Friday, 24 June 2011

Tenth Friday Flash: Drooping Flower

The hallway was elegantly designed and covered in paintings, but the place had seen better days; it was dank, cold and there was a leak a few seats down. The seat Mandy was sitting in was rickety, she suspected it was propped up by the wall.

There was a chime and a red light lit up above the black door at the end of the passage. A terrified looking girl at the end of the row stood up and quietly went through the door. It seemed to open and close on its own accord.

Tears flowed from the blonde girl next to Mandy, she desperately wanted to comfort the girl, but her body refused to move. Desperate in that it would distract her from her own fear of what was about to happen.

Another chime and another girl disappeared. At least the next chair in the line was a little firmer. She had another glance up and down the hall. All the girls were like her; tall, thin, barely enough meat on their bones to function, and deathly scared.

She tried to console herself with the fact that her family would be taken care of. What she was doing would be enough to feed them and clothe them for years to come. She looked up. There was a picture of a sad looking clown staring at her. The clown's makeup was running and the flower pinned to him was drooping, but there was a glint in the clown's eye as if he could see the light of a better future. Steeling her resolve, she nodded and determinedly got out of her seat. Some of the girls gasped, while others were so wrapped in their own anguish that they didn't notice, and more than likely didn't care.

Her path had been chosen and she was going to face it head on. She walked slowly and steadily past the others. Mandy turned and faced the door. Being so close made her quiver. Made her question her actions. The picture of the clown flashed through her memory again. Straightening herself up, she waited.

The chime went off and the red light flashed.

She squared her shoulders and walked through the opening door...

Friday, 17 June 2011

Ninth Friday Flash: By The Horns

It was cold. Deathly cold. Andy tried to squirm further into his make shift-blanket, but he could go no further. His head was perfectly warm. Even in this weather it was too warm, which made it worse because the sweat would roll down from his sweaty head and down his body, freezing in the cold.

Two days. It had been two days since he had escaped the test facility. He was hungry, but he didn't dare wander any further. There was no telling what the general public would do to him.

Just before dawn he decided to go out to look for food. Anything to quell the raging hunger inside him. It was still frosty outside, but the chilly wind had died down. He hugged his thin facility issued clothes tightly around him.

It would have to be a short excursion. His neck was already starting to kill him.

About ten minutes away from the abandoned train he had been using for a shelter he spotted a tiny hill. In truth he smelt it more than anything else. He didn't know when he had picked up the ability, but it smelt strongly of grass. Using the strange gait he had adopted to move around he made his way up the hill. It was hard work and he almost fell over backwards a couple of times. Once there he collapsed to his hands and knees.

The smell of grass seemed to inflame his savage hunger even more. He swiftly swept away the snow with almost numb hands. He tucked in as soon as the green grass came into view. The green stuff was soft and luscious. He could see why cows stood around eating it all day.

Andy chewed the grass, ripping more and more of it out of the ground.

Somehow it was warming him up too. Maybe this transformation wasn't such a bad thing. Maybe he could find himself a secluded spot in the countryside where he could live out his days.

There was a clearing of throat.

Andy froze. Swallowing he tilted his head to the side.

It was a man wearing a white coat and sun glasses. Andy recognized him instantly. It was the smooth Dr. Wako.

“You know it's futile, right?”

He had lost the ability to talk quite a while ago. Andy just snorted.

“This whole thing has been staged. You never escaped. We let you escape. We have been watching you the whole time.”

Andy fell back onto his backside and clutched his overweight head in his hands.

“Don't look so glum!” sighed Dr. Wako. “This is all very important.” Andy wondered exactly what kind of doctorate the man had.

Andy shook his head.

“There, there,” said Dr. Wako patting him on his head. “Soon this will all be over and we can move onto the next project. April is going to make an excellent test subject.”

He couldn't believe it. They had his wife. He was enraged. He suddenly remembered the horns that had so painfully grown out of his head. Channeling his rage he lept forward and caught Dr. Wako in the chest. The man screamed in agony as they rolled down the hill. Head over heels, they seemed to roll forever...

Friday, 10 June 2011

Eighth Friday Flash: Gorilla Pequeno

(This story was inspired by the above photo. I would credit the photographer, but I was unable to find their details)

Santos was no ordinary man. He was about half the height of anyone else for one thing, and another was he wore a gorilla suit to work. He was a sideshow at a carnival. They called him Gorilla Pequeno or little gorilla. It was enough to keep him and his family fed, but little else. It was his 15th wedding anniversary tomorrow and he had nothing for his wife. All his money had gone on new tires for his truck. He knew he wife would understand, but he had to do something special for her. She worked hard looking after their daughter and washing the carnival's laundry. Most of her salary went on the boarding school they sent their daughter to. So this year a crazy plan formed in his head. The carnival was leaving first thing in the morning, which give him just enough time to do what he had to do before they left, and before anyone found out what he had done, they would be long gone. He was especially afraid of his own people finding out. If they did, he would never hear the end of it.

Someone knocked on the door. “A minute until show time.”

Santos's stomach was turning over like a washing machine. He eyed the window, maybe he should make a run for it. He thought of his wife, the present he wanted to get her and gritted his teeth, besides there was no way he could reach the window anyway.

Moments later he was on the stage. The all female audience went crazy. Santos timidly made his way to the centre and began to dance.

“Oh yeah, shake it baby!” shouted a middle aged woman shaking some one dollar bills in the air.

Santos let the music and the three shots of tequila he had before the show take control. Much to his amazement and embarrassment the crowd adored him. He never thought owning a gorilla suit could make him so much money.

Before he knew it the silver ring he spotted at the pawn shop was his and he was outside his family's trailer. It was just past midnight. He opened the door as quietly as he could, but it wasn't quiet enough. Maria, his wife, heard him. She had been watching TV and had passed out on the couch.

It took a moment for her eyes to focus. She wiped the drool from her chin. “Where have you been?”

Santos couldn't think of a better time. “I went to get this for you, babe.”

Her eyes light up. She took the ring box and opened it. “Aw, it's beautiful!”

“Read in the inscription.”

“To my darling wife. Forever and always, Santos.”

“I love it!” she placed it on her elegant long fingers. Then she started to sniff the air, and she frowned.

“What's that smell?”

Santos had a very bad sense of smell and shrugged.

“Where have you been?”


“Have you been behind my back?” She got up, and towered over him. “You're trying to cover it up by buying me this expensive gift?”


“Tell the truth.. now!” her voice was getting higher and higher pitched.

He went forward to hug her. She pushed him away. “Okay... okay.” He told her everything.

She began to laugh. A sense of relief flooded over him, but it soon turned to stunned astonishment.

“Do you expect me to believe that bullcrap!”

“It's the truth!”

“Out... get out! I don't want to see your face right now.”

“But...” Santos knew from previous experience that there was no reasoning with her.

She maneuvered him towards the door and when it was open she shoved him out. He landed on his back in the mud. “And you can give this to your whore!” she ripped off the ring and threw it at him.

His gorilla suit was full of mud, Santos hugged himself and went over and sat next to the family dog. The dog stared at him with sad eyes. Santos sniffed. “You believe me, don't you Pepe?”

The End

Monday, 6 June 2011

Ten Book Reading Challenge: Update 3

The Ten Book reading challenge has finally come to an end. 10 books in half a year doesn't seem like much, but it's quite an improvement for me. But it makes me wonder how people read 50-100 books a year. If you are one of those people how do you find the time? Here are my finals thoughts on the last 5 books.

Watch this space I might start another reading challenge very soon. And if you have done a similar reading challenge let me know. Would be good to know how you fared.

Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey:

Page 21: I'm enjoying this book so far. It's about renegade angel bounty hunter who likes to say the word "Ass" a LOT. I like Richard's take on vampires and his kick ass writing style, but can't help but feel there is something lacking. Hopefully the next 21 pages will fix that.

Page 190: I'm still on the fence about this book. As much as I like the story line, the narrative can get a little annoying from time to time. A lot of outlandish metaphors that don't really work. Although some of them do work and are quite funny. If the last 21 pages are anything to go by the 2nd half will be a lot more interesting than the first half.

Page 341: And I was right. The action has really picked up and I've grown accustomed to the writing style. Might even be enjoying it.

Page 434 (completed): The ending had quite a nice twist to it and kept me riveted over the last 50 pages or so. On thinking about it, with a title like Kill the Dead the book was quite humourous and had quite a few light-hearted moments. I think Richard Kadrey has one of those minds where his thoughts are speeding along at thousands of miles an hour and in lots of different directions. I think he's done a good job wrangling it and putting it down on paper. Are there things I would have changed? Yes, but you can say that about pretty much every book.

The Rise of the Iron Moon by Stephen Hunt

Page 21: The royal family seems to be imprisoned in some sort of breeding program. There are clockwork machines that are more advanced than humans, and a prison full of criminally insane guarded by a veteran warden and a new recruit. A lot of threads to follow. Haven't really got a good feel of the book yet, but I have a feeling it's going to be pretty epic.

Page 190: I was right about it being epic. Hunt has really weaved a fine tale here. Not only do the characters feel real in their actions, but they all have their distinctive voices and characteristics. Not an easy thing to pull off. Now that the story has progressed nicely. We have a large mysterious force approaching the Kingdom of the Jackals, and their only way of stopping it is a crazy scheme imparted by a ex-slave to construct a massive instrument to strike their enemy at its heart. As with any good book it's going to go down to the wire.

Page 341: The more I read this book the more I'm entranced. And the twists and turns in the book have been truly surprising. It will be a book that will stick in my memory for a long time to come.

Page 455 (completed): Having completed the book I'm kind of sad it's finished. It's one of those books where you just want to read forever. Luckily there are at least four other books in the series so I will be hunting them down!

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

Page 21: As the sub-title says this is about the history of human kind. Why it has developed in the way it has. The book has raised some interesting questions so far and I look forward finding out more.

Page 190: Diamond has done a remarkable job putting this book together. It must have been a huge undertaking, and so far he has been painting a grand picture of how the human race has evolved into what we are today. And some of the stuff is really surprising. Like some fruits that were poisonous to us that through trial and error we were able to make harmless to us. Currently the book explaining why some animals were domesticated and others not. Did you know Egyptians used Cheetahs as hunting animals?

Page 341: The book is now focusing on how human populations evolved from tribes to states, and in why it happened in some places and others not. In some cases not much difference at all can make the difference from a people staying stuck in the stone age and another developing modern technology.

Page 480 (completed): As much as the book was interesting and involved some of the topics were rambled on about too much and others, the more interesting ones, could have been more detailed. That being said, I have learned a lot from this book and think others should read it. After all it's not every day you read a thought provoking book about the last 13,000 years of history condensed into 400 odd pages.

Extras by Scott Westerfield

Page 21: A YA novel set in a future where your face rank is just about the most important thing there is. The higher your rank the more important you are. The story is about girl with a measly rank of 451,369 and how she tries to get in with the in crowd. With the popularity of Facebook. It doesn't seem that far fetched. The book has a lot of energy and definitely one of my favourites of the 10 so far

Page 190: This book has been an enjoyable and light read. I think a perfect example of what a YA book should be. It has a main character you know is making some unwise choices, but you know if you were that age you would most probably do the same. And tons of adventure to keep you turning those pages. If I had been reading this book on its own I would have been finished in a day or so.

Page 341: Aya's quest for fame has really turned her life up side down and made her face truths about herself she didn't even know about. Nearing the end of the book. The pace has really picked up and each 21 page jumps feels like a mad dash.

Page 417 (Completed): The ending was as fast paced as the rest of the book, but I couldn't help but feel the characters had a bit too much an easy ride at the end. That being said it was still an excellent book overall, and I would highly recommend it especially if you have kids in 12-17 year old range who love social media.

Ruler of the Realm by Herbie Brennan (Book 3 of the Faerie Wars Series)

Page 21: Got this set of books for Christmas a few years back. Been enjoying them immensely ever since. In my honest opinion one of the best/if not the best real world/fairy world crossover books ever. Being YA novels Herbie Brennan has spared none of the gory details and tries to gross you out at almost every turn. And being books full of magic/strange creatures he has done a fine job of keeping it realistic. Being the third book it is hard to say much with out spoilers. So I will say it is on par with the rest of the books and bound to make me want to read more

Page 190: Maybe the first two books were too good, but this book doesn't seemed to have grabbed my attention as much as the first two did. Although it's still great to see what the characters are up to and how they're adapting to their new roles. Still a lot of book to go so plenty of time for things to improve. That being said it's still a great book and well worth reading.

Page 341: Things have turned for the better. The story has picked up has captured my attention again. The characters of the book are facing their biggest challenge yet, and it will be interesting to see how it will pan out!

Page 429 (completed): I think the the last 70 or so page really made up for the middle part of the book. There were a lot of twists and turns and I saw sides of the characters that I hadn't seen before. And I suspect the last book in the series will be even better. Overall I think these books should become classics in their own right.

Friday, 3 June 2011

My Seventh Friday Flash: Spiked Collar

Groggily I opened my eyes. Thick black bars shifted in and out of focus. I twisted my body by the tinniest of fractions. Intense pain shot through me. Whimpering a little, I forced my body to keep still. My shoulder was heavily wounded and very tender.

A smudge of movement. Someone was coming. This person rapped a club along the iron bars. It felt like the bell end of one of Papa's massive church bells.

“Ah, you're awake?” the voice was distorted.

I felt like shouting in anger or frustration, why leave me like this? But all I could manage was some feeble groans.

The more I woke up. The more pain I seemed to be in. Something was around my neck. Something hard and unyielding. Doing my best to ignore the pain I got up and felt the thing. It was a thick collar of some kind. There were spikes all along the inside rim, pushing against my neck. They were deathly sharp. Some of the spikes had dug into my neck on the side I was laying on. Sticky blood had run along my side and dried up. Not only was I in pain. I felt sick too.

I didn't have to ask what it was for. They had found out my secret. They knew I was a monster.

“Change, and you will die!” said the young man. His bronze star glinting in the lantern light.

I didn't know what to say, maybe dying wouldn't be such a bad thing. At least the pain would stop.

“Our men are out there now, hunting down your boyfriend.”

“He's not my boyfriend!”

He seemed to ignore me. “If you weren't a monster I would fancy you myself.” The deputy spat to the side.

Being the preacher's daughter half the town fancied me. Seeing as I was forbidden fruit and all. I hated every second of it. All I wanted was a quiet, normal life.

“Matthew, are you crazy, he will come here, he will come for me.”

Deputy Matthew Shank laughed. “I'm not afraid!” he patted his shiny six shooter. “I will drop him before he gets close.” It had been years since I had seen Matthew. He hadn't changed much. Like my father he seemed to have more bark than bite, and demanded more respect than he deserved.

“I wouldn't be so sure about that.” The dizziness had begun to fade.

“Besides there are men hidden all over this building. He won't get inside.”

“You have to get this off me! I'm the only one who can help you.”

“Darling, do you think me a fool?”

“You will be a dead one if you don't do as I say.”

Just then there was the sound of horses braying in surprise and men shouting warnings.

“Darn it!” said Shank. “Stay put, I will go check what's happening.”

“Don't! Let me out!” I shouted shaking the bars.

I ran over to the small barred window and peered outside. The full moon shone a weird, but intense blue light over everything. I saw a flash of movement to my right. I didn't have to see who it was. I could sense him. I could smell his essence. My body yearned to have him close. To feel him. To smell him, but my mind hated the mere thought of him. I wanted nothing more than to get away from him.

There was some more shouting and some shots. It sounded like Luven, the scum who had changed me, the man who had made me into this monster, had ripped someone apart. I turned back to the bars. Shank came bursting back in the room. It looked like he was badly scratched up.

He screamed. “He's going to kill me!”

“Let me out!” I shouted.

Shank threw the keys. They landed a foot or two away from the bars. The deputy closed the door. It wouldn't keep Luven long. Shank moved his desk to block the door. With the pain and the iron necklace clanging against the bars I was having difficulty reaching for the keys.

Something crashed into the door with force. The door was smashed off its hinges and the desk shifted a few inches.

“Crap!” cursed Shank with his back against the wall and his gun drawn. “I know we didn't get along as kids, but you have to help me. I don't want to do die.”

I found his pleading pathetic. “Shut up! Let me get out of this darn cage first.”

I now had the keys in my hand and was trying to fit the right one in the lock, despite myself I was shaking and having a hard time.

Luven smashed through the doorway, gripped the desk with his clawed hands, and tossed the desk across the room as if it were a play thing. It smashed into splinters against the opposing wall. Luven's tall and bulky shape seethed with anger; blood trickling down his face from a wound to his forehead. A wound that will surely kill him once he changed back to his human shape; it was doing very little to slow him down for the moment.

Sniffing the air with his long nose Luven wandered further into the room. I almost had the door open. There were only two keys left. It had to be one of them.

Quaking, Shank fired off a few shots. Missing completely.

Roaring, Luven charged towards the deputy. Shank threw a chair at Luven. It bounced off harmlessly the brute's broad shoulders harmlessly. Another second later Luven was on top of Shank. He swiped with his clawed hand. Shank flew through the air to land in a crumpled heap.

By some miracle Shank seemed to be still alive. His chest risking and falling slowly.

“No, no please don't kill me.”

Luven had to sweep away the remnants of the desk away to be able to get to Shank. It was enough time for me to bust out of the cell. If I didn't act now Shank would die. He was a sorry excuse for a man, but he didn't deserve to die in such away.

“Hey!” I shouted.

Luven stopped. Sniffing the air once again he turned to his face me. His brown eyes burning with hunger. He had found his prize. The intense tension was taking over my body. It was just a matter of time before I changed.

I pulled on the collar.“Where's the key?”

“The... The Sheriff has it,” said Shank.

A sinking feeling fell over me, but it quickly turned to rage. What gave fate the right to treat me in such away. Treated like a delicate doll my whole life, then when I finally get the taste of freedom some fiend of a man changes me. Changes me into this beast.

It was too late. The change was coming and there was no way to stop it. It started at the fingers. It always started at the fingers. The change was coming and it was coming fast.

I repeated over and over in my mind a very short phrase. A phrase I hope I remembered once I was changed and the animal part of me took control. “I must kill him. I must kill him...”

I hoped my mind... I hoped my will was strong enough to pull this off. The change was taking over me. My body was transforming. Growing in size, growing stronger. Luven, seemed to be watching. As if admiring the show. He stamped his clawed foot and howled. His snout almost brushing on the ceiling.

Shank just sat there with his hands over his head as if trying to block it all out.

I could feel the hunger for Luven building inside me. Threatening to take control. I focused my mind on the fact that Luven had killed my father only a couple of days before. A rage fell over me. A rage that seemed to make the animal inside me back away in fear. Luven licked his sharp teeth as if anticipation. I could feel the pressure of the iron necklace piercing me. Draining away my life force. This was my moment. With claws extended I leaped forward. A primordial roar bellowing from my lungs I landed on with him with savage force. Unprepared I ripped him to ribbons.

The last thing I saw before everything faded away was Shank backing away out the room. A look of utter horror on his face. My life was over, but at least I had saved another. .