Quick Tales

A blog to show very short fiction that I write on the spur of the moment.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Sugar

Martin sat at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee. When he tried to drink it he found the coffee too bitter. After searching in the cupboard for sugar and not finding any, he shouted for Cassie.

She didn't come, and then he remembered.

Slowly he walked into the hallway to fetch his coat from the rack. Cassie's black winter coat still hung from the peg. Ignoring it, Martin put on his own coat and zipped it up. Returning through the kitchen to fetch his keys, he picked the cup of milky coffee up and poured it down the sink.

An experiment in style and form. Google "iceberg theory".

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

An Emo Fell Out of a Tree


I was walking through the park yesterday and the strangest thing happened to me as I passed the duck pond. An emo fell out of a tree.

It had been hidden in the higher branches of a tree, concealed by leaves and surprisingly well camouflaged. So I had not noticed it, as I am, lamentably, not in the habit of wildlife spotting on my lunchtime walks.

The emo was not hurt. It managed to pick itself up after a few moments wondering what had happened. It was a red and black striped emo with matching hair. I did walk up to the emo to enquire on its well being. It seemed to respond that it was fine, and that it liked my hat. Then the emo started to climb back up into the tree again at the behest of calls from its fellow tree dwelling emos.

If I was an anthropologist I would have taken a greater and more detailed interest in the emo's general behaviour. My only observations are that it was polite, but confused. Maybe it had no real understanding of the concepts of causality and gravity.

Not being a linguist, I was unable to ask it more detailed questions and determine its level of communicative ability. Oh well, I told myself, I am content that it was not hurt, and that I got to take a close look at a young example of an emo in, what I was call, not its natural environment, as I am led to believe that they are primarily an urban species much like the punk.

Maybe these emos have crossbred with the raver.

However, I must note that an emo falling out of a tree was not the strangest occurrence of my day. But more about that at a later time.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Terminal 5

This was written a month ago when I was in a not so great place (deadlines & crap), but had also been thinking about well the subject that this story is about.

There is a line of common thought that can be drawn from an email I wrote to some friends at new years about the state of fiction (genre & "proper") through most of my stories written in the first four months this year. This is one knot in that line of thought. Hopefully finally pushing it to the Internet will let me get on with the next thought after it.


Cameron heard and felt the taxi's wheels bounce over the chevrons painted in the road as the driver broke the speed limit. "Don't worry mate, we'll be at the airport soon. We've just cleared a large accident," the driver said.

"That's good," replied Cameron.

He'd never flown from Heathrow before. Luton and Stansted on holidays to Spain with his family a couple of times. Most of the year he was away; deployed on operations with his unit. Before his two families, the SAS and Cathy, he'd never had the opportunity to go away. He knew the layout of Heathrow airport perfectly though from his briefing sessions.

The taxi slowed down. "Almost there mate. We're just joining the M4. Where are you flying to, anyway?"

"New York."

"How long you going for?"

"Just a weekend. That's why I've only got the one bag. Hand luggage is far easier than checked for short trips."

"Sure is. My wife always wants to take everything with her when we go to the Costa Blanca though. Costs a fortune on Ryanair." The driver laughed.

Cameron grunted, and driver after getting the impression that his passenger didn't want to talk turned the radio up. Listening to the evening drive time programs Cameron thought about his wife and kids. It was almost two years since the terrorist attack in Wotton Bassett. An Islamic militant drove a car through the roadblocks on a repatriation day.

They had travelled to the town to watch the bodies of Cameron's friends return. Cathy had gone to be with her friends. To stand with them, and help them, through a time she never hoped would come.

Rebbecca and Sam's bodies were found in a demolished nursery on the high street. Cathy's body had never been found. Cameron had heard at the inquest that she'd been spotted on CCTV next to the bomber's car.

Cameron checked his pockets for his passport and ticket information. He did not need them, but if checked he'd have them. Terminal 5 appeared outside his window and the car stopped. "We're here. I'll get your bag from the boot."

The driver stepped out and went around the back of the car. Cameron undid his seat belt and joined the driver under the spotlights. His bag sat on the concrete. "Everything okay?" asked the driver.

"Yeah," Cameron said, looking at his watch, "plenty of time. Should be able to get a pint in as well."

"Sounds good. Have a safe trip."

"I will," Cameron said.

At the check in desk he presented his passport and a printout with his ticket code on. The woman on the desk asked him to put the bag in a steel basket to check the size. It just fitted in. When asked about a window seat Cameron responded that he didn't mind, because it didn't matter. She gave him his ticket, and then she warned him that it would be best to go through security now before it got busy in half an hour.

Cameron went and sat in The 5 Tuns with a pint of Stella. He put the bag under the table with care, and he waited for the security lines to get busier. The mobile phone in his jacket pocket buzzed with a text message from his MI5 handler. "Are you at the airport?"

"Yes. I'll be heading through security soon," he tapped into the phone as his reply.

Savouring every last drop of the Stella Cameron decided that this was going to his last drink. The mission brief meant waiting for the moment when the security lines were at their busiest. A tactic decided with cold logic to cause the maximum shock and awe. But Cameron knew he could only evade detection for so long. He knew that other groups within MI5 would be after him. Groups with different and wrong agendas.

He was not doing this to avenge his Cathy, Rebecca and Sam. He was doing this for his country.

Mark, his oldest friend, sat down opposite him. He had a pint of Guinness in one hand and a new phone in the other. "Good evening Cameron."

"Good evening."

"I've got a new phone for you. One that hasn't been used." He put the phone down on the table. It was the same model as his. "Take it. We'll get rid of your old one."

Cameron swapped the phones, and when he put his hand in the pocket he kept the phone he felt a small plastic wallet. It was a laminated picture of his family that he always kept with him. "Can you take something for me?"

"Anything."

Cameron pushed the photograph across the sticky table.

"Oh I see," said Mark. "Do you have any other personal items?"

"Just the passport I was given."

"Good. Remember that not being identified is important."

"I know. Can you make sure my parents get told something positive? Caught in an IED trying to save some orphans, something like that."

Mark smiled. "Of course. You are being a hero after all."

Cameron drained the bottom of his pint glass. "It's time to go and be the hero. You'd better leave."

"Godspeed," said Mark, as he left The Three Tuns. Cameron picked up the rucksack. It was filled with fifteen kilograms of plastic explosives and nails. He put it on his back, and walked towards the security line. The line was was spilling out of the marked lines and into the check in area.

Cameron was not seeing people in the line any more. He saw no children holding their mother's hands; he saw no businessmen looking forward to returning home; he saw no young couples eagerly waiting to go on holiday; he saw only numbers. Standing in the middle of the queue of hundreds he took the mobile phone that Mark had given him out, and he dialled the number he'd memorised the night before.

The phone on the other end of the line was in his bag attached to the bomb's detonator. It didn't even ring once.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Three Words

This story was written for Short Fuse which is a monthly spoken event that takes place in Leicester. I performed this story on Tuesday 18th of March 2010.

You banged your head this morning and ignored it.

After arriving at work, and turning on your computer, you go to the break room for your first coffee of the day. On returning to your desk you see Toby in the corridor. You say, "hello," to him, and he says something back. You don't catch what he says. Toby mumbles a lot.

You shut the door to your office, and start to perform triage on the emails that have arrived over the weekend. A task that normally takes all morning, and everyone here knows that you need to be left alone for this. It is an hour before Mark, the intern, interrupts you. He starts to speak to you, but all you hear is gibberish. It is as if he has started speaking another language.

"Excuse me. Can you say that again?" you ask.

Mark repeats himself. All you hear is the same nonsense.

"I can't help you right now." You start to panic. "Can you please get Chetan for me? It's important."

Mark closes the door behind him. At least he understood you. Your emails are all legible; no problems there, but you could not understand what Mark was saying to you. Chetan pushes the door open slightly and taps on it. He says something. A different nonsense this time.

You explain that you don't understand what he's saying and that he'll have to write down his half of the conversation on the whiteboard. "Have you hit your head?"

"I think so. The side of my head hurts," you answer.

"Go to the hospital. I'll drive you there now. Do you want me to phone Cassie?"

Cassie, your girlfriend, is at home. A day off from work. "Leave it. I'd better find out what's wrong first."

You are driven to the hospital. At the reception desk for A&E he explains the problem you have as he understands it. The receptionist looks skeptical, but a nurse does come to see you eventually. He tries to talk to you. You tell him that you really can't understand what he is saying. He takes a pen out of his pocket, and he scribbles a message on the corner of a free newspaper. "I'll be back in a minute."

The nurse returns with a doctor after ten minutes. This doctor is carrying a spiral bound notebook. He opens it and writes very slowly. "My name is Dr. Neale. I'm a neurologist here. Follow me."

You follow him through the hospital. The nurse stays behind. You become lost in the white floored white walled maze, and are totally disoriented. After ten minutes of walking you arrive at an office. The doctor leads you inside, and he sits down behind his tidy desk. On the notepad he writes, "I don't know what is wrong with you yet, but we are going to get you an MRI. And then, from there, we'll try and see what we can do."

You get an answer to what your condition that never goes away is. It is called pure word deafness. Six months later and you are at home on sick leave. The prognosis is vague; the problem might go away, but the problem is more than likely not going to. There are the weekly treatment sessions, a condition of your paid sick leave, but their effect has been minimal; even if they have helped you develop coping strategies.

You are still in love with Cassie, although your relationship is strained. She comes home from work one day, and you ask how her day was. A habitual tick that you've not gotten rid of. A habit that you think has helped you both. She replies, "good," and you hear that.

"What was that? I just caught something you said."

Cassie answers, and it is all word salad apart from the fact that she'd had a good day. "Wait I just heard you had a good day. Maybe I'm getting better."

She smiles at you, and she shrugs. "Coffee?" you asked. She nods.

While making the coffee Cassie comes in to watch you in silence. You wish she'd talk to you more often. You don't quite know how to tell her, but just hearing the sound of her voice makes you feel better. It makes you feel as though one day you'll understand the babble. Besides there are only three words you want to hear again. You know that presently you wouldn't understand them as words if she said them. But the meaning would be clear to you if she said them. It'd still be those three words.

You know when people lie, even the small innocent everyday lies, because you hear them. That is all you hear coherently. When you are watching the news if a politician is talking you hear a tangle of half sentences.

You tell your neurologist about this at your next meeting. He laughs, and then he writes down his reply which tells you that what you've told him is impossible. You ask him to say this aloud. You can't trust the written word anymore.

"Two plus two is five," he says, testing you with a confident smile.

You correct him. "Two plus two is four."

When you arrive home after that session with Dr Neale you find Cassie in the bedroom crying. You sit next to her, and you wrap an arm around her to comfort her. You whisper in her ear, "what's wrong love?"

She replies "I love you."

Friday, 12 March 2010

Saving the World

"Have I saved the world? Sure, I've saved the world. Only once though. I'm not going to claim that I'm one of those superheroes who saved the world more than once from the Nazis, the Russians, the Chinese, or even aliens. I'm not going to claim what I can't explain fully. I saved the world something more horrible than can be imagined in fiction and it taught me a lot.

"I saved the world, but I didn't save myself. I saved the world by talking time backwards until the world was as it was before. There was no other way.

"Saving the world, now there is a reactionary idea. There's an inherent conservatism in the whole thought process that allows you to decide that the world needs saving. The drum beat of humanity is always to move forward, and to make mistakes, but mistakes that are recognized and built upon. To save the world from these mistakes is saying that the present is no longer as ideal as the past.

"And this is normally not true.

"Of course when the killing fields stretch from Shanghai to Baghdad then turning back time is no bad option.

"And slightly more about saving the world than say stopping some superpower enriched hulk setting a city and its habitants on fire. Which is saving people and a city. Not the world.

"No, saving the world was, for me, about sacrifice. Even in the world that burned I had a family. In this world, the world that was turned back, they are gone. My memories of them are all that's left.

"So yes, I have saved the world; although no one would know it looking at me, a simple crusty homeless man, and no one is certainly going to reward me for my efforts and loss. But then I saved the world. You don't save the world for anything other than the fact that the world needs saving.

"Although it would help if you tossed us a few quid for a burger and a warm drink."

Written for the Leicester Casuals writers group March challenge of "saving the world."

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Subject: AWOL

Written as part of my first attempt at a story for Short Fuse. There's more, but it is less good and not interesting (really). The story was going to be bookended by two emails. The email you can see below, and the one from the return trip. Either that or the reply to email from who it was sent to.

Subject: AWOL.

There is no good way to start this email. I'm going away! You won't be seeing or hearing from me for a long while. I can't tell you how long for.

I can't even tell you where I'm going. Protocol and all that. Although if I tell you that I'm sitting in Dubai airport waiting for a military flight, then you can fill in the blanks. If I tell you that tomorrow on my schedule I have three hours of "Basic Weapons Familiarization and Handling" I hope that I don't have to say anything else.

I'm not going to lie to you, this is dangerous. I'm going to be, and I am now, scared. There is a good chance I'm going to come back fundamentally changed, and there is a chance that I won't be coming back alive at all.

I'm telling you this because even though our friendship has been strained recently, I still trust you. I still want you to trust me as well.

It would be unrealistic for you not to worry. I won't ask you not to. Just remember that no matter what happens, I went into this knowing the risks.

Love,

Jamie.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Avenue of the Sun

I've done loads of stuff this month; just for different venues. Stuff that I haven't been able to post here. More stuff will come. But here's a comic script from my ready to pass to J.R. Random artist when required.

Title: Avenue of the Sun.

Writer: Will Ellwood.
Artist: ?

Date: 27 Feb 2010.

Tags: Cat Burglar, Climbing, Dubstep, City, Theft.

Playlist: Burial & Four Tet - Moth. Soom T - Dirty Money. Röyksopp - This Might Be It.

Intro.

This is me using a comic panel I imagined a month ago. While listening to three tracks on my mp3 player while in transit to nowhere in particular I arrived at how to use this panel. The three tracks are obviously the play list above.

Style Notes.

I do not use sound-effects so I'd rather they were avoided. I also tend to imagine seeing comics in black and white instead of colour. So while I provide descriptions of colour as a guide to the artist it is not an expectation of the final form of the work.

Characters.

A.

Small, athletic, a cat burglar. She is of no specific or identifiable ethnic origin. She carries a small rucksack with tools in it, and dresses in black free-running clothes.

B.

Large, square, the man. He is dressed in a bad suit. He is WASP'y McWhitey. He does not look like he belongs in the nightclub.

Locations.

The Club.

Small. Dark. Intimate. Crowded. A proper club filled with punters dancing on the dance floor. A DJ in the booth at one end, and tables in bays ringing the dance floor.

Museum of Antiquities.

A Victorian high-rise block of stone. A museum of antiquities (like I've called the set). Filled with old stuff (obviously) that is not secured very well at all. Dark and badly illuminated even during the day with the lights on.

The Avenue.

An east west avenue in our fictional landscape. A canyon of buildings in the sunrise.

The Script.

Page 1. (5 Panels.)

Pic 1.

The Club. A full dance floor. The DJ booth is on the lower left side of the page. The dancing crowd fills most of the available space apart from a border of seated booths around the edge. Everything is lit by a solitary strobe light.

Caption: Burial & Four Tet - Moth.

Pic 2.

One of the side booths. The strobe is off. Two figures. A Woman, A., and a man, B., are sitting on opposite sides of a table. The man has a hand on the table. There is a whisky glass on his side of the table. She has a bottle of water. The strobe light is off.

Pic 3.

Close up on B.'s hand. He is pressing a folded slip of paper into the table. The strobe light is off.

Caption: My fence wanted to talk.

Pic 4.

Close up on the unfolded sheet of paper. It says, "Museum of Antiquities. The Diamond Skull. Bring it to me and your sister lives. Security will be off." The strobe light is on.

Caption: He had my sister.

Pic 5.

The side booth with just B. sitting in it. He is drinking his glass of whisky. The strobe light is off.

Caption: The bastard.

Page 2. (3 Panels.)

For this page divide the page in half vertically. The first panel takes up the left half. The other two panels slot in on the right hand side taking up half the page each.

Pic 1.

The picture that I want here is the side of a building. The Museum of Antiquities from top to bottom. We have here four images of A. climbing the building superimposed over the top. One of A. at the bottom looking up, and scouting the route out. Another of her up about a third of the way. Climbing naturally and cat like. The third image is of her still climbing two thirds of the way up. The last image in this picture of A. climbing over the edge of the buildings flat roof.

Caption: But I'm a pro. I'll do what I have to do.

Pic 2.

A. is kneeling next to a skylight. Below her, in the room, is a pedestal with a skull on it. Other details are hidden in the murk.

Pic 3.

A. is cutting out a square of glass from the skylight large enough for her to fit through.

Page 3. (3 Panels.)

Pic 1.

A. dangles near the bottom of a rope that has been dropped into the room with the diamond skull. A small blanket has been placed over the edge of the cut glass in the skylight to prevent it from shredding the rope.

Pic 2.

A. stands next to the diamond skull. It is sitting on a velvet cushion. A. has her rucksack open in one hand, and her free hand is reaching out to grab the valuable skull.

Pic 3.

A. climbs out of the room using just her arms to pull herself up the rope.

Page 4. (1 Panel.)

Pic 1.

The black outline of an avenue lined with skyscrapers. The Museum of Antiquities is next to A. who stands with her back to us as a silhouette. On the ground next to her is her rucksack. The sun, rising, is a bright white disc low on the distant horizon.

Caption: I do what I have to do, and my sister will live to see the sun.

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