Fictional Homicide

‘As Anna watched, flattened beneath the sorting table, her coworkers body shuddered once more before falling still. The slick, ferrous tang of blood filled the air, and the horror of her situation dimmed somewhat as the footsteps of the homicidal customer moved away from Anna’s hiding place.

Averting her eyes from the horribly bloodied body of her coworker, Anna tried listened desperately for signs that the killer was returning. She had no idea where anybody else was, whether they were even still alive. It was possible that Bec was the only casualty. Guess if it had to happen to anyone -‘

The clack of keys paused.

“Can I write that? I mean, she’s an idiot, sure. But do I really need to off her in fiction?” mused the writer to herself.

She snorted, fingers tapping away on the keyboard once more. “Of course I can!”

***

Anybody else guilty of this?

Trapped

Uncontrollable laughter bubbled up inside him, bursting out from behind clenched teeth and clamped hands. Pete shook with it, eyes scrunched shut against the building moisture, hysterical as he sat with his back to the wall of his cell.

Biting down viciously on his hand, the pain broke through the hysterical laughter, and he hiccuped as the last few giggles dissipated into aching ribs, streaming eyes and stinging hand. I am so totally fucked, he thought, hysteria threatening to rise again at the thought. Told him this was going to happen.

Suddenly exhausted, Pete slumped against the padded wall of his white cell, scratching idly at his heated skin, inhaling the sterile scent of the padding. White. White walls, white floor, white ceiling. It even smells white. White, white, white. I wonder how they’d react if I scratched hole in my leg so I could add some colour? Red would look so nice against the white. Macabre, violent, beautiful.

Pete sat on his hands. None of that.

Frustrated, he threw himself to his feet, pummeling the padded door and shouting. “Hey!! Hey! I’ve had enough now! Hello? I need to piss, arseholes! I’m gonna take a leak against the door! Right now! Hey -“

The door swung open, and Pete dropped his hands away from his scrubs as if burnt. “About time! I’m mental, but I’m still human you know! A little bit of -“

He stopped. Standing in the doorway, stood himself. Or someone who looked exactly like him.

And then, Pete’s eyes snapped open, sweat-drenched body twisted in his sheets, face mashed into his pillow.

Just a dream.

Neophilia – A ‘Word Fiend’ story

The mall was swarming with shoppers, all eager to grab a bargain in the mid-season sales. Marie bustled from store to store, credit card flashing and bags accumulating. Cotton sheets were fondled, the scent of expensive candles inhaled, chocolates sampled, all in the pursuit of something new, something different.

Marie’s neophilia knew no bounds. Her house was filled with novelty candies and toys, kitchen implements from the mundane to the unnecessary, cushions in every fashionable colour from the last ten years and every appliance known to man. She couldn’t help it; they were all just so beautiful and new, full of potential and promising a better, easier, tastier product.

The latest arboreal arrangements sat amongst a riot of flowers and gift balloons in the florist, the tankini was back in fashion in the swimwear store, and Marie paused at each before moving on, fresh flowers and new bathing suit added to her purchases.

‘UP TO 70% OFF!’ screamed a sign in her favourite shoe store. Oooh, I could use a new pair of sandals! And oh, look at those heels – I have to try them on! Swinging into the brightly lit store, Marie made a beeline for the mint platform heels, admiring her foot in the mirror as she tried the sample size on.

Ten minutes and a positive steal later, Marie left the store with three pairs of brand new shoes, the mint heels among them. Blissfully happy and thinking of all the money she’d saved, she waltzed down to the supermarket, trying not to crush the fresh flowers nestled in the crook of her arm.

Okay; milk, bread, tampons…don’t think I need anything else. Oh! They have a new flavour of chocolate! I’ll just buy a little bar…

Dumping her last few purchases on the counter in the express lane, Marie fumbled for her purse as the cashier scanned them, pulling out the credit card one final time.

“I’m sorry, but your card’s been declined,” the cashier said apologetically.

“What? That can’t be right; let me try it again.”

The card declined again. And again. She’d emptied her credit account. And her savings account was empty until pay day; three days away. The line behind her was building up, fellow customers frowning and tapping their feet impatiently as she grew more and more flustered.

“I’m sorry ma’am. Perhaps if you contact your bank and come back later?” The cashier ushered her on, and Marie could see judgment in every expression on her professional, smiling face.

Mortified, she took her bags and her flowers and left, leaving behind the groceries she needed. Suddenly the lustre of her beautiful shoes, stylish bathers and crisp new sheets wore off, the adrenaline of a good bargain dissipating.

Sale items were non-returnable. The kids wouldn’t have any milk for cereal tomorrow. Or bread for school lunches.

But the shoes are so pretty. And I did need new sheets. Maybe I can borrow a few dollars from the kids for groceries. Marie scrunched her nose, disgusted at herself. I’m going to hell.

Cheeks still burning, Marie set her jaw determinedly as she left the mall. She was freezing her credit card when she got home. Once it was paid off, she was getting rid of it.

Shoes can wait. The kids can’t.

***

Words taken from Merriam Webster’s October ‘Word of the Day’ archive:

Neophilia

Tankini

Arboreal

Judgment

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) – A ‘Reading List’ Review

Book: Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell

Reading List Number: 8

A book that scarcely needs any introduction, Nineteen Eighty-Four (or 1984, if you prefer) is a classic dystopian novel that describes an eerie totalitarian society under the keen eye of Big Brother (well before the term became synonymous with the ultimate ‘reality’ television show by the same name). Nineteen Eighty-Four follows the story of Winston Smith, an everyman who keeps an illicit diary where he shares his dissenting anti-government thoughts.

As Orwell’s most well-known work, Nineteen Eighty-Four weaves an eerily resonant story, and the faceless antagonist of Big Brother echoes modern concerns over how much of our information and activities is recorded and analysed by faceless governments and criminals alike (especially in an increasing online society). Orwell’s political musings litter this novel, providing excellent commentary on totalitarian societies, especially as a post WWII piece of literature.

Bleak and simply written, Orwell’s famous tale is a combination between a dystopian horror and a political commentary, revealing a society under the thumb of authoritarianism, its people blank and slavish in their government-fed beliefs. Rightly considered a modern classic, Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is a political thriller of the highest order, worth slogging through the spare prose to reach the core of its prescient vision.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

***

The next novel to be reviewed is Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton. To see the rest of the Reading List, and to see more reviews, click here.

Crime Pays

They rocketed out of the atmosphere, orange fading to the black of space between one moment and the next. Whooping and grinning triumphantly as their pursuers dropped away, Cade and Almira eavesdropped shamelessly on the intercepted radio transmission, as it crackled with cursing and shouting from their former ‘clients’.

Glancing back at their stolen cargo, Almira double-checked the proximity alert before turning to Cade.

“We’re free and clear, Cade. Lets bring this baby in.”

Cade flipped a bunch of switches, throwing a grin in her direction. “We hit serious pay dirt this time, man. This time tomorrow, we could be livin’ it up on that resort planet in region Delta – you know, the one with the sweet as waves?”

Almira rolled her eyes. Cade had spent too much time watching old Earth vids again. The ones with the drawling, bleached-hair ‘surfers’, apparently. “Our biggest heist yet, I think. We can go to the resort planet after we’ve got the ship overhauled. And paid off the rest of that loan you owe Jantu. Don’t think he’ll have forgotten that, Cade. After that, then yes, you can go and catch some ‘sweet waves’.”

“Wicked!”

Launching the hyperspace sequence, Cade leant back in the captain’s chair, satisfaction in every inch of his lanky body. As the planet below them disappeared, light years away in no time, Almira couldn’t help but slouch down in her own chair, utterly relaxed as the adrenaline of the heist wore away.

Honestly, sipping cocktails on the beach under twin suns while her idiot brother tried to surf might not be so bad. Especially on someone else’s money. Crime really did pay, sometimes.

Five Sentence Friday

Steve was bored. In the middle of the night, there was only one thing to do.

Sliding a questing hand over the warm skin of his girlfriend’s hip, he shuffled in casually behind her as he murmured, “You awake, babe?”

There was a pause, then, “You have approximately ten minutes before I fall asleep again. After that, it’s up you to decide whether I’ll be okay with you having sex with my unconscious body; hint – I’m not okay with it.”

How does your garden grow?

The roses were flourishing this year; a riot of colour and delicate perfume.

Must be this new fertiliser I’ve been using, Helen thought, cheerfully forking over the new patch of dirt she was preparing in her backyard. The new rose bushes sat waiting in their plastic pots, thorny and with gleaming dark green foliage.

Leaning the garden fork against the fence, she grabbed the secateurs in her gloved and grubby hands, using the sharp edge of tear the tough plastic of the fertiliser bag. The sharp, loamy scent of fertiliser filled the air as Helen tipped the bag upside down, emptying it onto the dirt.

A blockage stopped the flow of fertiliser; Helen jerked the bag, and a flood of fertiliser spilled onto the ground.

A human hand lay amongst it, grey and roughly severed. The fingers were shredded, shards of bone poking through the ruined flesh. Like someone had tried to feed it through a wood chipper.

Helen scrambled backwards, stomach rebelling and a scream rising in her throat.

Suddenly, her flourishing garden didn’t seem quite so beautiful.

Choc Hazelnut Dreams

Laura was beginning to feel sick. Chocolate cake, vanilla cake, red velvet, frosting, ganache, marzipan. A dozen options, and she had to choose one. Or maybe two or three, if she wanted. Regardless, she couldn’t have all of them.

But they were all so good. And this wasn’t even the end. There was still wines to taste, finger foods to pick. I’ll be lucky if I still fit in the dress, Laura thought, idly forking another piece of cake into her mouth.

Registering the the taste, her eyes widened. God, the contents of my mouth, she thought blissfully, suppressing a moan. What is this thing?

As though recognising that Laura was mid food-gasm, the cake designer smiled. “Good? Its our darkest chocolate cake available, 70% cocoa Belgian chocolate with a chocolate hazelnut buttercream centre. There’s a few different options for icing this cake – this version is a hazelnut buttercream, but – “

Laura interrupted, mouth still full of cake; “Doesn’t matter. This. This is what I want. Paul will just have to suck it up if he doesn’t like it. It’s Nutella. In a cake.

“Alright then, too easy. Would you like any other flavours? Or just -“

“No others. Just this one. Three layers. All of them this, this…Nutella Orgasm Cake.”

Laura might have been full of cake samples and verging on a sugar high, but she knew what she wanted. Nutella on her wedding day.

Nothing else mattered.

The Red Planet

The so-called red planet was lush and green in the sunlight. Terraforming had been a success.

Frankly, Alice was disappointed. The rocky red planet was unrecognisable under a blanket of hardy greenery, artificial lakes, and the solar paneled roofs of the greenhouses, labs and living quarters of the Mars colony. In the distance, the red planet reasserted itself, and the ochre dust gave the daylight an orange cast. Alice and her colleagues were the latest recruits for Project Outreach. Sort of takes the fun out of space travel if I have to take off my space suit when I get to another planet. I was born in the wrong century; give me twenty first century space travel any day. That was real space travel.

“Miss? You ought to come inside; the atmosphere is still a bit thin, radiation poisoning isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time.” said a voice behind her; one of the scientists.

Alice smiled and turned her back on the scenery and the frigid Martian air, disappearing back inside the warm warren of tunnels that made up the main research complex on Mars. Her office was one among many, though filled with boxes of books, memorabilia and research papers rather than microscopes or complex scientific equipment.

Opening one of the boxes, she found her framed copy of an early 21st century image of sunrise on Mars. This is why I volunteered for the mission. Martian history is intertwined with home, with Earth. I have the opportunity of a lifetime here; instituting the first on-planet database of Martian history and research. Even if we’ve kinda mucked up the whole ‘red planet’ thing.

Propping up the framed picture on her flat-pack, standard issue desk, Alice stood back to admire it once more, before turning to the rest of her boxes. She had a database to compile and catalogue; red planet or not, Mars was getting its first definitive historical installation.

Maybe if she didn’t look outside for a while, she’d forget that the human footprint had followed her over 200 million kilometres. Unlikely; history and anthropology were the wrong fields to specialise in if I wanted to ignore human progress…

Lady of the Lake

The rumours of a beautiful creature guarding an ancient treasure hoard at the bottom of the lake, were as old as the settlement and tourist facilities that had built up around it over the generations. Luke didn’t think much of the rumours, local legend or not.

He was here for the fishing. Well, and a bit of swimming.

Leaving his gear in his small boat, Luke jumped into the dark blue water, plunging below the surface. The water was cool and deep in this part of the lake, and Luke emerged refreshed and gasping. Paddling about a bit, he left the boat behind him, taking in the scenery. When the sun appeared from behind the scattered clouds, Luke turned onto his back and floated, arms and legs spread and eyes shut, soaking in the sunlight.

After maybe ten minutes of floating, Luke grew bored, unable to lie still any longer. Taking a deep breath, he dove beneath the surface, eyes open to take in the blue world around him. Spying fish, rocks and lake greenery, Luke was intrigued when he spotted something bigger moving in the murky distance. He rose to the the surface again, face streaming with lake water and gasping for breath.

Eyeing his boat still bobbing in the lake behind him, and seeing that there was nobody in the area likely to approach his boat before he could, Luke shrugged and swam casually in the direction of that indistinct something in the water. Maybe it’s one of these so called ‘creatures’ they talk about ’round here. Probably Loch Ness’ sister or something, he thought, smirking.

The boat now several more metres behind him, Luke swam a new more strokes before stopping and ducking below the surface again. Feet kicking rapidly behind him, he dove downwards, eyes scanning the gently swaying greenery and glancing over the silver flickers of fish darting away from him. Unable to see anything that looked like what he’d seen earlier, he allowed himself to float upwards. As he made to propel himself to the surface, he caught a glimmer of gold in the corner of his eye.

Breaking the surface with more gasping and spluttering, Luke grinned. Maybe what he’d seen earlier was gone, but there was something down there. Something worth a second look.

Diving once more, he headed straight for the sand and silt of the lake bottom, looking for the glimmer of gold again. Spying it, he swam closer, curious to see what he’d found.

It was beyond anything he could have hoped for. What looked like dozens of gold coins littered the lake floor, unlike anything he’d ever seen and seemingly untouched by its watery tomb. As he reached out to touch the gold, unable to believe his luck, a a flash of skin and the shifting of water around him made him look up.

A naked woman was floated nearby, long blonde hair a halo around her head. She was looking at him, smiling.

Lungs screaming and mind boggling at his luck today, he scooped some of the coins and some sand from the lake floor, before kicking off to rise to the surface.

He didn’t make it far; the woman swam towards him, still smiling. Mind on nothing but air, Luke ignored her, until she snaked her arms and legs around him, naked and clinging like a limpet. Closer now, Luke could see the smile didn’t reach her eyes. He struggled, lungs burning with oxygen deprivation as he tried to indicate to the woman that, flattered as he was, he needed air. Now.

Still clinging to him, floating together in the water, the woman struck, kissing him square on the lips.

Shocked, Luke ripped his mouth away and inhaled, lake water flooding his mouth and nose. Choking and drowning, Luke kicked out and struggled against the iron grip of the seemingly angelic woman, to no avail.

Cold lips found his again, her lips smirked into a cruel smile as she stole the last of his air, and his vision dimmed. Fist loosening around his useless treasure, the last thing Luke saw was the cold smile of the beautiful creature from local legend, the treasure she guarded floating from his palm back to the lake floor where it belonged.