Monthly Archives: August 2013

Snap by Scott Dingley

I think chicken or egg as I turn the TV dial through the airwaves and get, wall-to-wall, the disaster emergency message they keep looping.

Focusing, I fix the lens to the camera body and admire its sparkling glass contours. Focus (that’s cute), that’s what I need.

I assemble the rest of the camera pieces just as lovingly. I sold most of my stuff and worked a lot of lonely overtime to buy this camera. All worthless, materialistic junk at the end of the day…

(Did I mention I take photographs?)

I take them because, well, they capture time, that’s it in a nutshell I guess. They say you can’t, that it waits for no man, but you can steal a tiny fraction of time out of the universe and you can keep it. There it is, forever; slip it in your wallet, frame it on your wall. No one will miss it. I like to steal those little moments and relive them at my speed. Take them out of circulation like a thousand dollar bill.

Heck, all that’s living in the past, that’s what you figure. Some people say I live in the future too, so someone’s wrong.

There have been a lot of them recorded since these things—these time machines—were invented. Everyone’s got their favourites, you name it: the Hindenburg fireball, Man on the Moon, Oswald getting shot, the tennis girl scratching her butt. For me, it’s all about the decisive moment.

I’ll be the first to admit those images are out of my league; I’m just a snap-happy amateur, functional more than artistic. But at this time and place, I’m in a position to take the most important photograph ever. The most important recorded image since … the first one. I’ll shoot the last photograph ever taken—

You see, in case you hadn’t heard, tonight the world dies.

It’s all crystal clear, sharply focused: out in space right at this moment an asteroid ten klicks across hurtles towards Earth at 20,000 miles per hour—a hundred million megatons of destruction; the world as we know it ends any minute. I hope the film isn’t over exposed when the world explodes, I don’t exactly know what happens when a planet burns out. Any professional will tell you though: in these conditions a fast shutter speed is essential.

I see a little red light flashing on the camera, above it the word ‘BATTERY’. The red light flickers and fades out slowly. When I see it I panic, tap the light and it glows brightly again. I take a deep breath (need to relax, not be wound so tight). As an afterthought I take my sunglasses from my jacket pocket and swiftly put them on.

What are you doing on your last night on Earth? Did you run?

Me? I’m about to go down in history. I just can’t believe no-one else sees it.

A blinding white flash swallows everything and, as I click the shutter, I figure eggs come before chickens seems obvious.

scott-dingley-bwBio:  Scott Dingley has worked as a London-based copywriter, publicist and film reviewer for Channel 4, Film4 and various film websites. He is the author of novellas The Renegade Hunters and The Tied-Down Man, and his short stories published on the web include The Devil’s Elbow and A Hard-To-Shake Melody.

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Scopey’s Choice by Paul D. Brazill

‘Let’s get ready to rumble,’ says Scopey, in an annoying Donald Duck voice.

Scopey is one of those people that you just want to twat and twat and twat. He’s a twitchy smack-head who peppers his conversations with impersonations of cartoon characters.

‘Awld on,’ says Binky, looking suitably pissed off.

He moves the pub’s tables into a semi-circle. Patsy, the pasty faced landlady, glances up from her Sudoku when one of the legs squeaks on the floorboards. Glares. Binky forces a smile and looks like he’s having a stroke.

‘Ta for your help, BeBop,’ he says to me. ‘Appreciate it.’

‘Nowt I can do,’ I say. ‘Gotta keep hold of this.’

I tap the camcorder. ‘Don’t want anyone TWOCing it, do I?’

Binky looks around at The Fisherman’s Arms’ geriatric customers.

‘Yeah, that’ll be right,’ he says.

‘You’re a big lad, Binky,’ I say. ‘You can manage.’

And he is big. Massive. A behemoth with a shaved head and a face latticed with scars.

‘Ready when you are,’ says Scopey. He wipes his snotty nose with his shirt sleeve and does a more than passable Woody Woodpecker laugh.

I switch on the camcorder.

‘Ladies first,’ says Binky, amping up his Glasgow accent for the camera.

‘Yabba dabba do,’ says Scopey.

He grunts as he slams a fist into Binky’s guts.

‘Ow!’

Binky grasps Scopey’s fist in his catcher’s mitt sized paws, turns to the camera and winks. He chuckles as he crushes the hand, the cracking of bone quickly drowned out by Scopey’s screams.

Scopey crumbles onto the sticky pub floor.  Binky stands on Scopey’s knee until it pops and Scopey passes out.

A couple of  boozehounds sat at a table by the fruit machine furtively look over disapprovingly. Binky turns to me with a shit eating grin, gives the double thumbs up and takes a bow.

‘How was that, chief?

‘Good one,’ I say.

I switch off the camcorder.

‘Piece of piss,’ says Binky.

I lean over and stuff a handful of notes into Scopey’s shirt pocket.

‘Pleasure doing business with you,’ I say, my back creaking as I straighten up.

I walk over to the bar and slide a twenty over to Patsy.

‘It’ll take more than that to clean the carpet,’ she says, stabbing a pinkie toward Scopey. ‘He’s pissed himself.’

I bite my tongue and peel another twenty from my expenses roll.

‘That do you?’

‘It’ll have to,’ she says, pushing it into the back pocket of her jeans.

‘I’m off for a Gypsy’s,’ says Binky.

I finish off my Red Bull as Binky heads off to the little boys’ room. Patsy turns up the TV and the theme from Flog It! plays as I leave the dingy pub and step into the bright afternoon light.

The street is cluttered with extras from The Walking Dead. A gangling postman staggers towards me, changes direction and then shuffles off across the street, narrowly avoiding being splattered by a dusty ice cream van which pulls up outside the betting shop, the driver singing along to a Sham 69 song. An old woman runs her tartan shopping trolley over my foot.

‘Buggeroff,’ she says, as I yelp.

‘We hittin the road, chief?’ says Binky, pulling up his fly and sniffing his fingers.

‘Yeah, let’s get out of this dump.’

*

‘Not bad, BeBop,’ says Walter. ‘Not bad but not great.’

We’re in Walter Tyzak’s office – a cramped broom closet above Curlup N Di, the hairdresser’s  shop owned by his daughter, Diane  – watching the playback of Binky knocking the shit out of Scopey..

‘Looks like the biz to me,’ I say.

I open a can of orange Tango.

‘Aye, a couple of years ago it would have been a ratings winner,’ say Walter.  He looks at me over his half-moon glasses. ‘But Bar Wars is old news now. Especially since the scandal died down. And we’ve got competitors to boot.’ He grins at his own joke.

Walter’s right, though.

At the start, Bar Wars was a runaway success. The highest rated cable telly show on the box. The demand for watching people kicking the shit out of each other in grubby pubs was surprisingly high. It was easy to get contestants too – drug addicts, alkies, prozzies, midgets, pensioners.

And when the Daily Mail ran a shock/outrage story, saying we were ‘exploiting the weak and the vulnerable in society,’ well, ratings went through the roof. But, like all good ideas, Bar Wars was ripped off. Copied. There was even talk of a Celebrity Bar Wars with George Galloway and Charlie Sheen.

‘So, got a plan?’ I say.

‘Of course,’ says Walter. ‘Nietzsche said that a man without a plan is not a man.’

‘Yeah, but he was as batty as a cave full of Guano, so what did he know,’ I say.

*

Scopey’s Scooby Doo voice has lost a lot of its earlier gusto. He takes the Stanley knife and shakily slides it across the palm of his left hand. Screams. Binky offers him a bottle of whisky and a bandage. Scopey drops the knife and knocks the booze back as he holds his blood-stained hand to the camera.

‘Careful you don’t stain the desk,’ says Walter. ‘Teak, that is.’

Walter’s new venture is really taking off. Videocams. Not the tired old stripping housewives, though. The deal is that punters pay to watch the likes of Scopey hurt himself. The more they pay, the more he slices himself up.

An Austrian has even offered a small fortune if Scopey cuts off a finger. Or two. Or more. So far, Scopey has agreed to everything but who knows how far he’ll go. The choice is his, of course.

For some reason, I’m reminded of that old telly series, The Twilight Zone and the presenter who said that our only limits were our imagination. Aye, that will be right.

kasianoir2Bio:  Paul D. Brazill was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc. member whose writing has been translated into Italian, Polish and Slovene. He has had bits and bobs of short fiction published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books Of Best British Crime 8 and 10, alongside the likes of Ian Rankin, Neil Gaiman and Lee Child. He has edited a few anthologies, True Brit Grit– with Luca Veste – and is the author of Guns Of Brixton,The Kelly Affair, Gumshoe and 13 Shots Of NoirHis blog is here.

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Incident In The Workplace by Ryan Sayles

“Roy—I mean, Giggles, please let us go,” Martha the secretary pled.

Her whimper reminded Giggles of his childhood on the farm, back when his dad would get royally drunk and bag up the newborn pups in burlap. Just steal ’em from their sheep dog mother out in the barn. Stumble towards the pond.

“We’ll all go in a little while,” Giggles said. The whole office was holding its breath, waiting for the next bark of gunfire. In Giggles’s former life, when his nametag read “Roy” and he managed a team of fifteen people in the office call center, he was a pushover. The kind of gentle man the neighbors would describe as “nice and quiet.” Not the type of dude who would get laid off during cutbacks, forget to shower for nearly three weeks, put on a filthy Easter Bunny costume, come back to the office and kill Dave with a hunting rifle, all because Dave called him Roy instead of Giggles.

Nope. Not that type of dude at all.

“Anybody seen Steven around?” Giggles asked, towing behind him a rancid stench of rotting meat and grime as he wove through the cubicles. He deposited a single plastic egg on each desk, whispering, “Open it before I say so and I’ll have to give you special attention.”

No one touched their egg.

“I was unhappy with Steve, you know.” Giggles worked his way back to the front, the place where Steve the Manager would hold court with a company coffee mug in one hand and a memo of some sort in the other. Every morning, he stood with the front door and Martha’s secretary desk behind him and every cubicle in front of him, his audience gathered for their daily brainwashing. Steve would issue forth new mandates (“Remember we’ve stopped using code sections 25.7, 26.8 and 32.6 and replaced them with the consolidated code of 29.1 through .14”), give task direction (“Company picnic next week, be there or you will be counted absent for the day”) and in general, kiss his own ass.

Giggles huffed out long and annoyed, wishing that as he held court where Steve used to he’d feel more powerful. He did not. And the newfound impotence burned in his roiling guts. “Steve was so smug, shouting about how we’d been fired. You all know this. You know this.”

Giggles lifted his rifle, the front sight crouching on the muzzle like a gargoyle on a castle. It glanced over every head in the office as Giggles scanned the space. “If someone would have just told me it was a lay off and not a firing, I might have been able to convince Angela to stay. I think she would have toughed it out with me. But noooooooo … you— you fuckers just let it happen. How was I supposed to know that Steve, in his bottomless incompetence, he had gotten it wrong? Fired is not laid off. Words mean things. They affect people.”

The buzzing fluorescent lights and the drab, non-committal color of the carpet made Giggles’s headache worse. It hadn’t ended for the past two weeks no matter how many pills he’d swallowed or bottles he’d up-ended.

“When you tell your mom you’re pregnant, it means something different than when you tell her you’re getting married. See? Words mean things. When a cop says this is a warning, it’s different than when it’s a ticket. And laid off is a world different than fired. Got me? GOT ME?”

Nods. Trembling lips. Sounds pulling Giggles from his train of thought.

“Gina! I can hear you! Stop crying! Stop crying before I go downstairs to the daycare and kill your kids!”

Somewhere in the back, Gina fell to her knees, squeezing her jaw shut to stifle the sobs.

“And Peter! Peter, get out here!”

Afraid, nearly paralyzed, Peter shuffled out from behind the absolute safety of his cheap cubicle divider and failed to meet the eye of the demented pink bunny standing center stage. It couldn’t be his old boss. No, Roy wore glasses and shaved obsessively. This dirtball here, he was unbalanced. Inhuman.

Giggles walked over, stabbed the rifle muzzle right up Peter’s left nostril. “Tell me who you were calling when I came in.”

Peter wet his pants and said the only word he could. “Cops.”

“You think they missed the shot that retired Dave over there? Hmm? You think rifle fire in an office complex goes unnoticed?”

Giggles bobbed up and down on his heels, cackling. “Maybe they did.”

An explosion sent the cap of Peter’s head into the drop-tile ceiling. A three-foot section of lights caved down, sparks and zapping noises as thin metal buckled and everyone screamed. Peter collapsed; a full foot shorter, and Giggles shouldered the rifle so he could joyously clap as he danced around.

Silly bunny rabbit.

Someone made for the door. Giggles spun out of his reverie and loosed a burst. Black craters cut a line up the wall and a spray of red dolloped here and there. More screams.

Sirens outside. Street traffic blocked, the whir of a helicopter deafened. Bullhorns, shouting in a foreign tongue now. Giggles grabbed the giftwrapped box he’d come in with and slid it to the center of the room. From the pastel wrapping paper, the meticulous bows, it seemed so out of place as it slid through Peter’s head-mess and came to a stop.

From the box, a wire trailed to a switch. Giggles held it, thumb hovering. He never looked more in control inside this office. “A laid off, soiled, anthropomorphic Easter Bunny is running this show. And what a show it is … Now, open your eggs.”

Shaking hands grabbed their heavy plastic eggs, felt the goop inside slosh around, took the lids off and saw all the chunky red.

“Say ‘hello’ to Steve!” Giggles shouted, as possessed as Linda Blair. “Words fucking mean things! They affect peoples’ lives!”

And as the first responder cops charged up the stairwell to the landing, patrol rifles leveled and seeking a target to end the killing, they saw the office door ajar and the failed escapee lying face down in the hall.

The lead officer saw Giggles’s back, mumbled to himself, “Fucking Easter Bunny.” Then Giggles let his thumb fall and everybody got fired.

Literally this time.

IMG_4544 - Version 2Bio:  Ryan Sayles’s debut novel, The Subtle Art Of Brutality, is out through Snubnose Press. He is a founding member of Zelmer Pulp, a contributor to Out of the Gutter and The Big Adios. His short story collection, “That Escalated Quickly,” is forthcoming through ZP. His full list of fiction is at Vitriol and Barbies.wordpress.com.

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Virginia by Marietta Miles

Virginia Walker judges the distance to her target, tucks the stock comfortably against her shoulder and tightens her hand on the grip, finger over the trigger.  She leans farther out her second story window and watches the town square.  The wind changes direction and now she hears clearly the melee which woke her from a bad sleep.

***

Weeks before, a radiating light scorched the summer sky.  Three violent attacks burned the United States from the inside: industries and facilities became useless corpses.  In the east, where coal was king, mountains glowed with uncontrolled fire: men trapped by flames.  In the south, levees failed and the sea flooded port cities: people drowning in their homes.  Along the Mid-Atlantic, refineries dumped black oil. The oil turned to flame and at last to poison.  Virginia’s hometown, Marion, became a mucus colored waste.

Marion Nuclear Power Plant broke down soon after the first attack.  The power failure shut down utilities and drained power, the nerve center refused to deliver energy or information.  The reactor was unable to cool and water boiled low, revealing a super heated core.  Fires followed and people ran in flames, jumping like burning birds into the North Marion River.  Those who did not burn to a cinder were trapped in radiation, their skin blistering and peeling.  They also ran for the river.

Further down the tributary, the ChemQuest Plant also slipped into turmoil.  Safety systems stopped.  Thousands of gallons of bright green fertilizer and blood red pesticide pumped into the clear river.  Chunks of hot chemicals slithered atop the water and tangled in the roots of ancient oaks.  Soon, half dead bodies from North Marion Power Plant floated into the stew.  Those that died stayed dead.  Those with a drop of life soon pulled themselves from the river – changed.

***

Again Virginia eyes the town square, feeling the cool of her husband’s gun against her cheek.  He taught her to shoot.  He had been an expert hunter but put his gun down after their girls were born.  Every now and again, if he spied a strong stag, he traced it with fingers aimed like a rifle.  He would pull the pretend trigger and whisper, “always take the shot.”

Virginia frowns and tells herself to stop thinking of him, scratching at his memory.  She could not breathe when she thought of her husband, the man she chose.  And it was of no matter, their girls had to be looked after, they had to grow up.  She had no room or time for his memory.

***

On the day of the attacks Virginia and her girls, Beatrice and Regina, had been swimming at their grandmother’s lake.  Their father, a senior train conductor on the southern sent Palmetto Star, worked a trip from which he would never return.  Bea and Regina, sun burned and stuffed with peanut butter sandwiches and lemonade, dozed in the cool of their bedroom.  Virginia was reading in her favorite chair.  All that came after she decided to forget.

They learned to burrow, scavenge and hold very still.  Camping equipment, last seen during a holiday to the Blue Ridge Mountains, set their living space in the rear of the attic.  The stairs were barricaded, doors and windows blocked by furniture.  Only one small window, sitting low in the rear mud room, was used for their entry and exit.  Survivors turned mean.  No law or constable types showed up to pull things together.  Virginia assumed the entire world had burned down.

One evening, the girls tucked away, Virginia made for Marion Public Library.  She kept memories of past Saturday morning visits: old, soft chairs, sternly bound books and reading until the sunlight dimmed.  Signs of violence, against the books and the two kindly ladies who kept them, hung in the once colorful aisles.  She stopped near a basket of books, overlooked by looters.  The top cover showed a worn, stuffed rabbit in a sun hat, a tea set neatly in front of her.  Virginia leaned down, wiped away the dust and tucked the paperback in her jacket, ignoring the throbbing in hear head.  She knew she was sick, so she found books to keep her girls company after she was gone: swiftly tilting planets and mysteries behind red staircases.  “These’ll do,” she whispered, heading quickly home.

***

Virginia hears her youngest child.  Turning from the window, staring into the dark, she sees Bea and Reggie beneath their pink sheet.  Their chests rise and fall with deep, full breaths.  Thick blue cold syrup stains their little mouths.  It is medicine to sleep through the night or to sleep through what they may need to forget.  Another cry rises outside and Virginia quickly raises her site to the field.

 

She watches a horde of men in fatigues, swinging bats and pipes.  They are herding a young woman in a stained yellow nightgown towards center field.  The lady slips, falls and the trappers are on her, howling and barking.

Virginia stares at the woman on the field and imagines her own girls. The lady is a daughter, maybe a mother too.  Shoot the men and save the stranger, blow their heads away.  Some would run off, little ones or fast ones, and bring more men.  Shoot the girl, just to end her pain, and still the wolves would be at her door.  This time Beatrice does call out, crying in her sleep.  Regina turns over, throwing her arm protectively over her sister.  Virginia holds very still and listens only to the gathering wind.  The wind brings a whisper, like a kiss on her ear and Virginia takes the shot.

 

Marietta MilesBio:  Marietta Miles lives in the fine state of Virginia. When not tending children, cats, dogs, fish and hermit crabs she tries to write good stories. Her first story was published with Thrillers, Killers and Chillers. She is thankful to be published in several anthologies with Static Movement and submits to Alfiedog.com as well. And when the night is quiet she will read until morning.

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