My Plan

From time to time, I post short stories that I have written. Helpful comments about what I've written or suggestions for future stories are most welcome. I also have another blog of stories from my family history http://susansfamilytales.blogspot.co.uk/

Monday, 30 March 2015

A Sword in the Night

This is an Easter story, told through the eyes of a minor character mentioned in the bible story. I imagine that because he was named that he might have been known to people in the early church.

Old Jerusalem

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“Wake Up!”

Malchus groaned as consciousness returned too quickly via a shaking shoulder. He was exhausted and felt stiff and sore from dozing off while sitting on a wooden bench leaning against an earthen wall.

Everyone was on edge. Tension had been building up within the walls of Jerusalem all week. It was supposed to be a day of celebration and remembrance, Passover, but in the palace the ceremonies had all but been skipped, just because some itinerant teacher and his followers were in town and creating mayhem. News of the agitation had even reached the Roman garrison and more soldiers than normal were patrolling the streets.

“Wake Up! Come on, we have to go.”

“What?” Malchus struggled to his feet. “What’s going on?”

“We are going to arrest him. It’s all hands on deck in case of trouble.” said his fellow servant, his cousin.

Malchus didn’t need to ask who they were going to arrest. He knew it was the teacher, Joshua son of Joseph, the rebel from the north.

“What happened? Why now?” He asked.

“One of his followers has, um, changed sides.” was the delicate explanation.

Malchus shrugged, and slowly followed his cousin, not really surprised at this turn of events. The priests had been getting desperate and were more than happy to pay for information, whether or not it was true.

He asked the obvious question “How much?”

“Thirty.” said his cousin.

“Silver pieces? Is that all?” Malchus was frequently surprised at how little it took to buy betrayal. He thought loyalty was worth a lot more.

The two men joined a growing crowd the courtyard, a mix of local and Roman soldiers, temple and palace staff, and several priests. Malchus looked around and very quickly spotted the traitor. The man was standing off to the side on his own, looking at the ground to avoid eye contact, an obvious pariah. Everyone else was milling around chattering with growing excitement. Malchus was wide awake now, joining in the gossip, discovering the shamefaced betrayer’s name was Judas.

The mob left the temple precinct and processed down the hill through narrow alleyways towards the Lion Gate and then to the gardens across the valley outside the city. There were a lot of people in the streets for this time of night, returning home after a Passover meal with family and friends. Malchus wished that he could have gone his parent’s house for the evening but he hadn’t been able to get time off, no one working for the priests could this year. At least he had family, his cousin, with him. He was luckier than some.

Outside the Lion Gate
It was quieter outside the city walls, but there were still a few people around, probably up to no good, Malchus thought. He suspected that some of these people were more deserving of being arrested than the teacher they were looking for.

As Judas led them to a garden, Malchus found himself at the front of the group, alongside the head priest, with a prime view of the unfolding events. They walked into the Garden to see a small group of men at the edge of an olive grove getting to their feet. Malchus watched as the traitor walked up to one of the men and kissed him on the cheek, a puzzling action for a turncoat leading a mob.
Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives
Malchus stayed with the priest as they approached the other group of men who were now standing, waiting. A flash caught Malchus’ eye. Almost too late, he saw the steel sword catching lamp light and twisted away, not entirely avoiding the weapon. He put his hand up to the now stinging side of his head, feeling flatness and warm blood welling up through his fingers. He froze. He gasped for breath. His ear had been lopped off.

Though tears of panic and pain, Malchus saw the man who had been kissed, the one who they had come to arrest, speak to the swordsman who instantly sheathed his sword and slipped back into the shadows. The teacher then bent over and picked something up before gently lifting Malchus’ hand away from his head and replacing it with his own hand. Malchus heard a melodic whisper and the stinging stopped. The other man then stepped away and allowed himself to be arrested.

Malchus grabbed at his ear again. It was there. He checked his other ear, also there. A feeling of immense joy and relief filled him as he realised that he had two ears. Then he wondered what had happened. Had he imagined that his ear was missing?

“Your ear! Are you OK? I saw it…” His cousin trailed off and gulped, putting his hands on Malchus’ shoulders and staring at him.

Malchus dropped his hands from his head.

“It’s fine.” He said, still in shock.

“But the blood…” his cousin grabbed his collar and pulled it up so Malchus could see the red stain.

“It was the teacher. He put it back…” as he said these words, he was struck by the absurdity of what he was saying. No one could reattach a bit of the body that had been cut off. It was impossible.

“A miracle? There have been a lot of stories… but they were about his followers, not real people. Not people like us.” His cousin’s words reflected Malchus’ thoughts.

For the first time, Malchus wondered whether the man they had just arrested was who he claimed to be, the Messiah, rather than the rebel they had arrested him as.

Malchus and his cousin followed the mob back to the palace, talking about the events in the garden and trying to understand what happened. When they got to the courtyard where their journey had started, Malchus returned to his bench, leaned back and closed his eyes, pondering the fate of his ear.

“That’s him, I swear it’s him.” His cousin’s voice disturbed his peace. “The man who cut your ear off! It’s him, near the fire! I’m going to talk to him.”

Malchus kept his eyes shut, too exhausted and confused to want to deal with anything else. He doubted anyone other than the teacher could explain it to him. A few moments later his cousin returned and sat next to him on the bench.

“He denies it, says it wasn’t him... but I think he’s lying.”

The two men stayed on the bench, each lost in thought, eventually falling asleep.

“Wake up!” a hand shook Malchus’ shoulder.

“What?” he forced his eyes open. It was one of the young serving women.

“Everyone’s heading for Golgotha. Come on!”

“Why? Who’s for it?” The prominent hill of Golgotha was the Roman occupiers’ chosen place of execution. Malchus was not keen on Roman style torture as a means of execution; he felt it was too cruel.

“He is going to be crucified! The teacher!”

“What? But he was only arrested him last night. When was the trial?” Malchus rubbed his eyes and shook himself awake.

“Don’t know, but it’s happening!”

“What time is it?” his cousin groaned as he surfaced from sleep.

“Morning. Early. Come on, I thought you’d want to be there.” The serving girl said.

Morning hadn’t brought clarity to Malchus. He didn’t want to watch the killing of the man who had apparently healed him but he could see that the girl wasn’t going to leave without him.

The three followed the gathering crowds to the hill. The area was already packed tight with people so they couldn’t get close, at first. Malchus saw three crosses on the hill; three criminals. He wondered what the teacher had been accused of and who else they had found to nail up with him. As far as Malchus was aware, the man hadn’t actually committed any crimes that the Romans would consider capital offenses. Gradually, as the crowd milled around, Malchus and his companions were able to get to the crosses.

A sign nailed above the teacher said “King of the Jews”. Malchus was shocked at the accusation. It was treason, certainly enough for both the Jewish and Roman authorities to want to kill the man. He wondered if it was the truth. The man didn’t look like a king. He was too humble.

As Malchus looked at the sign and the man beneath it, he caught the teacher’s eye. Joshua seemed to look at his ear, catch his glance again and give a quick smile. Malchus put his hand to his ear before turning and walking away, ashamed that he had played a part in this man’s arrest and execution.

The next day in the temple, it was the Sabbath, a day of rest and not much happened. Malchus got an early night.

“Wake up!”

Malchus groaned and tried to roll over to get away from the hand that was shaking him and get back to the sleep where he didn’t feel bad about recent events, which had culminated in the death and burial of the teacher and the suicide by hanging of the traitor.

“Wake up!” his cousin was persistent.

Malchus gave up on sleep and looked up at his cousin. “What’s going on? I thought all the excitement was over.”

“The excitement has only just started!”

“What do you mean? What happened?”

“The teacher’s tomb is empty. The body is missing. His followers are saying that he is no longer dead. The priests are saying they stole the body. The Roman guards are saying nothing. It’s mayhem!”

Malchus smiled. Jumping out of bed, he was eager to find the followers and to see if what they were saying was true.


Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Game of Life



Here is my latest story.  It is an attempt at an allegory; I hope it has succeeded.  It owes something to a scene from the movie “Labyrinth” and also part of the book (but not the movie) “The Never Ending Story” – both favourites when I was younger.  Some other inspiration is explained at the end so as not to give away the story.

As always, constructive criticism is welcome.

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Game of Life


A man stood in a room, not really sure how he got there.  It was a about the size of a bedroom but was empty of any furniture.  In fact, the room was a plain grey cube apart from two doors in opposite walls.  They were also grey.  Somehow the room was lit, although there were no windows and no sign of light fittings to be seen as the man examined his surroundings.  It was the least interesting room he had ever been in.

Standing next to him was a person, although he wondered whether this other was a hallucination as he, she or it had an indistinct translucent quality.  This figure turned and looked at him; all he noticed were intense dark eyes.

“I give you a choice.” It stared into his soul as it spoke. “Behind one door is life and behind the other door is death.”

“Pardon?!” The man wondered if this was a dream.

“Life or Death.” said the figure, who paused for a moment and looked into the middle distance before adding, “I suggest you choose life.”

“What? What is going on here?”

“You are here to make a choice.”

“Why? What is this place?”

“It is time.  This is the place between life and death. You must choose.”

“How do I get out of here?”

“Choose!  Life or Death.”

A chill ran down the man’s spine as he heard the earnest tone in the other’s voice.  Somehow, he now knew this was no dream.  Had he died?  Just what was this place, he wondered.   The man gulped and looked at the doors.  On second glance, they still appeared to be identical non-descript grey doors.

“They look the same.  How can I choose? Give me something.” He asked, keeping the rising panic out of his voice.

“Look closer!” The voice commanded.

The man walked over to one of the doors and examined it.  There was the shadow of a face in the door.  As he peered at it, the face smiled.  He jumped back away from it.

“Hello.” It said in a voice far too chirpy for the situation.

“You can ask the doors any questions.  They will do their best to help you.”  said the figure.

“So is this like, one always tells the truth and the other lies?” the man asked.

“No.  Both doors will answer as truthfully as they can but their knowledge is limited.”

The man turned to look at both the doors.

“Is there some other option, some other way out of here?

“No.”

“So… Life or Death? How long have I got?” He asked while trying to comprehend the bizarre situation he was in and think of a way out of it.

“Until you open one of the doors.  Then your choice is made and there will be no turning back.”

“There is nothing here, no food or drink.  What if I can’t decide?”  The man felt terror rising through his body.  He wanted a drink right now, preferably something alcoholic.

“You will decide. Eventually.  Choose the correct door and there will be abundance.”

“And if I choose the wrong door?”

“Death.” For the first time the figure showed emotion as its voice caught in its throat.

“Can you give me a hint?” the man asked with desperation.

“Be patient and listen carefully.” The figures voice was calm again.

“What, listen to these stupid doors?” panic was no longer suppressed.

“We’re not stupid.  We are really quite smart.” said a chorus of offended voices.

“Be patient and listen carefully.” repeated the figure.

The man looked at the doors again, sorry that he had been rude and wondering again how he had ended up in this nightmare.  He tried to recall his most recent memory but nothing concrete came to mind.  All of his past, his entire life was like a mist.  There was nothing solid he could grasp hold of.

He turned back to speak to the figure only to discover that he was now alone in the room apart from two slightly creepy talking doors, neither of which he wanted to talk to or open at this point.  He slumped down against the wall between the two doors, his face in his hands.

“What am I going to do?” he asked himself after some time had passed.

“You can open me.” said one of the doors.

“Or me.” said the other.

“Which one of you is the door to life?”

“Ooh, good question.  That’s the first question everyone asks.”  was the quick reply from the door on the right.

“No one has ever come back to tell us that they chose the door to life.” said the other.

“Or death, but then they couldn’t come back to tell us that, could they.” said the first.

The man looked up and interrupted their chatter. “There have been others?”

“Yes, lots.”

“Lots and lots.”

“All the time.”

“One goes through the door and another appears.”

“How?” The man interrupted again.

“They just do.”

“He always brings them.”

“Who is he?” The man asked, momentarily relieved to have solved one mystery.

“Our Master.” both doors answered.

The man looked at the doors, trying to think of a way to work out which door to go through.  If it wasn’t such a serious choice, he thought he would just randomly choose one and take his chances.  After a few moments silence, an idea came to him.

“When someone opens the other door, can you see out?”  He asked without directing his question at a particular door.

“Yes.” was the chorus answer.

After a few seconds, the man realised that was all the answer he was getting to that question. He turned and faced the door to the left.

“What can you see?”

“Mountains and trees.” It said.

“And you?” he turned to the other door.

“Mountains and trees, too.”  After a short pause it added,  “We have compared notes and we think it is the same view.  I am just telling this to save you some time.”

“Er, thanks.” said the man even though time was not an issue.

“Not a problem. We are here to help.”

“Yes, our Master installed us to give people time to think about their decision rather than rushing it.  It’s good to have someone to talk to, a sounding board.”

“He’s compassionate and people panic when there is too much silence.  At least that’s what he told us.  We’re here to keep you company.”

“Oh, that’s nice.” said the man, although he didn’t mean it.  He thought the whole situation was crazy and hoped he would wake up soon, reverting back to the idea of it all being a dream.

“So how long does it take most people to make the decision?”  He asked, mostly for the sake of saying something.  He didn’t really care about the answer but was finding silence unnerving.

“Ooh, it normally takes a while, some longer than others.”

“Although most people decide pretty quickly once the tapping starts.”

“Yes, but that sometimes takes a while. A few don’t wait that long, mostly the one who don’t like us.” It soundly like the door would have shaken its head, if it had one.

“What tapping?” He asked, suddenly alert at this new information.

“Oh, you’ll see.”

Silence resumed for a few minutes, or was it hours.  It was hard to tell.  The man pondered everything he had learned so far, which he decided wasn’t much.  He looked around again.  This grey room somehow lacked the atmosphere he felt there ought to be for a life or death decision.  It felt more like a waiting room.

“So you have no idea which door I should choose.” The man eventually asked.

“The door to life.” was the unhelpful answer.

“Yes, but can either of you tell me which one of you that is?”

“No.  We already told you we don’t know.” both answered.

“You really don’t know which door is the door to life?” he tried saying it a different way, just in case.

“No.”

“Or death?”

“No.”

“We would tell you if we knew.  We want to help.  We want you to choose well.” said one of the doors.

“You seem nice.” said the other.

“And not everyone does.” replied the first door.

More silence followed. The man started tapping his fingers on the floor.

“Is there anything else you would like to ask us?” one of the doors eventually asked.

“Is there anything I could ask that would help?”

“There might be.” said the other door, hopefully.  The man wondered if the door was a bored as him.

More silence followed, only broken by the tapping of his fingers.  The man sighed and ran his hands through his hair, rubbed his face and then paused.  He looked at his hands.  They were in front of his face but he could still hear tapping.

“I can hear tapping.” He said.

“Yes, it always comes, like we told you earlier.”  The man thought the door sounded pleased with itself.

“As long as you wait for it…” the other added.

“What does it mean?” he asked.

“We don’t know.”

“But we think it’s important.”

“So will the knocking kill me or save me…” he trailed off.  Knocking… Something about knocking poked his memory.  A picture of a man standing by a door holding a lantern flashed through his mind; a beautiful painting he had once seen.  The man got up and listened carefully as the mysterious figure had told him to do.  Walking over to the door the tapping was coming from; he knocked on it.

It knocked back with the same pattern.  He tried again with the same response. Someone must be on the other side of the door, he thought.

“So, this is the moment of truth.”

“Is it?” the door answered the thought he unknowingly had spoken aloud.

“That’s good.” said the other door.

The man smiled to himself in spite of his situation.  After what felt like hours of inaction, he was making a decision and taking action.  It felt good and he was sure he was right. Taking a deep breath, he put his hand on the door handle, opened it and stepped through without looking back.

Two fading voices behind him whispered “Good luck!”

As the doors had said, he saw mountains and trees.  It was a spectacular view; breathtaking. 

Standing next to him was man who was lowering his arm from knocking on the door. This man turned and smile.

“Do not be afraid, Joe.  Follow me.  Walk in my footsteps.”  he said before turning right and walking away from the door, which Joe could now see was a frame standing on its own in a meadow.  However, he didn’t have time to ponder this new mystery.  Instead Joe followed his new companion.  He couldn’t see a path ahead, yet it was visible on the ground between them.

“Did I choose the right door? Is this the way to life?” Joe asked feeling anxious for a moment.

“Yes, Joe, you chose well.”

Joe sighed with relief.

“The doors said it looked the same in both directions.  What is the difference?” he asked, wondering if this was some bizarre prank.

“I was not waiting to guide you at the other door.  Finding the path is tricky, impossible really, and without me, Joe, you would surely be lost.”


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The painting mentioned in the story is “The Light of the World” by William Holman Hunt.  Both the painting and this story are inspired by Revelation 3:20.


Saturday, 13 September 2014

A Mystery Giver

So here is my first short story post in a long time.  I hope you enjoy it.


The inspiration is idea 21 on the following page:
http://www.creative-writing-now.com/short-story-ideas.html


Which is:  Your character starts receiving flowers and anonymous gifts. She doesn't know who is sending them. Her husband is suspicious, and the gifts begin to get stranger...

A Mystery Giver
Marian opened the door of her small terrace house and saw flowers, a large bunch of red and pink gerberas with sprigs of baby’s breath; all pretty and bright.  She accepted the large bouquet from the delivery man and took it into the kitchen, all the time staring at the flowers like they some weird alien artefact.
“I wonder who they are from?” she thought.
In thirty seven years of marriage, her husband Larry had never once given her flowers and, to be honest, she had never expected them.  Theirs was a comfortable marriage rather than a grand romance.  Marian considered her husband: his grey comb over that he wrongly thought looked better that baldness; the slight paunch he had developed from too much of her good cooking and their enjoyment of a glass or two of red wine most nights; the clothes worn for comfort rather than for style; the way he shrugged and went to get a cup of tea when his beloved football team lost a game, which they often did.  He just wasn’t the type to have an affair or anything like that, she thought, and so had no need to give her flowers out of guilt.  Marian knew about that sort of man, her brother was one.  She thought of the incorrigible stories he always told her during their weekly phone call.
“There must be a card.” Marian though and she dug her hand into the bunch of flowers, soon finding it.
“A gift for a gift.” it said.
This puzzled Marian.  She looked at the delivery docket.  It was definitely addressed to her.  She shrugged to herself, put the flowers in a vase and got on with her daily chores.  Larry had always earned just enough so that she could stay home with the children.  It never occurred to either of them that she might get a job once the children had grown up.  They were both content with the status quo.
As soon as he arrived home, Larry noticed the flowers.  The bright colours stood out against the beige and pine colours of the dining room where the flowers sat on a side board.
“Nice flowers.  Where did you get them?”  he asked.
Marian explained and showed him the card.  He took the card, raising his eyebrows as he read it and then shrugged, mirroring her earlier reaction.  Nothing more was said the matter.
A week later, the doorbell rang.  Marian opened the door to find a courier with a large but not very thick square parcel.  She was not expecting a package and could not remember Larry mentioning having mentioned ordering anything online recently.  He normally told her things like that, they weren’t a couple who kept secrets.
As it was definitely addressed to her, Marian took the package into the kitchen, her domain, and opened it carefully.  It was a box of very fancy chocolates.  Marian knew the brand, in fact, they were a favourite of hers and she normally bought a small box as a treat at Christmas.  Her hand shook a little as she opened the card that was attached.
“Some sweets for a sweet.” Marian dropped the card.
“It must be from whoever sent the flowers.” she decided. 
Something about this thought unnerved her.  She decided to have a chocolate, just one, or may two to calm her nerves.  It turned out that it took three to do the job.  Fortunately, it was a large box, so there were still plenty for later.
Larry came home from work and soon noticed the purple chocolate box.
“What’s the occasion?” he asked with a hint of irritation.
“He thinks he has forgotten our anniversary.” Marian thought and smiled to herself at the idea he still cared about things like that.  She showed him the card.
“You seem to have acquired a secret admirer.” He sounded very surprised.
“I guess so.” She spoke softly.
“Any idea who?” Larry asked.
Marian shook her head.
“Maybe it’s someone you helped out when you were volunteering at the church.” He decided.  Marian helped out two mornings a week at a community centre run by the local church.
“Oh yes, that’s probably it.” Marian sighed with relief at a mystery solved.
“Why don’t we go out for dinner tomorrow night?  You can have a break from cooking.” Larry suggested this rare treat with a smile.
Marian consented, even though she actually loved cooking, a little excited by this unexpected attention.
The following week, a box of fruit turned up.
“Some goodness for goodness.” said the card.
A week after that, it was a hamper from Fortnum and Masons.
“Something royal for a queen.”
That week, while Marian was out shopping at her local supermarket, in a town a commuter train ride away from London, when she ran into one of her neighbours.
“Who is showering you with gifts?  Is Larry trying to make up for something?  It must have been bad, although he’s not the type to stray.” The nosy neighbour said.
“Oh no, they are not from him.” Marian spoke in her soft voice. Then she explained about the mysterious cards.
“How sweet! How odd!” The neighbour responded with a speculative look. Although the story seemed unlikely, it was equally unlikely that Marion would be having an affair or anything like that, she looked like a faded but content middle aged woman, dressed in a house dress and cardigan that didn’t quite match and not a touch of makeup to be seen.
Marian was saddened that her friend didn’t seem to believe her story and was instead speculating about her and Larry.
Another week passed, bringing another gift.  This time it was a cornflower blue silk shirt.  Marian held it up and smiled.  It was her favourite colour.
“Something blue when you have the blues.” The card said.
“I don’t have the blues.” she thought, but then she remembered the incident with her friend.
The top fitted perfectly and Marian was still wearing it when Larry got home.
“Is that from your secret admirer?” there was a touch of anger in his voice.
“Yes! Isn’t it beautiful.” She smiled at him and showed him the card.
“This is getting ridiculous.  It’s got to stop.  You can’t keep getting gifts like this.” Larry surprised them both with his raised voice.
“Well, I don’t know how I can stop it.  I don’t know who they’re from.  She spoke sharply before trailing off; she hadn’t spoken like that since the children had left home.  The pair glared at each other for a moment.
“I am going to check with the couriers, see if I can find out who is sending this stuff.”
He gave her a quick hug and then went off and switched on his computer.  Larry could be persistent when he set his mind to something, but in spite of numerous Internet searches and phone calls, he got nowhere.  For the next few days, he wondered about the house muttering angrily about data protection.
The next gift was gold cross pendant with what looked like a sapphire set into its centre, her birthstone.
“A cross when you are cross.”
Marian dropped the card and squealed for perhaps the first time in her life.  How could the giver know what her week had been like?  For the first time, she hid one of the gifts.
“What did you get today?” Larry looked around expectantly as soon as he got home from work.  “Did you keep any paper work?”
“Um, I don’t know if I should show you.” Marian dithered.
“Just show me, dear.” Larry gently urged.
Somewhat reluctantly, Marian fetched the small box and cord to show him.  He looked at the card intently and then looked at her.  Larry put the card down and left the room without a work.  Marian hadn’t seen so much emotion from him in years. 
Later, over dinner, once he had calmed down, Larry surprised Marian with an interrogation.
“Are you sure you don’t know who they’re from?”
“No, I have no idea.  It can’t be anyone at the church, though, they don’t have the money.”  She wondered why this hadn’t occurred to her before.
“Dearest, no one spends this kind of money for fun.  You don’t have a toy boy do you?” He gave a brittle laugh.
“No, of course not, don’t be silly.” She giggled at the sound of the words toy boy on her husband’s lips.  Was he jealous?
“Look, it is someone who knows you… us… it must be someone who you talk to or something.  They know what is happening here.  Have we had any workman in lately? Maybe they have installed a web cam.”
Larry spent the rest of the evening up and down the kitchen steps checking every nook and cranny in the house.
“Nothing! But this place could do with a lick of paint.  What do you think?  Maybe we could go for a bit more colour.” was the result of Larry’s search.
During the week, Marian decided that it was too long since she had had her hair done, so she visited the hairdressers.  There she met her nosy neighbour.
“Still got your secret admirer, then?”
“Yes, it is most puzzling and has Larry in a tiz.”
Their extensive speculation failed to arrive at a satisfactory answer, even though it extended beyond the appointment to an unexpected cup of coffee.
This week’s gift came in a long tube.  Marian gasped when she opened it.  It was a beautiful wood and brass telescope.
“To see into hidden corners.” said the card.
Marian looked around the room, as if expecting to see the camera her husband had searched for.  She left the parcel and card on the table. 
Larry came in, took one look at the table and stormed out.  Marian noticed that he was wearing a new shirt.  He didn’t normally wear pin-stripes.  A little while later, when he had calmed down, Larry came in and picked up the telescope.
“This looks like an antique, one of a kind.  I’ll have him this time, he has made a mistake.”
“How do you know it’s a “him”?” Marian asked.
“It must be.  Why would a woman give you these things?
“Why would a man?”
Larry paused and gave her a penetrating gaze, opened his mouth as if to speak but then thought better of it and walked out of the room.
The following week, Marian’s incorrigible brother came around for dinner.  He turned up before Larry got home from work, so the siblings had time for a chat.
“How are you doing Marian?  Last time I was here, you and Larry were both looking a bit tired and flat.” He was all compassion.
“Oh, I must show you some of the gifts I’ve told you about.”
Marian and her brother discussed the mystery.  She had just brought the telescope out when Larry arrived home from work.  He was wearing his new shirt again and looked almost handsome.  With a smile, she glanced down at the blue silk she was wearing.
“Marian has just been showing me the gifts from her secret admirer.  It sounds like you’ve had a bit of excitement here recently.”
“A bit too much excitement, really.” said Larry with a wry grin.
“Oh, I don’t know.  As I said to Marian, last time I was here I thought the pair of you needed a bit of something to spice up your lives.”
Marian looked up at Larry and they exchanged enlightened glances.  The mystery was solved.



Sunday, 26 January 2014

First Encounter

This is my first story posted in quite a while.  I have been working on something longer when I have had time, but the inspiration for this story came to me earlier this week so here it is.  I am aiming to post at least one story a month this year, so hopefully there will be more inspiration and stories soon.

The inspiration for this story may be obvious to some but not to others.  It could be the beginning of a longer story, a first chapter. 

I have used anglicised versions of ALL the names because I thought it would be less of a distraction or more subtle.  The photos were all taken by me in 2011.

As always, constructive feedback is much appreciated.

 First Encounter

Salome sat on the earthen floor of the corner room at the back of the house, feeding a shuttle between the cords on her hand-loom.  Light shone in through the window, bringing with it heat and noise from outside, the latter of which Salome was successfully ignoring.  The thick stone walls of the house offered some protection from the harsh hot sun outside, but shuttering the windows to keep the heat out meant no light to work by.  Only the richest had glass or, more rarely, alabaster, to provide protection from the weather.
Salome quite enjoyed the repetitive yet creative action of weaving.  She found the monotony therapeutic.  It was a time of peace for Salome in a household that was often full of noise and action.  It didn’t feel like work her and so she felt no guilt about her action, despite it being a day of rest.
The ruins of Capernaum.
As she wove, her thoughts turned to her beloved husband, her rock, Simon.  Salome smiled as she considered his act first think second attitude to life, useful when he was out working with his fishing boat, but not a recipe for a calm and orderly life at home.  In spite of this, Salome knew that he had a good heart. They had two young boys to add to the chaos, chips off the old block, and Salome was fairly sure that another child was on the way.  They all lived in her mother’s house in a small town, Capernaum, not far from the lake, Lake Tiberius, which provided Simon and his brother with their livelihood as fishermen. Today, she was taking a break from caring for her sick mother, while the boys were out somewhere with older cousins who lived next door and Simon was at the Synagogue.
The synagogue in Capernaum.
In the distance, but apparently inside, she heard a door bang followed by a shout.  With that, the peace of the house was replaced by bustle and excitement.  Salome calmly left her weaving, stood up and left the room for the main part of the house, to look for her husband, who she guessed had returned from the Synagogue with friends in tow, to see if he wanted a meal.
Salome looked down the corridor to the front door and was surprised to see a large crowd standing outside near the open front door.  Just instead were Simon, who greeted her with an excited grin, and Andrew, his brother.  With them was a stranger.  Hovering closest to the door, just outside were John and James, friends and fellow fishermen of her husband.
As she approached, the stranger, a man, looked up at her.  She gasped and stared back at him, frozen in a moment of awe.  It wasn’t that he was attractive; in fact, she had no real sense of his appearance.  It was his eyes.  They seemed to pierce her soul to its darkest depths, exposing every secret.  And yet, there was kindness in his gaze, a look that said, “I know you, I truly and fully know you, and I will love you anyway.” 
Salome felt a wave of peace wash over her.  Then the man smiled and the spell was almost broken.  She shook her head, as if trying to wake up and bring herself back to reality, and turned to Simon.
“What is going on? Who are all these people? Mother is not well and we are not prepared for guests.” Salome spoke softly and slowly, her voice revealing curiosity rather than accusation.
“May I see your mother? Perhaps I can do something for her?”  The stranger had soft yet deep voice that seemed to penetrate as deeply into her soul as his eyes.  Every word he spoke was like a precious jewel to treasure.
The man put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.  Warmth flooded through her and as it reached her belly, she felt a flutter; the first movement of the child she now knew with a certainty was growing there.  It was as if the baby recognised the man’s touch.  Then Salome found herself leading the man up the stairs by the door to her mother’s bedroom. 
Her mother, Mary, was asleep but restless and she looked feverish. Salome could see that her condition had deteriorated since she had last checked on her.  About to rush over to attend to her mother, Salome was surprised when the man held her back and walked passed her into the room.  He approached the bed, crouching down beside it, and put his hand on her mother’s forehead and then took her hand.  He leant over and whispered something in her ear.  The next moment, Salome was stunned to see her mother sitting up and getting out of the bed as she had never been ill.
“Come downstairs and I will prepare you a meal.” Mary smiled at the stranger like he was an old friend as she spoke.  She then led Salome and the stranger back downstairs to the fishermen.
Simon showed no surprise at seeing his mother-in-law up and about, looking to be in perfect health, even though he had seen that she was so unwell before he went out that morning.  Instead, he followed her through to the dining room, bringing with him the stranger and Andrew, plus John and James who had joined the group.  Salome went to help her mother prepare and serve the food, leaving the men to talk.
After the meal, the men were getting ready to leave when Salome realised that she hadn’t been properly introduced to the stranger.  As Andrew was closest at that moment, she turned to him and asked the stranger’s name.
“He is Joshua, from Nazareth.” said Andrew with a hint of awe.
The name meant nothing to Salome, and yet she could see that the man was someone special, so she gave her brother-in-law an enquiring look to elicit more information.
“It is him!” Andrew added, somewhat cryptically.
Simon, overhearing the conversation turned to her and said, “We are going with him.”
“Where?” As Salome asked the question, she could see the answer in her husband’s eyes.  Simon, Andrew and the others would follow this man anywhere, absolutely anywhere, to the ends of the earth or the gates of Hades, without question.  Yet, instead of fear or anger, Salome felt was that she trusted the stranger and that no evil would overtake her husband.
The house where Simon (Peter) was said to have lived in Capernaum.
 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Why Me?

Here is my lastest short story, inspired once again by a Flash Fiction Friday prompt:

F3 – Cycle 123 – Sprung
Prompt: Write a story about a convict and his new found freedom, whether from an escape or parole.
Genre: Crime, though you are welcome to mash genres. Who knows when or where the story’s set.
Word Limit: 1,700


Following on from the prompt, I was further inspired by having recently watch the movie "The Hiding Place.", (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073109/) which ends with Corrie Ten Boom being freed from a prison camp due to an administrative error.

The story is a bit rushed and I haven't had much time for editing, but I hope you enjoy it.




Why me?

Jimmy sat on the floor in the middle of his cell, catching the midday sun shining through the bars of an out of reach window.  He might have spent the last five years in solitary confinement, but at least he had a good tan.

The cell was made of blocks of stone too big for a person to shift by themselves. There was very little furnishing.  The bed consisted of raised stone blocks beneath a mattress.  A toilet was set in one corner next to a stone basin.  Jimmy wasn’t sure about the plumbing other than that it was designed to be inaccessible to the prisoners, as were any electrical or fibre cables.  Overall, the design was well thought out to make escape near impossible; the cell couldn’t be burnt, dug through or blown up.  It was somewhat ironic that where stone had once been a sign of prestige, in the mid twenty-first century, it was primarily used for prisons.  Jimmy knew this was his home for life and that he deserved it.
While working on his tan, Jimmy had had plenty of time to contemplate his crimes of robbery and murder.  He was guilty; there was no doubt.  He had been caught on camera from several angles.  Of course the cameras didn’t capture the emotion or motives behind what happened, they didn’t show the fear and confusion that both Jimmy and his victims felt as the robbery started to go wrong.  It felt like he had lost control of his body as he pulled the trigger the first time.  Having done it once, it seemed so easy to do it again.  The gun had fallen from his hands before the two dead men had hit the ground, as he realised the horror of what he had done.  From that moment onwards, Jimmy had done nothing to resist arrest or fight the charges.  He was guilty, as charged, and sentenced to life without any chance of parole.
A Jimmy adjusted his position with the moving sun, he heard the whir of his door and assumed that it was a guard delivering his lunch.  The door was stone like the rest of the cell.  It sat on a track and was easy to open from the outside.  There was no way to open it from the inside.
“Jimmy Smith!” the deep voice of the guard made him jump, the prison staff rarely spoke, so Jimmy lived in an almost silent world.
Jimmy turned and gave the guard a surprised look.
“Jimmy, come with me.”
As he stood up, Jimmy wondered what they wanted.  He hadn’t done anything wrong, he was a model prisoner.  He was allowed strictly one hour in the exercise yard once a week, but that had been yesterday.
“Bring your…” the guard paused and looked around at the almost empty room “…stuff.”
Jimmy continued to stare blankly at the guard, confused by a change to routine.
“Hurry up!” The guard urged.
“What’s going on?” Jimmy as he finally turned to retrieve his change of clothes and his computer tablet.
“Hurry up!” The guard repeated.
Jimmy had lost any urge to resist long ago, so he just shrugged to himself and followed the guard, meagre possession in his hands.  The guard lead him along the corridor towards the administrative wing.  It was five years since Jimmy had walked the other way along this route and he had only the vaguest memory of it.  They passed many cells that looked like Jimmy’s and passed through several section doors.  Looking around, Jimmy made the most of the novelty of different scenery.  Soon, they reached the door of the Governor’s office and the guard waved him through.
By now, Jimmy was thoroughly mystified.  He couldn’t think of any reason why he would be brought to the Governor.  Even when his father died, a guard had brought him the news.
The Governor was sitting at her desk, looking at the screen built into it.  She also had a pen and paper sitting by her hand, surprisingly common in a highly automated world, as Jimmy remembered.  She looked up at him and waited a moment before speaking.
“Jimmy Arthur Smith?” She asked.
“Yes, ma’am.” He stared at the wall behind her as he spoke, too scared look her in the face.
“Prisoner 43568?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Wrist!” she indicated to the sleek plastic sensor block on her desk.
Jimmy placed his left wrist on the block so that it could read the ident chip planted inside it.  When it beeped, the Governor looked down at the screen and nodded.
“Under article ten of regulation six, you are now free.  Guard Anderson will escort you to your debriefing.”
Although confused and wanting to know why he was being released from his life sentence, a subconscious warning made Jimmy think that questioning his release would be a mistake. So Jimmy silently followed the guard as instructed.
Several hours later, Jimmy found himself in front of the door to a flat in a nice block about 20 minutes from the centre of the city.  Apparently, it was his flat for at least the next year while he settled into a job as a delivery man, which he had just been given.  He held his wrist up to the key pad, expecting his luck to finally run out and not be let in.  The door clicked open and Jimmy found himself in a small lounge room decorated in black and white minimalist style.  On the modular bookshelf, there were some photos of his parents.  Jimmy walked over to have a closer look before exploring the rest of his new home, which consisted of a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen, all decorated in a similar style but with the unnerving addition of possessions that Jimmy had left at his parent’s house prior to his life of crime.  As Jimmy walked around, he randomly touched pieces of furniture and other objects to assure himself that they were real.
Eventually, Jimmy collapsed on to the very comfortable bed and pondered his fate.  He knew, as everyone did, that a life sentence meant life without parole with almost no exceptions.  There was no explanation for the day’s events.  Jimmy had kept in touch with the outside world through his personal tablet, a privilege earned for good behaviour, but there was a huge chasm between earning a tablet and gaining freedom.  Now, he had a house, a job and a bank account with money in it. Suddenly, his life looked just about perfect. It was so very different anything he could have hope for only a day earlier.
“This is just weird… too weird. I don’t deserve this.”  Jimmy spoke his thoughts aloud.  The sound of his voice unnerved him, so he got up and returned to the lounge room, turning on the wall screen TV.
“Hey Jimmy, do you need a holiday?”
Jimmy then remembered how intrusive personalised ads could be, although the idea of a holiday sounded nice.  He changed the channel, looking for something light hearted and mindless to watch.
For the next month, Jimmy found himself settling into a new life and a new routine.  The thought that at any point someone would realise it was all a terrible mistake and take him back to jail occasionally disturbed him, particularly when he saw anyone in uniform, but it was becoming less frequent.  He got in contact with his family who chose to pretend he had never been in jail.  There was even a friendly young woman, who worked for one of his clients, who had caught Jimmy’s eye and agree to have dinner with him.  It was like he had never been a criminal and had always been living this normal humdrum life.
On the Saturday morning five weeks after his release, Jimmy’s criminal past was thrust back into central focus. His new weekend routine was to sleep in a bit, get up and have a leisurely breakfast in front of the daily news before getting dressed and going out for the afternoon to an art gallery or museum to enjoy his new found freedom. So mid-morning, Jimmy sat down with his bowl of cereal and switched on the news.
“…all inmates are confirmed dead. Police have also confirmed that in the weeks prior to the attack, it appears that several prisoners were illegally released.  However, the records have been tampered with so the exact number of escapees and their identities cannot be confirmed at this time. The Public is warned to avoid suspicious looking men.”
A chill ran down Jimmy’s spine.  Were they talking about him and his former prison? No longer hungry, he put his bowl aside on the coffee table.  He then stood up, looked around, started to say something, stopped, rubbed his face and then turned his attention back to the television.
“Come on, tell me which prison.” He demanded of the screen.
Within minutes, it was confirmed that it was indeed his former prison that had been the victim of a fatal gas attack that had cleverly used the plumbing system and that the police were looking for some missing prisoners.  Jimmy decided to cancel his plans for the day and stay inside, keeping a low profile.  He stayed in front of the television while also surfing various online news services in case they reported other details.
By the end of the weekend, Jimmy had discovered that not only had some prisoners been wrongly freed, but also that a hacker had wiped all of the criminal and legal records for these men and had tampered with newspaper records of the trials. No one had paper files anymore, so there was no record of who these men were or what they had done. He was truly free of their criminal pasts.
On the Monday morning, Jimmy decided he would carry on with his new life and forget about his terrible past, in spite of the fear of arrest nagging at the back of his mind along with a question.
“Why me?”
That evening, when he got around to checking his messages, there was one with no sender and only a subject heading.
“You showed remorse.”