Sunday, 12 October 2014
Thursday, 13 October 2011
Friday, 9 September 2011
Of the two hundred words, handwritten on a scrap of red card in black and sans serif, he saw at once that only three were key. The edges of the card were torn but the block of text appeared complete. The first clue was to be found in the first sentence.
He read it again. Out on the water he saw a boat approaching, the onshore breeze swelling a yellow sail. The second clue was buried in the text. He had to search for it.
As he sat contemplating the words, the boat drew up along the quay. He did not recognise the man who threw the rope, but he took it and tied it to the cleat on which he had been sitting. The boat looked foreign. He watched the sailor busy himself with the mast, then went back to the text.
The final clue was the most difficult. He read the piece again but couldn’t see it. He said the words to himself, mumbling them like a prayer, but he could not hear the one he sought.
A shadow appeared across the writing. He looked up. The sailor stood over him.
“Who are you?” he asked, in French.
Thursday, 1 September 2011
The list of words not to be used was put up on the door of the library. They had been written in alphabetical order. At first in groups, then one by one, the people approached them, read them, considered them. The following weeks saw a rash of haste as texts were consulted, words obliterated, and certain books burnt.
The list of words not to be used soon became the only existent example of those words. The people pretended to ignore it. From time to time, certain of them went by close enough to catch sight of one or two of the words. Certain of them committed the words to memory.
The list of words not to be used vanished about three months after it had appeared. Everyone noticed. There were rumours. Some said it had been removed by order, others that it had been stolen.
When enough time had passed, no one remembered how many words had been on the list. Memories faltered, secret arguments developed and opposing groups were formed. Centuries saw the list of words not to be used transformed into legend, millennia to myth. Historians speculate. Linguists propose. Writers imagine. The list of words not to be used illudes all attempts to be recreated.______________________________________________________
Friday, 5 August 2011
The falcon cannot hear the falconer. The rain comes down in sheets.
- The falcon cannot hear the falconer, way up here where the clouds roil and the rain comes down in sheets. From up here the fist of the wind can be seen dealing blows upon the mountainside, ruffling its fur of fir trees.
- But way down there, above the tree line, in the heather, comes the maddened hare, path as jagged as the lightening. But even though the falcon cannot hear the falconer, it knows its task, as sure as claws are sharp, as sure as the rain comes down in sheets.
The falcon cannot hear the falconer, whose fist hangs in the air, whose eyes, from fur-lined hood, seek out his feathered will. Down here, among the heather, they wait or run, up here above the tree line where the crowd of fir stand by the fence and lightening illuminates the maddened hare. As the claws come down, as the mad end begins, as the rain comes down in sheets.
Thursday, 28 July 2011
I slowly peeled back my eyelids and immediately wished I was still out for the count. The building opposite mine, a tower block, twenty stories, was leaning like Pisa. My head had hit something. Hard. There was a stickiness as I raised it. That song was still playing, something hip-hop, something infectious. As a soundtrack to a scene of grand destruction, it held its own. Delusional maybe, but a grandeur nonetheless. I checked my watch and noted twenty past one, the minute hand at an angle equal to that of the tower opposite. I hadn’t been unconscious long. It was quiet. Despite the car alarms honking like electronic geese, it was very quiet. A hush similar to snow’s, peculiar to a scene of massive violence. It could just be the ringing in the ears. The sirens hadn’t arrived. The dust was as yet unsettled. My mind, feeling gooey, tried to assure itself there would be an explanation for all of this. Though, it was still struggling with the building opposite and hadn’t yet taken in the fact that the skyline behind it was smoke and orange fire.
When I got to my feet, the first of the helicopters passed overhead. They didn’t stop. The walking wounded emerged from buildings, grey and bloodied. We stood around. Someone was saying terrorists, someone else, earthquake. Phones weren’t working. I passed a woman praying.
That first day… We all have a hundred stories about the first day. A year later, ten years later, a generation later, we’re still telling those stories. We slipped into their telling and made them fit our censored recollections. The one I told the most was the leaning building one. How I peeled back my eyelids, wished I hadn’t, and saw the tower leaning. In the telling I like to angle my hand to parallel the incline. Like this…
(Suggested by a story prompt from the site Flash Fiction Friday)
Friday, 22 July 2011
When the call came over the radio, Detective John Larson almost didn’t take it. Some eerie instinct tried to warn him off. He hadn’t slept all night, but a body had been reported and he was up. He took the call.
It was out of town, open countryside, and miles from anywhere. Considering the location, it was a surprise to see so many people already there. They stood at the gate to a field in a tight group. Seeing no other police cars, he realised he was the first on the scene. The crowd watched his car approach slowly along the grass-spined track. They looked young. He sensed their mood immediately; it was buoyant, almost celebratory. Larson radioed base that he had arrived, but waited a few moments before turning off the engine. Something in the way the people waited, something akin to déjà vu, suggested an unfamiliar and awful ceremony.
He shook off the presentiment and got out of the car. As he did, a man appeared among the mob and came down the hill to meet him. He was in his late fifties, bearded and ruddy-faced, and wore a yellow raincoat. He was smiling.
Frowning, the detective took the hand offered him, noticing dirt under the fingernails, a calloused palm.
“We got a call about a body.”
“Yes, that was one of my assistants. It’s her first.” The man winked and leaned close. “She’s a bit excited. Everyone is.”
“I’m sorry,” said Larson, drawing back a little, “who are you?”
“Oh, excuse me. Doctor Fred Durren. I’m in charge here. This way, please.”
He led him to the gate and through the people waiting there. They were lively, chatting and smoking. Larson found their attitude inappropriate, yet they cowed him, with their youth, their numbers.
“Who are these people?” he asked almost in a whisper.
“Just my little gang. They’re up from London for a few days.” And with that, the doctor set off across the field. Larsen hurried to catch up. As he did, he saw that quite a lot of earth had been recently excavated.
“Is it a grave?”
“Oh, undoubtedly,” answered Durren. “We found the cattle first. There were so many of them. Possibly as many as a hundred. Mind your step there. All killed at once. And then we found him.”
Larson was shocked; the doctor was speaking with an unconcealed relish. He was about to say something but his attention was taken by the size of the grave. Durren reached the edge and proudly pointed down at something inside.
The detective drew near and looked into the pit. The first thing he noticed were the wheels, two of them, they looked like wagon wheels. Then he saw the skeleton.
“Marvellous, isn’t it?” said Durren, wistfully.
“It’s … it’s been here for some time.”
Durren regarded the other with a strange expression. “Well, yes. At least three thousand years. Late Bronze Age … you were told this was an archaeological site?”