Category Archives: flash fiction

Sweet Murder

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A familiar odour disturbs my peace, awakening my spirit. It floats by, ethereal and evasive; the offensive smell of burnt caramel. My raddled nose seeks it a moment before my bones recoil. This fragrance is not designed to be a comforting reminder of mother, as she stirred creamy desserts, measuring vanilla to drip into the mix, grating nutmeg for my delight. Such fripperies ceased long before my fall. I recognise the intent; this cheeky warning of coming chill is repeated annually

The witching hour is nigh. As Big Ben chimes, the wind attacks, insinuating between gaps in my rotting coffin, blowing away the clods of clay that weigh me down, evicting the insects that dig in vain for vanished flesh, lifting grey threads – the only remaining shreds of my skirt – its cold fingers creeping like a pervert seeking entry.

Neighbouring ghosts begin to whisper. Innocent ghouls float free, while convicts clank their chains. Witches intone spells. Captured frogs screech. I hear the eerie breath of demons as they tread between the shifting graves, mocking my predicament.

The wind builds a bony fist which grabs my feet, dragging me, forcing me back into grim history, back to the workhouse kitchen, where ragged shifts and worn clogs torn from the poor lie defeated beside a giant vat of syrup. Once again I see the faces of the helpless, eyes terrified, lips distorted by agonised screams as their naked skin sizzles. The screams quickly die, leaving only the bubbling stink of boiling flesh, combined with burnt sugar. Once again, I feel my bile rise. I see the ruined remains of women and children floating in darkening liquid as blackened flakes rise from the bottom of the pot, and I weep for the loss, the waste, inconsolable as if I had never before been witness to the scene.

My sweets were famous, eagerly devoured in the best houses in Christendom. I used the finest chocolate, the rarest spices, the freshest fruits. Lords and Ladies sought my carefully boiled and moulded treats, willing to pay any price for the rich flavour and texture that only I could create. Jealous competitors constantly spied on me; some hoping to steal my secret, others planning to contaminate the mix, thereby ruining my reputation. Perhaps I was too sure of myself, but my pride turned to shame the one time I erred. I left the kitchen only briefly,  to oversee the storing of  a consignment of walnuts, delivered to the back door. Since there were thieves and desperados all around me, I trusted nobody. All of my ingredients had to be instantly locked away, and the key secreted on my person. When I returned from my task  it was too late. I confess, the blame was mine alone.

Time has consumed two centuries. Have I not suffered enough for my mistake?

It seems I must spend eternity atoning for the simple error of burning one batch.

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Written for Word of the Day Challenge: Atone

With added inspiration from Waltbox: 

©Jane Paterson Basil

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The Last Laugh

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I got a soggy dog-lick-kiss, breakfast on a tray
with the dreaded birthday sentence: Fifty years today.
Gifts enshrined in angry bills, ring box on a tin can,
and on the bed beside me, my oh, so funny man.

I wouldn’t touch my breakfast; the tea was weak and cold,
the bread was stale, the marmalade thickly furred with mould.
I unwrapped all the presents; fake poo and inked perfume,
I threw aside a birthday card, then marched out of the room.

He chased me to the kitchen; he knelt on knobbly knees
to offer me the ring box, said: Please don’t be a tease.
He looked so hurt and serious I thought he was sincere.
I’m glad I chose to take it, or he would still be here.

I carefully prised it open, expecting glittery bling,
but in that stupid jewellery box there was no diamond ring;
no long-denied proposal, no promise from my champ –
curled amidst the velvet was a grubby postage stamp.

I glared at him in fury, but he waved my rage away,
and laughing shrilly, said to me: It’s for a holiday.
Climb into this box, I’ll add the stamp and the address
of any destination, North, South, East or West.

It might be midlife crisis, but I’m weary of his humour;
I wished a heart attack on him, or a most aggressive tumour,
so feeling thus disgruntled, I shot him through the head.
He’s curled up in an outsize box, not joking now he’s dead.

I’m posting him to Timbuctoo, with no return address,
So I will never get him back, and I’ll suffer no redress.
It’s funny what you think of, when you scrub a bloody floor,
kitchen units and two windows, one kitten and a door:

We met on Friday the thirteenth, an unlucky day for me,
but the thirteenth has returned; how unlucky now is he!
I don’t regret the past, and there’s something I will miss;
I’d like to give him one last breath and see him laugh at this.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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Written for Three Things Challenge: thirteen, midlife crisis, past

©Jane Paterson Basil

Olga Hopkins

A few days ago I casually challenged my fellow bloggers to have a go at an idea I came up with (which had probably already been invented, but I hadn’t heard of it). The challenge was to write a post using the first line of each of a batch of novels. I call it First Liners, or First Line Flash. Kate, at aroused, didn’t have any novels to hand, so – being a calm person – she calmly pulled together an excellent piece from the books around her – children’s books and self help books! You wouldn’t think it would work, but she did an amazing You won’t notice the seams unless you look for them..

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Olga the brolga was in a terrible mood. I’ve just woken up and it’s time to get dressed – my skirt or my jeans? Due diligence is basically a fancy word for doing research.

“Well” said daddy Hopkins, looking out at the fine spring morning, “it’s time to plant our gardens.”

It’s possible for a person to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function productively with a clear head and a positive sense of relaxed control. Most people consider life a battle, but it is not a battle, it is a game.

The time has come. I have little use for the past and rarely think about it, I would briefly like to tell you how I came to be a spiritual teacher and how this book came into being.

As it’s a day for accepting weird challenges Jane wrote a post from the first line…

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First Line Flash

This morning, I started reading Paper Towns, by John Green. The opening sentence is “The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle.” It occurred to me that it might be fun to make up poetry from the first sentences of novels, so I copied a few out. My choices were limited, since I pass on most novels after I’ve read them, but I have a few kicking around which belonged to someone who died. As I was arranging my opening lines, it struck me that they could be further used to make up a new plot for a novel, should I be so inclined… which I’m not. After completing my “poem” it didn’t seem very poetic, so I’m posting it as flash fiction.

William

June the first, a bright summer evening, a Monday. I am in a car park in Leeds when I finally tell my husband I don’t want to be married to him any more. The first time Richard hit me, I could see stars in front of my eyes like they do in cartoons.

I woke up in a dinghy claw-foot tub in an unfamiliar bathroom. The door was the first thing. The door was open.

“Hide!” He was shrieking, frantic, his face drained of all colour.

You could very easily meet William. The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle.


Do you fancy having a go at First Line Flash? It’s a fun way to write when you’re all out of inspiration.

Credits:

Miriam Keyes – The Brightest Star in the Sky
Nick Hornby – How to be Good
Elizabeth Flock – Me and Emma
Sara Shepard – The Lying Game
Nicki French – The Safe House
Ian Rankin – Hide and Seek
Geoff Ryman – The King’s Last Song
John Green – Paper Towns.

Apologies to Ian Rankin for the misquote – I had to drop a word from his line.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Sarcasm

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“Only Truth matters. I know the truth; there is no God,”
he proclaimed.

I placed my hands together as if in prayer or worship. With rounded eyes I exclaimed:

“In human form, you appear as insignificant as a speck of dust in this massive, shape-shifting galaxy, which, in itself, is comparable to another – albeit larger – speck of dust floating amid the infinite galaxies beyond, and yet your mind apparently contains great knowledge. Surely you are the highest God, and yet you deny your deity. I bow down to your sacred wisdom and supremacy, but above all, I bow to your remarkable humility.”

I could read his mind:

“But… but…” it said.

Ha! So much for his honours degree in philosophy.

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©Jane Paterson Basil

Dropped Stitches

“It’s like knitting a scarf,” the woman said, plopping herself down with another G&T.

She appeared to be talking to me, so I glanced her way.

“Life, I mean. It’s like knitting a scarf. You choose the colours, and make it as long or short as you want. You can make an intricate pattern, or keep it simple. It can be dull or exciting.” As she looked up, I noticed a tidemark on her neck.

“I suppose so,” I said uncertainly, taking in her unkempt appearance.

“D’you want to see mine?” she asked, opening a large carrier bag and pulling out something woolly. She proudly held it up. The lower end of it trailed on the floor, soaking up a pool of questionable liquid.

The scarf’s erratic hues screamed painfully at each other. Shamelessly dropped stitches and ladders gaped.

The Daily Post’s word prompt for today is Knit. Yesterday I wrote a poem about knitting, so today I had to come up with something different…

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Lift

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“Doors opening.”

The recorded voice rang out clearly.

“Doors opening.”

Benny upended the bottle. A few seconds passed before he felt a small drop of moisture land on his arid tongue. It wasn’t enough to moisten his cracking lips.

Just before close of business on Friday afternoon, Benny had been asked to take a fresh bottle to the dispenser in the management suite. Several members of staff were already putting on their coats to leave as he stepped into the lift, which rose smoothly to the top floor and stopped. He heard the automatic message:

“Doors opening.”

But the doors didn’t open.

He had sounded the alarm, banged on the metal walls, shouted until he was hoarse, but to no avail. He’d hoped to alert the weekend cleaners to his plight, but if they had turned up at all, he hadn’t heard them, and they hadn’t heard him.

He knew the length of his shoes, so he had calculated the length and  width of the square of floor.  He even knew the meterage from one corner to the opposite corner, but he didn’t know how long he had been trapped. His only timepiece was a phone which currently lay on top of a cardboard box in the ground-floor storeroom. It felt as if he’d been in that stuffy box for weeks, but that wasn’t possible.

“Doors opening.”

He willed the empty bottle to produce another drop, wishing that he had a knife to cut into the plastic, so he could open it up and lick the last of the moisture from the inside.

He sank to the floor, no longer particular about the stale waste from his body soaking into his trousers, despite the shame he would feel when his unsuspecting rescuers arrived for work on Monday morning.

“Doors opening.” The recording seemed to have developed a mocking tone.

A bluebottle crawled through the space under the lift door, took flight, and landed on Benny’s face as he slept. Another followed.

Throughout the offices and on the streets, greedy teeth ripped into the fetid flesh of shoppers, housewives and workers who lay where they had fallen, eight days ago.

With so much to feast on, it was unlikely that hunger would send the rats in search of Benny’s entrails.

©Jane Paterson Basil