Silverlink Writing Group: The Writers

 

Pat Nelson

 

Always written - School and work (secretarial) Always Excellent English – I read on average 6 books per week – And anything else down to sauce bottle labels. I write historical and science fiction and used to write dog related articles. I won (and the following year was 3rd) in a competition, run annually, by a ‘Dog’ subscription magazine.  I have also had two articles published in monthly glossy magazines. Presently writing two novels and various short stories.

Here are some examples of my work:

Page last up dated 3 October 2011

 

SWG August 2011 Competition. First line: The vulture picked at the remains in its enclosure... You only have 500 words to tell your story.

Word Count = 492

WINNER OF AUGUST 2011 COMPETITIONSTORY B:


BIG BANG


The vulture picked at the remains in its enclosure.  It had heard and felt the deafening bang only an hour ago:  then the crash of an impromptu meal arriving.  A human torso had crashed through the top of its cage.  The vulture had no interest in the affairs of men, nor in the nearby large mushroom shaped cloud.  It was only interested in eating.  With a full belly it wiggled its way through the broken bars in the top of its cage, and flew away from the zoo.            Everything was quiet.  Then a lone figure appeared over the hill near the zoo.  The figure was Harry Hobson, a dedicated pot-holer.   He’d been underground since five am, and just as he’d wriggled through the last tight tunnel, with nothing more than his wife’s mince and dumplings on his mind, he’d felt the earth clutch at his left foot.  Then the earth moved again, spat out his foot, and closed behind him.

            Harry stared in horror at the solid rock wall where seconds ago there’d been small tunnel.  His three best friends, the ‘team’, had been just behind him, joking about whose wife made the best dinner.  Now they were gone.  Smashed out of existence, like unnoticed bugs under a careless boot.

            When he stumbled out of the pot-hole, he looked up, horrified, at the mushroom cloud.  He had to get home.  It would only take him ten minutes if he ran.  He hoped that Mary, his wife, would have been in their cellar, cooking dinner, when the bomb fell.

            He’d jogged past the zoo, his attention taken by the utter wasteland all around.  His home was across the street, behind a small plantation of trees.  The trees were matchsticks, having taken the brunt of the blast.  His house was marked by a small pile of bricks, with his wife’s pride and joy, a teak and metal bespoke front door, still swinging in the swirling dust-choked air.  The rest was gone.

            He scrabbled around.  There was still hope.  The cellar door had been inside the house, a few steps away from the front door.  He found the cellar door, which had collapsed over the stairs leading downwards, and become embedded in the earth.  He jumped up and down and banged on the embedded door, then listened intently.  He could hear a voice down there.  He looked around.  A couple of feet away was a metal clothes pole.  It was only the work of minutes to lever the door to one side and find his Mary was safe and sound, and still clutching the wrapped pot of mince and dumplings.  So they ate that for tea.  Who knew when they’d have anything so good again?

           The vulture, meanwhile, was soaring high above, supported by the thermals caused by the big bang.  When the humans had wiped each other out, he and the rats and cockroaches would be busy.  They’d have a world to clean up.

SWG March/May 2011 Competition. Your first line is: The rock rolled... You only have 500 words to tell your story.

Word Count = 426

RUNNER UP OF MARCH/MAY 2011 COMPETITION

STORY B:

Rock and Roll

The rock rolled away under Amrit’s bare foot. A whiff of corruption rose in the ferociously hot dawn air. Amrit didn’t notice. He was more concerned with the empty ache in his stomach. He scanned the ground in front of him as he headed for the dumper trucks. They were tipping out their latest loads of rubbish, the end product of western civilisation’s waste mountain.

Amrit lived with his mother in a hovel near the edge of the rubbish tip. He was ten years old, and the main earner in their little family. There had been a baby every year since he could remember, but they’d all just ....... faded away.

The nearest truck drove away and Amrit waded through the new rubbish, waving his arms to keep off the swooping gulls, and headed for the plastic lumps jutting out of the rubbish. He preferred this type of rubbish. Not so much likelihood of being covered in rotten food or worse. Anyway, the plastic could earn Amrit much more cash than rag picking. Young though he was, he knew exactly who would be able to cannibalise the computer boards and hard drives. All he had to do was carefully strip them into small enough items for his undeveloped muscles to carry them.

He worked quickly and efficiently, sliding all his findings into an old sack. Then he slithered down a short cut through the rubbish and made his way towards his potential customers.

A couple of hours later, he was back at his own front door – not exactly a proper wooden door, just a very greasy roll of old carpet nailed to one side of the doorway – and he was laden down with enough food for the next couple of days. He also had milk, his latest baby brother was hanging on to life with amazing tenacity, and he never looked forward more than a couple of days into the future anyway.

He pushed the carpet to one side, stepped through the doorway, and called his Mam’s name. Silence. Only the familiar smell of dust and sour milk greeted him. Then ‘Auntie’ from the next hut came in holding his baby brother. “Amrit,” she said, “Go to the ladies at the Charity Clinic. Your mother’s there, really sick.”

Amrit stared at her, then dumbly handed Auntie the food and milk he was holding.

“Go, go,” she said. “You know I’ll look after baby.”

Then Amrit turned quickly, already dreading what he might find at the Charity Clinic, as a rock rolled under his bare foot again.

 

SWG January/February 2011 Competition.  Your first line is: The box of chocolates was half finished...  Your middle line is:... All was not lost...   Your last line is: ...And so it came to be. You only have 500 words to tell your story.

Word Count = 481

WINNER OF JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2011 COMPETITION

STORY B:

FEEDING FRENZY

THE BOX OF CHOCOLATES WAS ALMOST FINISHED, nothing else resembling food was left.  Their tramp steamer had sunk two nights ago, and Ann shuddered at the memory of the panicked chaos which had followed.

There were two half-grown boys and four crewmen, slumped around the boat.  Ann nudged the almost empty chocolate box further under her bench, and watched them from under her hat brim.  She knew they were plotting to steal her chocolates, and deeply resented their plans, regretting that she’d handed the box around so freely over the last 48 hours.  She decided just to ignore their pleading glances.  After all, she’d need the remainder of the chocolates herself.  She couldn’t stand the thought of being hungry.  She was 36 years old, nineteen stones, and had never yet felt a stomach pang.

It was almost dusk as Ann straightened up from surreptitiously slipping the last chocolate into her mouth.  What on earth was she to do when this one had melted down her throat?   She eyed the two young boys.  One of them was quite plump.   Maybe she’d have a little talk to the four crewmen.  She cast around in her mind.  What could she offer them?  Well it made sense, didn’t it?  No need for them all to die.  Someone had to be prepared to sacrifice themselves go for the greater good.

Ann leant over and tapped the nearest crewman on his shoulder.  He swivelled round and bent forward so she could whisper in his ear.  He listened then drew back with a rapid head shake.  Ann smiled grimly.  ALL WAS NOT LOST.  She could wait.  She’d made her offer.  Now all she had to do was wait for him to come round to her way of thinking and persuade the others.

There was a good deal of shuffling during the next few hours of darkness.  Her whispers were taking root.  As dawn broke, the crewmen pounced.  Two of them took a boy each, grabbed his ankles and shoulders, and dangled him head first into the sea.  The boys thrashed and bubbled, then when they dangled limply, they were dragged back on board.  Dead.

Ann smiled wolfishly, and took out her hidden knife.  But before she butchered the two carcasses she bit into their necks in order to drain their blood.  Blood sucking from a dead body was like a cuppa after champagne, but very refreshing nonetheless.

Then she got on with the job, and when each crewman was given his portion, she passed around a small amount of water from her hidden store.  It was the promise of water more than food that had persuaded the men to go along with her wishes.  She stared at the small amount of water left.  Really only enough for one or two of them to survive.  Maybe if she was very clever?  .....AND SO IT CAME TO BE.

 

SWG December 2010 Competition. Your first line is: It was raining again... You only have 1,500 words to tell your story.

Word Count = 1,329

WINNER OF DECEMBER 2010 COMPETITION

STORY B:

A Lucky Coin

It was raining again. It seemed like it had been raining forever, and Toby shivered violently as he ducked back under the wet foliage. He’d been out of the house since before daylight, and decided to try his luck away from the river. The pickings might be better if he skirted the pit-heap and headed north into the open countryside. He’d pulled two old dry sacks from under his bed to protect his head and shoulders and proceeded to jog trot up the wagon-ways carrying the coal wagons from the pit down to the river-staiths. It was dangerous of course, Toby had to keep his ears open and feel for the rails vibrating as the wagons hurtled down the slight incline. He had to be quick, and move out of the way to the side of the track. But, then, he had learned to be quick, and at ten years old he considered himself to be the man of the house. His mother relied on him to help with his four younger sisters, and they’d managed to scrape along, since that awful day when his Dad had gone off whistling to the shift at the pit, and been dug out a day later and sent home to die. He hadn’t died. He’d become a lump in the bed in the front room. A thing that groaned occasionally and was tended and spoon fed by his long-suffering Mam. But to be spoon fed, there first had to be food of some sort to be cooked. Which was why Toby was headed out into the country-side. His whole family was meat hungry. And he knew that he stood no chance of stealing any of the bigger animals off a farm, but surely no one would miss the odd chicken. Then there were rabbits galore burrowing underneath the raised up wagon ways. Toby planned to set half a dozen snares in their runs, on his way up to countryside, then he’d check them out on his way home.

Toby felt as if he’d jogging up the wagon way for an hour, though he wasn’t very sure of the time and could only rely on the sky becoming lighter to tell him that the morning was passing. He set a snare whenever he saw a likely rabbit hole and hoped there would be something in them to pick up on his way back. He planned to skirt around Battlehill House, with its big iron gates and walled garden, and try to find a nice plump chicken pecking around the outskirts of Home Farm nearby.

A while later found Toby crouched amongst the trees on the edge of Home Farm. The two sacks clutched around his back and shoulders were saturated, and consequently he was soaked through and shivering violently with cold and nerves. He needn’t have worried himself, there wasn’t a single person or creature outdoors around Home Farm. Farmer and chickens alike seemed to be tucked up indoors until the atrocious weather eased.

Toby glumly made his way back towards the wagon-way, and kept out of sight by walking near to the garden wall of Battlehill House. He did think briefly of going to the kitchen door, but then he looked down at the state he was in, soaked to the skin, mud smeared skinny bare legs and sodden boots almost falling off his feet. The mine owner lived at Battlehill House, and he’d probably get his butler to make sure Toby was had up on a charge of vagrancy if he tried to beg for food.

So Toby’s only hope of some food to take home was his rabbit snares. He was lucky. The first two snares he came to had a plump dead rabbit in each. Then he heard a scuffling noise coming from the thicket where he’d placed the third snare. When he peeped round a bush he could see that a young fox had caught its hind foot in the wire loop, and had been frantically digging and thrashing around trying to free itself.

Toby felt sorry for the fox, but he didn’t want to lose his snare, so he thought quickly and took one of the sodden sacks off his shoulders. He flung it over the fox’s head and upper body, and then stood astride the fox, on the sack, to keep it still. It was only the work of a moment to loosen the snare, and then Toby snaffled the corner of the sack and jumped away from the fox. It shot deeper into the thicket, and Toby forgot about it as he looked around. In its struggles, the fox had collapsed a rabbit hole, revealing a man-made package wrapped in oil skin.

Toby looked at it curiously, but decided not to open it in the pouring rain, and placed it carefully in his trouser pocket, the only pocket without a hole. Surely there might be something in the package that his Mam could pawn.

He was lucky with the rest of his snares and ended up with a total of four rabbits.

When he got home and handed over his rabbits, his Mam was overjoyed.

“That’ll keep us going for a few days,” she said happily, but then pulled a worried face when he fished the wrapped package out of his pocket.

Toby explained about the finding the package after he’d let the fox out of the snare, and then they carefully opened the package together.

“Well, I don’t think that Uncle at the pawnshop would touch these with a barge-pole,” Toby’s Mam said, poking at the objects that had been in the package.

“I’ve never seen anything like them,” she muttered, staring at the three little objects. There was a coin shaped piece stamped LUCKY, a replica of a notebook, and a jewelled knife. All of them were fashioned out of gold, and perfect miniatures, not more than an inch across.

Then she shook her head, carefully wrapped up the miniatures back into their package, and looked out her best shawl.

Ten minutes later she was inside the police station, asking meekly if she could have a word with the sergeant.

The sergeant appeared, frowning and wiping his tea-break crumbs from his moustache. When he saw it was Toby’s Mam wanting a word, his face cracked into an unaccustomed half smile. He’d had the unenviable task of informing her about her husband’s accident, and he’d been impressed by her stoic manner then and afterwards.

She thrust the package at him, and told him how Toby had found it that morning, in a rabbit hole of all places. “So I thought it best to let you deal with things, and see if you could find where the little articles had come from,” she finished in a rush.

The sergeant nodded. He thought he knew exactly when the gold miniatures had gone missing, though how they’d ended up in a rabbit hole, he hadn’t the foggiest idea.

“Leave them with me,” he said, “and if there’s a finder’s reward, I’ll let you know.”

A while later, Toby’s Mam was running her own little corner shop. It turned out she had a natural business sense, and she sold everything she could think of, from half a stone of potatoes to a couple of spoons of tea leaves in a paper cone. Everything turned to profit in her hands, and it all stemmed from the small reward that the sergeant had passed on to her. She’d even managed to employ a girl to help her nurse Toby’s Dad, and occasionally help out in the shop.

Toby was happy. The days were long gone when he and his family had gone to bed hungry. But he still liked to go out and set his snares in rabbit holes. He was in the habit of going out most Sundays, but he never again found anything in his snares that wasn’t wearing its own fur coat.

SWG October 2010 Competition.  Your first line is: He closed the shutters...  You only have 500 words to tell your story.

Word Count = 472

WINNER OF OCTOBER 2010 COMPETITION

STORY A:

SHUTTERS

 

He closed the shutters on a desolate landscape.  Sighing, Dan glanced over his shoulder, wishing he could conjure up another human being to share his despair.  He’d woken two days ago from his drug induced coma to find he was in an empty world.

‘If only I hadn’t  done it,’ he muttered to himself, thinking back to the squalid squat where  he’d injected his last fix.  But his dealer had assured him that this new stuff was really extraordinary, and given him a ‘freebie’ to try.

And it was great at first.  That euphoric feeling of a first dose, he thought.  Then after that, nothing.  Until I woke up in this empty hospital in the middle of nowhere, completely alone.

Then he heard the noise.  A clattering, scraping sound.  But very loud, and seemingly coming from outside.

Dan nudged the bottom of the shutters over and peered through the small gap he’d made.  Squinting into the gathering dusk, he tried to rationalise what he was seeing.  This was the stuff of nightmares.  He bit his lip to stop himself screaming.  Maybe that THING out there had some form of hearing in its hideous mass, but he wasn’t about to try to attract its attention.  He slowly let the shutter drop back into place, then darted to the back of the room and opened the door into the rest of the complex.

Then he ran along the corridor.  Unheeding of anything but putting as much space as possible between himself and that nightmare outside.  Five minutes went by as Dan raced through what seemed to be miles and miles of passages.  Then, his lungs on fire, he had to stop, bend over and touch his toes, to try and stop the stitch in his side.  He had reached the back of the complex, and when he raised his head he realised that he could hear noises of machinery and see a light through the Perspex of the door panel.

At last, signs of life, he thought.  He almost fell through the door, with numerous questions ready to pour from his lips.  He stopped, but too late.  An identical monster to the one he’d ran from scuttled rapidly behind him and cut him off from the door, his only means of escape.  Then it lurched towards him, as he huddled into a corner.  With nowhere left to go, he closed his eyes and screamed in abject terror, smelling the nearness of the thing.   He was overwhelmed and fell into darkness, as something whopped against his face.

The para-medic slapped Dan’s face again, thankful that the face-mask cut out some of the stench of his surroundings.

‘Come on, mate.  You’ve overdosed,’  he said.

‘From one nightmare life to another,’ Dan muttered, as he was hauled to his feet and helped into the waiting ambulance.

 

Your story is set in or around a DOLL'S HOUSE.  You only have 500 words to tell your story.

Word Count = 495

WINNER OF SEPTEMBER 2010 COMPETITION

STORY A:

THE DOLLS’ HOUSE

 

Rachel was only fourteen.  She, and her Papa and Mama, staggered out of the cattle wagon, shivering in the freezing air, and stared around the railway platform.  The dishevelled crowd around them was being pushed into a rough line by filthy, shaven-headed men, who then went on to clear out the rest of the wagons.

As they shuffled slowly but inevitably forward, Rachel could see black uniformed figures standing at the end of the platform.  The crowd divided there, sent either right or left with a wave of a uniformed arm. 

Rachel struggled, trying to keep near her Mama and Papa, but she was swept forward in the crush, and waved into the right hand line.  When she desperately looked back, hoping to see her family following, they had disappeared into the left hand column.  The platform was deserted, save for a few scattered belongings, waiting to be collected.

Hoping desperately to meet her family in the camp, Rachel marched mechanically through the iron gates with “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” emblazoned across the top.  Her column of dazed and strangely quiet people were led into a large hut.  More humiliations awaited them.  A series of numbers was tattooed on her wrist.  The few belongings she clutched, were taken from her.  Then the final straw, waiting in line to have her hair hacked off, and her head shaved.

She was spared that.  One of the uniformed ones raised her chin with his riding crop, looked at her for a long moment, and made a flicking motion with his other hand.

She joined two other young women in a corner of the hut, where they huddled together, terrified.  In this desperate place, to be singled out could be a death sentence.  However, that was not to be their fate.

They were pushed down a path between perfumed shrubs, which didn’t quite mask the sweet, smoky aroma permeating the camp.  They were at the rear of a large house, and their guard pushed them through a door leading into a dark vestibule, and left them.  Inside, a woman stepped out of the shadows, and silently drew them into a cavernous bathroom before indicating that they should strip off their filthy clothes and clean themselves. 

‘Better the bath here, than the showers over there,’ she said, gesturing towards the path they’d just walked along.

She gave them each a sliver of soap and a scrap of towel, and said, ‘I won’t be but a few minutes fetching your clean clothes,’ before leaving the bathroom and locking the door behind her.

Ten minutes later, the three girls were clean and arrayed in new, frilly, colourful clothes.  They stared expectantly at the woman, waiting for her to tell them what was happening to them in this horrible, puzzling place.

She didn’t leave them in suspense any longer.  Her next words were, ‘Welcome to The Dolls’ House.  I’ll tell you what you have to do to stay here, and live.....’

 Silverlink Writing Group June 2010 Competition: 500 words:[see below]

Word count = 311

JOINT WINNER

STORY B:

The Day Job

 

The boat had docked only a few hours before, when Radcliffe walked down the gangplank.  He turned and looked back at the ship.  It towered over him; he smiled to himself as he stepped onto the dock.  His old self would stay on board, he had reinvented himself.  Now he had a new name Madox Kellaway and his past was gone.  A new city in a new country, money in the bank, what could go wrong?

Kellaway entered his apartment, it was already furnished. He liked his new taste, very stylish. He needed to get the clothes to match his new life, then everything would be in place.

Kellaway sat at the bar sipping his drink and watching the world go by.  He like this new life, the bigger the city the more anonymous he could be.  No one would recognize him; he had changed so much in the last month.

Plastic surgery really was wonderful, and the hair transplant and lifts in his shoes helped a lot, plus the regime of steroids and constant exercise under a personal trainer, made a weedy chinless wonder turn into a rather handsome young man.

Up until now he’d always been dealt the duff cards in life, but after his last successful job, ‘The Firm’ had seen to it that he had whatever he desired.  He noticed the blonde girl sitting at the other end of the bar was eyeing him, and smiled tentatively just in case he was mistaken.  Perhaps she thought she’d actually seen her knight in shining armour somewhere over his right shoulder.  Instead of glaring at him she raised her eyebrow and her glass, then she beckoned him over.

They hardly needed to talk at all, and their nights were full of each other.  But she was so curious, always wanting to know about his past, and what he’d done before he came to New York.  He fobbed her off with half lies, but then one night when she was out at the Health Club he was paying for, he found himself taking out his gun – the very one which had got him this new life – and fondling it.

It wasn’t far to drive back from Central Park, where he’d persuaded her to go for a romantic midnight picnic, and her weighted body had slid gently into the muddy lake, with only a couple of bubbles to show  that there’d ever been anything untoward happening  there.

Now he must buckle down and answer ‘The Firm’s’ last email.  After all, this new life must be paid for, and paid for in the only way he knew.  Assassin was a dirty word.  He much preferred to kill for pleasure, like tonight.  Maybe making killing his day job was just a step too far.

Silverlink Writing Group June 2010 Competition: 500 words:Two objects: A wallet and a box. Location: A museum.

Word count = 487

RUNNER UP of the Silverlink Writing Group

Competition May 2010

STORY B

THE WINK

 

The Museum was lit only by faint moonlight.  Bugsy O’Reilly pressed his balaclava firmly down to hide his hair, which was a peculiar shade of red. He squashed himself further into the space behind a stone statue and stared at the glass-topped box in the middle of the ‘Second Dynasty’ Egyptian exhibit.

Bugsy was going to ‘borrow’ the contents of that box, and hand them over to an eminently respectable professor.  He’d already been very well paid for his trouble.  The alarm system was taken care of, and he’d only to wait another few minutes, then a car would be there for him in the alley at the back of the Museum, ready to drop him off at a pre-arranged meeting.

The room was eerily quiet as Bugsy crept towards box, swung open the top, and swept its contents into the calico sack he carried.  Then a sudden shudder ran down his spine and he abandoned all caution and rushed through the darkness towards the red EXIT sign.  Outside, the car driver was already waiting, and Bugsy jumped in sweating and shaking, as the car purred off into the night.

The sweat dried on his forehead, his heart slowed down, and he reached into his inside pocket and took out his wallet.  He didn’t even have to open it.  He knew it contained a huge cheque, enough for him to live the simple life for many a long year on one of the smaller Caribbean islands.

Until now, he hadn’t wondered why anyone would want the contents of that box, but now, with the job almost done, his curiosity got the better of him.  He opened the calico bag and peered inside.  Then he put in his hand and stirred the jewels and silver ornaments.  He was sure he’d seen a large scarab tumble into the bag.  Ah, there it was!  As he reached out a finger to touch it, he felt the same knee jerk reaction as he’d have felt putting his finger towards a large tarantula.  The scarab moved, rolled over, and then a lid flicked open to reveal a blue eye – it winked at him, then watched him. Unblinkingly.

Bugsy suppressed a scream, trying to turn it into a cough, as he thrust the bag away from him.  Then he noticed the red stop lights ahead.  Please stay red, he prayed silently.  And they did.  As the car driver slowed, Bugsy flung himself at the door handle, opened it and fell out onto the pavement.

He ran for his life.  Disappeared down the nearest subway, and no one in New York ever heard from Bugsy again.

There was a rumour of a novice monk in Tibet with hair of a peculiar shade of red, who insisted on shaving every particle of body hair twice a day.  But that was before the Chinese invaded Tibet and ousted the Dali Lama.  After that nothing.....

 

Silverlink Writing Group Competition April 2010:- 500 words starting with:- "I'm losing my mind.  Please help me?"  said...

Word Count = 491

Winner of the Silverlink Writing Group

Competition April 2010

Losing My Mind

 

“I’m losing my mind.  Please help me,”  said a croaky, little voice.

Felicity tore her gaze away from the window, and looked at the tiny, ancient woman who stood trembling in front of her.

“I don’t think I’m capable of helping anyone at the moment,” said Felicity.  “Can’t even help myself.”

The tiny woman flashed a smile, revealing a mouthful of large, white, false teeth.  “Dumped you in here, have they?  She said, “My lot did the same.  I can’t even run back to my home.  Sold it while I was unconscious to pay the fees for this place.    And someone has taken all my jewels – even my diamond engagement ring – and no-one will believe me when I tell them I’ve been robbed.”

Felicity tried to put aside her own feelings of hopelessness, and said, “That could be true, but we’ve got to believe in ourselves and stick together.  You’re not losing your mind.”

Then Matron poked her head round the door, and said, “Settling in are we?  Oh, what are you doing here Daphne?  We mustn’t upset Felicity.  I’ll take you back to your room for a nice little rest, and you can watch ‘Neighbours’ on your portable.  I’ll send one of the care workers along with a cup of tea and one of the fancy cakes you like?  Would you like a cuppa, Felicity?  And an iced bun, perhaps?”

Felicity sighed and asked, “I don’t suppose I could have a slice of lemon in my tea?”  Matron nodded, and escorted Daphne out of the room.

The tea came with lemon, and a bun.  “And I’ve made it nice and milky with two sugars,”  smiled the carer, putting it down near Felicity’s hand.  Felicity sighed, pushed the tea to one side, and crumbled the bun absentmindedly.

Next morning, Daphne crept into Felicity’s room, and held out a photo to show her.  Felicity was trying to rub some feeling into her arthritic hands and feet.

“There’s my ring.  The one they tell me that I never had,” Daphne said, and pointed to a sparkling half rock on her hand, in the group photo, “and I saw Matron wearing it when she was taken out to a posh do a week ago"

“I have the very thing,” said Felicity, scrabbling in her well polished leather bag and bringing out a small digital camera.  “Now all we have to do is take a photograph of Matron wearing that ring, and we’ll charge her with fraud.  Then we’ll leave here, and set up home together at my place.  They haven’t had time to get rid of it yet.”

“And when I get the ring back, I’ll sell it.  We’ll find our-self a faithful retainer, who’ll work for a pittance and look after us to the end of our days,” said Daphne excitedly.

So they set themselves to wait beside the window and trap Matron, and sat, and sat, and sat.....

 

Silverlink Writing Group Competition November / December 2009:- 500 words starting with:- The man in the red suit...

Word Count = 445

RUNNER UP  of the Silverlink Writing Group

Competition November / December 2009

THE MAN IN THE RED SUIT

 

The man in the red suit clawed his fingers through his long white beard.  He took another swig from the bottle on the console top, stared at the computer screen, and burped up a taste of raw vodka.

He switched on the outside cameras, and groaned, ‘Those darned reindeer are gathering outside again.’

Reindeer was his rough description of the animal population of this cold and unknown planet.  Outside, another methane storm raged over the unfeeling reindeer throng, cloaking the landscape in whiteness.

The man in the red space suit was a volunteer with nothing to lose.  He was terminally ill.  The boffins had successfully launched him towards an unknown destination through a nearby recently discovered black hole.  But his arrival on this sub-zero planet was not so much a controlled landing as a damaging crash, which meant the end of any hopes he had of returning to Old Earth.

He patched up his ship’s life support system, and hoped that it would out-last the doctors’ two year prognosis of his medical condition.

Also he had to tweak the communication system, so it would punch out a message which would blast its way back across the Universe via the black hole by which he’d arrived here.

‘Here being where?’ he muttered, but then for months, all he could do was enter information about the wheeling stars and planets around his ship into the computers, until at last he came up with the answer.  His freezing planet was circling a distant red sun on the outskirts of the Andromeda Cluster.

With an approaching rogue planet threatening Old Earth’s survival, it was essential that a new home be found for at least some of humanity’s teeming millions.

Given a positive reply from him, it would be relatively easy to save some of Earth’s best.  Sadly though, he couldn’t choose this particular planet, he mused.  Any human facing this planet without adequate protection would be killed by the alien atmosphere.

Still, he couldn’t give up hope, so he continued to scour the sky looking for some solution to Old Earth’s problem.  Time was running out, and still he hesitated about sending his message back home.  Then the prayed-for solution arrived.

Into his scanning equipment wandered the perfect planet.  Not white and frozen, but blue and green.  With a warm, oxygen atmosphere.  Perfect.

So he sent his positive message back to Old Earth, with the amended planetary target.

Hopefully, a tide of humanity would soon be filling up that nearby planet, not knowing that their red-suited, white-bearded saviour was wistfully watching them across the void, his only companions a herd of silicon reindeer.

 

Silverlink Writing Group Competition October 2009:- 500 words starting with:- A bunch of flowers and a box lay on the doorstep... OR The Egyptian sarcophaus stood in the corner...

Word Count =285

He Smote A Mote

 

              The Egyptian sarcophagus stood in the corner, while light wandered into its dark seclusion from a tiny crack high up in the opposite wall.

              “Told you the geo-phys results showed a chamber here,” Tom shouted from outside, and renewed his attempt to widen the hole.

              The dust motes were agitated from their rest and joined by a veritable avalanche of small particles and rubble as Tom thrust his head and shoulders through the gap he’d made.  He waved his torch around and gasped.  His crawl hole had ended six feet up from the floor of the chamber.

              He quickly reversed himself and climbed, feet first, down a knotted rope.  All the pyramids at this end of the Valley of the Kings had long been plundered by grave robbers and foreign archaeologists.  But Tom had remained convinced that there was something concealed off the long meandering passage inside this crumbling heap of stone blocks.

              “Ah, the wonders of modern science,” Tom said, smoothing the geo-phys results paper on the top of the sarcophagus.  “Now for some brute force.”  He picked up a crowbar that his helpers had dropped into the chamber, and proceeded to lever aside the heavy stone cover from the sarcophagus.

              A cloud of disturbed dust moats floated up and tickled Tom’s nose.  He sneezed and sneezed, and inhaled great gulps of the dust he’d stirred up, before pulling out a white cotton handkerchief, and honking mightily into it to clear his nose.

              It was already two thousand years and three and a half minutes too late.  The micro-organisms were in his lungs.  The old pneumonia strain of the Black Death was about to be released onto the world again.

 Silverlink Writing Group Competition September 2009:- 500 words starting with:- The weapons hung on one wall of the room...  

Word Count =502

RUNNER UP  of the Silverlink Writing Group

Competition September 2009

 

THE SHIELD, THE SPEAR AND THE SWORD

 

The weapons hung on one wall of the room.  A pitifully small collection.  The cast-off remnants of Markus’s fellow centurions, as they took ship for Rome.  He would not be leaving with them.  He looked down at his shattered leg. Markus had seen that look in the eyes of the Legion’s surgeon.  He was waiting for the limb to go bad.

That night alone in the abandoned barracks, Markus seemed to see figures on the outer edge of the shadows cast by a flickering rush light.  He struggled from his cot and used a wooden staff whilst he hopped over to unhook a small shield, a short stabbing spear, and a rusty sword from the wall.

He felt safer, as he clutched the weapons to him and fell exhausted onto his cot, but then he felt his leg begin its painful hot throbbing again.  The weapons fell abandoned on the floor, and he descended into a terrifying dream, in which he couldn’t move and someone was pulling at his leg.  His eyelids flew open and, with sweat pouring down his face, he tried to sit up.  He couldn’t.  He was held down by a crowd of hands.  Not cruel, but firm.

Then the pain in his leg upped itself to another level.  The small glow from the rush light let him see a shaggy shadow crouched over his leg, picking away at the stained bandages around the shattered bones.  Was it some animal feeding off him?  No, it was some sort of small human, packing a mixture of bark and moss around his wounds.  Then the bent-over human lurched towards his head and, muttering something in the outlandish Iceni dialect, forced a stone vessel between his chattering teeth and made him drink.

He descended again into an endless tormented dream.  Then he awoke to a pearly dawn feeling remarkably cool and well.  His leg, in its new wrappings, had lost that sweetish rotten smell which had caused the surgeon to furrow his forehead so frequently.

He looked up as the door opened.  A shocking sight met his eyes.  A small human with his spine so bent over that his head looked as if it was growing from his armpit.  But Markus had seen many horrific sights during his ten years of fighting in Gaul and Britain, so he tried out the few broken phrases of the Iceni tongue he’d acquired.

“Why did you treat my leg?” Markus asked.

“For my own reasons.”

“Which are?”

“The last of your legions have taken ship for Rome.  The Norsemen have been awaiting this.  We Iceni have forgotten how to fight.  We need you to remind us.  I’ll try to help you.  Then,” he shrugged – making his head wobble, “if you heal properly, you can stay on here.  Even with a crooked leg, you’ll be of some use.”

Markus smiled his acceptance.  Lucky was he that he’d been garrison blacksmith.  He could be of much more than some use.

 Silverlink Writing Group Competition July 2009:- 500 words starting with:- The heat haze shimmered above the road, it had not rained in weeks...

Word Count =424

HOT DINNERS

       The heat haze shimmered above the road, it had not rained in weeks and the River Tyne smelled more every day.  Peggy sighed and drooped over the stoked up, black leaded stove in her living room. 

        When her Jim had been killed in the shipyard, she hadn’t known which way to turn.  With no family nearby and three small children to rear, she’d feared they’d have to go on the parish.  The only thing she knew how to do was cook.  That had saved them.

             She glanced at the clock.   Nearly twelve noon.  The shipyard men would be here to collect their dinners shortly.   Even though it was boiling outside, today was Monday so they would expect their usual large servings of mince and dumplings and plum duff and custard.

             She shuddered, looking at the grime encrusted hands and faces and filthy overalls of her regulars.  They were all tucking in, sitting on the landing steps up to her flat.  They must be immune to every germ known to man.  Now she didn’t feel too bad that she’d simmered the plum duff in the pot-boiler overnight.

            After sluicing out their bait tins, she filled them all up again with another red hot dinner and pudding to take back to the shipyard.  Then each man paid her twice, for the dinner they’d just eaten, and the fresh dinners they were carrying back for their mates.

            Jacky Wilson was hanging back and waiting.  As she ladled his mate’s dinner into the tin to take out, he gulped and blurted out, “You’re the best cook round here.  Everybody says.”

            Peggy’s oven scorched face went even redder.  “It keeps the wolf from the door,” she said, tucking back a blond curl.

            Jacky flushed right up to his hairline, which contrasted badly with his ginger hair.  “I was just wondering, like, d’you ever go out at night?”

            “With three little ‘uns?  I don’t think so.  Anyway, why’re you interested?”

            “Peggy, you’re still a young lass.  A fine looking one at that.  I know I’m no oil painting, not a patch on your Jim, but how do you fancy the pictures?  The Ritz’s got a cracking cowboy picture on.  I saw the trailer.  We could take the kids as well, if we went to the first house.”

      Peggy softened.  Jacky was unknowingly saying all the right things.

      “Alright,” she said.  “As long as the star of the cowboy picture’s not Hoppalong Cassidy, ‘cos our little Jimmy’s busy collecting cigarette cards of Gene Autrey and Trigger at the moment.”

 

 Silverlink Writing Group Competition June 2009:- 500 words starting with:- The eyes of the portrait drilled into anyone who entered the room...

Word Count = 495

WINNER of the Silverlink Writing Group

Competition June 2009

PICTURE PERFECT

 

           The eyes of the portrait drilled into anyone who entered the room – so it was said.  But Sally was desperate.  Desperate for somewhere to live after Alec had poured all their savings and mortgage money down his throat in an alcoholic stream.

            With their house repossessed, Sally snatched at the small legacy from her godmother – only a few thousand pounds – and made a suitably chastened Alec promise to dry out.  After paying for him to enjoy a two month’s stay at an exorbitantly expensive establishment, Sally found herself left with just enough to buy a one bed flat, quite unsuitable for Alec, herself, and young Angela.

            Sally was in despair, until she begged the estate agent to have another trawl through his property books. 

            “I’ll even consider some refurbishment, as long as it has two bedrooms and a garden – within my price range,” she said hopefully.

            So here she was, unlocking the front door of a huge ramshackle house standing in an overgrown garden.  Turning to a pale, shaky Alec she grabbed his hand, and pulled him towards the hallway. 

            “C’mon, Angela,” she called over her shoulder, “Let’s see if we want to live here.”

            “You can’t be serious,” said Alec, shaking off Sally’s hand, “Nobody in their right mind would think of buying this.”

            “I would, if it’s livable in.  And it has ten bedrooms.  I’d do B & B.  Then I’d be here, and be able to pick Angela up from school.”

Sally looked around entrance hall.  A large room really, panelled, with portraits ascending up the stairs.  She hadn’t told Alec the tale of the portrait.  If the eyes drilled into you, they wanted you there and you had good luck.  She looked closely at the portraits and almost missed the one nearest the bottom step.  It was painted directly onto a wooden wall panel.  A Cavalier with piercing brown eyes, looking distinctly like King Charles II.

Alec pushed her off impatiently as she indicated the Cavalier portrait.  “Someone’s splashed iridescent paint on that wall panel,” he grumbled.  “It’ll be a nightmare trying to strip that off.”

This boded ill for the rest of the viewing.  Every positive Sally saw in the house, was dismissed by Alec.  When finally, Sally realized that Alec had disappeared, it was almost a relief.  She finished looking over the house, then called Angela to ask if she’d seen where Alec had gone.

“Over there – through that door,” indicating a solid looking public house through a gap in the garden fence.

Sally sighed.  All that cash to dry out, and Alec was back to his old tricks within 24 hours.  It was time to think of Angela and herself.  She’d make an offer on the house, try to run a B & B, and support them both.

Sally popped her head around the door, and peered over at the Cavalier painting.  And do you know, she could have sworn that he was giving her a welcoming smile.

 Silverlink Writing Group Competition July 2009:- 500 words starting with:- The house on the hill had stood there longer than anyone could remember...

Word Count =500

RUNNER UP of the Silverlink Writing Group

Competition July 2009

HIGH HOPES

 

     The house on the hill had stood there longer than anyone could remember.  For decades it had an uninterrupted sea-view, but then, the creeping sprawl of houses crept inexorably to the bottom of the hill.

     “I suppose they are looking for fresh air and relaxation beside the sea,” said Ann.

     “They won’t find that in those little boxes,” said Jack.  “The fools are packed together like lemmings by those damned property developers.”

     Ann shivered and drew the casement windows shut.  A storm was brewing.  And a big one at that.  She closed the curtains and turned on the telly.

     The local news was all about the oncoming storm.  Advice was to batten down and sit things out.  Jack still felt uneasy.  Already the gales were blowing in from the North Sea, and they could see the spray from the battering waves on the shore line.

     There was nothing to do but try and sleep through the storm, but before first light, they were both up and dressed.  They went up to the attics to check if the roof was still okay, but when they peered out of the window into the face of the rising sun, they were flabbergasted.  The sea pounding the shale cliffs had swallowed a huge bite of land, like a greedy child with an ice cream sandwich.

     The emergency services worked hard to hold back the desperate home-owners, and then as Ann and Jack watched, yet another section of houses disappeared into the sea.

     “It’s like Lego being smashed by a naughty boy,” Ann gasped.

     “Well, nothing we can do to help.”  Jack said.  “Everything seems ship-shape up here.  Do you fancy muffins with maple syrup or cinnamon buns with your coffee this morning?”

     Ann couldn’t help but feel uneasy as she munched her way through her second muffin.  She realised now how unhappy Jack had been with the developers’ disruption of their peaceful country life.  But she couldn’t just sit here and ignore the mayhem in the sprawl below.

     “I need some more maple syrup, Jack,” she called throwing on a heavy hooded coat, and rushing out the door.

     She headed for the blue flashing lights down in the concrete maze.  An emergency centre was set up in a church hall, but the waves were eating into the shale cliffs so rapidly, it was in imminent danger of following all the other buildings into the sea.

     Ann hurried over and spoke to the Emergency Organiser.  “We live up there,” pointing to the house on the hill.  “Would you like to re-locate your headquarters.  We have plenty of room, and the seas are never going to encroach that far inland.”

     “I never fail to be amazed how people come up trumps in an emergency,” said the Organizer.  “I’ll start directing the victims up to your house immediately.  You’ve earned my sincere thanks.”

     Ann smiled and hurried out.  Then she turned back.  “Erm.... give me half an hour.  I must prepare my husband to expect some company.”

 

Silverlink Writing Group Competition May2009:- 500 words starting with:- The sun rose above...

Word Count = 486

WINNER of the Silverlink Writing Group

Competition May 2009

ZENOPHOBIA

The sun rose above the trees as Jonesy GreenElf nerved himself to speak to his Mum. He had to tell her that he would be setting up home in his own mushroom.

“You WHAT?” said his Mum. “But you’re only two hundred years old. Far too young. Anyway, I need you here to bring in the water. You know how much washing I do. The formation digging team outfits need to be soaked.”

“Don’t care,” said Jonesy. “And I’m going to ask Tinkerbella to move in with me. It’ll be great.”

His Mum reeled back in shock. “Tinkerbella...? But she’s ...a...a...”

Jonesy glared at her defiantly. “Go on, say it. Or no, I will. Yes, she’s a Fairy. But when we’re together in our own mushroom, we’ll be able to keep out the rest of the world.”

“Yes, you’ll be able to do that alright. There’s no fraternising between Elves and Fairies. Oh, what will your Dad say?” she sobbed.

“Don’t care,” said Jonesy. “I’m meeting Tinkerbella, and Mr. BrownElf is going to show us his mushrooms. He reckons he’s got a lovely little Puffball and a slightly bigger Stinkhorn vacant at the moment.”

Then he rushed out, leaving his Mum sat on the floor, blowing her nose on the formation digging team’s clean washing.

Mr. BrownElf was waiting in front of the Puffball, when Jonesy arrived breathless from his sprint through the Elf village.

“Let’s get on,” he said, pushing open the portal of the Puffball and pulling Jonesy inside.

“Wait,” said Jonesy, smoothing down his purple hair and green draperies. “I’m expecting my partner momentarily.”

“Well, we’ll start. She’ll soon catch up.” said Mr. BrownElf.

They were in the kitchen when Tinkerbella flew through the door, brushing the morning dew from her wings. “Sorry I’m late,” she said, “I’m busy all hours with this dew gathering. This looks very nice Jonesy. Do we need to look at the Stinkhorn?”

Mr. BrownElf made a strangled gargling sound. When Jonesy and Tinkerbella looked at him, his head had gone a brick red colour, which contrasted horribly with his normal green skin tone.

“Sorry,” he gasped, “A pressing appointment. Must go.” Next minute they were outside watching his rotund green figure disappearing into the trees.

“That’s us out of here,” said Jonesy, “You pack some clean draperies. I’ll pick up my punk songs and purple hair dye. We’ll barter with the goblins for supplies to get to the next woods. Maybe the elves there won’t be so fairy-phobic.”

The last ones to see Jonesy GreenElf were the goblins, who had loaded him with enough nectar and ambrosia to walk half across the great forest if needs be.

Then they watched them head for the setting sun, with Jonesy plodding sturdily along on his little three inch legs, silver safety pins and purple hair tinkling and waving in the evening breeze, and his beloved Tinkerbella fluttering around him.

Silverlink Writing Group Competition March 2009:- 500 words starting with:- The crystal glowed...

Word Count = 413

WINNER of the Silverlink Writing Group

Competition March 2009

MAKE IT HAPPEN

The crystal glowed as the medicine man took it from his pouch. There was a small group of them slowly making their way south through the high French Alps, fleeing from the encroaching winter. Before the sun went down, Bak - the medicine man – must work his magic by harnessing the sun’s rays through the crystal and make fire to stop them freezing before the frost demons danced through the night.

Bak crouched over the small pile of dried grasses and miniscule wood shavings as he manoeuvred the prism of crystal so the dying rays would concentrate their core of heat, and watched. The miracle happened once again, and firstly smoke and then a small core of red embers appeared. Bak fanned gently and offered more small fuels to the baby fire. There were oohs and aahs from the others in the group as they shrugged their furs more closely round their shoulders and brought over their various offerings of dried animal dung and sticks to feed the fire.

Bak’s work was done. Now he’d lie in the favoured place, near to the fire, and the females in the group would bring the tenderest tit-bits for his old gums to test themselves on. He was ancient, almost forty summers. The rest of the group consisted of a handful of children, of varying ages, and four men. There were also eight women, but none of the adults were above twenty summers.

This was a harsh time and almost no-one lived to Bak’s great age. He knew he owed it all to the crystal. With it he was the fire maker, who helped them make it safely through each night. Without it, he was just another useless mouth, who limped and groaned and slowed them down.

Tomorrow, he thought as he drifted off to sleep, I must ask for a boy. One young enough to learn, but old enough to remember. I must teach him how to make fire with the crystal, so that when the time comes for the frost demons to beat the warmth of the flames, and my old carcase doesn’t get up in the morning, he will know what to do, and the group will live on and prosper.

And all because, he mused, when I was young – only twelve summers – I was curious and wondered what magic could be found in that sparkling crystal which my wandering feet kicked up from the desert floor.

 

Silverlink Writing Group Competition Februray 2009:- 500 words starting with:- The candle flickered… 

Word Count 313

WINNER of the Silverlink Writing Group

Competition February 2009

THE CANDLES

The candle fluttered.  The tired fire drew tendrils of draught from the frozen corners of the room.  Lucky was I, that there was still some sort of roof over my head.  In truth, it was a poor bit of a roof, being the only remaining room left from what had once been a noble home. 

They had fired the house, the English soldiers, on the command of The Butcher.  But they hadn’t been as thorough as they might, there being only my husband – expected to join the heavenly throng with the typhoid at any minute – and me – pale and white and trembling, just risen from my bed from the same illness.  This left only my 15 year old son to nurse us.  But King James wanted none left to support further Stewart uprisings, so my lovely son the soldiers took and imprisoned anyway, and then sent on to the Americas.

My man died next day, and I looked at myself in the piece of broken mirror propped on the ledge above the smudge of a fire.  The years of turmoil and my recent brush with death had not been kind.  My fair hair was hard to separate from the grey, and my patrician nose and slender neck had turned hooked and withered.  I cursed them all, the English.  My family was gone, my man dead of the typhid, my son banished overseas, our house razed.

And yet I remembered.  My man handsome, smiling and dashing, my son riding around our stately acres, our great house open to friends with abundant food for all, and the piper playing around the hall.  And I – I could gladly face the light of two dozen candles – instead of hiding in the dark, barely able to see my poor supper by the light of this one flickering little taper in the saucer by my left hand.

 

 

Silverlink Writing Group Competition January 2009:- 500 words starting with:- The clock struck midnight, a new year was born...

Word Count 500

RUNNER UP of the Silverlink Writing Group

Competition January 2009

HAPPY NEW YEAR

The clock struck midnight, and a new year was born. Rosie Smith snorted herself out of a doze and looked towards the sullen fire. She shivered and poked some coal onto the fire, until the blaze thawed out her front.

She could hear Bobbie starting to work himself up. If she didnt do something hed roar himself into one of those crying fits which seemed to go on forever. “Well, my lad,” she muttered to herself, “Ive had enough of walking the floor with you over the last few weeks. Time I tried something different.”

Rosie staggered over to the fly-blown mirror and ran her hands through her tangled blond hair. “I need my roots done,” she said to herself, lighting a cigarette and squinting through the smoke to try and examine her parting. Just then, Bobbie gave a particularly loud squawk, and Rosie snapped, “Shut up,” at him, before going over and hauling him up against her ample chest, and giving him a shake. When that didnt work, and he continued to grizzle, Rosie snapped on the wireless, and started to dance around the room, whilst The Beatles yelled out their latest hit, Twist and Shout. Bobbie giggled and showed his toothless gums. But then Rosie ran out of breath, and collapsed her rotund body onto the threadbare armchair, at which point Bobbie started to whinge again.

“Her downstairs will be complaining shortly. And your Dad will be giving me a belt if I upset her. Doesnt matter that he wont be back until the early hours, covered in lipstick and cheap scent.” Rosie said. Then she had a brainwave, and started rooting through the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet. The cabinet rocked dangerously as she leant heavily on the drop-down shelf at the front, but at last she had it in her hand a half bottle of gin.

Mothers Ruin, they call it, Rosie mused. Well this time it could be Mothers Saviour. Ill try some mixed with his bottle of milk.

Ten minutes later, Bobbie was clean and dry, stuffed full with hot milk and a tot of Mothers Ruin, and back in his cot, his eyes closing slowly and looking as if hed sleep for a week.

Rosie then dived under the bed, reaching right up to the top corner where not even the broom could go, and pulled out her ready packed attaché case. This contained a change of clothes, her make-up, and a £20 note her only Bingo win.

She shivered into her thin jacket, then stopped to scribble a note. “Ill drop this through downstairs door, when I go. Shell see youre alright Bobbie. Shes always telling me Im a rotten mother anyway,” Rosie said.

Rosie felt a twinge as she hurried towards the lights of the station. Then as she breathlessly tumbled onto the train, she shed the regrets and the memories, and concentrated on how nice her legs looked in her short mini and red high heels.

 

Silverlink Writing Group Competition November/December 2008:- 500 words starting with:-  The body was found in the library, a blood smeared candlestick lay beside it...

Word Count 499

RUNNER UP of the Silverlink Writing Group Competition November/December 2008

NOT A LIBRARY BOOK

 

“The body was found in the library, a blood smeared candlestick lay beside it……” Pat read over the words on the top of the page and snatched the paper out of the typewriter, screwed it up, and bounced it off the full waste-bin under her desk. She really needed to meet her publisher’s deadline, but it wasn’t happening. Three hours of lateral thinking and re-writing to type those fourteen words, and still they sounded like Cluedo meets Mills and Boone.

Why had she promised her publisher this second book within six months? Her first book had taken five years of re-polishing before she’d even posted it off. Then, when the money had started to come in, she’d forgotten how difficult that first book had been to write and become over confident with her promises of further masterpieces.

Maybe it’s true that some people have only ever got one book within them to write, she mused, then shivered as she looked at the tottering piles of bills mounting up on the other end of her desk.

Single mother with two point five children, she thought, tenderly rubbing her bump and glancing at her watch to make sure she wouldn’t be late for the school pick-up.

She glanced regretfully back at the old typewriter and untidy, paper littered desk and bin, then sighed as she shot out of the door, and tried to put her mind on her book whilst the rest of her went into automatic mode. Five minutes later she’d squeezed into a parking space only two streets away from the school, without any real recollection of driving there.

Then she picked up the boys, ferried them to their weekly swimming lessons, and took them straight home. After they’d eaten, with the boys making gagging noises over the ‘healthy’ veg, Pat made time to supervise their homework, then it was time for chatting, bath time, and bed. But not for Pat.

She’d imagined, then rejected numerous ideas for her next novel. Write about what you know, she decided. So that’s crime novels out. And the same for bodice rippers and science fiction.

She thought back to her first novel. A kitchen sink drama, if ever I’ve seen one, she mused. Because that’s what I knew. But life has carried on in the same vein, so I’ve nothing new to write about. Maybe I am only a one book person. I’ll have an early night and see if the morning brings any fresh ideas.

Pat shuffled and tossed around in bed until the darkness in her room turned into a murky grey. Then she got up, shrugged into her towelling robe and an old pair of jog-bottoms, and went down to the kitchen to make a cuppa. It was as the kettle came to the boil that she had her eureka moment. Of course. Who would know better than her? Tea forgotten, she sat and typed the title of her next block-buster. “Tribulations of a Brain Dead Writer”.

 

 Silverlink Writing Group Competition August 2008:-  500 words starting with - The lights went out?

Word count = 480

RUNNER UP  of the Silverlink Writing Group

Competition August 2008

AND FOR A LONG TIME IT WAS DARK


The lights went out, and the civilised world ended. Not with the expected Big Bang, but with a flicker. Someone – more foolish than evil – decided to use a Weapon of Mass Destruction. It killed the electricity worldwide. No turbines could produce electric. No batteries could store electric. Just as though it had never existed.

 

==================

“Tell me again, Gramps,” said Tom, wriggling back in the polished wooden chair so his foot wrappings stuck out and steamed in front of the wood fire.

“Well, I’m reckoned the only one creased and lame enough to carry the tales,” said the old man. “Listen close. Soon, when I’m sitting crouched in the corner, with only enough sense to be led to the table and the lav, it’ll be your job to tell the tales to the little ‘uns. They’ll let you be ‘cos of your crippled arm, but you must get the tales fixed in your mind word for word.”

“Did God get angry with us?” said Tom.

“Well, he’d already tried to warn us,” said Gramps. “He’d sent us plagues and famines and wars. But we’d taken no note of his ways. There was something called ‘the weapon of mass destruction’. Some fool turned the weapon on and killed the Lectric all over the world and no one has figured out how to turn it on again.”

“So what’s the Lectric?”

“I don’t rightly know, Tom. That’s why the tales are important. Somebody will figure it out one day.”

Then Gramps stared into the flames, and started the tales in a sing-song.

“Jehovah looked at his people and found us wanting. Some say the Lectric was the Spirit of God.

The lights went out and the power stopped. Flying machines clung to the earth, and automobiles rusted on useless roads.

Jehovah had allowed pictures and words to be sent over vast distances. The people had besmirched his patience with filth and foolishness.

The people wanted their Lectric back. The riots started. They fled the rotting cities. They’d forgotten how to live without the Lectric.

So Jehovah tested his people and hoards of them died. They died with cold, starvation and disease.”

Tom manfully chanted along with the saga, only stumbling over some of the longer words, then he said, “How did we get here then, Gramps?”

“My family’s always lived in this valley. Yours has always run the Mill. When you were born with a poorly arm, they knew you’d struggle. Ages ago Jehovah’s message said only priests could read and to burn all writing. It’s another one of His signs that you were given to me with a crippled arm but a genius head. Mayhap you or yours will reckon what all these Chants mean, in that bright noggin of yours,” said Gramps, ruffling Tom’s silky hair.

Silverlink Writing Group Competition September 2008:- 500 words starting with: Oh what a day it's been...

Word Count = 496

WINNER of the Silverlink Writing Group

Competition September 2008

HAPPY DAYS

Oh what a day it’s been, the boy thought, scrubbing his tackety boots along the road. A skinny, raggedy little figure, he trailed behind the woman, who stalked along thrusting her nose forward into the teeth of the winter storm.

“Hurry up,” she shouted, then whisked around the corner towards a stone sheep byre on the edge of the moor, while he whinged behind shouting, “Maeve, Maeve, wait.”

Inside it was warmer, but she gave the boy a sharp shove, and said, “Rake through that pile of rubbish near the door ‘n I’ll make a fire. Then go ‘n fill this pan from that stream out back, ‘n I’ll brew some tea.”

The boy scurried the few yards to the stream. He dipped the bottle through the thin scum of ice forming on a pool, and watched it gurgle full.

It’s making the same noise as my tummy, he thought, and remembered there’d been a time when he’d looked down at his knees, and seen, not today’s skinny, scabbed matchsticks, but a pair of rosy, dimpled little legs.

But they didn’t want me anymore, he thought, ‘cos I was naughty, and hid behind the park bushes to tease Nursey. Maeve took me, and said she’d make me into a good little boy again. Then maybe they’d want me back.

“Am I a good boy now, Maeve?” he asked, back at the fire thawing out his blue fingers.

She gave him a malevolent look, and said, “Well, you’re not so bad as you were. A few good slaps have stopped you whingeing, ‘n getting on my nerves. Come on, have a sup of this tea I’ve made. Then get to sleep.”

He took off his ragged jacket, curled himself into a ball, and spread the jacket over his legs. He shivered himself into an uneasy sleep, hoping for the good dreams. Where sometimes there was a perfumed and silky lady, and a shadowy man with a cigar. But best was Nursey drifting into his sleep, hugging and reading to him in a soft voice. It never lasted long enough.

He woke up to a sharp heel in his back. “See to the fire,” said Maeve, then she started on her morning ablutions, going to the far corner of the byre to lift her skirts and squat, then fingering the sleep from her eyes, and smoothing back her tangled hair under her shawl.

“If you’re a good boy, I might see if they want you back yet,” said Maeve. “But no sneaking mind, just say you was lost, ‘n I found you wandering. Then they should be so grateful they might give me a little present.”

Soon they were on the road again, the boy hurrying behind Maeve. He’d really missed his teddy, and Nursey, and his chuckie egg. They hadn’t wanted him for such a long time, and if they took him back today, he’d really try never, ever to be a naughty boy again.

 

 

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