Category Archives: Short stories

Killer Idea (PG story)

Detective-Sargeant Hobson shrugged off a trailing end of crime tape and straightened up to his full height. The flat was only slightly larger than a shoebox, and had slightly less inside. Grey carpet, grey walls, no curtains. He dismissed robbery and diagnosed poverty instead.

There was a mattress against one wall, covered in crumbs. Against the opposite wall a folding table held up a computer and several piles of paper. And there was a dead body stretched out on the floor.

The man was twenty-something, unshaven, and thin with malnutrition. His left wrist gaped open, and the kitchen knife that had opened it lay on the floor beside him. It looked like a suicide, except that the piece of paper beside him was covered in writing. The kind of reddish-brown, dripping writing that could only be the result of a daying man writing in his own blood.

“Johnny Boy did it,” Hobson read aloud. “He loves Aurelia, so does it to impress her. Almost accidental.”

The medical examiner met his eye, blank-faced from years of her work. “No phone, or he could have called for help to keep him alive rather than asking us to give him justice. It must have taken a while to write that.”

“Do we know a Johnny Boy?” Hobson asked. “An Aurelia?”

“We will soon,” came another cop’s voice from outside. “The vic is Thomas Seneca. The neighbour called us in when she didn’t see him at the mailbox. Apparently he’s always there first thing.”

“I wonder why he didn’t ask her for help. He had time to write down the murderer’s name, but not enough time to call out?” Hobson knelt and picked up the top sheet of a jumbled pile of A4 paper beside the computer. “The Morning After,” he read aloud. “By Thomas Seneca.” He turned to the next page. “Once upon a time, there was a beautiful girl. The world knew it, and she knew it. Her name was Aurelia.”

The page slid from his fingers, and narrowly missed Thomas’ pool of blood. He took one step across the room and flicked the light switch.

“Bulb’s blown,” said the M.E.

“No,” said Hobson. “The bulb is fine.” He pushed the power button on the computer. Nothing happened.

The M.E. sat back on her heels. “I know that look, Hobson. What is it? Why does it matter that he hadn’t paid his bills? Are we even surprised?”

“Do you see a pen? Pencil? Crayon?”

“No. If there was, he could have saved himself some trouble leaving us the whodunnit message.”

Hobson leant back against the wall. “There is no Johnny Boy.”

“What do you mean?”

“Thomas was a writer. On a day with no pens and no electricity, he had an idea for his novel. And he wrote it down.”

The End

PS I had this idea literally years ago, but it didn’t coalesce until very recently. As I researched bushrangers this year, I read about a real outlaw that kept a diary (aww) while on the run – using his own blood for ink.

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How much do YOU love the internet?

Ubergeeks John Scalzi and Wil Weaton have done something wonderful. This:

Other than writing stuff themselves, they had various other (in)famous people contribute, plus they ran a competition (based on the picture). Which I didn’t win.

The book itself is, technically, free. You can go read it at http://unicornpegasuskitten.com/. But since the whole point of the thing is to raise money for lupus sufferers (Wil and John paid for everything out of their own pockets), see if you can donate $5. Or maybe more.

Because sometimes, it is lupus.

However, here’s the story I wrote. All things being equal, the stories from the book are better than this. So go click on the link and enjoy.

“Kitten Spit”

I woke as my face was scraped raw by warm sandpaper coated in slime. Something monstrous had found me, and its spit dissolved my skin. I opened my eyes to a view of needle-sharp teeth, and gagged at the stench of salmon as the thing yawned.

     “Good kitty,” I croaked.

     It was taller than me, even without the wings spreading from its shoulders. Since my cave had a prudently small opening, only its head could fit inside – if it angled itself so the horn on its forehead didn’t scrape the roof. I scrambled back before it could lick me a second time. Blood dripped down my neck. I healed myself by magic before the thing attacked again.

“Where did you come from?” I said aloud.

     “Well,” came a voice from outside, “when a unicorn and a pegasus and a cat all love each other very much –”

     “No I meant—oh actually, that does answer one question. May I ask who you both are, and what you and your – er, noble steed – are doing here?”

     “Are you the orc magician?” The voice was curiously flat, as if the man was mortally exhausted.

     My heart sank. Even among other magicians, that question always led to an awkward conversation followed by an even more irritating battle. I had thought living on an active volcano would discourage further inquiry. “Just because I have green skin, pointy ears, and incredibly well-developed muscles doesn’t mean I’m going to kill you.” Under my breath I added, “Like all the others.”

     The kitten retreated as someone tugged on its reins. Not for the first time, I was glad I slept in full armor.

A human stood by the lava river outside my cave. Other than his sweater, he was unarmed.

     I took an involuntary step backward and hit stone. “That’s –”

     “Yes,” he said, looking away. “The clown sweater. I need you to kill me.”

     I looked at his young face and saw the deep worry lines of a man possessed by the most diabolical fiend of our time. “But. . . you’re immune. And besides, we’ve just met.”

     “I’m Wil.”

     “John. But –”

     “I’m not immune.”

     “Then how?”

     “Sometimes, it sleeps.”

     “Can you take it off?” I asked. “Can someone take it off you?”

 His eyes glittered, but he held himself together.  “I used to have three brothers.”

     “Ah. So I’m dead then.”

     “No! Kill me first and save your life. And she’s not a monster. She’s Petunia, and she just likes to play.” He pulled down a golden spear from her back. “Take it!”

     “Don’t make me do this. Killing people is so. . .”

     All colour fled his face, silencing me. “It’s waking up. The clown. It’s coming! Help me!” I saw his eyes turn mad just before he leapt onto Petunia’s back. He lifted the spear and smiled the serene smile of the deranged.

The awkward-conversation part of our friendship was at an end.

     I grabbed my axe and shield and ran outside. Wil seemed decent. The least I could do was sever his head from his body.

     Petunia leapt into the air and bore down on me with her claws splayed. Magic filled me, sparking from my fingertips. I jumped straight into Wil and we both tumbled to the rocks. Petunia crouched to watch us, switching her horse’s tail from side to side in excitement.

     “Unicorns,” I thought frantically, searching for a weakness. “Good for looking picturesque with virgins. Not helpful right at the moment.”

     Wil leapt at me, drooling with fury. I parried and his spear clashed against my armored shoulder.

     “Pegasuses,” I thought. “Pegasi? Good for traveling long distances fast. But flighty.”

     Petunia’s eyes glowed with mad kitten joy. Her pupils darkened and she waggled her rear end, ready to spring.

     Wil spun with impossible speed and I ducked just in time. His foot connected with my head, but I magically dismissed the bright stars of concussion before they got me killed.

     “Kittens,” I thought. “Nice to look at, if you like that sort of thing. Attracted to shiny things. Also a source of pure, unadulterated evil.” I blinked, and knew what to do.

Luckily for us, Petunia was already in the mood to play.

     Wil lunged for my throat and I didn’t have time to dodge naturally. My magical defenses shot me fifty feet into the air. I had time to look down as I fell, curious to see if gravity would get a chance to kill me before the rest. Or perhaps I’d think of some further magical brilliance. Either way, I looked forward to finding out what happened next.

     Petunia sprang at me. She batted me sideways in mid-air, knocking me into my cave. I landed on nice soft armor and watched with quiet surprise as magical sparks healed my broken legs. With one hand, I pointed to Wil. Pretty blue sparks danced an irresistible pattern on the clown’s red nose.

Petunia took the bait. She pounced and pinned Wil to the rock with one paw, biting into his sparkly chest as he screamed in pain and rage.

She spat something white and red and grinning into the lava river, where it dissolved. Then she sat on Wil’s legs and licked the hole that used to be his chest.

I staggered outside, dragging up what magic I had to try and heal him. Sparks flew off me into him, building new organs, growing new skin, and filling him with new blood.

It was no use. Petunia’s saliva ate through him faster than I could build him back

Wil didn’t move.

“The sweater is dead,” I said, falling on my knees beside him. “Long live the sweater.”

Petunia yawned emphatically and touched him with the tip of her horn. “Unicorns,” I thought. “Handy for fixing poison. Does that include kitten spit?”

THE END

PS This piece of awesomeness comes free of charge. Your regular schedule of Daily Awesomeness will continue tomorrow.

PPS Please do spread the word about this book. If you’ve ever had a disease of the immune system or known someone who has, you’ll understand why.

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#75: Leave lights/heater on

My “study” is located in the corner of our (large) living room. In Summer or Winter, I try to take my laptop to our (much smaller) bedroom to save on heating and cooling. Yesterday I glanced over my entire 66,000 word realist novel (in case Publisher K requests it this week, which is fairly likely), and as a treat I stayed at my usual desk and turned the big heater on.

It was niiiice.

Here’s a short story, since my exuberant heater use doesn’t make an especially thrilling blog entry. (Writing tips are a-happening today and tomorrow at http://felicitybloomfield.wordpress.com if you’re into that sort of thing.)

“Why stars are the way they are”

Missy Myway was the sweetest of the starlets, and her soul was as great as the ocean. Fans were charmed when she wore bunny slippers to her first award ceremony, peeking out from under a designer gown. Her face was as expressive as her music, grinning as her blonde hair fell across one eye, or sweetly calling attention to the successes of her favourite charities. People called her the girl of a thousand smiles.

Her only foible was that she did not like having her picture taken. It was a phobia based on the beliefs of certain third-world cultures that cameras could steal a person’s soul. She sat for painted portraits each day, and passed them out to photographers as gifts, hoping to discourage their professional enthusiasm. They merely photographed her handing out the pictures.

Even as she retreated back into restaurants or behind gates, her sharpest rebuke was to say, ‘I don’t want my photo taken, you drip.’ Young girls began using the word ‘drip’ as hip new slang referring to anyone wielding a camera.

Missy and her high school sweetheart were married. The drips were greeted cordially by Missy’s manager, and invited to leave their cameras at the door and enter. The ceremony was performed in the backyard of Missy’s childhood home. Most of the town attended, but they were still outnumbered by photographers, twitching frustrated fingers as Missy sparkled like never before.

As Missy and her husband were permitted by reverent order to kiss, cameras appeared from under seats and inside handbags. The flashes pierced her closed eyes. She broke the kiss and stared around as if caught in a deadly trap. That iconic look of interrupted innocence appeared on the cover of no less than three major magazines within the week.

Something changed in the press that day. They followed Missy in taxis and unmarked vans, taking pictures of her at the beach, with family, and through the windows of her home. Photos appeared of her getting drunk as she sought anonymity by any means. Soon there were pictures of her fighting with her husband, and both of them trying new and harder drugs. A photo of Missy with another man made the photographer’s career. The man went on to star in a hit reality show. Even in the sealed courtroom, as Missy wrangled with her soon-to-be-ex-husband, someone managed to secretly take photo after photo after photo.

As Missy left the courtroom a hoard of paparazzi caught her on the steps in a blaze of light. She shrieked and swore and swung at the nearest. The drip grabbed at her, and snagged a handful of fabric.

‘You want some?’ she shrilled. ‘Take it!’ She tore at the shirt, bursting the buttons, and threw it in his delighted face. Her bra followed, and the respectable skirt she’d worn to court. Famous undies matched the bra on the ground. The flashes were like an electric storm. Missy shielded, not her face or her nakedness, but somewhere near her heart. Soon there was nothing left to take.

Missy Myway was the sweetest of the starlets, and her soul was as great as the ocean. Even the ocean can be emptied, drip by drip.

THE END

And, today’s killer robot (from geekologie, I think):

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#184: All day in a wired cafe

I love the smell of cliché in the morning.

Taking advantage of a day when I didn’t have any tutoring, I decided to snap out of my recent pre-conference chocolate binge by distracting myself with writing and pancakes (pancakes being less evil than chocolate, believe me). So I went to the Pancake Parlour, an underground cave of a cafe, and ate a Red Dawn for breakfast:

And yep, that’s bacon and cheese you see baked into the pancake.

Then I wrote. And wrote some more. One of my books has been under major reconstruction for over a year, and it happens to be one I’ve promised to one of my shiny new contacts at a big publisher, so I armed myself with bacon and entered the fray. It wasn’t pretty, but I emerged with a rough new (ish) beginning, which should be good to go in about a month’s time.

I also ate lunch – in this case, cottage fries (with sour cream), and traditional lemonade.

It’s an expensive way to go, but I’ve now gone 8 waking hours without chocolate AND I have a workable opening to “The Princess and the Pirate”.

Play along at home: Are you a student or a writer or someone who sometimes works from home? Try taking your laptop to a cafe and seeing if the new environment helps. Let me know!

And here’s your “Peace Hostage” companion pic for today, from flickr.com:

PS: While at the cafe, I received news that one of my stories was honorably mentioned in a short-short story competiton. This is the tale:

“Untitled”

They say it’s impossible to defy a dragon. But I manag–

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S#54: Clothing Attack

My heart is racing, I’m out of breath, and my torso is strangely constricted.

I’ve been a-sewing.

Warning: If you don’t like Hollywood blood and/or you’re under 12 years old, this is probably not the blog entry for you.

Many years ago, I acquired this shirt due to winning the youth section of the Sisters in Crime Scarlet Stiletto awards (you can read the story if you don’t mind blood, murder, and terrible formatting – it’s at http://home.vicnet.net.au/~sincoz/stories02/death.htm). The other story I mention in the video (again, blood and murder and so on) is at http://felicitybloomfield.wordpress.com/2010/08/12/murder-story/. Both are under the name “Felicity Bloomfield” because they’re not child-safe.

I’d have preferred a shirt in my size, but that’s just not the way it works in this mixed-up world. Today’s awesomeness was suggested by Steff Metal, who as a metal chick is constantly forced to wear the XL shirts female metal fans are so often reduced to. So Steff, this one’s for you.

I’ve cut the boring bits from the video, but didn’t stop the timer. That whole adjustment really did take exactly five minutes, including putting it on at the end – and cutting off all the dangling threads.

For those of you who either don’t have video, lack psychic powers, and/or genuinely want to try this, here’s how.

You need:

1. A fully threaded-up sewing machine (with long dangling threads at the needle every time you start a new seam). Alternatively, try hiring a roomful of seven-year olds. I hear they’re good at this sort of thing.*

2. A good pair of scissors – ideally fabric scissors, but seams hide all manner of sins.

Here’s what you do:

1. Lay the T-shirt flat on a table and cut off large chunks from each side, including the entire sleeves (I realised later that it might have been good to allow a teensy bit extra for my womanly curves). These are the bits I cut off (the pins are strictly decorative – I almost never use pins or measurements, and I don’t own an iron):

2. To make a sleeve, pick a spot along the recently-cut line that’s roughly where your armpit should eventually be. Fold the material over along that edge and sew the fold in place (that’s your seam). You need to fold it so the rough edge is inside the shirt, and sew upward from your armpit, past the top seam, and about the same length down the other side (make the sleeves big, because you can always make them smaller later).

3. When you’ve done two sleeves (and the shirt is flapping open like a poncho), turn the shirt inside out and sew along the sides from the bottom end of the shirt to the armpit spot (your sleeve sewing and side sewing will overlap). Your aim is for the shirt to end up closed and the arm-holes open. When you start your side seams from the bottom edge, you know it’ll at least appear to match up. In the video, I did one whole side before starting on the second sleeve, and I’m pretty sure I failed to begin from the bottom of the shirt, too.

4. Cut off all the dangling threads. Warning: do not cut off your fingers. Fingers are useful.

5. Your XL T-shirt is now a S/XS/M tank top. Congratulations. Advanced players, unlike me, will end up with a shirt in the correct size, rather than the too-small variety. Ah well.

Alternative ending – a piece I’ve entitled, “Oops. Was that meant to happen?” or, “Boy, those scissors sure are sharp.”

Play along at home: Hey kids! Ask an adult for help before slicing up your wardrobe (or theirs).

And here’s today’s entirely unadjusted rainforest picture, from Flickr.com:

* But you may not want to give them sharp objects. Your call.

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#97: Cancel Fu

These days, everyone is running around, stressed over this and that and “I said I’d get right on to such-and-such”. We hold on so tightly to our plans. So, when we let something go, it’s a wonderful feeling.

That is my awesomeness for today – not doing anything awesome today (whoaa, what a paradox). Personally, I’m going back to bed.

What are you going to not do today?

And here’s a true story (published in a “Short and Twisted” anthology a few years ago). It happened to Ben.

Naked Man in the Bushes

There’s not much to do in Canberra.

I walked home from Belconnen Interchange on a Wednesday night. It was ten o’clock, so there were no more buses. Drunk men were everywhere, and they all seemed to be stalking their ex-wives. They talked to contacts on mobiles. ‘Yes, she’s going toward Ginninderra Drive now. See if you can head her off.’

My concern rose significantly when I noticed an adult male crouching in bushes by the roadside. He was nude.

I kept my eyes forward and debated whether or not I should call someone. Unable to remember the number for the naked stalker hotline, I walked by on the other side of the road. A second naked man burst from a tree immediately in front of me and sprinted to the traffic island splitting Belconnen Way.

‘Marco!’ he yelled.

‘Polo!’ came the reply.

THE END

And here’s today’s Flickr.com picture:

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S#52: Have some delicious delivered to your house

Food is good. Food at home is better. Food at home with no dishes is one of the great pleasures of the modern age. I had Chinese this time.

Mmm. . . duck and mushroom sauce. . .

Here’s a link to a short story I wrote called “The Misbehaving Mountain”:

http://www.onthepremises.com/issue_05/story_05_4.html

And here’s a link to my other blog, where I talked about the four greatest modern books for children (trying to figure out how the writers made their work so awesome in order to improve mine):

http://felicitybloomfield.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/the-first-ten-pages/

In other news this month’s twittertale, “Peace Hostage” is set in a real historical setting – warring tribes in West Papua (now called Irian Jaya). Papua has literally hundreds of distinct languages, so some Christians have decided to live with various tribes (assuming the tribes want them there), learn their language, and write an alphabet for it. They then teach people to read and write, and they translate the New Testament into that language.

One particular translator, Don Richardson, believes that every culture in the world has redemption analogies – echoes of the Jesus story – hidden inside it. He worked with the Sawi tribe, who valued deceit as a virtue, and was horrified when he translated the bit in the Bible about Judas betraying Jesus through friendship. All the Sawi cheered at such a great act of deception. He tried to talk to them about the idea that deception ruins friendships, but they were unimpressed.

In the meantime, the Sawi fought with other tribes in the area, and the violence was worsening. Don asked the chief repeatedly to stop the fighting, but the chief said Don didn’t know what he was asking.

At last it became so risky that Don and his family decided to leave the area. The chief stopped him, and said he would stop the fighting. That was when Don learned the price of peace – the chief’s son.

Each of the chiefs involved gave up their first-born son into the other chief’s custody. This was the only way to ensure peace. The child was called the peace child. If the peace was broken, the child would be killed.

As a Christian, Don immediately saw the peace child as an analogy for Jesus – God’s son coming to live with us, so we could be reconciled to God. When he said as much to the Sawi, they were shocked.

They understood exactly what such a sacrifice meant – and the absolute worst thing a person could do as a Sawi person was to deceive or kill a peace child.

The Sawi tribe is now 70% Christian.

I first heard that story when I was ten years old.

This picture is from Flickr.com

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