Thursday, 18 July 2013


It was a hot day, and the office seemed hotter than the world outside.  Despite the air conditioning she was perspiring, feeling lazy and sticky and just a little bit horny.

Looking around herself, seeing that none of her co-workers were looking at her she slipped her cellphone from her purse and used her thumb to deftly caress words into a new text message for her lover

Text me something NSFW

She smiled a private smile as she sent it, and imagined how he’d react.    Seconds later her phone whispered to her that a new message had arrived.  Reaching down and holding the phone below desk level, flat against the so-proper dark blue skirt, she opened the message.

What’s NSFW?

She tsked in frustration.   Sometimes she half believed that he was a refugee from the Victorian era as he often joked.    Her thumb moved again on the slick screen, teasing out a new message letter by letter.

Not Safe For Work.   You know… something provocative.

She sent the message.   The word provocative pleased her… it was long and complex, a pleasantly rounded couple of syllables followed by a sharp ending, like a caress that became a demanding kiss.    She looked at the screen waiting for his response, imagining his mind working and his passions rising.  She wondered if it was as hot where he was as it was here.

An email arrived from a client and she put the phone down on her desk and started typing a reply to that mundane enquiry about warranty violations.  Halfway through the email, her phone sighed once more and she saw his name appear on a new message notification.  She held her breath and finished the email quickly, sending it as quickly as she could.

Then she picked up the phone and opened the message.

Not Safe for Work?  Okay, here we go:   The capitalist system is inherently stifling of the human spirit – you are paid far less than you are worth and are wasting your endless creativity in the service of dullards, performing repetitive and menial tasks that consume your time and your potential.   Your boss is a manipulative shrew, and her boss lusts for money and power at the expense of everyone around him.  Walk out of there today, and take as many of your co-workers with you.   An end to wage slavery!  

How’s that?

She read it through twice, sighed, then sent her reply.

Perfect.  Not what I was hoping for, but perfect.

Before she could send it she heard a tapping on the glass wall that incarcerated her and her co-workers.  She looked up, as did others, and she saw him, phone in hand and ridiculously elegant in a dark three piece suit.  He had his habitual wicked half-smile on his face.

She smiled back, stood, put on her shoes, picked up her purse and walked across the room to the door, ignoring everybody else in the room.  Forever.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


A writing prompt from Write on the Edge with the picture above, 
and from Trifecta with the word: CRACK  3a : a narrow break : fissure    
and from Studio30+ with the words Portal and Coalesce

The crack in Context hung before my eyes like a twisted thread of blue lightning, frozen immobile.  It was hair-thin but it shone, and as I walked around it the crack always showed me its same shape as though it was superimposed over the scene and how I viewed the scene was irrelevant.

The door opened and my boss stalked into the chapel.  Hendry was ex military and bad tempered so I got my defence in early.

“Secured the scene, boss,” I told him, “Class Aleph anomaly.  Hasn’t become a full portal yet.”

He paced around the crack glaring.   I opened my mouth to apologise for entering the scene alone but he cut me off with a bark.


The third member of our team ran into the room and I smiled just to see her.  Most psionics are a pain in the backside, talking in abstract airy platitudes and vague rambling about auras and feelings.  Maryam was about as airy and vague as a Glock sidearm.


“Scan close Context.  Make sure nothing’s come through.”

She nodded,  eyes unfocussed and she looked right through me as she turned her head this way and that.   Hendry stooped and picked up some objects from the floor arranging them in front of him.    He was looking thoughtful.

“Nothing’s coalesced boss,” said Maryam walking over to him.  “What are those?”

“Personal effects,” he said quietly.  “Nothing’s come through but it’s taken someone.   I suspected that might be possible.  Reached through and wiped them from existence.”

I stepped up beside her and looked down at the things.  A wallet, some glasses, some tacky mirrored shades, other items.

My wallet.  My glasses.  I recognised all of them.

“But no one was here,” Maryam said.  She picked up the wallet and closed her eyes.  “No psychometric traces.  Nothing.   Nobody ever even held it before.”

Hendry nodded.

“I did,” I said, “Please. I did.”

“Secure the scene,” Hendry told Maryam, “I’ll call for backup.  We need more people.”

Friday, 5 July 2013

Disturbed Night

(A writing prompt from Trifecta:  33 words on any subject)

The noises in the too silent house didn't ever stop.
The sound of his footsteps on paths he never took.
The sound of words he should have said.
No wonder he couldn’t sleep.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


(Fairground - a prompt from Studio30+)

You look a little tense.  I think I know why.   It’s because this is a fairground, and fairgrounds are a little…  disturbing aren’t they?

I don’t take it personally any more, but do try to relax a little while we chat.    A lot of people find fairgrounds spooky, don’t they.     Have you seen how many horror novels and films have them as settings?   Theme parks or circuses too, I suppose.  All part of the same set of tropes.

There’s a lot of reasons for that.

Firstly I suppose there’s an element of the Outside about fairgrounds.  They come and they go, and the people who run them are not settled like most people.  They travel.   They arrive, they set up, they take your money in exchange for some rare entertainment and then off they go again leaving only muddy grass behind.   Maybe that triggers the deep deep fear of the outsider, the stranger.   The sense that these people are not like us and maybe they’re not playing by the same rules.    Could be a touch of racism in there too, eh?  Ever hear Cher singing Gypsies tramps and thieves.   Love that song by the way.  Papa would have shot him if he knew what he'd done.   Makes the hairs on my arms stand up that line, wondering what had gone on.

Then there’s the experience of the fairground itself.  It’s out of the normal isn’t it?  Not a habit.  It’s a place that’s only there at certain times, so it’s always a little bit different, and not part of everyday life.  Like a dream, all show and no substance, with bright coloured facades over grimy old cabins.   Fun and flashy entertainment that, like fairy gold, is not all it seems.    In the morning... it’s all faded away and a little bit tawdry.

Perhaps that’s why people find fairgrounds disturbing.

Or perhaps it’s the nature of the attractions.  A maze of mirrors, all dark and distorted, and the lingering suspicion that the contorted dwarf or gangly giant in the mirror may be slightly more… real… than the you that is doing the looking, the soul of you, not so pretty as you'd like to think.   And then there are the laughing clowns in their booths who are probably, almost certainly, most likely mechanical.  But you don’t want to look too close at their hungry eyes just in case.

Relax.  Relax.

I’ve been running fairgrounds for most of my life now, travelling all over with them.   Nobody knows more about them than I do, and really they’re very prosaic.  Just another type of workplace that’s all.  I’ve seen, oh, tens of thousands of visitors?  Hundreds of thousands?  Possibly more, who can say.  And they come and they go; some of them wide eyed and wondering, some of them grumpy and bitter, some of them… like you… with a little bit of that old fear growing and spreading just behind their eyes and wondering just why you’ve always found fairgrounds to be so very unsettling.

Perhaps it’s a cultural thing.  All those things I mentioned combining together and growing like a venomous pearl around a tiny piece of grit, some old truth, some real nastiness that once happened in such a place, at such a time long ago.  More than once maybe.   And the pearl swells and grows and glistens nastily and before you know it… Fairgrounds are spooky.   So unfair really, stops you enjoying yourself.

Fairgrounds are places where you should be able to enjoy yourself.  I do.  I enjoy my life in my fairgrounds immensely.   Every new stop brings new joys.

Like you.  You’re a joy just to look at, lying there all relaxed and… well not exactly calm, perhaps, but certainly… limp.

I know you can’t close your eyes, but try to focus on the music, such pretty music, while I change.  

Do you want to know the  real reason people find fairgrounds scary?  Spooky?  Disturbing?   All the way back to the first travelling oddities that roamed in the shadows when the pyramids were new.   Do you know why, even then, the fairground people were looked at sideways and rushed out of the bazaars, and why people dreamed a little bit darker when the show was in town?

It’s because of me.  Always me.

There.  All changed.  The mirror-me, you could say.

Let’s begin.

Monday, 1 July 2013


CRUDE : marked by the primitive, gross, or elemental or by uncultivated simplicity or vulgarity 
(A writing prompt from Trifecta, continuing from here)

The Clockmaster of Oldenrot was not built for speed.  A crude tyrant, years of self indulgence had taken their toll.  Panting and red faced  he stumbled down the winding spiral stair that led into the vaults deep beneath the Spire of Freedom.

He was running for his life.

The chaos had begun that morning as each clock tower in Oldenrot began to chime and had still not stopped.      Reports flooded in, not encouraging.   Every system was failing.   Every camera and microphone, every clockwork sentinel.  Everything.   

An hour after the chimes began,  the citizens rose and began to destroy every chain, physical or virtual,  that held them in place.  

The Clockmaster had planned for this.    Deep beneath his palatial spire was a route to freedom.   Panting and perspiring he reached the deepest level and staggered to the burnished iron door and turned the handle.  It did not move, and he sobbed.

“My husband was a good man,”

The voice startled him and he felt his heart pound so very fast.   He recognised the speaker, there in the shadow.

“Lady Graves… yes… a good man.   A loyal servant to my court.”

“I meant before,” she said, her face entirely calm.  “Before you.  Before all this.  He was a good man, but he died a bad one. ”

“Died… oh my…   we must flee, Lady Graves, this door…”

“Is locked.”  Something in her voice gave him pause.  She went on.   “The key is inside the clock on your desk.  In your office.”   She raised her eyes upward.  “Up there.”

He made a move toward her, and only then saw the six barrelled pistol in her hand.

“But the people… they’re storming the Spire”

“Fetch it,”

He clutched his chest and fought to catch his breath.

Lady Graves smiled warmly.

“Go on,” she said, “You’ve got time.”

She watched him stagger up the first turn of the spiral and once he was out of sight she removed the key from her pocket and left without another word.

A Failure to Repent

(A writing prompt from Write on Edge)

The tattlesheets of the city of Oldenrot no longer mentioned the crimes of the Whisper.   The Clockmaster who ruled Oldenrot was no fool (or he would have been a dead fool, for he was feared but not much loved by his people) and had soon realised that far from being outraged by the accounts of each audacious theft or act of mischievous vandalism the citizens of the twelve wards of the city were amused and perhaps a little impressed by the antics of the damnable rebel.

The Clockmaster knew the importance of order and commanded his grim senior lawkeeper  Commissar Graves to leave no bone unbroken in their pursuit of the Whisper.   The Ratchets, Grave’s clockwork Peace Automata,  prowled the streets and alleys tirelessly in search of any clue, ticking and clanking and keeping the city (or the city’s rulers) safe from the rule breaking devil.  

One unwritten and unspoken rule that the Whisper had decided  to break was Thou shalt not seduce the Clockmaster’s daughter.  

Lady Clef hadn’t needed much seducing.    The Whisper had simply smiled, murmured  a couple of words in Clef’s ear and been rewarded with a hoarse “hell, yes,”.  Other rewards followed in short order, and as often as the Whisper could risk the ascent through the Clockmaster’s tower.   The risk was considerable but worth taking for not only did Clef prove to be an eager wriggler, breather, moaner and clutcher between the silk sheets (or upon the luxurious deep carpets, or clinging to the gilded brass fittings of the shower cubicle) she was also happy to hand over to the Whisper the thin wafers of hole-punched gold that were the override codes for the city’s Peace Engine – the great clockwork brain that made sure every pendulum swung just as it should.

“Break everything,” Clef had urged as she pressed them into the Whisper’s hands.

The Whisper kissed her passionately, eagerly, gratefully but that was not  enough for Clef, not then, and it was an exhausting couple of hours later that the Whisper blew Clef a last kiss from the windowsill, and then slipped down a dream-thin rope and into the night.   Thankfully the Ratchets were all busy in the Slumberynth that night and the Whisper was able to return home in relative safety, still clutching the precious codes.

The golden wafers whose carefully punched holes would be the downfall of the Clockmaster, and of Oldenrot, and of every rule and regulation and restriction were slipped into a well concealed hiding place behind the face of an impressive mahogany grandfather clock.   Tomorrow the Whisper would retrieve them and take them and bring things to an end.

But first, sleep.    The Whisper undressed in the dark, stretched the aches out of every muscle and slipped into bed quietly beside her slumbering husband.  Commissar Graves murmured once, but did not wake.   The Whisper snuggled up beside him, loving his warmth, and slept.

(and continued Here)