Tag Archive: short story


Short story: Running

My parents tell me that I’ve been running ever since I was born. Not running from anyone or anything – just running for the sake of it. I went straight from crawling to toddling around on my little legs as fast as they could carry me, and never ever stopped.

But every so often, even I needed to stop to catch my breath. Today was one of those times.

This house in the forested mountains was the closest thing we had to a base. A home. We always came here when we needed a break, help, or even just company. They were loving, fearless, open and generous, and I couldn’t do without them. Their home was a sanctuary of love and nature, and electricity for our laptops.

I sat cross-legged on the mattress in the back of the van, feeling the sun’s rays warming me through the open windows. It was rare that I was alone these days, so I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and just listened. The morning birds were awake and starting their daily routine of endless calls, extraordinary in their diversity. I could hear a gentle breeze flowing through the thick bushland, rustling the leaves ever so gently. There were distant sounds of cars and activity in the house in the valley below. I could hear water quietly gurgling away in the fountain in the front garden. These quiet moments were all I needed to recharge. I was ready to run again.

I opened my eyes. Frankie was sitting next to me on the mattress, his deep green eyes regarding me with slightly blank affection. I smiled.

‘What’s up, Frankie? Did you sleep well?’

He said nothing, as per usual. Instead he blinked at me and curled up beside me. I gave the black fuzz on his head a little scratch. He made a peep of contentment and settled in.

I returned to the task at hand. I grabbed my flat brush and stirred the brightly coloured goo in the bowl, careful not to stick my face too close to it. I took the brush and started painting it on my head, working from my part down, staring into the mirror, intent on my task. Distantly, I could hear a voice calling my name. Haley. Haley Dee.

I looked up in the mirror to see Thom striding towards me with a cup in his hands.

‘Blue again?’

‘Why not?’ Blue had always been my favourite colour. It made me feel happy, calm, and alive. It kept my feet on the ground and my head in the clouds.

Thom put the cup down on the little shelf next to the mirror. It was tea. Hot and sweet.

The smell of the dye was pretty noticeable. Thom wrinkled his nose and looked down at Frankie.

‘How can you stand it, bud?’

Frankie didn’t stir. He usually didn’t until someone mentioned food.

I took a sip of my tea and instantly felt human again. I sat in the van and stretched my neck and fingers. My fingers were starting to itch. I was already feeling it. Thom watched me through the mirror.

‘Are you ready to go?’

I smiled. ’Yes.’

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The Galaxy Stories 2: Apology

I’m sorry, Uncle Danny.

I met you as a naive, frightened and lonely 11 year old. I lied to you about my name, my nationality, and made up a very wild and unlikely story about my background.  I lied about everything then.  It was the only way I could attempt to fit in, to get people to like me.

You befriended me, and accepted me, even though you must have known that I was full of shit. You introduced me to your wonderful nephew, and friends. We talked for hours, you dispensing wisdom that I was too young to understand or appreciate. You took me under your wing and were immensely kind, and for that I feel both grateful, and guilty. I don’t lie any more.

Although I’m grown now, with my own family, I still think of you sometimes. You told me you were sick. I hope you’re still around to help kids like me, who needed a friend.

Thanks, Uncle Danny. And I’m sorry.

The Galaxy Stories 1: Walking

I present to you my new series of unconnected short stories – The Galaxy Stories. Although it sounds kinda sci-fi, they are called such because they’ve been written with the aid of my new best friend, my Galaxy smartphone. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

I started walking away from the city. Walking, walking, walking. I never stopped, never looked back. I couldn’t stop.

ZwolleAll I had were the clothes on my back and my boyfriend’s shoes. Mine were bloodstained and ripped. They squelched. His were five sizes bigger than mine, but they were all I had left. Of him. Of me.

The blisters were terrible, but at least they reminded me that I could still feel. That I survived. Still alive, whatever that came to mean.

I kept walking. It was all I could do. I walked the flesh off my bones and the skin off my feet. I walked until my nose bled and the shoes became rags. I walked to eat. I walked to drink. I walked to forget.

I was going anywhere. Going nowhere. No past, no future, no present. Just me and the silence.

I still walked. Someone had to.

Short story: ZombieCon

This story is for SpAE, who said to me, ‘If you don’t write this story, I will.’ How could a girl resist?

 

Three figures circled the teenage girl, slowly closing in around her. They were shabby and dishevelled, clothing ripped and torn, shuffling, their feet scraping along the concrete ground. Their faces were twisted into horrible expressions, their hands reaching for the girl. Their faces and clothes were covered in dried, old blood. Some appeared to have eyes missing, and some had skin missing or just hanging off.

The girl was frozen. She had nowhere to run, no way to move. She couldn’t fight back, dressed only in a short skirt, thin midriff shirt and high heels. She just watched and waited for the inevitable. Their fingers grasped her flesh. They all leaned in, aiming for her neck and mouths, softly moaning, their mouths opening, ready to sink their teeth in-

CLICK! FLASH!

The figures instantly stopped and fell away. They smiled. The girl’s boyfriend checked the photo on his camera.

‘Great! Thanks guys!’

‘No problem, dude,’ one of the zombies replied.

The girl and her boyfriend disappeared into the crowd, his cape trailing behind them. It was SuperCon time again.

SuperCon was the highlight of the year for many people – a two day convention where fans of many things came together, dressed up, bought merchandise, and met their heroes. Wandering around the 10,000-strong crowd on day one were zombies, cartoon characters, caped superheroes, and robots, as well as people plying their wares – merchandisers, comic artists, authors and special celebrity guests. The day was packed with activities including costume contests, panels, signings, and performances. The exhibition centre was packed and buzzing with excitement.

Crowds waited in line to get their books signed by favourite authors, or handed over money to have pictures taken with their favourite stars. Crowds surged from place to place listening to seminars or watching competitions. Overworked volunteers and administrators in bright uniforms zoomed between the aisles, herding fans into orderly queues or getting coffee for a guest. The Artist Alleys teemed with traders and buyers, flipping through books and listening to increasingly desperate sales pitches.

Volunteer medics and ambulance staff also zipped through the crowds. It was hardly unusual – people wearing hot full-body costumes not drinking enough water, or a sexy comic book girl falling off her heels.

The caped superhero and his sexy cheerleader girlfriend spotted a lone zombie, in a quiet dark corner, almost hidden from view. He loved zombie movies and there were people around with such good makeup. The three zombies they took the photos with before were pretty good, layering blood and latex, taking care to make the skin colour to their applications. Some people had faces that looked like they slapped melted wax on, but the effort was still appreciated. It was a tough thing to do – faces sore and sticky by the end of it. The couple were determined to get photos with every zombie they came across, provided they finished in time for the cosplay competition, of course.

They approached the lone zombie. He was just standing there, facing the wall, seemingly in thought, contemplating quietly. The caped hero approached him.

‘Hey, do you mind if we get a picture?’

The zombie slowly turned around. In addition to his clothes being artfully ripped and bloody, his skin was an unearthly shade of purplish grey, mottled around his neck, where a wound gaped open. Underneath was a mass of tendons and veins, drained and bloodless. His eyes were red and splotchy, as if haemorrhaged. His mouth and tongue lolled open as he very slowly staggered towards the girl. Amazing accuracy, the hero thought. He even smelled authentic. But, it was a very hot day and he must be boiling under the latex.

The hero readied his camera.

‘Ready? One, two, three… BRAINS!’

‘Brains!’ the cheerleader called brightly. The zombie didn’t say brains, nor did he react to the camera flash. He just continued on his course, gripping onto the girl with his cold hands, his mouth zeroing in on her pale, delicate neck, unwavering…

‘Hey, let-’

The girl let out a harsh squeak, her face contorted with pain and fear. Blood poured from a small wound in her neck. She dropped to the floor. The zombie followed her. The hero pushed him away, blindly punching him in the face. He staggered and fell, and then started crawling towards the girl, who was lying in an increasing puddle of blood, twitching. The area suddenly flooded with hired security men and police, easily a dozen of them, all chattering away on radios, headsets and phones. The hero was confused by the babel as one security officer directed him out of the way. Paramedics swooped in and took the girl away. The hero tried to go after her.

‘No, son,’ the security man said. ‘You need to stay here. There’s nothing you can do for her.’

‘What? But I have…’

‘Stay here,’ the man said forcefully. ‘Don’t make me restrain you.’

‘What? I haven’t done anythin-’

‘Be quiet.’

One police officer stomped past him, his words discernible as he passed.

‘We have a level five biohazard situation…’

The hero didn’t even attempt to ask for an explanation. He could see the security officer fingering the Taser in his holster. He looked around. A wall of police and security prevented him from seeing the rest of the convention. The zombie was gone, presumably taken through an open emergency exit. One of the paramedics marched up to him.

‘Did he touch you?’

‘What?’

‘Did he TOUCH you?’ she snapped.

‘I- I don’t know.’

She then jammed the needle she held in her hand into his left arm. He was too shocked to even speak.

‘Just in case. Go to the emergency room if you have any symptoms.’

Then, just as quickly as she came, she left.

His head spun, his arm smarting from the force of the syringe. He had no idea what was going on. The zombie was gone, as was the girl. There was no trace of blood. Cleaners had already taken care of it. He obviously wasn’t allowed to ask any questions.

A police officer approached him.

‘Name and address.’

He gave it automatically. The officer wrote it down and put his notebook back in his pocket.

‘We will contact you in the next few days. Say nothing about what happened here. We will deal with the girl’s family. Clear?’

‘Yes,’ he mumbled.

The officer looked around. ‘We’re done here,’ he declared. The police and security disbanded, and melted back into the crowd. The superhero stood in the corner, all alone. No one was even looking in his direction. No one noticed. No one saw anything. He too then merged with the crowd, and said nothing.

Short story: Remains

I no longer recognise the city where I was born.

It’s been three years since it all started. They asked me to come across the ocean, back to that place, where I was both given life and my name.

It stood eternally, proud and unapologetic, for thousands upon thousands of years. It saw wave upon wave of invaders and defenders, many changes of name, language and people. Many grand buildings, and not so grand ones, pierced the skyline, hugging the river that was its vena cava. We used to admire the old architecture, laughed at the modern ones, shaking our heads at the misguided ingenuity of man. The river now lay stagnant, almost filled in, desperately pinched. It was full of the remains of those buildings, as well as many of the millions of the inhabitants, bones lurking under the muddy surface.

I would have given anything to see the modern buildings again. Anything recognisable. The city beside the river lay degraded and twisted, ruined. It had been only a few years since my last visit but the world was so changed by the event and its aftermath that I may as well have been away for an aeon. Its trees were completely grey and brown, trunks hanging down into the river or across roads and dirt.

I don’t know how, but I survived. I was one of the strong ones. I could still walk unaided and had all body parts present and accounted for. That’s why they asked me to come, to help the few who were still alive. The contamination was still present but at acceptable levels, apparently. I’m not entirely sure about this, but it’s hard to tell when you don’t even have sufficient power to run an x-ray machine. If you could find one that still worked.

The deformed metal skeletons of structures loomed over my head. I could still see the shattered glass panels that were hanging precariously in place, the charred interiors, stonework crumbling and ripped away. Bricks and boulders and steel beams were still strewn across the street in the less-used areas, starting to accumulate moss in the damp. Thankfully most of the bodies had been removed from the main city but I’m sure, in a city that size with millions of people, there are still thousands out there, locked up and unburied. The underground had been sealed off since it all began, and no one dared venture down into the endless, fetid tunnels. So many people had sealed themselves away down there, like they had done before, but there was no more safety there than above ground. It was everywhere and there was no escape. No one knows for sure but from my own experience, I would say that the percentage of deaths from suicide in the immediate aftermath would be around 30-35%. God knows I thought about it myself, but it wouldn’t have been fair to all the people I watched die.

I stepped off the small boat at the makeshift jetty. I looked around, desperately trying to get my bearings. All the bridges, so many bridges across the river, lay in pieces. Some had been patched with wood and stone, but very crudely. Roadways, wires and pavements lay jutting up from the river in sharp chunks, the rain having washed off the blood and ooze. At least it still rained here, although you could only be exposed safely for five minutes, and that was a guess at best. The sky hung low and heavy, but hopefully it would stay dry. The air was so thick still, and it was a little hard to breathe.

The ground was cracked and crumbled. I carefully stepped around the piles of asphalt and dirt. I heard a voice say, ‘Be careful of the sinkholes.’

So it was true. We’d heard at home about massive sinkholes appearing in the city, the extensive underground structures succumbing and collapsing from the stress of the disaster and lack of maintenance.  But it was hard to verify what was going on in other countries. Communications were patchy and infrequent, mostly word of mouth and rumour. This is what it must have been like before the invention of the telegraph. Even if we had the power, even if the magnetics had been unaffected, the satellites were still falling out of the sky, massive holes punched in them by the infinite debris in orbit, which in turn created even more debris. There was a rumour that the International Space Station was knocked out a couple of months ago and landed in the Kalahari Desert. The Internet and even phones were for now a thing of the past. We didn’t even have the capacity to find the oceanic co-axial cables, let alone restore the connection. Basic messages were carried by those strong enough to travel but that happened sporadically – fuel was precious, travel was rare and messages could take months to get between bases.

We all walked slowly and deliberately. Apparently new sinkholes were appearing every day, and there were a couple close to where we landed. We walked uphill from the river, and the pale moonlight grey stone of the buildings, charred and patchy in parts, seemed very familiar. There was a frontage in mosaic that was largely intact, and I saw a name I recognised. It was an old train station. The red, black and white signage of the streets confirmed my suspicions. Only then it hit me. I remember being 21 years old, lining up outside one of the beautiful and grand consular buildings in the area because I needed to vote in my country’s elections, on my own for the first time and feeling content. Even after all I’d seen, I couldn’t help a tear coming to my eye.

I looked around. The church in the middle of the road that I remembered partially remained, its columns stripped for rebuilding purposes. The fittings for the phone boxes were sticking up from the ground, wires splayed everywhere like dropped spaghetti.  My guide walked further up the block, looked around the corner, and beckoned me to him.

‘Slowly.’

There was an acrid smell in the air, faint but discernible. This must be a sinkhole.

I crept slowly towards the corner. I could see the pale earth around the remains of the road. I caught sight of the hole, and had to step back as I experienced a dizziness I’ve never felt before.

My guide sat me down a couple of feet away, but I felt compelled to crawl closer to look again. I couldn’t stop staring.

The sinkhole was about 50 metres across, at a conservative estimate. The drop was sharp and sheer, the pale dense earth covering the rock strata. Rubble was piled at the bottom, and there were various broken pipes and cables hanging loosely, swaying slightly in the breeze.

I couldn’t stop looking at the tunnels. Two underground train tunnels were exposed, the jagged concrete split open. Straight underneath me dangled twisted, rusty rails. On the other side a train carriage hung precariously from the tunnel, the livery peeling and faded from the elements and the remaining carriages barely visible behind. I’m not sure if it was my imagination or not, but I thought I could see skeletons still trapped inside. I stared for what felt like an eternity. My guide gently placed  a hand on my shoulder.

All I could think of to say was, ‘Will it fall?’

‘Eventually. The coupling can’t last forever.’

He helped me to my feet, even though I couldn’t take my eyes away from the train.

‘Do you see them?’

He sighed. His face looked grim. ‘All the time.’ He wrapped his hand around my shoulder and steered me away, past the sinkhole.

‘Come on, Doctor,’ he said. ‘The morgue awaits.’

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