In Voices

In voices that box me in I hear the great god Pan.  He is wailing.  He is stricken.  He is bristling with reprisals.  He understands the inescapable future.  Fields filled in; horizons dwindling; adverts instead of reason, mapping paths to a billionaire’s iHeaven.  And no one to blame except everyone.  Pan damns me to hell and he points –

At the last mountain to be levelled, where the last mountain goat that once leapt from crag to crag, defying gravity, huddles, lame in a corner, as the last office gets built up around him and tax returns blot out the sun.

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This piece of flash fiction was written for Friday Fictioneers: a story in 100 words prompted by a picture that Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts every Wednesday. Here’s the link to the stories and this week’s picture is below, copyright Adam Ickes.

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Las Vegas Widow

In stunned silence the lion tamer realised his mistake.  The roar from the lion’s gaping mouth was deafening.  It sent out bone-shaking reverberations, which the audience loved, as always.  But tonight the lion tamer loved nothing about it.  No, the lion tamer’s blood froze and time froze with it; time seemed to hang suspended over the vast chasm between his last heartbeat and the next one, if it ever arrived; as all the while his thoughts went racing after answers.

Why?  His act had always been a roaring success until now.  “Roaring success” – even in his current predicament the lion tamer winced at the terrible pun, which he always resented using in his marketing bumpf but could never escape from.  You had to trumpet success in whatever fashion you could, no matter how corny.  And the act that he and his wife originated together, when they were just starting out and still practically kids, had always won rave reviews and put bums on seats.  It was a perfect combination of their talents: he with his uncanny affinity for big cats, no matter how fierce; and she with that radiance she could project into crowds, holding complete strangers transfixed, especially when she was younger, the Lovely Tsaritsa.

They toured throughout Europe, gaining fame and a million Facebook likes, whilst mostly keeping on the good side of the animal rights campaigners.  After that, they headed to the Far East and their lifestyle became more luxurious.  Luxury suited them, he thought, and they took to it with gusto in their different ways.  Then they brought the act to Las Vegas.  The crowds there had been wowed from the start, but tonight it looked as if they might get more of a show than they bargained for.  Why?

The USA had promised so much, as Promised Lands are supposed to.  Husband and wife settled down in a secluded beachfront property, basking in everyday sunshine and ease.  They reaped their rewards and he was proud of that.  She hoped for kids, little boy and little girl.  He hoped for an American lover with nubile limbs and a carefree approach to life and love.  He got what he wanted, while her wishes remained on the to-do list as their career took precedence.

But tonight all those rewards hung in the balance, only inches from destruction.  Why?  His mind was still racing.  Then it came to an abrupt conclusion: what would happen if a once radiant wife (who maybe hadn’t got what she wanted from life, who was maybe now wanting widowhood?) took secretions from a lion’s scent glands and worked them into the hair gel of a past-his-prime lion tamer immediately before he stuck his cheating, scheming head into a rival lion’s gaping mouth?

Time resumed.  The lion’s immense jaws slammed shut and gleaming incisors punctured the lion tamer’s skull with a pop.  The proud head deflated rapidly, like a bloody balloon.

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This short story was written in response to the latest TipsyLit writing prompt: For this week’s prompt, the theme is taking a big risk.  All of the stories written for the prompt can be read by clicking on the image below.  

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Six Word Novel

At Six Word Memoirs they are currently running a competition to write a novel in six words. The competition is in honour of Ernest Hemingway’s birthday (July 21st) and the anniversary of his death (July 2nd), since literary legend has it that he was once challenged to write a novel in just six words. Hemingway’s response was a beaut, so it’s well worth following the link, settling down and investing the time to savour all six of the words he used.

Here’s my own, fairly flippant, contribution to the genre:

“Six words is too much” – Editor.

Oslo, 1056

Oslo, 1056 – In my boyhood, long ago, I sat and saw longboats streak along the fjords, like spears flung by All-Father Odin.  Odin’s one-eyed face shone with joy, brighter than the sun, as he saw our longboats flung to destinations far and near, for raids or trade.  Then Christians arrived and we learned we were wrong.  All-Father is called Yahweh, Jesus his son.  But when black clouds roll over, burying the sky, and thunder goes growling along the fjord, it’s still Thor’s face I see watching over us.  I still shake with pride as jagged sparks fly from his hammer.

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This piece of flash fiction was written for Friday Fictioneers: a story in 100 words prompted by a picture that Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts every Wednesday. Here’s the link to the stories and this week’s picture is below (originally there were rooftops visible in the photo, but I only needed the sky and so I cropped it a little).

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Don Quixote’s School of Regret

Dulcinea squashed the little fly that landed on the second wart on her third chin; smiling, she licked her fingers clean.  “Eh?” she barked, punctuating her question with a decorous belch.  The strange man who stood before her had introduced himself as the servant of a nobleman, so an attitude of decorum was clearly in order.  “You say your master attacked a windmill?”

Sancho Panza shuffled his feet, uneasily.  “He did,” he agreed, with an apologetic cough.  “Most certainly, he did!” he added, defiantly.  It wasn’t always easy explaining or justifying the Don’s behaviour but Sancho unfailingly gave it his best.

“So,” Dulcinea nodded.  She hated windmills, too: nasty, noisy, spinning places that made her dizzy to look at; and all the grain in them made her sneeze great green globules of snot down her dress, ugh!  It was on the bare, dusty floor of a windmill that she conceived her fourth bastard, she remembered.  When the man shot his seed in her she’d sneezed right in his face.  Then she tried hard to remember if she’d wanted to be part of that particular frolic on that day, or had she tried to fight him off?  It was tricky: the idea of consent didn’t usually have much bearing for a girl sent skivvying back and forth across the country from one down-at-heel tavern to the next.  Dulcinea soon gave it up, without coming to a decision; it wasn’t worth wasting any more of her time thinking about the matter; it was years ago now, and bastards come and bastards go was all.

So why bring it up?  Why set her to thinking about such dog-eared old memories and the like?  Who was this smart-dressed, too-polite stranger who wanted to speak with her so late at night, banging on the tavern door and getting her out of bed against her wishes?  Eyeing the man warily, Dulcinea scratched a voluminous buttock and kept her wits about her.  The villagers often sent someone along to tease and harry her when no better entertainment presented itself.  So, was this just another bored stranger who was in on the joke and set on taking the piss?  Hmm she reached for the broom that leaned against the wall by her side.  Its handle was sturdy and she’d happily batter anyone with it if they stepped out of line.  “And your master sent you to me because…?”

“To pledge his allegiance to your standard and to seek your blessings for his quest as a lone knight shining a light in the dark lands of giants and monsters,” Sancho delivered the message entrusted to him without a quiver of emotion.  As he’d journeyed to the tavern he’d been careful to rehearse and rehearse it in order to prevent himself from giggling as he finally spoke the words for the benefit of its intended audience.

“Hmpff!”  Even Dulcinea accepted that her standards had never been the highest, so why any nobleman should want to pledge anything to them left her at a loss.  “So, where is this fine master of yours?  And where did he learn about all these fancy lands you’ve been waking me up to go telling me about, with shining knights in them who go chasing after monsters?  I never saw any of the like and I’ve been travelling far and wide for as long as I can remember.”

Again Sancho shuffled his feet, uneasily.  He loved his master dearly, honoured him and his lineage; was stoutly proud of his service.  Yet it couldn’t be denied that at times the Don was the most maddening of masters, whose whims had the capacity to make Sancho’s position almost untenable at times.  “Well…” as usual, Sancho eased his way into the confession, “it was in books.  That’s right!  In thousands upon thousands of books where are listed the histories and glories of the finest knights from all across the wide world.  It was in those books my master discovered all there was to learn about every magical land in the world, with their great heroes and battles.”

Dulcinea nodded, thoughtfully, hawked up some phlegm, spat.  “No, I never saw any lands the like of that anywhere, not once in all my days.”  Dimly, she mulled it over: if maybe it was the only thing she regretted in her life, being barred from such places of wonder?  Then she slammed the tavern door shut on Sancho Panza and went back to bed.

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This story was written in response to the speakeasy writing prompt #169 – You must include the following sentence ANYWHERE in your submission: “It was the only thing she regretted.”