Category: Fiction

Tennis

The post is written in response to a prompt from Genre Scribes: Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #29 — Tennis.


I think the part I loved the most was when I was first released.

That whooooosh, the rush of fresh air as the can was popped open, the golden light that greeted me as I tumbled out onto the luscious green grass. I know I was only there for a moment but it’s still such a vivid memory.

I briefly chatted to some of my co-workers while we waited, I think a couple of them were a little scared, which is weird, because it’s literally what we were made for, but I guess it makes sense. Not everyone wants to be thrown up in the air to be hit by a racquet.

After that, of course, it was down to business, we all have a job to do, right?

I didn’t have to wait long before I’m rolled fast, picked up, thrown and bounced. Then I’m in a pocket, then I’m up in the air, then BOOOOM I’m flying back and forth so fast, the grass, the net, the people are all a blur of colour and noise.

It’s wonderful. I felt so alive!

But then, just like that, you hear the words and it’s all over. Game, set, and match.

It only really struck me when I was dropped back into the cannister, back into the darkness.

I’ve heard that sometimes us older tennis balls see the light again but, well, for me at least, I’ve seen nothing yet.

Don’t get me wrong I know I’ll never be new again, but, ya know, I’d at least like to be used.

The Interview

The post is written in response to a prompt from Genre Scribes: Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #29 — Interview.


Of course I was nervous, who wouldn’t be. The weeks of waiting now boiled down to the next couple of hours.

I closed my eyes, focused my breathing, and thought of the conversations I’d had to prepare for today. Most people had said the same things; ‘I was the right man for the job, no way they could trip me up, no questions I couldn’t answer. Be confident.’

I was ready. Just as I had been. I was the right man for the job, I was confident of that, and the questions they would ask would confirm it. I could feel my pulse slow, my mind calming. ‘You are ready’ said the voice in my head, ‘be confident’. It almost sounded convincing.

Just then the door creaked open, and a voice said “General Tibbets, they’re ready for you Sir”.

As I followed the Private, I saw he was more nervous than I was, his clenched fists visibly shaking. A child to have lived through such events.

The interview went as expected. I answered their questions; Yes, I captained the flight of Enola Gay on the 6th August 1945. Yes, I gave the command to drop the bomb. Yes, I felt remorse but I was following orders.

I remained calm, stoic, and resolute. Even when someone suggested it was all, ultimately, my fault I remained confident.

And then, just like that, it was over,

The same quivering private accompanied me back to my cell.

The door clanged behind me, and I finally broke down. Sobbing long and hard over the death and chaos I had unleashed on the world.

Damage

The post is written in response to a prompt from Genre Scribes: Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #28 — Damage.


“Look at you, with your designer pant suit, that flashy watch, and just look at your new £200 hairdo, aren’t you just so fuckin trendy! Put down that Starbucks cup and take a proper look at yourself, you blinkered idiot. Where do you think those limited edition sneakers were made? How many people worked in treacherous conditions for that handbag, and don’t even get me started on the smartphone that’s constantly plastered to your face.

And it’s not about the obscene amount of money you spend it’s the frivolous way you do it, no consideration, no wider thought to the damage your actions are inflicting on others, children on the other side of the world are being beaten, living in shacks, earning pennies, just so your brand label jeans have the right amount of pre-scuffing to match whatever bullshit fashion trend you need to follow today.

Don’t you see, it’s all just a way to keep you in your place? Buy more, consume more, throw it all away and start over every month. A new trend, a new must-have, keep up with the fuckin Kardashians. Ignore the rest of the planet as it burns, as the waste mountains grow, as the air clogs up with the shreds of the dollars you don’t even realise you’ve set on fire!”

She screams, slamming her hand down on the counter. Her breathing ragged, her glare fierce. She lowers her head.

Pause.

She looks up and whispers.

“You are so damaged you can’t even recognise it.”

She watches a single tear roll down the face in the mirror.

Creepy trees

Village

The post is written in response to a prompt from Genre Scribes: Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #27 — Literature.


The breeze rustled through straw rooftops as it gently buffeted its way through the village.

Adam rose from the table, walked over to the stove and lifted the lid from the bubbling pot. He inhaled deeply then stirred the thick stew, lifting the spoon to his mouth. ‘Aye, that’ll do’, he thought.

He turned to the door, pulling it open to the cool autumn air, looking for their lights at the edge of the forest beyond the grand wall. Hoping they would return soon.

Nothing yet.

He cast his eye around the nearby houses, knowing that the same scene was playing out inside all of them, fathers and sons tending to their homes, waiting on the mothers and daughters to return.

He can remember a day when he would be the one going past the grand wall, exploring the lands around their homestead.

He can remember the day it all changed and how quickly it happened. They’d spotted a herd wandering nearby, a bounty for such lean times, and were almost ready with their traps when that noise, that horrible noise started…

His reveries are broken. Cries in the distance, coming from the trees beyond the wall.

Doors are flung open, a young boy tries to bolt outside but is hauled back. Adam can sense the fear descending, eyes straining in the gloom, desperate to know what is happening.

There! The first signs of movement in the trees, bushes pushed aside, a rising panic, and again that noise, that terrifying noise chasing towards them.

The screaming starts.

It was happening again.

Literature

The post is written in response to a prompt from Genre Scribes: Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #26 — Literature.


“Please, just give it a quick read.”

“Look, I’ve told you before it’s not going to happen, how many times do we have to tell you?”

“Because the sign on the door says ‘Purveyors of fine literature’, and what is this if not that?!”

“You think this is fine literature? This? Ha! This is nothing but a collection of words!” he stifles a laugh before throwing my bundled parchment down dismissively.

I pictured my beloved Anne sitting at home, the two brutes there with her, the ones that had shaken me awake a few weeks ago.

“You don’t understand, please please read it.”

“I’ve read things from you before, why would I think this will be any better? You are a hack, I’ve seen better writing in a shopping list, seriously, Bill, give it up and go home”.

I look at the bound parchment lying on the desk in front of him, how can he mock my words so openly, so carelessly. If only he knew what was at stake. Yet I know he only cares about money, of which I have none.

For me this piece is everything; it’s my precious Anne with tears streaming down her face, as the ropes bind her tight to her chair, with the large silent man standing behind her, his blade bright in candlelight. It is my best work.

“Please, just read it, it won’t take you long. Please. I’m begging you.”

He glances down at the stack of bound papers.

“What kind of title is ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’ anyway?”

Charity

The post is written in response to a prompt from Genre Scribes: Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #25 — Charity.


I had a good life, a steady job, family, kids, a nice home.

No-one tells you how it’ll be, how the cold invades and never leaves, the background thrum from your gnawingly empty stomach.

No-one tells you what it feels like to be invisible.

You don’t care about that, you don’t care about my story, to you I’m just another person to step around and ignore as you busy about your day.

I know it because I used to be you.

When the bailiffs took our house, my partner took the kids and I quickly ran out of friendly beds.

I know no-one wants me around but I’m too chicken to kill myself.

So here I sit, begging for your charity.

For a while I targeted nightclub queues, hoping the drunken ramble would be a bit freer with their cash. Some were, but most only laughed and mocked; others spit, push, punch, and more. I’ll spare you the details.

I know you don’t really want to know.

Now I look to the morning office workers. On a good day someone will buy me a hot drink, maybe something to eat.

I used to love sitting in my kitchen on a cold morning, steaming coffee, hot buttered bagels.

I used to do that.

Me.

This lump of dirty clothes sitting here on the ground.

The one you walked around again, without even glancing at me.

I know not everyone will be nice but I’m still here, still human.

Aren’t I?

Don’t you want to hear my story?


Whilst this is fiction, the reality is that every day as I commute to and from work I see rising numbers of homeless people, begging in the street. I occasionally buy hot drinks or soups as I don’t carry change very often. I ask their names, I take a few minutes from my day. I don’t do it often enough, sometimes not for weeks.

If, like me, you want to do more, one way is to donate to a charity that focuses on people living on the streets; Social Bite – Buy a homeless person a Christmas Dinner which asks for a £5 donation.

The Lake Keeper

I’m trying something new, I’ve dabbled with fiction here and there on this blog, and the recent November Blogging challenge made me realise that I enjoyed the freedom a simple prompt can bring. So, let’s see how it goes.

The post is written in response to a prompt from Genre Scribes: Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #24 — Lake.

It was always known as the Lake Keepers cottage when I was growing up, although I never recalled seeing anyone living there, just the occasional signs of people passing through, more bothy than home.

Most of the Lake Keepers kept to their boats, all the better to do their job, so as I walked nearby early one morning I was startled to see a man leaving the building. Through the fresh mist that clung to the waters edge I could just make out a hunched figure trudging from the front door of the cottage and down the jetty to the boat floating there on the calm waters.

I watched as he clomped his way back, footsteps on wet boards sending tiny ripples across the water. Without realising I had moved behind a small tree so as not to be seen.

The door remained closed for some time, had it been an apparition, a side effect of my medication?

I was just about to leave when the door was flung open and I watched as the shadowy figure lumbered out, stooping as he walked through the door frame.

It was still early, the sun was barely up, but it was unmistakeable. I stood there and watched the Lake Keeper carry a body out of the cottage and down the jetty to the waiting boat.

The Blip

I’m standing in the room. It’s a room I’ve heard described by many others but here I am, finally. I can’t quite believe what’s happening, it feels surreal, like I’m still in a dream, which is oddly apt I suppose.

The message was waiting for me when I woke, as I rose from my bed the everyscreen on the wall chirruped its notification and up popped the message “YOUR BLIP DAY IS HERE” in the official corporament lettering, large and bold in the middle of the screen. It’s odd seeing something you’ve seen so often before, all those images posted to social feeds over and over, suddenly there in front of you, on your screen, in your reality, in front of your own eyes. It doesn’t seem real. I sat on the edge of the bed for the longest time just staring at the image.

Underneath it read, “Please report to The Centre by 10:00 today”, so I eventually rose, showered, and left my pod.

I was still a bit unsettled as I got on the shuttle, with all the other commuters heading to the Inner, and as it whisked silently along I looked around. Row after row of citizens minding their own business, headscreens in place here and there, eyes closed elsewhere. I rarely got the shuttle these days, my job being transferred to the Outer a few years ago, and it just added to the air of excitement that was slowly building as the Inner loomed closer and closer, with the grandspire of The Centre looming larger and larger.

The shuttle chime signalled the end of my journey and as I stepped out from the station into the street I could feel the nervous knot in my stomach churning tighter and tighter.

No-one walking past me knew what I was about to do today, yet I wondered if anyone would guess. Why would someone like me, clearly not a frequent visitor to these parts, be here at this time of day after all? But then part of the rules to avoid you being corrupted by people wanting to use your Blip for their own ends was to keep it secret, and we’d all seen the warnings and read the stories – that, one about the person who ended up being hit by a shuttle moving at full speed, still makes me shiver! – so I kept my head down and walked on.

I reached The Centre just before 10am and, after the usual rigmarole of scans and ID checks were passed, I was taken by a very polite assistant to a waiting room who told me someone else would be along soon to take me to the Blip Room and that I should take a seat. They said a lot of other things about the building we were in and the corridors we were strolling and the offices we were passing as walked from the entrance to the waiting room, all in the same breathless monotone that I daren’t interrupt.

I sat in the only seat in the room, my mind racing as I absent mindedly drummed my fingers on the soft leather of the arm of the chair.

A couple of minutes later another assistant, dressed in the same gentle green as the previous one, appeared and asked me to stand up and follow them. I stood up and almost walked into their back as they hadn’t moved, but then peering past them I saw it, just beyond them on the far wall, a door had appeared and was sliding open. I followed the assistant through into the darkened room, and stood where I was told. After a brief explanation to confirm why I was there and what I was to do and what to expect – entirely pointless because everyone already knows what Blip Day involves – they turned and walked out, closing their part in my day with the final parting words that I already knew they would say, “Take your time, start when you are ready”.

So there I stood, looking at the computer terminal in front of me. Set on a pedestal with a small keypad in front of it. At the top of the screen was the current date and time, which told me it was 10:01 and underneath in vivid neon green words splashed across the centre of the screen were the words; “Please enter the date and time from the previous week for your desired BLIP, then hit Enter.” Underneath the words was an empty line at the start of which was a blinking cursor waiting for me to make a decision.

It was as underwhelming as it was intoxicatingly exciting.

My Blip was finally here.

I’ve spoken to others who’ve been through today, and they all say similar things about wishing they’d known when they would be chosen, even though we all know it’s a lottery for a reason. Can you imagine living your life with the knowledge of when you would be the one standing here, in this place, with the cursor beckoning you to enter a date from your immediate past?

Imagine the havoc it would wreak, as you planned your “blip time” and did everything in your power to make it as perfect as you’ve ever dreamed. Just the stress of getting things right, knowing that you’ll only have one chance to relive that exact moment, that perfect hour over again, would surely be crippling.

That’s not to say I’ve not fantasised about what my perfect hour would be, we all have and anyone who says they haven’t is a liar, or they’ve already Blipped and are living with the regret of making the wrong choice.

My own fantasies veer from the ridiculous; a deserted beach, cocktails at sunset, and then a descent into as much lewd detail as I can cram into an hour (which, it turns out, is a quite disturbing amount), all the way through to a quiet lazy Sunday afternoon, lying on the hover sofa in the warmth of a summer breeze doing nothing much of anything. The latter is far more achievable than the former but hey, isn’t that what fantasies are for?

Then I realise how selfish I’m being and surely if I could reclaim an hour and do it all over again it would be better doing something productive, or something that will help other people? And then I realise that those people will also get to do an hour over so it’s ok to focus on myself for this and round the cycle goes.

They have counselling available after you Blip, if you want it, but imagine what the psychological damage would be like if knew when it would be your turn? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

All of this is flashing through my mind as I stand there, watching the cursor slowly blink.

“Please enter the date and time from the previous week for your desired BLIP, then hit Enter.”

They said I should take my time, I’m not sure they meant quite this long.

“Please enter the date and time from the previous week for your desired BLIP, then hit Enter.”

My palms are sweaty now and I force myself to focus, trying to recall every detail of the past week? I had a nice lunch on Tuesday with my sister, that was a nice hour? That walk at sunset on Sunday evening was beautiful, and… god what else did I do? Maybe I should go back and undo something rather than re-experience something I enjoyed?

There was that slip up at work that cost me an afternoon, I could go back and fix that. That homeless person I walked past that I ignored, maybe I go back and buy them some hot food and chat with them a while?

My brain was spinning and it was hard to focus and I started to realise how lucky I was. Here I stood, on my Blip Day and despite being able to go back and relive any hour of my life from the past week I didn’t feel any compulsion to do so? The things that didn’t go so well were not so bad that I need to fix them, and the good things were all with people I will see again in the future.

I wonder then if I could trade my Blip Day, hand it in and give someone else, maybe someone who had already used there turn many years ago. Someone who since then had had something bad, something you would want to undo? Perhaps the death of a loved one? Could I give them a chance to go back to the days before so they could say all the things they wanted to say?

Or that homeless guy, if he’s had his Blip Day already, maybe I can go back and let him make a different decision that saves him ending up cold and alone on the pavements of the city? One of my work colleagues recently ran over and killed a cat, maybe they get to go back in time to brake sooner?

The possibilities were endless, and the longer I stood there the more I realised how futile this choice was.

“Please enter the date and time from the previous week for your desired BLIP, then hit Enter.”

It was impossible, how could anyone, any single person, make a good decision? Especially someone like me, who by and large lived a privileged life, full of happiness and laughter? Surely there should be some level of worthiness, or need, considered when they selected the next Blip Day recipient.

“Please enter the date and time from the previous week for your desired BLIP, then hit Enter.”

Again the random nature of all of this struck me. I had been chosen so I should just make the most of this opportunity rather than waste it.

Yet still my brain struggled to latch on to anything of note from the previous week, no matter how hard I tried I drew blank after blank. I replayed every waking hour day by day, retracing my steps through time and there was nothing. I’d been doing this for my entire journey from home to the Inner and the walk to the Centre. I’d had a nice lunch one day but couldn’t recall if it was two or three days ago. There was a nice sunset last Wednesday I think? Or was it Friday? The harder I thought the more I struggled to recall any details at all from the previous week of my mundane life.

“Please enter the date and time from the previous week for your desired BLIP, then hit Enter.”

The room was warm, or maybe it was just me, and I could feel the panic rising. What happens if I can’t think of a time? Do I just leave the room? Do I get another chance or is this it? Why is my life so boring? All those people who talk about living your best life, and parrot that ancient phrase over and over – You Only Live Once – were right, I’d not been paying attention and so was faced with almost no choice at all, there was nothing from my last week that was of any interest or of any note.

My heart raced faster and faster as I tried to think. Surely there was a time limit, but then how long had I been standing here? Did they come and get me if I ran out of time, or do I just leave? I couldn’t even see a door for that matter, as soon as it had closed it had merged seamlessly with the wall. I looked around the room again but could see nothing bar the screen in front of me and that incessant, blinking, cursor.

I’d just need to choose something, anything. Pick a time and date at random and live with it.

God, what a laughing stock I’d be, but then is anyone any different, all those people who stood before me at these screens, surely they all went through the same experience? And how many people actually took note of their life in such detail that they could pinpoint an exact hour to relive? I remember reading about one person from the Outer 47th who went back to try and save a friend from a bad accident and ended up in the accident themselves because they got the time wrong by a few minutes, what if I did something like that?

I took a deep breath, forced my mind to slow. I am here now. I have one choice to make. Fundamentally that choice makes no difference to my life as it is, at the end of the hour I will be back here and I will leave and go home and tomorrow I will go work as normal and people will ask me what I did and I can tell them anything I like, even though I know I’ll tell them honestly that I didn’t make the most of this experience. And that’s ok too, not everyone has to have a great Blip, right? Surely the majority of them are all going to be like mine, an unremarkable hour of an unremarkable life.

How long had I been standing here? I glanced at the clock at the top of the screen which read 10:59, almost an hour! Are they watching me and wondering what I’m doing? No, don’t panic, just breathe. You aren’t the first person to stand here and the assistant said to take my time. It was no use, almost an hour of wracking my brain and I was still no closer.

“Please enter the date and time from the previous week for your desired BLIP, then hit Enter.”

My hands hovered over the keypad.

If only I had more time.