Tag Archives: short story

Compassion

Giant: illustration by Arthur Rackham

Giant: illustration by Arthur Rackham

When Mick was little he thought of big Gus as Shouty Man.

All he could think of while growing up was being big enough to give Gus a taste of his own medicine.

Only now, as a six footer, with Gus shrunk to a little wizened man, Mick realised what being Big truly meant.


· Flash Fiction Fifty Five, a short story of only 55 words (including title), first published on Calmgrove 9th December 2016. © C A Lovegrove

More on giants in this review here

Report

Report on Einstein-Rosen bridge experiment #1, Ganymede, Jupiter

Preamble

• I am Albert, a 31st-generation artificial intelligence robot built expressly to enter the Einstein-Rosen bridge constructed on the Jovian moon Ganymede.
• My mission is to be in position at the event horizon at point T (0.00 temporal units, recalibrated). This horizon will be artificially created to be optimally functional at point T to allow passage along the Einstein-Rosen bridge.
• This report will be transmitted at T direct to station Juno in Jovian orbit.
• For this experiment I shall also be internally transporting this report for the duration of the passage along the bridge. If delivered intact and uncorrupted it will demonstrate that the shielding design has been successful.

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Telling tails

Once upon a tern three birds went into a pub.

Said the landlord, Godwit you three, pelican I help you?

Are you raven mad? they crowed, Of course you toucan, a nightjar of your finest!

Wren they were served they were swift to reach out. Suddenly sniped the landlord: Hoopoe do you think you are, pay the bill before you swallow, or you’ll egret it!

Puffin out their cheeks they craned their heads this way and that and tried to stork the stork but the landlord began to owl: Stop swanning about, you bustards, or flamingo away before I skua you all!

They groused but they had to empty their pochards for change, eider that or duck.

Then, Cuckoo, said one, this ain’t half bad, what a lark!

You know, you’re twite, said the second, I’m really choughed!

Think gull avocet, quailed the third, I woodpecker another, let’s have some moorhen! Ptarmigan, landlord!

After they’d wrynecked their pints, Good heavens a dove, came a shrike, Look at the time! Good nightingale, we must pipit! And off they flew.

Dressing-gown

WPC Wendy Bowyer spoke briefly on her radio before she stepped up the garden path of number 19 and knocked on the door. A tear-stained Mandy flung open the door almost immediately – she must have been waiting in the passageway – and starting gabbling, sobs breaking up her sentences.

“It’s alright, Mrs Winstanley,” Wendy politely but firmly interrupted, using the calming approach born of long practice, “we’ll do the best we can to sort this all out.” Shutting the door behind her she added, “Why don’t you show me his bedroom?” Mandy stumbled up the stairs, Wendy noticing she’d had time to throw on a t-shirt, jeans and t-shirt. The compact room led off the first-floor landing; a stick-on label was attached to the door, the figure of Darth Vader pointing at the stencilled name SAMMY in block capitals.

“Have you touched anything?” she asked, while motioning Mandy to stay by the door. “Only the window, to open it a bit more…” was the almost whispered reply. Wendy took in the scene – the rumpled bed, the few scattered Lego bricks on the floor, the illustrated encyclopaedia open by the bed – all the usual pre-teen paraphernalia. Already she was forming a picture in her mind: the open window, the boy taken out of his bed, the intruder carrying him out onto the low roof outside and away. Her initial suspicion was estranged husband rather than unknown abductor – but best not to tell Mrs Winstanley that just yet, keep it formal.

Instinctively her sweep of the room took in the abandoned slipper by the window, the lack of a counterpart for the left foot, the empty clothes peg on the back of the door. The relatively tidy room told her volumes about the boy, enough to suspect that he was not yet the careless teenager her own son had developed into. Her next methodical question to Mandy was therefore consistent with logic.

“Does Sammy normally put on a dressing-gown when he gets out of bed?”

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A grey slipper

Mrs W was sobbing when she answered the door, trying to tell me what had happened but in her distress unable to get a coherent sequence out. I tried to calm her, speaking in an as matter-of-fact tone as possible while remaining sympathetic.

I let her lead me upstairs to the bedroom. “Have you touched anything, moved anything?” I asked her. “Nothing, nothing,” she began, then, “I, um, opened the window wider to see if I could see him, or anything…” Her voice trailed away.

I left her in the doorway and stepped carefully into the room. The bed had obviously been slept in, but the bedclothes had been roughly thrown aside, as though the boy had been pulled out of bed before he was fully awake. There was a picture book lying open on the floor, with a scatter of plastic toys – Star Wars Lego, that sort of thing.

I glanced out of the open sash window. There was a lean-to roof just below the sill, making it easy to climb in and out of the window. “Is this usually locked?” I asked Mrs W. “If was quite warm last night,” she offered as an excuse.

My eye fell on a grey slipper by the window, as if dropped. Where’s the other one, I wondered. A quick search under the bed and under the bedclothes didn’t reveal anything. Did he have time to put on his slippers first? Does this mean he knew his visitor?

“What are you looking for?” whispered his mother. Instead of answering I checked behind the door: the clothes peg was empty.

“Does he normally wear a dressing-gown out of bed?” I asked, but I already knew the answer.

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First snow

Foel Cwmcerwyn

Foel Cwmcerwyn, the highest point in the Preseli Hills, Pembrokeshire, after a fall of snow

Overnight the snow fell softly, steadily, remorselessly. In the early hours of the morning she awoke, confused by how hushed everything was. It was as if time had stopped and her bed was floating in a bubble that was her room.

She slipped out from under the duvet and into her slippers, and padded over to the window seat.

Flakes floated past the pane, then more, and more, and still they came. She knew the covering would be thick in the morning. Though, come the dawn, the house would be even more isolated, for now she felt cocooned, insulated even — insulated from outside interference, noisy visitors, passing traffic.

If she stayed awake she would go down later, light the kitchen fire, perhaps let the hens out early. But for now she would take in the unearthly light reflected off the settling snow, bask in the stillness, watch the frozen sky feathers floating down onto the vast white coverlet.

Later the phone would ring and she would ignore it, and if it continued she would take the receiver off the hook.

At present she would contemplate eternity for a while longer.

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Adèle and Sophie

Édouard Manet, Gare Saint-Lazare (1873)

Adèle, Make sure you’re keeping your frock clean, don’t lean against those dirty railings…
But Sophie, isn’t this so exciting? I’m so, so, sooo excited!
Mind you don’t get your head stuck between the…
Look, Sophie, this train is getting ready to go!
Come away from the railings, Adèle…
And is it true, the boat we will go to England on, will it too have a big chimney with black smoke coming out?
I expect so. Come away…
And will I be sea-sick? And will I like England?
Ah, that I cannot tell, Adèle.

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Sophie

Édouard Manet, Gare Saint-Lazare (detail)

Adèle is happily wittering again, she so loves it here, and it gives me a chance to read some more of this roman.

Wish she didn’t have to bring the puppy though. But at least the walk here exhausts it enough so it has to rest quietly in my lap.

I wonder how she will feel when we have to sail to England by packet-boat. Will she be travel-sick? Will she manage to learn some barbaric English phrases? And will I too? Will she, like me, miss France? and will Monsieur Rochester keep his word and stay long enough at the house to be a proper guardian?

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Adèle

Édouard Manet, Gare Saint-Lazare (detail)

Oh, Look at all the steam and smoke, Sophie, isn’t it all so exciting? Oh, and listen to that noise, Sophie, the big machines all shiny and black, I can feel them through my feet when they rumble past. And look at all those men, they’re so dirty, however can they keep those machines so clean and shiny! Oh, thank you, Sophie, for bringing me down here again. I would so, sooo like to ride on one of them, soon please? Please?

* * * * *

Mais, regardez-moi, Sophie, tout ce vapeur, toute cette fumée, c’est très, très excitant! Et, écoutez ce bruit-là, Sophie, les grandes machines, ells sont brillantes et si noires, je peux les sentir par les pieds quand ells dépassent en grondant! Et regardez-moi tous ces types, ils sont si sales, comment peuvent-ils rendre ces machines si propres et si brillantes? Eh bien, merci, Sophie, pour m’apporter ici encore une fois, je voudrais bien voyager en train, bientôt, s’il vous plaît?

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Cutting a long story short

Once upon a time there were three bears, a daddy bear, a mummy bear and a baby bear.

One day Goldilocks came to visit them and … the Three Bears promptly ate her up.

And the Three Bears lived happily ever after.


Text-to-image generated via https://experiments.runwayml.com/generative_engine/

The hyena and the wolf

Image: WordPress Free Media Library

The hyena was showing the wolf around his Trophy Room.

“That’s the CEO of a global oil conglomerate,” he said, indicating the head of a startled human male displayed on the wall.

They moved on. “Careful as you step on that rug,” he said, as the wolf nearly tripped over the flayed skin of a former leader of the western world whose lips were twisted into a snarl, wispy ginger hair barely concealing a flakey scalp.

They passed an internet trillionaire in a display cabinet, his stuffed body posed in the act of taking off some virtual reality glasses, revealing an obsessive, glassy stare.

“And of course you ate them before they were displayed?” remarked the wolf conversationally.

“Good god, no,” replied the hyena, dismissing the thought with a wave of his paw, “I have herds of ordinary humans available for meat, and of course there’d be no fun in chasing them, like shooting fish in a barrel.

” No,” he declared with a burst of gleeful laughter, “I just hunt those at the top of the food chain.”

Not a sausage

It’s five, nearly time to return to the office.

He’s shown the last prospective buyers of the day the show home, and they seem possibles, even if a bit non-committal. She liked it, for definite, but it wasn’t his kind of thing. Obvs. Maybe she’d talk him into it.

Ease back into the car as you watch them drive off. Nope, body language not saying anything. Ah well, back to the office. Drive off the estate, past the last house, take a left towards town.

He suddenly takes another left down Shaftesbury Close. That house at the end, with the FOR SALE sign. It’s been on the books for a while. Lewis said the couple that last looked at it complained it was spooky, gave them the heebie-jeebies.

Let’s see what’s going on there it before I call it a day.

Russ parks the car in the driveway. Looks quiet in the cul-de-sac. He gets out. Nah, not that quiet, there’s a dog barking somewhere. He hasn’t got a key, but he’ll have a nosey round, see what he can see, find out what all this malarkey’s about.

Down the side alley between the house and garage. Could do with a bit of work, the pebbledash is cracking in places, grass growing between new cracks in the faux crazy paving concrete. Garden’s overgrown — not surprising, it’s been on the market for several months.

He peers in through the dingy kitchen windows. Nothing, not a sausage. Not a sausage, ha! It’s a kitchen, innit? Not a sausage, love it. Smiles at his own joke, and then …

He stops mid-step, craning his neck to listen intently. Is that a child crying? If only that damn dog would stop barking he could hear. Where is that bloody dog? And where’s that crying coming from?


Short story composed from a list with multiple choices. Elements chosen:
crying child — House for Sale — barking dog — 5.00 pm