Believe

Character prompt:
Subvert – the independent badass woman who does not believe in love.

She was hot. She was independent. And most of all, she was badass. She flicked her shining auburn hair as she loosed another arrow, straight and true into the heart of yet another henchman. Before the next arrow could be nocked, an arm wrapped around her neck. Soon the arrowhead was buried deep in his oesophagus, blood spurting across her face and adding to her murderous aesthetic. Cool rock music began to play in time with the fight scene.

After endless cartwheels, high kicks and the odd elegant stabbing, a neat circle of dead and unconscious henchman surrounded the leather-clad vixen. There wasn’t even a bead of sweat, nor a hair out of place. With a perfect pout of full red lips, she stared off into the distance for a moment; hands on hips, eyes glowing from the heat of unfair battle.

She had no need of their weapons, but she searched the pockets of the nearest bad guy for a grenade. Pulling the pin out sexily with her teeth, she threw the grenade at their van. There was nothing in it; they had no precious cargo and weren’t likely to use it again. But she needed the explosion to walk away from.

As she walked – in slow motion, of course – she passed a stage; the source of the cool rock music. Justin Hawkins, in his tight white spandex and flowing pink locks, winked at her. He delved into an awesome guitar riff. She stopped involuntarily. Her feet wouldn’t move. She gazed upon this fine specimen, and just listened to the rhythm of her heart. She was a strong, independent woman who didn’t need no man. And yet… As she contemplated The Darkness before her, she now believed in a thing called love.

 

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The Reaper

Gary had always loved the sound of their screams. At 6am every morning, he cut off another pretty little head and left it purposely to rot beside those still living, imprisoned in their earthen pits. A warning of their imminent future.

In these uncertain times, he was lucky enough to have a job he truly enjoyed, even if the salary was poor. Lord Mycroft had entrusted him to keep the estate immaculate, and thus given him free reign of the grounds. He must have known about Gary’s hobbies, having regularly witnessed him massacre thousands at a time, rotating blades with glee as their bodies spattered and fell about him. And yet, he still kept him in his employment. In fact, he encouraged it. Asked him to bury innocents; hundreds of them in neat rows, just to pillage their limbs several weeks later. Gary was all too happy to oblige.

He would often linger in the toolshed after hours, caressing the equipment of his sadistic pleasure. The shovel was a personal favourite. At a touch of the worn metal, he imagined pushing it deep into the flesh of the earth, feeling the agony of the ground beneath, begging him to stop. Of course, that only drove him to continue, until a gaping wound had been made. In this he would bury a fresh victim for his games. It was an obsession. There were millions just waiting to feel pain at his hands, and nobody was going to stop him.

Oh yes. Gary fucking loved being a gardener.

The Fantastic New Year Dream

Nothing like a nice nightmare to end the year, eh? Would appreciate it if this isn’t the narrative for my 2018, thanks very much!

***

On a night out, casually drinking in work, one of the guys asked me to take a few plates to the potwash. For some reason we had two of them; the one in the kitchen and another in a shed-like building out back. I decided to explore the second.

During this exploration I had an omnipotent cutscene play in my head. A paramedic sat in his ambulance, and something about him seemed off. He wasn’t doing anything, simply sitting there, waiting. Watching.

Outside of the restaurant was like a completely different city; chainlink fences, hard concrete, graffiti. I dumped the plates on the side and explored the crumbling brickwork of this alley.

As I reached its end, I heard a scuffling noise behind me. I turned to see a woman at the other end of the alley, slowly raising her arms to point a gun. With a second flash of omnipotence I knew she would fire it, and I even saw the bullet spinning straight for my head. I ducked beneath a stone pillar and stayed down. That bullet missed me, but a second shot pierced my chest. I couldn’t scream (if anyone can scream in dreams I’m amazed), but the pain was astonishing.

The woman stopped firing. A man appeared from my end of the alley and stood over me, looking thoughtful. He was dressed like a stereotyped chav; cap, puffed jacket, trackies and chains. “Please,” I begged him. “Please help me!”

He raised his own gun and shot me in the shoulder.

As he walked away, I reached into my pocket with my good arm and pulled out my phone. I began to type a status of help on Facebook, but I’d barely written “been shot” before the woman appeared.

“Stop that,” she said in a Spanish accent. I tried to get up, but she booted me in the back and I felt a rib snap. I wasn’t sure why they didn’t want to finish me off, why they wanted to cause me such pain, but she too left me there.

I got to my feet and staggered through the halls of University. There was a distinct lack of blood and not as much pain as you’d imagine. I just felt numb. Why had this happened?

I jabbed 999 into my phone and began babbling about being shot and needing an ambulance from the front of the University. They asked me which entrance and I broke down. There were so many damn entry points that I couldn’t figure out which would be nearest.

As we concluded the phone call, I once again envisioned the ambulance driver. It was clear this was the man I had been talking with, and as we finished speaking I saw him smile, hang up, and fold a piece of paper. The last thing I remember thinking was, “at least I didn’t give him my home address.”

Next thing I knew I was in the ambulance, only it was more like a minibus. My head was fuzzy and there was a stiffness in my neck, but I realised I was not alone. I looked up to see several others in similar drug-induced states to me, and at the front of the bus the paramedic grinned. From the driver’s seat he picked up a machine gun. Not again.

I undid my seatbelt and slowly slid below the seats. I heard the rapid cracks of firing, but there was no blinding light, no screams. I don’t even think any bullets fired. But sure enough, the first three rows of people all dropped dead. I peered over the top of the seat to see sparks flying from the necks of the recently deceased. Touching my own, I felt a small electrical box on a collar. I ripped it off.

I guessed the gun automatically triggered the boxes whenever they were aligned. And everyone else was too out of it to realise. What were we, test subjects? How had they chosen us? Why?

I waited until the paramedic had left his warm corpses before sneaking off the bus. In my messed up head, I didn’t think of walking myself to hospital. Right now I trusted no-one, so I hobbled all the way home.

But they must have followed me. Before long a For Sale sign appeared in my garden, and without any of mine or my parents’ consent, the house was sold. Eventually my parents disappeared. There was no note, no slight indication as to what happened to them, but after recent events I feared the worst.

I was told the new tenants had decided I could still live with them. I waited in the living room to meet my landlords. The front door burst open and the new owners walked in. It was the woman who had shot me. And her loving husband.

They gave me a small space in the kitchen and one of the cupboards for my belongings. They emptied the house of everything they didn’t want, and sat on my parents’ sofa watching my parents’ TV. I sat cross-legged on the kitchen floor, trying to think about nothing.

Obviously, me being alone for five minutes without fresh pain wasn’t an option.

“What you have?” She growled. “I want to see.” She reached for my cupboard door, and upon looking in smirked at my measly possessions. “This all you have, eh?” She poked me in the side and saw me wince. “Oh sorry,” she purred. “Do you have a broken rib?” I nodded through tears. She laughed and punched me.

As another flash of agony reared up my side, I thought, somehow, I’ll get my house back.

What a Catch

She looked at his once-handsome face. The chiselled jawline and strong nose were still there. If she focused hard enough, his eyes were the same green-blue as the day they met. The only problem now was that the rest of him was also green-blue.

She reached out a tentative hand and stroked his cheek. No longer did it feel soft, but rough and scaly. Where there had once been warmth, there was nothing but slimy cold. This wasn’t her Jeff. This, apparently, was Jub.

“I’m still me,” he whispered, raising a webbed hand to cover hers. “I still feel the same.” He started sobbing, great shuddering breaths gasping through his large lips. She didn’t know how to react. Then she realised he wasn’t actually crying; her hand was covering his gill.

“I’m sorry,” she said, backing away. “You’re just…uh…not my type…anymore.” And with that, she ran, Jub reaching a solitary fin after her.

She’d been suspicious from the first date. They’d enjoyed the fairground rides, and she’d laughed at his unusual sense of humour. Things were going swimmingly, until out of nowhere he fell to his knees and broke down at the coconut shy. He refused to speak of the incident, but now she remembered the little golden fish, suffocating in plastic bags.

He’d always downright refused to visit the Seaquarium too, appeared almost angry whenever she suggested it. It occurred to her now that maybe some of his family were captive there. If he even had a family.

Oh God, she thought, clutching her stomach. I hope I’m not pregnant.

Taxes and Taxis

Dusters at the ready, kids; I’ve finally uncovered the blog from underneath the enormous stack of paperwork on my desk! Much has happened in the many months I’ve been away/too lazy to upload anything – predominantly adult chores like work and bills and crying. I won’t bore you with that. In fact, I’ll get straight to the awesome bit:

I’m back at Uni!

This time I’m tackling the MA Creative Writing, and it has finally prompted me to write again! Not only does that mean I get motivated towards doing something with my life, but it also means you wonderful people get a lovely story to read (or another lousy post to scroll past, depending on how you look at it). And expect many more to come!

 

Just Here is Fine

Rosie watched the wooden prayer beads swinging dangerously from the rearview mirror and thought, Christ, even the car needs God right now. She had been in this taxi for less than five minutes and was already regretting her decision. Evidently she’d been kidnapped by some psychopath who’d just forged his license and stuck an Eagle Cars sticker on the side of his Peugeot.  Although what was the point in kidnapping her just to crash the damn car?

She put her phone on silent and sent a quick text to Megan. The driver didn’t notice. Her bare arms stuck to the old brown leather and her hand slipped from the grab handle. Fog slowly crept up the back windows and Rosie held back the urge to write “HELP!” with her fingertip.

Oh my God, why were they going this way?

Her eyes darted around the taxi interior, trying to peel her mind away from what would happen when they stopped. If they stopped.

 The minibus had six seats; two foldable for wheelchair access. There was a step on either side by  the sliding doors. The plastic screen separating the passenger from (their demise?) the driver had a visible handprint on it. There were smears across the floor; mud – blood maybe? It was too dark to tell. The driver started humming tunelessly. Rosie closed her eyes and muttered under her breath.

The musky stench of the leather mixed with the stale smell of other people – (How many others has he killed?) – and her own anxious body odour. This, combined with another sudden jolt had her heaving. Was this really going to be her final memory? Her mind flashed through all the people she’d ever loved. How many would even know she was gone? Did she have time to text more? She dared a quick peep through the window and almost cried when she saw her street name.

“Just here is fine,” she whispered. The taxi came to an abrupt halt and Rosie shot forwards in her seat. Fumbling to remove her seatbelt with wet fingers, she froze as the driver, this hulking silhouette of a man, lifted his arm –

– and pressed the button on the meter.

“Six fifty darlin’.” His voice was low and gruff, disinterested.

She reached a shaking hand into her purse and held out a ten pound note. The driver flipped on the lights and turned to take the money. She saw him for the first time: face set in a scowl beneath a jail cell haircut. His clothes were scruffy, layered beneath an even scruffier beard. But his clear grey-blue eyes yielded their terrible secret; he was painfully, exceptionally ordinary.

“Keep the change,” she mumbled, half disappointed, and fled.

 

…I’m exhausted already!

The Regal Rat Dream

Taking God Save our Gracious Queen to a whole new level.

That was the premise of the game. Not many people would have jumped at that. The games company should have fired their marketing team (and hired me instead!) But the chance to be an undercover detective with the prospect of high employability rates and the royal family’s eternal gratitude? You’re on to a winner!

This game required skilled detective work and strong willpower. In teams of three we were expected to uncover and terminate any plots against the queen’s life. I was picked last for my team, being the only female of the party. I was left with Johnny Depp and a man named Lewis.

We began in a basement, where an apparent clue had been left as to the identity of the latest plotter. I however, never saw any of the clues. The guys dealt with that. In fact, I never really did anything other than tag along. Any time I suggested an approach they looked irritable I’d spoken at all, so for the most part I just watched them.

When they found this clue, they discussed where to go next – without me, of course, and began the steep ascent out of the basement. It was a high gradient slope that led to the outside world instead of the ground floor of a house. At the top was a Metro-esque sign on curly black iron, enveloped slightly by the bushes and trees on either side.

Johnny managed one foot on the slope before a sound like thunder rolled above us. A singular rat ran towards us, large grey body covered in mangy wet clumps. Following him were his brothers, hundreds of them, all running straight for us.

Johnny and Lewis raced up the slope, with me following closely behind. I had to leap over several crowds of rats for fear of them dragging me down with them. One misstep, one stampeding rat stood on and it was game over. The thought of being stuck down there covered in those feral creatures was enough to get me out.

By the time I’d made it to safety Johnny had already gone. I walked behind Lewis for a while as he spoke to Johnny over his walkie talkie.

“Can I have one of those?” I asked.

He barely glanced at me. “No.”

“Why not?”

“Because you have nothing useful to say.”

I fell back behind him. He meandered along the roads for a bit, then struck off in a more purposeful direction.

“Where are we going?” I asked

am going back to the palace. You should go somewhere else.”

Despite his somewhat uncalled-for doucheyness I too returned to the palace. There was bound to be clues there from where the schemers had planned their schemes. The guys took to the restaurant whilst I went up to the royal chambers. I didn’t bother telling them where I was going, they wouldn’t care anyway.

The Queen’s bodyguard awaited me outside the royal apartments. He had a suit, shades and an earpiece like your average stereotyped secret service man. He held his palm out to stop me, then listened to the person in his ear before saying,

“The Queen says she fancies you. You have her royal pardon to search wherever you deem necessary in your quest.”

Awesome. Wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but hey, it worked in my favour.

I was about to proceed past the guard when I heard two annoyingly familiar voices. It was Lewis and Johnny, but they were nowhere near me.

“Yeah, but you wear it in your ear like this. No-one will suspect a thing.”

I doubled back and followed the sound of the idiots all the way back to the banquet hall, where they were surrounded by diners all staring at them. They’d found an upgrade to their walkie talkies in the form of a state of the art earpiece. I couldn’t believe they’d spent our whole team budget on something so unnecessary!

Somehow, they’d inverted the audio into a microphone. This resulted in their voices booming across what I could only imagine was half of London. I walked up to their table, trying to avoid the irritable stares and titters of the crowd around us.

“You idiots, we can all hear you.”

Johnny looked at me with disgust, screwdriver in hand and wires all over him. “We know. We’re trying to fix it. You wouldn’t understand.”

I ignored him. “Where’s mine anyway?”

Lewis vacantly tossed me his old humongous walkie talkie. “Go look in the basement, would you?”

My heart pounded. I knew what await in the cellar. It involved lots of fighting, and I could barely punch. “Can’t one of you guys go?”

They tittered like I’d told a hilarious joke. “If we went down there, who’d do all the important stuff?”

“Yeah, the queen would die if we left it to you. Then you’d be up for treason with the culprit when we catch him!”

I sighed. There was no way of getting round these stubborn bastards. But I knew the secret lay in that room. If I didn’t go we’d be here forever and other teams would get ahead. “Fine… but if you’re insisting I go, give me one of the earpieces. Carrying this big thing around will hinder me down there.”

They looked at me as if I’d asked them to suck their grandmother’s toes. I realised it was futile even trying, so I left them to their tinkering and sought out the basement.

Evidently it went horrible wrong because I found myself back at the start of the level in the cellar. I could sense the impending rat stampede. You’d think after the first time I’d be well prepared, but for some reason it took me a lot longer to get out. Several times I nearly toppled over but somehow I stayed alive and on my feet.

At the top I paused out of reach of danger to catch my breath. As I did, I saw eight of the largest rats carrying a dying rat towards the cellar. He was clearly of important rank; he had a pimp cane and cane rows and looked inexplicably regal. I think it was the Rat Prince, come to the end of his reign. This was a ceremony for the people to say goodbye to their beloved leader. So moving! I believed I saw his royal ratness moaning and holding his little paw to his head.

Woe is me!”

Something out of the corner of my eye caught my attention. There was no breeze tonight, but the trees still moved. Squinting against the darkness, I realised they weren’t leaves at all, but even more rats. Each of them held onto their comrades’ paws, making star shapes with their bodies like synchronised swimmers against the night sky.

After watching this religious rite of passage, it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen my teammates in a deliciously long while. I searched the nearby alleys and eventually found Lewis yelling at his earpiece.

“Where’s Johnny?” I asked. Lewis threw me a quick glance, then shrugged. “Trying to find him. This stupid thing ain’t working.”

Then without warning he he ran off again, down random alleys and off into the town. I tried to keep up but lost him.

Damn I wanted a new team. One with actual intelligence and less sexism. I sighed and set off for the palace again.

The Stew Maker Dream

In times of war, we look to our leaders for guidance and courage. But who do the leaders look to?

In this particular war I was looked upon as a leader. In real life, I might have been called General, or President, maybe even Queen. But in this, I was known as a Stew Maker. 

Stew was a sacred food in this war, and few of us knew how to make it. But there were ancient and sacred rules the Gods decreed upon my duty:

1: Thou shalt not give thy stew to any other mortal unless in dire need.
2: Thou shalt not divulge the sacred recipe to any living mortal.
3: Thou shalt never be without thy bowl of stew.
4: Thou shalt not fight for fear of spilling thy heavenly supplement.

Follow in these commandments and thou shalt have our holiest protection.

These rules saw me standing on the sidelines of battlefields, watching my men die around me whilst raising the tender, slow cooked beef to my mouth. It was torture. I watched men die of starvation in the trenches, the last thing they remember being the succulent scent of home-cooked stew. Every day I walked through the poverty and famine of my people, forever eating and never gaining weight.

Sometimes, when nobody else was looking, I would throw pieces of meat to the hungry, or use it to keep my family alive. Of course the Gods would know this, but I couldn’t help myself. I felt powerless without their protection, but if I kept it a secret, people would still believe I was untouchable, and that would prevent me getting instantly lynched.

I wasn’t the only Stew Maker in our district; there were a few of us, including my little brother. We were seen as guardians, as good omens. As long as the Stew Makers followed their duties, the majority would be safe from harm.

The only people more revered than us were the priests. Every time they sang, thousands and thousands of people would make the ascent up to the ruinous castle, myself included.  No matter which side of the war you were on, everyone followed the rituals. The hill was situated in the very centre of the country, easily accessible from each of the four districts.

Each night we would all gather at the top of the hill in quiet contemplation, listening to the humming melody of the priests.

My African-American warrior friend sat with me on a rock as I gazed into the night’s sky. She wasn’t a Stew Maker, but she was well-known and cherished among our people for her feats in battle. Today, however, several idiots from our enemies’ ranks decided to mess with her.

They picked and pressed and bullied her until she stood up on a high rock and hissed, “dammit, don’t you know who I am?” I saw her fists clench and I prepared for the wrath of the priests when a fight ensued and the holy song was disrupted. But the men just shrugged and laughed at her. She sat down, ego instantly deflated.

When the dawn began to break and the first stain of colour spread across the horizon, the song dissipated and we all went home. My parents sat on the sofa in our humble house. Our allies surrounded us; they felt safer being near us at all times. My parent’s stew making days were long over, but they were still sworn to keep the recipe secret. However, the Gods were not kind, and did not permit previous Stew Makers to continue eating once their time had run out.

My mother’s face was gaunt and thin. After a life of constant delicious meals, the latter years of her life had not been kind. I stood on the balcony and occasionally chucked them a piece of beef when no-one was looking.

A couple of hours later I set off for work, stew bowl still in hand. All this war and tension around me and I still had to work. Typical life.

It was a foggy morning and I could barely see anything. Still, I knew I was early. Through the bleak whiteness I saw the men from last night on the other side of the street, jeering at me but not daring to come near. I was wary of them. But soon I began to daydream as I walked, completely unfocused and yet walking automatically towards my goal. My mind became as fogged as the air.

When I finally came to my senses, the first thing I realised was that my hand felt considerably lighter. I looked down with dread to see that my stew had disappeared. How was that possible?

The air was clear now, and I figured someone had placed a sleeping draught or hallucinatory into it in order to steal my stew. I began searching for the men, but had no such luck. Turning into the nearest alley, I fell to my knees in grief.

My little brother, only six years old, was chained to the wall and slumped in death towards the floor. His angelic blonde floppy hair shrouded his face, his knees bent at awkward angles. Beside him in the dirt was my stew bowl, recently washed up and still warm. The stew was no more.