

“That’s the only bunch I have too, you are lucky.” Sally said.

“Thanks, my three brothers had better hope they can find some on their way to visit mum then” the woman said and drove down the road to the cemetery.

“Okay girls,” Sally said to her two children. “See if you can find me some more yellow carnations will you?”

The girls jumped on their bikes and sped off to the cemetery, eager to look around the gravestones for bunches of flowers to bring back to their mother to sell, again.

Grave Disorder

Grave Disorder
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 2538

Gerard watched the funeral service from the comfort of his air-conditioned Bobcat excavator, smiling gleefully as the minister carefully pressed the switch and the beautifully polished coffin slowly descended into the grave. He opened his lunchbox and took out a piece of Kentucky Fried Chicken, leftovers from last night’s dinner, and took a large bite and washed it down with a swallow of Mountain Dew. Waiting patiently for the service to finish and the last of the mourners to leave, Gerard amused himself by playing solitaire on his mobile phone, while listening to the latest Iron Maiden album. Sometimes, he became so focused on the mp3 he listened to that he failed to notice the mourners leave, allowing him to finish the job and fill the final resting place of the deceased in with the dark, rich soil of the Hemmant Cemetery.

Today, Gerard was unusually focused on the large group of mourners; rich friend, relatives and celebrities of the deceased. He had never seen so much money gathered together in one place. Analytically, he calculated that the clothes worn by the sixty mourners would be worth more than his run down workers cottage a few streets away. This was not a bad thing, he thought to himself. At least his extracurricular activity would net him a nice bonus for the day’s work, and give him that satisfied feeling that he thought felt like having great sex.

Thirty-seven minutes after the first of the funeral party arrived, the whole shebang was over. The last to leave was the deceased businessman’s twenty-one year old trophy bride. Gerard imagined what it must have been like to be shagging a beautiful young bird like that, especially when she was young enough to be your daughter, or even granddaughter. She was putting on a good show for the crowd to, tears running down her face, smudging her mascara so much that she looked like Brandon Lee in that movie, The Crow. She did the good old, throwing herself on top of the coffin just before the minister lowered it into the grave. Surely, she did not expect the relatives and other mourners to believe she really loved the old guy that much. Then again, who could blame her for wanting to ensure she got all that she deserved after shagging the old geezer for five years. It mustn’t have been very attractive to her; Gerard thought to himself and almost brought up his KFC just thinking about the sickly smell of mothballs on the old guys testicles.

Gerard kicked the Bobcat into life and slowly rolled over to the recently vacated plot. He had to get out and move some plastic chairs around to make room for the machine to drive to the pile of dirt. Cursing under his breath, Gerard thought that the couple of tartan fold up chairs left behind might be worth the amount of time he had to spend moving the Cemetery’s own plastic chairs. This thought cheered him up again and he giggled like a little school girl when he sniffed one of the canvas chairs that a good-looking, middle-aged woman in a short black skirt had sat on. He could smell her expensive perfume, mixed with her own scent, and felt himself getting an erection. The excitement was almost too much for him to bear and he poked his tongue out to touch the canvas seat around where he guessed her vagina was rubbing against.

“What the hell are you doing?” A powerful English voice yelled at him.

Gerard turned around, lowering the chair back to the ground with one hand while pretending to pick up a contact lens with the other. He poked himself in the eye to make it weep.

“Issa just gettin’ my lens offa tha chair, sir.” Gerard said and sniffled. “Was a very movin’ service an’ all. Musta popped out when I bent down to pick uppa chair.”
The elderly gentleman looked at him suspiciously, but the felt a wave of compassion when Gerard looked directly at him with his moonlike face and quivering lips.

“Yes, yes it was very upsetting. My brother, Archie Fields was a well respected lawyer and he will be dearly missed.”

Gerard wiped his nose again and sniffled.

“My wife has lost a diamond earring; she thinks in might have fallen off around here. I said I’d look for her but would rather get to the wake.” Mr Fields said softly, pulling his wallet from his coat pocket. “If you see it when you are clearing up, can you please let my office know?”

Mr Fields handed Gerard a business card, and a fifty-dollar note. The earring was worth three thousand dollars and he thought that Gerard would not know it’s value if he found it. By giving him the money, Mr Fields assumed Gerard would be so grateful that he would call him rather than keep the earring.

“Youssa very generous man. I be sure to call ya if I see it.”

“Thank you very much. Good bye.”

Gerard’s excitement was rising by the minute. This funeral was ending up being a real gold mine for him. If he found the earring, he would make over six thousand dollars by the end of this job. He began stacking the plastic chairs up, scouring the well-mowed grass for the shiny white gem as he did. Eventually, he did come across it, pushed into the ground from someone’s heavy boots, probably the fat young guy sitting at the back of the crowd. Gerard was sure he saw him looking around the chairs for some dropped candy or something when everyone else was shaking hands and consoling each other.

It took Gerard twenty minutes to carefully lower the soft dirt back into the grave, leaving a two foot high mound in front of the large plague with the deceased’s name and image loving engraved in gold embossing. He put away the plastic chairs, stowed the canvas fold-up chairs in the back of his panel-van and drove down the Bobcat back to the shed at the back of the cemetery. Once his full time job was finished, he would start his shift for his own little business.

Behind the shed, Gerard moved a pile of sandstone and opened the trapdoor he discovered two and a half years ago. By taking no sick days or vacations, he had ensured that this secret was not discovered by anyone else. He covered the trapdoor with turf so nobody would see it when he went down into the catacombs and left it without the protection of the sandstone. Hanging on the stone wall a few steps down the entrance was a Dolphin Flashlight. Gerard picked it up and switched it on before continuing down the concrete stairs the passageway twelve feet below. It was cold and damp in the ancient tunnel; Gerard shivered and rubbed his arms to get the circulation going. Each time he came down here, it took him a few minutes to get used to the chill down his spine and the rank smell of death all around him. The first time down here, Gerard had vomited his KFC up before getting more than a few feet from the stairs. Without the aid of a map or markings, he found his way to the plot where Archie Fields grave sat. Waiting for him was the stepladder and thick sheet of gray metal sitting in a grove just above where the coffin lid finished. Gerard rested the torch on the ground, facing the ceiling and quickly climbed the stepladder. The metal sheet was heavy, it took a fair amount of wiggling and pushing to slide it across the length of the coffin, and a foot into the dirt passed the end of the grave. Gerard climbed back down the ladder and walked a few feet further down the passageway to where he left the small hand operated scissor-lift platform the previous day. He wheeled it under Archie’s grave and jacked it up until the platform sat flush under the pink spray-paint outline Gerard marked out earlier that day. Gerard began the painful task of slowly, and carefully shovelling out the two feet of soil between the passage ceiling and the coffin about. This task was labour intensive and Gerard would have hated it if it were not the only real form of exercise he ever participated in regularly. Muscles built up in his arms, back, and chest over the past two years and Gerard looked buff and lean, like a weight lifter. He could shovel five times as fast as he was without feeling the burn in his arms, but that was too dangerous. Patience and a soft touch was what were needed to safely tunnel into the grave above without causing a cave in or damaging the coffin and the goods inside.

Methodically and painstakingly carefully, Gerard shovelled out the seven-foot long and three-foot wide space until the coffin dropped onto the flat platform bed with a loud thud. Anyone above would think old Archie was turning over in his grave at the thought of giving up his young lover and warm bed for this cold deathbed of loneliness. Gerard lowered the scissor-lift trolley and brushed the soil from the lid of the coffin. It was only slightly marked from the soft soil landed on top of it, but nothing that would not polish out with a bit of TLC.

“Let’s see what we have here.” Gerard said softly to himself, losing the fake retard slang he always bung on when talking to mourners. He found this allowed him to get away with just about anything.

Carefully prying open the coffin so he did not damage it, Gerard felt an erection building up again. The anticipation of seeing the good inside was always intense and mind blowing like an orgasm for Gerard. If he had actually ever had sex he would have known that the feeling he had was probably more intense and fulfilling in many ways and he was not actually missing anything being a virgin. Inside the coffin, Archie lay as peaceful and tranquil as a Buddhist monk at the foot of the Andes. The mortician had groomed Archie extremely well, better than Gerard did on a special occasion, like a wedding or the Sunday morning Church service he attended ever week without fail.

Archie wore a pure silk Armani suit, deep navy blue with gold buttons adorned by crested eagle images. The silk tie Archie had on was worth more than any complete set of trouser and shirt Gerard wore. Pure gold cufflinks shone brightly like glimmering eyes when Gerard shone his torch around the coffin. Gerard ejaculated in his pants when he saw the beautiful, black leather shoes. He considered keeping them for himself, rather than selling them at the small designer clothes shop he co-owned with his brother, Jacob. Gerard told Jacob that he had a contact in Asia that sold him designer clothes and accessories at bargain basement prices and Jacob accepted this. Why question his brother’s source when they made three hundred percent on every item of clothing they sold at his prestigious store in Bulimba.

“Okay, Mister Fields.” Gerard said, propping the corpse upright. “It’s time to get a bit up close and personal.”

Gerard slowly undressed the cold, blue corpse with clinical carefulness. Each item of clothing was carefully hung polished wooden coat hangers on the sparking, stainless steel clothes rack Gerard kept in the tunnel. By the time all the clothes were removed, Gerard had come in his pants again. He wheeled the clothes rack back to the staircase and left it there while he finished his work back in the tunnel.
Returning to the open coffin was a disappointment for Gerard. The corpse was naked, lifeless and void of anything worth getting excited over now. All the good stuff was hanging neatly on the clothes rack. He felt this way whether the corpse was male, female, stunning in appearance or just downright ugly. Necrophilia, he did not know how anyone could be excited over having their way with a dead person’s pale and depressingly blue body, but while there was a market for the corpses, he would provide.

Further, down the tunnel, Gerard wheeled the scissor-lift trolley until he reached the pulley lift he rigged up to the basement of his house. Slowly and quietly, he pulled the ropes and levers until the platform lift reach the lower level of his small worker’s cottage. The basement was an unexpected surprise that he came across when repairing some rotten floorboards in his kitchen. Gerard wheeled the trolley to a large stainless steel bench and carefully slide the coffin onto it before returning to the tunnel to store his equipment until the next funeral.

Before he opened the trapdoor behind the shed, Gerard used his custom-built periscope to make sure nobody was around. Every now and then, a group of Goths or teenagers having dares with each other, would visit the cemetery and he would have to wait for hours before he could leave the catacombs. Today, the coast was clear and he was able to bring the clothes and accessories to his panel van without any delay. Five and a half hours after the funeral, Gerard was back home.

He made a few phone calls and organised a buyer for the corpse, a delivery point and the usually sale price of two and a half thousand dollars. Gerard found it amusing that Archie’s clothes would bring in more money for him than his body would. It was easy to lift the corpse into the body bag hanging next to the stainless steel workbench after the hard work digging earlier that evening. By nine twenty that evening, the first transaction was complete and a raving homosexual necrophilia was going home with a perfect mate. Gerard often wondered how long these sickos kept the body before they had to get rid of it, but did not want to ask. Some of his customers bought a corpse every few weeks, others only the once.

At twenty to ten, Gerard loaded the coffin into the panel van and delivered it to the funeral home. He had a meticulous tracking system for making sure he did not sell the same coffin to the same funeral home twice. A coffin was a coffin to some people, but these funeral home directors seemed to notice the finest details on them, as a parent would notice a new freckle on their child. Ten thousand dollars through selling the same coffin four times was the best Gerard had achieved so far. After too many burials, some coffins were just too badly damaged or foul to sell again.

On the way back home, Gerard stopped at KFC again for a Colonel Burger and large fries. Working the night shift always built up his appetite and nobody quenched his craving like the Colonel.

Gerard drove back home, stored the cash the safe in his basement and went to bed dead tired, dreaming of the money he would make from the Lord Mayor's funeral tomorrow.

The End

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Theorkrane the Great

Theorkrane the Great
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 811

Theorkrane surveyed the dim light bar, taking stock of the patrons and keeping an eye out for any trouble that might come his way. Being a ranger, who often found himself on the wrong side of the corrupt and vindictive Baron Kintrec, he was a master of disguise. While he hated having to come into town, it was a necessary burden to meet Sharlic the Druid, who often had small jobs for Theorkrane to do.

A small fight erupted like an explosion of human volcano, townsfolk and men at arms flew outward from a large table in the centre of the room. At the core of this eruption was Grun, a six foot ten, muscle bound barbarian from the South. Grun liked drinking games, but did not having to pay for his ale whether he won the games or not. The Inn’s two half-breed orc bouncers cracked their knuckles and leapt into action, reaching Grun’s table in seconds with their large studded clubs at the ready.
“Good old Grun,” an old man in a tattered and faded emerald cloak said to Theorkrane softly.

“You can always count on him for a distraction.” Theorkrane replied to his old friend.

Sharlic sat down at the thick oak table across from Theorkrane, shuffling along the hard bench until he sat in the shadows.

“Glad you could make it, Theorkrane. I have some troubling news from the woods east of Goldor. My cousin has sent word that the Baron is after your blood.”

“He is always after my blood, what’s new?”

“Yes, but this time he is torching the villages, farmer’s cottages and anywhere else where it is known you have been recently. He is spreading the word that you have the plague and he is looking after the peasant’s interest.”

“A likely story.”

“Ah, but this time he is paying in gold pieces for the damage he has done.”

“Paying! Baron Kintrec?”

“Yes, my friend. He knows that torturing and destroying property will not bring you out into the open. But, to tell all that you have the plague and to keep away from you, then pay the peasants will bring you out for the Baron to deal with. Everyone will be afraid to get close to you. Too afraid of catching the red plague themselves.”

“Then you know what we must do, Kintrec?”

“I believe I know your plan already.”

“Then let’s…”

The doors to the Inn crashed inwards in a rain of splinters and dirt. One of the orc bouncers from outside flew through the air and landed on a table where ten dwarves were playing a game of bones. Coins, knucklebones and ale flew, covering the dwarves in their drinks and starting the tavern fight in all its glory. If there was one thing that was worse than expecting, Grun to pay for his ale it was spiling a dwarf’s drink.

Most of the tavern did not notice four of the Baron’s elite knights enter shortly after the orc flew in with their help. Those that did quickly made their way out of the Inn as quickly as they could. Although the four burly knights were outnumbered twenty to one, their training in the eastern arts of fighting made them formidable opponents that one did not cross paths with if one could help it. Quickly, the knights glided through the sea of drunken patrons, knocking down any that had the misfortune of falling in their path with a swift and single blow from their polished silver gauntlet.

Theorkrane saw the Baron’s knights immediately, but did not attempt to run or hide, though his skills as a ranger would easily allow him to do so in the shadows and commotion of the Inn. He remained seated and drank the rest of his ale as though there was no danger from either the tavern fight or the Baron’s knights.

“Theorkrane Londale.” The tallest of the knights said. “You are to immediately follow us to the castle of Baron Kintrec.”

Theorkrane looked across the table at his friend, who was now sitting further in the shadows than Theorkrane thought possible.

“Are you not afraid of catching the Red Plague from me?” Theorkrane said.

“News has already spread of your miraculous healing by the clerics of St. Kintrec the Great’s cathedral.”

“Here is your payment, old man.” The shortest knight said, tossing a bag of coins on the table in front of Sharlic.

“Sorry old friend,” Sharlic said softly as he leaned into the light. “The Baron was going to burn the forests if I did not help him. You understand don’t you, that as a druid the very essence of life is the forests and its creatures. To sacrifice them for one man would have been blasphemous.”

The knights took Theorkrane away as he shook his head in disbelief.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


By Scott Wilson
Word Count:320

“Are you frightened, my old friend?” asked the Red Knight.

Across the battlefield, the enemy gathered formed battalions of heavily armored and armed knights. The army was as vast as the eye could see and moving amongst them was the Pale Skeleton King in his gold armor. The sky dark green and blue and the wind came from the north with ice on its breath and the faint smell of the enemy forces.

Garsein turned his eyes from the enemy to the Red Knight whose eyes flicked from the army to the warrior’s scarred face, wary of being caught starring at the knotted ribbon of pink flesh marring his features.

Garsein smiled, amused. “What is there to fear?”

The Red Knight’s eyes widened. “What is there to fear? We are outnumbered and entrapped. I fear pain and death.”

“But you cannot know for certain that you will die, none of us are granted the Sight. Besides death is but a moment, it passes.”

“Then you believe in reincarnation,” said the Red Knight. “I do not.”

“It matters not what we believe in – if there is an afterlife then when we die we will awaken somewhere else. If there is nothing we won’t be aware of it to care either way. I for one would rather die in my faith and be a fool than to die a fool with no faith, my friend.”

The Red Knight held his two-handed bastard sword high, twisting and turning it to catch the light.

“What about pain?” he asked. “Are you not afraid of that?”

“There will be pain for many,” conceded Garsein. “But not for me or my closest and well seasoned companions.”

“So there is nothing to fear?” said the Red Knight.

Garsein slowly nodded in agreement.

The Red Knight considered his words.

“I think you’re wrong,” said the Red Knight. Garsein shrugged.

The Red Knight continued. “I think they should be afraid of you.”

The Wizard

The Wizard
By Scott Wilson

Word Count: 411

On a misty morning with heavy grey clouds in the sky, the small hamlet of Oberon was silent. The famers had no yet risen and most of the animals were still asleep in the large, open fields of rolling green grass. Without warning, the wizard walks by in his funny purple robes with tinkling bells dangling from his belt. He cast his shadow upon the flowers and plants as he walked on by. Everything touched by his long, grey shadow withered and died in a shrivelled pile of rotting and putrid dust.

The animals rose from their peaceful sleep with howls and screeches, unsettled by the unwanted presence of this killer of demons. While his sole purpose was to rid the world of demons and unearthly monsters, the mere presence of the Wizard was an abomination of nature. He never spoke to anyone and nobody knew where he came from of what his name was. The Wizard, that was all he was known as.

Tobin Jarkan, the town baker was the first to rise. He saw the Wizard walking down the main street. The Wizard turned slowly, and Tobin saw the luminous green eyes glaring out of the deep hood covering the Wizard’s head. The Wizard turned his head back and just kept walking. Slowly, the other members of the tight little community awoke, some seeing the purple robes of the Wizard in the distance as he continued on his path over the knoll on the outskirts of the hamlet.

The sun rose over the knoll as if it too, was fleeing from the presence of the Wizard, trying hard to leap high into the sky. The clouds began to dissipate and the azure sky painted itself across the horizon. It appeared to be a bright and fine day for the farmers to harvest their crops of barley and wheat.

Only those who saw the Wizard felt uneasy and slightly troubled in a way that they could not put their finger on. The rest of the hamlet felt a bright, spritely, and cheerful disposition, wanting to hug their loved ones and neighbours. For unknown reasons, these villagers felt fit, healthy, and finer than they had in years.

For years to come, Tobin and the four other villagers told the tale of the Wizard over an ale or twenty at the Smokey Dragon Inn. While they seemed to age prematurely, the rest of the villagers did not seem to age a day.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Chimney

By Scott Wilson
Word Count:2,203

“Bob, the fire’s starting to go out!” Ruth yelled at her husband, who was asleep on the Jason recliner in front of the fireplace.

“Struth,” Bob yelled, leaping to his feet and rushing to the fireplace.

Growling and screeching howled at Bob from the chimney as he pilled kindling and torn up shreds of newspaper on the glowing embers. He could see the horrific, long clawed shadow reach down towards his arm. Bob pulled the can of lighter fluid, squeezed a dose on the embers, and stumbled back as the flames shot up the chimney like a fireball. The screeching tore the stillness of the night in two like a switchblade carving through flimsy satin material.

“Are you alright, honey?”

“I’m okay, Ruth.”

“That was too close for my liking, Bob. What happened?”

“I... I must have dozed off. I’m sorry honey.”

“It’s okay, Bob. It is wearing me down to. It’s been almost a week now and I am getting tired as well.”

Bob looked at the cellar door at the top of the broken staircase and sighed. There must be some way of getting out of here, he thought to himself.

“How much food do we have left?”

Ruth went to the small cupboard and rummaged through the cans and bottles and made a calculation in her head, turned to her husband and frowned.

“’Bout a week and a half, maybe two.”

“I’m going to try and get to the door again, Ruth.”

“You be careful, last time you almost broke your leg.”
Bob walked to the broken staircase. The stairs had come down when the cyclone went over the house, trapping them in their cellar for a week. White Ants must have eaten away at the steps and most of the handrails for them to come crashing down with a loud thud when the cyclone shook the house like a child’s toy. Bob tried using the handrail on the left side to make his way up to the stairs the morning after the and fell down half way up, taking the left hand rail and most of the stairs with him.

“I’ve got an idea, Ruthie.”

Bob grabbed hold of the remaining handrail and gave it a good shake. It appeared to be solid and did not give any under his grip.

“Come over here babe, it will hold you. You are half my weight and this rail feels pretty sturdy.”
Ruth walked over to the stairs hesitantly, fearful of falling down as if Bob had done but coming off worse that with a severely sprained ankle.

“I’ll walk under you as you climb. Don’t worry about falling, Ruthie. I’ll catch you if anything happens.”

Ruth put her hands on the rail and her foot on the groove where the second step had been. The rail did not shake under her weight, but Ruth was shaking so much that it felt like the rail would collapse before she managed to take a single step. She took a deep breath then began to slowly edge her way up the single beam, using the broken stairs and grooves to edge her way up to freedom.

“That’s it Ruthie. Nice and steady and you’ll be right.”

Ruth shuffled her way up the handrail slowly, taking care to not learn to far forward or backwards and put any unnecessary stress on the structure. Bob kept a vigilant eye on the solid pine handrail, hoping that it would support his wife’s weight until she reached the door. Ruth reached the cellar door and grabbed the handle with her right hand, keeping balance with her weaker, left hand. She wondered why humans had to be either left or right handed, why couldn’t people learn how to use both hands equally so this sort of thing wasn’t a problem. Not that she expected shimmying up the remains of a collapsed staircase was that common of a task humans would have to perform on a regular basis?
“I’ve almost got it, hon.”
“Just take your time. We have been here for a week, no rush. Take your time, Ruthie.”
Ruth turned the handle and the door opened towards the inside of the house. She carefully stepped into the doorway and used the door to steady herself on the way into the house.
“I made it, Bob.” Ruth called back down to her husband.
“Okay, Ruthie. See if the phone works and call Jim from the SES for help.”
“I’ll be back soon.”
Ruth went into the house and out of Bob’s sight. Bob went back to the fireplace and threw another broken stair on the roaring flames. He knocked on the stone mantle and smiled. Bob had no idea what the hell was in the chimney, but he was going to get his shotgun as soon as he was back upstairs in the house and make sure that the creature didn’t cause them, or anyone else problems.
“Bob, the phone isn….” Ruth’s voice was suddenly cut off midsentence by the unmistakable howl and screeching of the creature from the chimney.
Bob ran to the handrail and began to edge his way up quickly. His sprained ankle threatened to give out on him with every step he took. The knocking and screaming became louder as he neared the open doorway. He slipped and his sprained ankle gave way beneath him as he scrambled to steady himself. Bob grabbed at the handrail and it creaked and groaned heavily under his movement. He could feel the aged pine give way and he crashed down to the cold, hard concrete floor of the cellar. The last thing Bob remembered was Ruth’s blood soaked hand against the cellar door and her face with a horrified look pleading to him for help.
Bob came around a few hours later with a throbbing pain in his forehead and a burning ache shooting up his left leg. He tried to stand and almost passed out from the pain just below his left knee. A bone protruded from his trouser leg, jutting out a few inches and oozing blood like a leaking tap.
“Ruthie!” he yelled.
There was no answer.
Bob look up at the cellar door. It was closed, covered with bloody handprints from the struggle his wife and long, jagged claw marks from the beast that attacked her. To Bob, they looked like some kind of giant feline had used the old pine door as a scratching post.
“Ruth,” he yelled again.
There was still no reply from upstairs in the house.
The sound of scratching inside the chimney caused Bob to turn his attention from cellar door back to the fireplace. Bob had not bee awake for a few hours and the large fire had dwindled slowly to only a pile of glowing red embers, with very little in the way of flames to keep the beast at bay.
Bob tried to rush to the fireplace, but his broken leg severely hindered him from moving quickly. He saw the long muscular arm ending in a four-fingered claw with five-inch talons reaching down from the opening of the fireplace. Bob grabbed a piece of broken stair as he stumbled to his knees and tossed it at the fireplace, splashing the embers into the air like hundreds of miniature fireworks. One of the larger embers landed on the clawed arm, setting the thick black wiry hair alight. The creature screeched and scurried back up the chimney, howling angrily as it climbed.
Bob fought off the dizziness swirling around his eyes like a child’s mobile. He knew if he passed out from the pain, the fire would go out, and the creature would finally make it all the way down the chimney and into the cellar.
“I’ll get the bastard for you Ruthie.”
Bob crawled over to the fireplace and stoked it full of kindling, wood and some old rags. Slowly, the fire grew like and angry creature, rising until the flames leapt angrily at the base of the chimney.
Bob pulled his leg out straight and tore the material of his trousers to see the full extent of the damage to his broken leg. He felt the acrid taste of bile rise up in his throat and choked back vomit and nausea from the pain. Pushing through the barrier of pain, Bob made a splint from pieces of the broken staircase and the cleanest rags his could find tucked into the old chest of draws. On top of the set of draws were a few bottles of spirits and a selection of wine. He drank a large swig of whiskey to settle his nerves and dull the pain.
“Right, that’s it.” Bob said as he stood up. “This means war then.”
Over the years, Bob and Ruth had cleared out most of the unwanted clutter from the cellar, keeping only those items that had sentimental value of things, such as the kid’s pushbikes, that may be of some use to the grandkids. There was very little that Bob could use to make a ladder to climb out of the cellar. The door was seven feet from the floor of the cellar and Bob was only five foot six tall. He had not been able to climb out before spraining his ankle and there was nothing sturdy to move under the doorway to hop on and gain a better hold to get the door open. The white ants must have eaten the chest of draws as well; it creaked and wobbles on its four legs when Bob had tried to slide it over to the staircase.
“Bugger, bugger, bugger.” Bob said. “There must be something I can use as a weapon or ladder.”
Bob rummaged around the plastic boxes and crates scattered around the cellar, nothing useful was to be found anywhere. He could hear the creature scratching at the cellar door now. It must have worked out how to get there now that Ruth had managed to get out and lead it back to the door. That meant that the creature was not that smart, it had not tried getting into the cellar over the week other than through the chimney.
The scratching stopped.
Bob found an old skipping rope in one of the crates then another one. He tied the two jump ropes together and made a lasso at one end. It was about ten feet long, enough to catch the door hand with a good shot. The only problem was that the door opened in towards the house and not towards the cellar. Even if Bob did manage to secure the lasso around the door handle, there was no way he could open the door from down in the cellar.
“Bugger it,” he thought, then tossed the lasso at the door handle.
After a dozen throws, the lasso finally caught on and Bob pulled it tight to secure it before it slipped off. He tested the jump rope and it felt secure. Bob did not know if either the jump rope or the door handle would support his weight as he climbed up it. Looking at the fireplace to make sure that it was well and truly roaring, he began slowly, and painfully climbing up the skipping rope, using his arms and good leg. The broken leg dangled uselessly and throbbed with each jerk as he inched his way closer to the cellar door. By the time he reached the remaining section of broken handrail and stair, he was exhausted and glad to have something a fraction more stable to rest on. He swung his good leg onto the pine frame, still holding on tightly to the skipping rope for fear of the stairs collapsing for a third time. Bob took a quick rest, and then pulled himself up to the door, using the foothold that his wife had earlier that day.
“Here goes nothing,” he said to himself as he opened the door slowly.
In the darkness of the ground floor of the house, Bob could see nothing, apart from a trail of blood glistening on the floorboards from the light from the fireplace below. He opened the door further, cautious of exposing himself to the creature if it were lurking out of his sight, hidden in the shadows somewhere.
Bob headed for the broom cupboard at the end of the hall, the cupboard he stored his shotgun and shells in. When he reached it, he was surprised to find that the trail of blood ended at the thick oak door. He pulled hard on the handle, jerking it open against his broken leg.
“Aargh,” he cried loudly.
He did not see the shotgun aimed waist height, nor feel the blast that tore a hole in his stomach. Falling forward, Bob vaguely recognised the badly scratched and mutilated face of Ruth when he landed on top of her in the closet, taking his last breath as she exhaled hers.
“Bobby,” she slurred out of the side of her mouth not shredded by the creature that attacked her earlier.
Ruth did not notice the glowing red or pointed yellow mouth full of teeth as they came slowly closer to the cupboard. Her remaining eye welled up with tears, knowing she had just killed her husband with his own shotgun. The salty blood from her husband’s injury tricked off her face into her eyes, blinding her for a second until she wiped it away with the sleeve of her torn blouse.
She did not see the beast as it leapt from the hallway into the closet with Ruth, trapped under her husband’s frail old body. She did feel it is hot and rancid breathe as it tore into her wrinkled old neck and tore at it wildly.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Caught Somewhere In Time

Caught Somewhere In Time
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 1729

“Bugger!” Doctor Lector yelled as he flickered out of the University’s Library, reappearing in the same location six days in the future. It was the tenth time it had happened this week.
Lector made his way to the car park, hoping his BMW would still be there; he parked it a week ago. Well it would be a week if he did not keep skipping through time randomly, now it was almost a month. He tried to get back to his laboratory at CSIRO where he finished his time travel device last week. At first Lector thought the device did not work, he did not travel in time during the final experiment. When he arrived home later that evening, his wife was hysterical, wanting to know where he had been for the past day. That was when he realised the device had worked, only not as expected. It was pushing him through time, at a rapidly growing rate each jump.

A moment before each jump, Lector felt a migraine coming on rapidly and caught the acrid aroma of sour orange in the back of his throat and nostrils. He caught a glimpse of himself during one jump in a bathroom mirror. It was as though he became out of focus, flickering like a television losing its reception until he popped out of sight. While it was only a split second for him, it was a period of days in real time.

Just before he came back into focus fully, he was able to see his surroundings intermittently, which was lucky. Someone was standing in the same position as him two jumps back and he moved to the side before materialising inside of him. It gave him an excruciating pain down his spine moving this way, as though he moved part of his body one second and the remaining part the next. He assumed it was still a damn sight less painful than reappearing inside of someone else though.

Lector arrived at the car park. A Suzuki Swift was now parked where his beemer should, or was when he parked it whenever it was he thought he parked it. He raised his hand to hit the bonnet of the trespassing vehicle, swearing when he felt a migraine coming on again. An instant later, Lector flickered out of focus. The Suzuki was replaced by a multi coloured Combi Van, with hippie stickers covering the entire back window.

Two young female students walked by.

“Excuse me ladies, what is the date?”

The girls looked at each other, then the taller of the two said, “Tenth of October, buddy.”
Lector made a quick calculation and swore slightly louder than he would have liked. The students walked away at an uncomfortably quicker pace in response. Lector did not notice this, as he was more concerned about the week he had just moved into the future with the last jump.
He took his mobile phone out of his jacket’s pocket and rang home. His wife would be hysterical with worry by now. The answering machine clicked on after five rings and he heard his own voice on the recorded message.

“Honey, it’s me. Pick up if you are home.”

There was no response.

“Please Trish, I love you.”

The machine cut out. Lector hung up and put his phone away. He wanted to try again but thought better of it. For Trish this would be happening over a much greater timeframe than for him. He knew that she had trouble believing him when he explained what was happening to him. Lector could not even begin to imagine what his wife thought was going on, with her husband not coming home for days at a time. Now it was a full week in real time since he had last spoken to her and nine days since he had seen her in person.
Lector decided to walk to his lab, no use catching a bus or taxi in case he moved forward in time again. He might end up further away from his building, and the time travel device, than he already was. Half way to the CSIRO, Lector realised that he had not eaten in a few days, but was not the slightest bit hungry anyway. A thousand other thoughts popped into his head at that moment regarding other implications involved with skipping days of his normal routine; eating, sleeping, bathing and so forth. He wondered what the long-term effects of this fractured form of time travel would have on his health. He wondered...

The smell of oranges rose in his nostrils again and his head ached.
Lector felt himself falling. His vision returned and he found himself at the bottom of a cold, hard asphalt ditch in the dead of night. There did not appear to be any streetlights shinning above the deep hole he found himself in a moment ago. Lector stood up stiffly and pulled himself out of the six-foot deep ditch. Abandoned cars, motorbikes and busses lined the streets like a bundled of carelessly discarded children’s toys. An eerie silence filled the dark, moonless night, sending a cold shiver along Lector’s skin.

“Hello!” he yelled. “Is anyone there?”

There was no reply. He squinted to look around the city street for any sign of movement and was deeply concerned when he could see none. Lector could see nothing that indicated what the date, or year this time period was and he began to wonder if it was even Earth at all. He began to walk along the eerily and desolate street, feeling extreme trepidation and anxiety rise up from the pit of his gut. After walking for ten minutes without any signs of life around, Lector came to the end of the street. It took a minute for him to realise that the street should not end this suddenly, or in a wall of impenetrable darkness.

“What the hell’s going on now?”

Lector moved closer to the darkness, cautious of what might lay beyond in this unnatural and deeply disturbing veil of black that bordered the end of the street and seemed to cut into the buildings as if they had been erased out. There was no sound coming from within the darkness, nor could Lector see into the thick, black tar like environment. The world appeared to stop two feet from Lector’s nose.

Sharp, stabbing pain ran down behind Lector’s eyes and the strong acrid aroma of freshly squeezed oranges arose in his nostrils. He felt himself falling forward, headlong into the end of the world.

Lector opened his eyes, squinting with the sudden change of light from pitch-blackness to the bright midday sun. There were people carrying on their daily business and the street was busy with peak hour traffic. Lector had to steady himself so he did not trip and fall into the woman walking in front of him on the sidewalk. He was surprised when she did not seem to notice him and kept walking straight towards him.

“Watch out…” he began to say but stopped when he passed right through her rather than bumping into her.

The woman stopped, looked behind but did not appear to see Lector crouching with his hands over his face. Lector opened his mouth to speak to the woman again, but she had already turned and started walking away from him.

Lector straightened up and turned around to walk towards his lab again. Another pedestrian walked right through him, this time it was a large middle-aged businessman. He did not stop or seem to be affected by another person passing through his huge, sweaty body. As the pedestrian traffic increased, so to did the amount of scurrying business people walking into Lector. He passed through each one like a ghost, with only half of the men and women appearing to feel his presence.

Lector did not pick up any thoughts or feelings of those whom he passed through, which disappointed him somewhat. It felt like walking through a heavy set of plastic curtains, similar to those on cold room doors in supermarkets. The drag slowed his pace down as he continued on his way to his lab, with renewed passion to get to his time travel device to reverse this side effect and return to a normal life.

“Jim,” Lector said to his assistant upon entering his lab. His assistant stoped for a moment and Lector thought he had heard him. Jim felt his coat pocket then proceeded to work on the time travel device without further recognition of Lector’s presence. Jim had the time travel device in pieces on the lab’s main workbench, each component neatly placed in a logical sequence to its correct place in the machine. Lector moved to the bench and tried to pick up the main casing of the device. His hand passed through it and through the workbench until Lector stopped himself before he toppled over through the bench.

“Bugger.” He said to himself.

Lector looked at the digital desk calendar and was disheartened to see that it was now two months since his first jump into the future. One week of his time was eight times that in the rest of the world. He wondered how Trish was, what she was thinking about his disappearance. How could he let her know where he was now? He appeared to be outside of time itself, so there was no chance of using the phone to call her. Reaching into his pocket for his mobile to try, Lector briefly felt the tell tale migraine come on rapidly before fading out of the present again.
When he reappeared in the lab, it was reorganised into a different layout to how it should be. Lector was appalled at the poorly thought out bench and equipment arrangement and could tell that it was no longer his lab. He looked around the lab for a calendar to tell him how far into the future he had travelled this time.

“Two years!” He yelled.

He wondered how Trish was coping. They never had the chance to say goodbye, he never had the opportunity to tell her what was happening. He never got to tell her he loved her one more time. Now it was too late to everything; he was caught somewhere in time.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Christmas Crackers

Christmas Crackers

By Scott Wilson

Word Count: 93

"I used to like Christmas when I was younger, right up until the unfortunate incident we now call The Christmas Cracker." Juliet said to her best friend Mary.

"What happened?"

"Well, it all started like a typical festive season. The entire extended family made it up to Mum and Dad's for the weekend. It was the first time the Christmas holidays fell on a Thursday and Friday in years."

"Yeh, I know what you mean. It is so hard getting annual leave at my work over Christmas. Everyone in my office put in for leave twelve months ago and the bitch of a boss only got around to approving them the first week of December. No one could plan anything."

"It used to be us parents got first choice for school holidays, like
Christmas and Easter. Not anymore. I don't know why single people or
couples without kids would want to have holidays when the kids are
out of school anyway."

"Bastards like my boss are so selfish and self absorbed they don't
even realise it is important for parents to spend these special
occasions at home with their kids."

"Well, that's why it was such a big thing. All of us up at the oldie's place for Christmas. Now, I wish we didn't all make it that year. The kids are petrified of Christmas these days."

"That's horrible."

"It was. I'll never forget the screaming, the blood, and smell of burning hair and flesh."

Juliet took a tissue out of her bra and dabbed the corner of her eyes, careful not to smudge the mascara. She sniffled, stuffed the tissue back in little cocoon, and regained her composure.

"Dad was so happy we could all make it. He was quietly dying of lung cancer and knew he probably wouldn't see his children together again, unless it was through a drug-induced stupor from a hospital bed. He was right about that, but for the wrong reason."

Mary put her arm around her best friend, seeing the tears well up in her eyes again.

"You don't have to tell me about it if you don't feel up to it yet."

"No, I want to talk about it. You have been my best friend since high school and I haven't told you exactly what happened yet. It's been six years now."

Mary rubbed Juliet's arm reassuringly, then brushed her long black hair from her face. Juliet forced a smile and patted Mary's hand softly.

"We sat down at the table in the garage to say grace and have our traditional seafood lunch. Always had to set up three fold-up picnic tables in the garage to fit everyone in, what with five couples and twelve children. The seating arrangement was the same whenever we got together like this. Mum and Dad at the end of the first table, closest to the door to the house. My older brothers, Ron and Charles, sat on opposite sides with their wives. Bec, my younger sister, and I sat at the next table with our husbands, and the children all sat together at the last table. Thank goodness for that at least. None of the children were close enough to feel the heat
from the explosion, or to be hit with any of Ron's face when it blew up."

"Struth, Juliet. What happened? Were you sitting next to him?"

"No, I was next to Charles, across the table from Ron. It was the Christmas crackers. The one on the table in front of Ron had Dad's name on it. Dad would have held it out and both Mum and he would have died from the explosion."

"Both of them? But didn't only your brother Ron die?"

"Yes, but his wife lost her right hand and eye when the Christmas cracker went off. If it was Mum and Dad pulling it, the shock from the injuries would have killed both of them, the paramedics said. As it was, Ron caught the full force of the explosion in his face and chest. He got the larger part of the cracker when he pulled on it with his wife Marge. The cracker flung back right into Ron’s face."

"How did it do so much damage? They only have a tiny bit of gunpowder in them to make a small popping noise. It shouldn't have exploded like it did?”

Juliet pulled the tear-moistened tissue out of her bra again to dry her eyes.

"The police said it looked like it was loaded with gun powder and buckshot. Like a huge shotgun shell or something."

"Why would someone do that to a Christmas Cracker?"

"Ron did it. He was the oldest son and was supposed to get the biggest share of the inheritance out of us kids; He had a huge debt to pay off with some dodgy loan shark who was going to kill him if he didn't pay up by New Year's Day. The kids must have moved the crackers around before diner when they were helping Mum set the table. Ron ended up with the one he booby trapped for Dad. It would have remained a mystery if Ron's wife didn't tell the cops everything when she was doped up on morphine."

"What a bastard, how could you do that to your own father?"

"I know. In front of twelve children and on the most precious holiday for young children. Bastard killed himself and the mystery of Father Christmas at the same time."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Noise Pollution is a Matter of Opinion

Noise Pollution is a Matter of Opinion
By Scott Wilson
Word Count:878

Heavy, deep pulsing bass shook Cecil’s walls as if they had gripped his single-story brick house and rattled it relentlessly. He had no peace or quiet since moving in this house two months back. On either side of him were couples with too much time, no children or responsibilities and too much of a taste for booze. What was it about grog that made people so deaf, Cecil often thought to himself on these cruel and noisy nights. The later it got, the more these bastards drank and the louder they got.

Last time he called the police, they took four hours to send a patrol car out, by which time they party had stopped and he had been asleep for two hours. Bloody cops woke him up, phoning him and asking if he still needed a squad car to come out. Cecil gave the cops a piece of his mind that night and could not get back to sleep again.

It was almost as if these neighbours took it in turns at having loud parties, or do’s every second day then again on Friday and Saturday night. If it wasn’t the four islanders living to the right having a rowdy party, it was the kiwi couple on the left sitting outside on the patio with their Maori work mates, sinking a few brews, smoking excessively and watching some form of sport on satellite TV.

Poor old Cecil had sold his two-story house in the outer suburbs, downsizing to this one story brick house after his wife, Marge died. He regretted it every day since. It might have been lonely in that old Queenslander, but at least the neighbourhood was peaceful. Well, he thought to himself, enough is enough.

Both houses on either side were going hard at it tonight, and Cecil had cracked. As a younger man, Cecil owned his own electrical contracting firm and was in high demand. He knew electrics like the back of his hand and could rewire anything he picked up in a few minutes.
Cecil pulled on a pair of black tracksuit pants, a black skivvy and picked up a small canvas backpack. He quietly opened the security door at the side of the house and made his way to the front gate. Within ten minutes, Cecil was safely back in his lounge room, sitting comfortably on his tattered, Jason Recliner in front of the twenty-year-old wood-cased television set.
He picked up his cup of tea and an Arrowroot biscuit from the side table, finished his supper, and then picked up a large, black remote control. He was about to press the play button, when he stopped abruptly. Cecil put the remote control back down, went to the workbench in the garage and came back wearing his heavy-duty earmuffs.

The thumping sound of the stereo pumped into his ears through the earmuffs, almost as loud as if the music was in the next room rather than the neighbour’s house.

“You want to party, you bastards?” Cecil said softly to himself, picking up the remote control again. “Let’s do it.”

Cecil pressed the large green button at the top of the remote control, labelled “Play.” Through the thickly padded earmuff, Cecil heard the high-pitched whining from either side of his house. It sounded like a bomb siren winding up slowly then howling like a bitch on heat pining for company. The lights flickered on and off in every house in the small cul-de-sac, then the sound of light bulbs and windows shattering pierced the night sharply. The power to the whole street, and suburb went out, silencing the night with a heavy veil of darkness. Screams, then moans shortly filled the void, taking place of the pulsating music. Cecil lit the candle on his coffee table and carefully placed the remote control back in its usual location beside the VCR remote control.
The neighbours on either side of Cecil were still, quietened by the millions of shards of broken windows and light bulbs. Two of the noisy islanders had been decapitated by the glass chandelier when it exploded, falling directly on top of them as they played poker in the lounge room. The other two in the room were bleeding from most of their body and face from a barrage of glass shrapnel, showering the entire house from what looked like a sparkling crystal sprinkler system going off when the lights went out.

The kiwis on the other side of Cecil faired almost as badly. They had recently glassed in the patio to keep the mosquitoes away at night. When the power surge kicked their windows out of the frames, there was little protection for any of them. If the large Maori man had not been very drunk and thought it a good idea to follow his friend’s wife inside to make a pass at her, then all four of the New Zealanders would have been shredded like desiccated coconut.

Cecil took his earmuffs off and was glad that the loud music and laughter had stopped now. Cecil picked up his paperback novel and sighed. He just wished that the screaming would subside so he could read his book in peace.