@CharliMills Flash Fiction Prompt: Industry

In response to Charli Mill’s weekly Flash Fiction Prompt: Industry

One year on, an unexpected correspondence landed in my inbox.

FW: Additional Information – Workpac & Centrelink

At first I thought it was spam, but I recognised the sender. My old boss. Or, to be more accurate, my old boss’s boss’s boss. The big boss.

The big boss was sending out links on how to find work.

Despite having left the industry for my own reasons (and pleased to see the back of it) I couldn’t help but feel a foreboding sorrow.

Operations temporarily suspended. 242 jobs lost.

Owned by a blue-chip company, but ended up another Blue Sky Mine.

December 30

This is actually a true story – the mine I used to work at has been one of a number mines in Australia to close. I must have been left on the mailing list by accident to get the email. It’s pretty surprising to see your old boss email you about Centrelink (the government job and income support in Australia). The next day, I saw it on the news: 242 jobs.

I hadn’t kept in touch with anyone I knew from that mine. I wonder what they’re doing, but it would be a bit like rubber-necking to call them now. Some will be okay, and some won’t. Circumstance is a terrible thing. You almost need to plan for bad times, just in case.

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@Charli_Mills Flash Fiction Challenge: Spreading the Light

In response to Charil’s Carrot Range Flash Fiction Challenge: Spreading the Light

Tensions were running high as was expected at this time of year. The first weekend of December must always be murderously hot, and so the whole household must work away in baking heat to cover the property in artistically arranged Christmas lights.

From previous experience we knew we must stock the freezer with zooper doopers. It didn’t matter how old we were, that stuff was more potent than Gatorade. But even though we prepared, by late afternoon we had dissolved into sweaty, frustrated shouting matches.

Until the sun went down and the lights came on.

And everything was okay.

December 16

I was very literal with the prompt this time, wasn’t I? On that note, did we all get to see the Christmas lights in our neighbourhood? It was always a tradition in my family, not to put up Christmas lights, but to drive around on Christmas Eve and see everyone else’s lights!

While googling pictures of Christmas lights for inspiration, I came across this wonderful article from Canberra highlighting the people who decorate their homes for others to visit, raising funds and drawing attention to important charities. The stories in this article are far more important than my frivolous flash fiction, so if you want to give it a read you can find it here.

 

 

#FlashFiction Challenge from @Charli_Mills

In response to the Carrot Ranch’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Symptoms

Symptom: change in voice. Diagnosis: pharyngeal cancer.

He knew it.

The crossing turned green and pain jolted up as he stepped forwards.

Symptom: jarring pain from little toe. Diagnosis: broken toe.

Staring at the answers from dr.net, he gave little notice to the standstill traffic picking up around him. What about that strange itchy bump?

Symptom: lump under left buttock. Diagnosis: fungal infection.

That couldn’t be right.

Head bowed to his phone, he heard the crossing signal and stepped out onto the road. Nothing more could be said about him now, except…

Symptom: Self-absorbed in minor ailments. Diagnosis: Hypochondriac.

MdD

I decided to go back and use some of Charli’s old prompts. Since I haven’t done this prompt before, I figured there was no harm 😉

March 18

To see other entries of this challenge click here.

 

 

Flash Fiction: Toffee Day

I used the Day 2 prompt from http://flashfiction365.tumblr.com/prompts to inspire this story. The main character is strongly influenced by the guy from The Rosie Project

Her bright orange lips clashed against the red toffee apple she was biting into, and I couldn’t help but stare: she was a kaleidoscope of clashing colours. Navy-blue tattoos ran around her neck and under the collar of her pale green cardigan, which did little to hide the black tank top underneath. Her skirt was also green, but the opposite shade, and her leggings matched her lipstick.

“Take a picture, it’ll last longer.” Her harsh words surprised me. I didn’t mean to irritate her, but trying to explain that just angered her further.

“It’s not polite to stare,” she said as if she were talking to a little boy.

“There’s just so much to look at-”

She swung the toffee apple like a mace, so surprisingly violent that there was no time for the thought “I should duck now” to enter my head. Thankfully, she didn’t hit my cheek hard enough to break anything, but it was enough for the fruit to stick and hang off my burgeoning beard.

She walked off.

I wanted to know where I went wrong, but the toffee dragging on my facial hair was nonsensically painful. I had to walk around, holding the toffee apple up to my face, until I found a bathroom. The mirror and water allowed me to get to work, and using a little soap helped, but I would need hot water to get the rest of the toffee off my face.

Well, that was my day done. At least I’d helped out at the toffee apple stall before I was hit in the face with one. I’d done my bit, and now I could go home and… re-analyse how I should interact with people.

Flash Fiction: Shadow Man

I woke immobilised, the weight of sleep still pressing upon my limbs even though my eyes were wide open. I could see him there, crouched, leaning against the wall with his head bowed towards me. I had to scream. I had to move!

I shut my eyes in an effort to redistribute my panic, but when I opened them again he was gone – replaced with a box, my backpack, and an old shirt. I blinked and for a split second the image blurred back towards him, and I breathed a sigh of relief. He was never here.

I relaxed and took stock of myself. The adrenaline overdose ebbed away, leaving me feeling strangely energised when I had just been paralysed. What a terrifying event. Was I so paranoid that the fear had frozen me? I curled my hand into a fist, just to reassure myself I could move my limbs again.

Where had it come from? I had gone so long without an incident, and while this one hadn’t led me to lashing out the fear was familiar. The trigger was more than the shadows under the dim light of dawn. It was the dream.

“It was a dream,” I said aloud, trying to seal my fears away with the words. I could tell the difference now, between a dream and a visit. This last one had been cobbled together – memories skewed with fears. It hadn’t been real.

Not like when I was younger…

Here under the covers, I felt safe enough to think about it. The man of shadows, who came to pull me apart and stitch me back together, so what I loved was what I hated and what I hated was what I loved. I didn’t know if he was a real demon or just something out of the darkness in my own mind, but once I grew up the visits stopped. I had not.

The visits messed me up, but I was almost free. I wouldn’t tell my therapist about this dream, not now, not when I was about to be released…

The day was bright and sunny, a clear sky with a light tinge of blue. It was glorious, as if it were created just for me, so I could fully appreciate my freedom. I was settled. I was at peace. I was deemed safe.

But the tendrils of darkness still crawled at the corners of my mind, and I wondered…

What if he was real?

Flash Fiction: Striving to Relax

Relax. Empty your mind…

What’s an empty mind meant to look like? The darkness of space, or a blinding white light?

Breathe deep. Concentrate on your breathing…

But breathing is the most natural thing you can’t concentrate on it thinking about it doesn’t help it just… crap! I forgot how to breathe! I can’t breathe!

Okay, don’t concentrate on your breathing. Ignore your breathing.

Relaxing is painful!

Alright, imagine a peaceful place… a deep blue lake-

Am I in the lake?

You’re not in the lake – you’re imagining the lake.

So… I’m on the bank of the lake? Is it muddy or sandy? Are my feet meant to be in the water?

You’re further up the bank on a grassy slope, watching the sunlight twinkle across the surface of the water.

Twinkle? Stars twinkle. Sunlight reflects much stronger than that. I wouldn’t be looking at it, it’d burn my eyes.

Forget the lake. Lie back in the grass and look up at the clear blue sky. No, you’re not looking into the sun!

I hate lying on the grass. There’s always prickles or ants.

There are no prickles or ants.

That’s unrealistic. I can’t believe that.

You scrutinised the place you are sitting before you sat down – there are no prickles or ants!

But ants can move…

.

I give up and open my eyes, before turning the ‘soothing sounds’ music off and uncrossing my legs. Wincing a little, I stretch out one leg, sigh with disappointment, and rest my cheek on my other knee. Finally, I rise up and open the door.

“How did the meditation go?”

“Not well. But on the plus side, I was able to brainstorm for a new flash fiction.”

My new adult urban fantasy is currently free when you download it from Smashwords!

Flash Fiction: Delusional Dialogue

“It’s like my skin is covered in little ants.”

“That’s prickly heat. You haven’t drunk enough water and now you’re overheating.”

“What? I’m not a computer.”

“Go have a shower, drink half a litre of water and then eat some sugar. If you haven’t developed a migraine after that, you’re good.”

“How can you live like this? You don’t even have air conditioning!”

“This isn’t that hot. The fact that you’ve managed to experience heat stress is more to do with you than the heat.”

“This isn’t that hot? I’m sweating in places I didn’t know I could sweat! It’s like every part of my body is an armpit.”

“So go have that shower.”

“Ugh. I think there’s a bug running behind my knees but it turns out its sweat tricking down! How can the backs of knees sweat?”

“Naturally.”

“I’m a ham, baking in my own glaze.”

“Are you just going to complain or are you going to do something about it?”

“Actually, I think the heat is making me more creative.”

“That’s not creativity – that’s delusion. Seriously, you need to cool yourself down or else you’re gonna suffer some brain damage.”

“Heat can do that?”

“Heat, and me. Go have freaking shower already.”

Flash Fiction: Dinner Dialogue

“If I can make it, I’m not going to order it.”

“That’s ridiculous. Can’t you just enjoy eating out?”

“If I order Spaghetti Bolognese and I know I can do better, I can’t enjoy it.”

“We are in a five star restaurant! This is absolutely no judgement on your cooking but I think their spag bol will be better.”

“But what if it isn’t? Then it’s just overpriced disappointment.”

They’ve used five different mushrooms and it’s topped with shaved truffle!

“That won’t make it good though; just expensive.”

“Look, I understand where you are coming from, but the whole point of this menu is ‘gormet-izing’ regular food. Just order what you want.”

“Right, and I want the calamari.”

“You hate squid!”

“But if this is meant to be the best of the best, then the meal should make me like squid.”

“You’re setting yourself up for failure.”

“Excuse me mademoiselles, have you perused the menu?”

“Yes, I’ll have the calamari and chips.”

“And I’ve got to order the spag bol so my friend has something to eat.”

“…Excuse me?”

“Oh, the Spaghetti Bolognese.”

“You spent the past five minutes arguing against me when you’re just going to order for me anyway?!… oh, that was quick.”

“How’s the squid?”

“…Okay, I guess.”

“I knew it.”

“Hey! That’s my dinner!”

“No, the spaghetti is. You’re lucky I don’t like it.”

“…Thanks.”

“You’re bloody welcome.”

Mini Story: The Hidden House

Not a single soul in the whole neighbourhood knew who owned the house behind the walls, nor if anyone lived there. It was easily the biggest block on the highest point of the hill, so the land alone would be valuable whether or not the house was. That was the thing – the walls surrounding the property were so high that only a hint of a red roof could be seen, and that was when I was standing on my own roof! I couldn’t tell if the house was brick or wood or wide or long, only that the tallest point of the roof was red.

“If you’re so keen to find out…” Denny grinned, looking up at me through his sunglasses. “I dare you to climb the wall.”

I returned the grin. Denny knew I would never do anything about my curiosity unless I was challenged. Carefully, I slid back down the roof to the ladder and asked Denny to hold it again.

“What do I get?” I asked when I could face him again.

“Nothing.” His grin grew wider. “You’ll never get over that wall. There’s no purchase – you’d need a ladder three times the length of this one.”

I realised he was right. “How about I do one better?” I asked. “I’ll walk through the front gate.”

Denny shook his head. “You can try. No one gets in.”

Even the gate was as high as the wall, though I could see a person-sized door which must have been openable. The wooden palings were so close together that I couldn’t even spy anything through the cracks.

I knocked. Several times. Then I shouted.

Denny, leaning on the wall next to me, shook his head. “You’re not getting in.”

I sighed and rested my head on the wooden gate, trying again to see something, anything. Between the pale white wood, I thought I could see a blur of red. Red bricks? I stared and tried to angle myself to get the best perspective. It didn’t help. I was about to pull away when there was a blur of movement, and the colour changed to the deepest brown. It was so sudden I flinched backwards and lost my place. I tried in vain to find it again, but my accidental peephole was gone.

“What is it?”

“I thought… I thought I saw I saw someone.”

Denny snickered. “Well, if someone was there, they don’t want you in, do they?”

My hands had been resting against the gate. Reluctantly, I pulled away.

“I told ya you’d never get in.”

I didn’t say it, but he was wrong. I just had to build a bigger ladder.

Mini Story: A Desperate Thief

While everyone else was at the hanging, I was at the soon-to-be-dead man’s house.

Of course, I couldn’t be the only one, and sure enough Jonesy and his mates had gotten there before me. They were idiots, making a ruckus like that. Not very bright either, but they were damned fast as the coppers soon found out.

One. Two. Three. There, the forth one’s gone. Captain Brightside used to station only two officers at a ‘recently abandoned’ house, but with the pillaging gangs he’s had to put more men at the doors. Otherwise, when the grieving family (or, more likely, the taxman) came to collect the belongings, there’d be hell to pay.

With the coppers and robbers off playing their games, I figured it was time to see what was left over. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as fast as Jonesy’s boys, but I could be quiet and careful.

Broad daylight always brought its challenges though.

Nothing a little fire couldn’t handle. A spilt oil lamp in a side alley, where plenty of old rubbish was put out of sight and out of mind, was enough to do the trick and frighten what few neighbours were left into action. It created a lot of foul-smelling smoke, but it did the trick.

“FIRE!!! GET YE BUCKETS!”

Waiting up the road for the shout, I bolted towards the fire like the rest of them. Some had morbid curiosity, others genuinely wanted to help, but all were distracted enough for me to slip unnoticed down the yard of simple house.

The backdoor was already broken, courtesy of Jonesy, and I did a quick once-over of the kitchen. Some iron implements were left, but I would only grab those if I had nothing else to carry. I decided to ignore the living room for now and try the bedrooms upstairs.

Only one was locked, so that was the one I focused my energies on. Not wanting to make any noise, I brought out my picks and got to work. Being a bedroom lock, it wasn’t difficult by any stretch of the imagination, so I forced a little more than I usually would have in an effort to break the lock. Nothing obvious, mind, just quicker.

That’s when I found the dead woman inside.

Her mouth frothed with the residue of poison, her eyes bulged and staring. Dead. Easily.

I still gave her a prod, just in case. Whoa, she had gone all stiff, alright.

If I weren’t a desperate thief, I might have wondered who she was. Wife? Mother? Sister? Daughter? Did she kill herself or was she poisoned?

If I weren’t a desperate thief, I might have wondered what she was doing in a condemned man’s house, whose family was meant to be living a very long way away.

If I cared about the man who was about to be hanged, I might have thought this could be some sort of evidence pertaining to his case. I could have stopped a man from dying.

Instead, I was far more concerned with my own life. So I pulled the two rings off the woman’s fingers, unlaced the pearls from her neck, and stole what little money she had on her. Then I went through the desk, bookcase, and bed.

It was only then I smelt the smoke, much too close for comfort. I glanced backwards to see the faint trail of new flames coming up from the stairwell.

I had been quiet. I knew I had. No one knew I was in here.

So the fire must be for her.

Working quickly, I cased the upper floor. I had started plenty of fires in my time, and knew how much time I had left based on the smell and sight of it. Right up until the coal in the downstairs boiler exploded.

Looks like I’d be going out the window.

I found myself back in the room with the woman. She’d be incinerated by the blaze, no question, and I found myself wondering…

I threw her out the window to the street below, and didn’t look back as I heard the screams begin.

I went out a side window, just barely catching the sill on the neighbour’s. Their window was shut, but I was now close enough to the ground to drop without hurting myself. The blaze at my back worried me, but I couldn’t very well go back out to the street and be seen running away from house fire.

Or a murder.

I took my chances with the neighbour’s back fence, and casually strolled out to the next alley. It had been a good haul, all in all.

Hm.

I wasn’t stupid enough to go back around and into the hands of the coppers. Even if I was curious…

I was a desperate thief, and desperate thieves made sure they got paid first.