books, nature, short fiction, women

Elena, In The Woods

When Mrs Parris walked into my office with her nose upturned, I allowed her a measure of disdain to hide behind. The local police and FBI had failed to find her daughter, so here she was with an envelope of unmarked bills.

She decided to stand, rather than sit down. The money leavened the insults for me.

Elena had been twenty-one years old, graceful in every way with a halo of blonde hair and alabaster skin. Her intensity had been apparent from every photo circulated about her, reflected in her politics, which was how she had ended up in Portland. A perfect rebellion against her patrician, old money family with a good helping of political disgrace dumped on top.

Six months gone. I had friends who had worked the case, dedicated and professional people who all shared a collective disbelief that she had disappeared so thoroughly.

No ransom notes.

No social media clues or posts.

No body.

Before Mrs Parris arrived, I had gone through the case and came much to the same conclusion. What would not hurt was my willingness to go over old ground.

The last possible sighting of her had been with a fledgling ecological pressure group that had been interrogated into dissolution. A single photo of her sat by a fire, singing and smiling, integrated into the group but apart from it. Some of the cash in the envelope had already been spent on camping gear and a local guide which was where I would be spending my weekend.

Deke met me at the last decent diner, and we went over the route over Greek omelettes and gallons of thick, black coffee. He accepted his cash fee with grace and tucked it away without comment.

He finished his coffee and sucked on his moustache.

‘Lot of ground to cover.’ he said.

I nodded and hid my concern that his version of what a lot of ground meant differed radically from mine.

I flexed my toes inside my gore-tex socks and hiking boots, uncomfortable with the urge to see if I could find anything to justify my fee. I finished my food, conscious that we would be subsisting on trail mix and jerky before too long.

‘So, we’re just going to wander around looking?’ Deke said.

I sat back and raised my hands in a despairing gesture.

‘That’s what I’m paying you for, Deke, charming as you are.’

Deke clapped his leathery palms together.

‘It’s your dime, ma’am.’ he said.

It was and I was keen to get started.

2.

I left my car at the diner, took Deke’s truck to the edge of the woods and started from there. We each had framed backpacks and Deke had brought a hunting rifle which was slung from his right shoulder. I had my 9mm pistol in a holster on my right hip with two clips of ammunition. It might have been a lot of precaution to take, but if you’d ever been shot, then you would learn the appeal of a good sidearm if it came down to it.

We started strong, making good time but soon we were trudging through the dense undergrowth, slapping at insects a little too late. We had run out of conversation, which suited us both, preferring to take in the absolute silence of the forest as our guide.

Nature is a mirror, a vast reflection of the inner self. For Deke, it must have been like a shortcut home, but for me, each sound held an unnerving quality, distorted by the silence and the scale of the place. People wandered out here and were absorbed into it.

I wondered if the same had happened to Elena.

Each breath I took was damp, bearing the green taste of the pine needles and the moss. My clothing teemed with moisture, but I stayed dry beneath them which was a relief.

Deke found the spot where the photograph was taken, kneeling down and rubbing the blackened soil between his fingers before nodding. We found two other similar sites, but kept moving through the woods.

His taciturn lack of conversation continued as we made camp. There was only the sounds of our eating and the crackle of the fire he had built. My ears were becoming attuned to the silence of the forest but even so, sleep was a long time in coming.

We were moving before dawn. My body ached for a soft bed, but Deke’s manner made me stash my complaints away for someone who would empathise.

He stopped and pointed out some unusual arrangements of twigs, lashed together with twine and dumped through the woods.

‘People say that squatches leave them.’

I smiled and asked him if he believed that. He smirked and shrugged his shoulders.

‘If they pay me enough, I’ll believe anything they want.’

The second day proved to be as fruitless as the first, but as we made camp, Deke was a little more talkative, which meant one syllable responses rather than silence and we had been sat there for an hour when a breeze arose and stoked the small fire into a state of rude health. Deke furrowed his forehead and I crossed my legs at the ankles, pretending that this was a normal state of affairs for me.

A second breeze followed and we both looked at one another as we heard the crack of a branch being broken underfoot. Deke got up and retrieved his rifle, checked the bolt and started to walk to the edge of our camp. He stopped and lifted his nose, took a deep breath and sighed.

‘Smells kinda odd.’ he said.

He walked into the trees. I tried to follow him but the shadows swallowed him up no more than a few feet ahead of me. I called his name, but he did not answer.

A fresh breeze arose and I tasted pollen and sap on my tongue. A crude surge of energy bubbled up within me and I spat on the ground as I looked around, willing Deke to appear before me.

Something moved in my peripheral vision and came towards me.

Not from the forest, but of it.

It loomed over me, some eight feet tall, a distorted funhouse mirror version of a human being.

Elena.

She had flowering vines falling around her distended skull. Her skin was formed from petals of peach and pink, translucent in places with the shadows of a skeleton formed from wood underneath it. Her limbs were elongated, ending in bundles of horned roots that uncurled in twitching, rapid motions.

In her empty sockets, cornflowers bloomed and when she opened her cavernous maw, I saw chips of bark inserted into gums of packed dirt.

I stood there, taking in each terrible detail that was not filtered by the shadows. There were shadows of unknown anatomies formed from earth and plant matter, pulsing beneath a skeleton made from hard wood. She moved in jagged bursts of activity, whipping her upper body back and forth as she tried to force words through vocal chords composed of vines.

‘Help me. Hurts.’

‘Elena?’ I said.

She managed a nod and gestured behind her. Deke stood there, weeping in awe with the rifle loose in his hands. He did not acknowledge me but followed the pair of us without speaking. She strode like a colossus, pushing aside branches with an inhuman strength. We walked for a while until we came to a dense crop of undergrowth and she tore it aside with a horned hand.

Her corpse, identifiable only by the matted length of white blonde hair, teeming with insects now laid there, sightless eyes staring up at me and accusing everyone for their failure to find her. I saw her expression, knotted in a perpetual mask of agony.

‘Do you know who did this to you?’ I said.

She raised and lowered her chin as petals fell from her cheeks, showing the sculptured sweep of a cheekbone formed from a knot of oak. She reached out a hand and breathed into my face. I sneezed twice before a vision began to form before me.

His handsome but insistent features. His refusal to accept her polite refusal and then growing violent with it. I knew his hands at my throat, crushing and squeezing as my breath left me. His black hair flopped in front of his eyes as he worked at me.

His face was familiar. One of the group who had been eliminated early.

‘Johnny.’ I said.

She nodded and a wrenching screech echoed as she stood upright and touched my face. It drew blood, but I did not feel it until the coppery heat trickled down my face.

She gazed into my eyes before she strode away. Deke fell to his knees, weeping with sorrow and adoration. He kept saying how beautiful she was, and I agreed with him. Perhaps she exuded something that worked with men, but I appreciated what an effect such a thing could have on someone.

Without speaking, we packed up and walked back to his truck. We were both utterly disturbed by what we had seen and we slept in the front seat before we drove back to civilisation. Deke called the tip in from a pay phone and I wrote a report that said nothing of what had happened other than that we had been able to find a body.

I stood amongst the mourners a month later, appreciating the sweet, spring afternoon and staring at the branches as they played in the breeze. Her family grieved with enough force to bring tears to my eyes and I fought the urge to tell them what I had seen.

The scent of her rose in my nostrils, a warning to keep my own counsel and I heeded it.

Another reason for my silence had been when they found Johnny Raymond’s body. He had been torn into sections, his intestines snaking down the stairs and his head rolled down the hallway in a puddle of his own blood.

The presence of thorns and petals confused the investigating officers, but they figured on an open window.

I took the bonus, paid Deke extra from it and kept my silence. I thought about her, wandering there, amongst nature and free to roam the thousands of miles that remained untouched by man.

I wished her well wherever she was.

Whatever she was.

 

 

My book Until She Sings is out now.

Ebook:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07XJRDND8If

Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1692105566/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_4akEDb3FTWNKR

My Mailing List for announcements and news with a free short story as a thank you.

https://tinyletter.com/mbblissett

Standard
animals, love, nature, short fiction, women

Before The Sun Departs

polar-bear-bear-teddy-sleep-65320.jpeg

‘Now it’s a race to breed before the sun departs.’

David Attenborough, Frozen Planet

 

1.

The roar of the wind drowned out everything but Drifting Snow felt Gift’s paws crunch against the snow, and when she turned, he was there, leading her to where they would mate again. The sun was setting, but there was time for them to couple.

In the last battle, Blue Eye had injured him, pushed him to exhaustion before he had snapped at his throat, driven him back and Blue Eye raised his hands and smirked, shaking his head.

 

‘Falling Ice is coming.’ he said.

 

Gift smiled and shook his head as he put his paws up.

 

‘Go, or I’ll kill you. She’s mine.’ he said.

 

Blue Eye had limped and clutched his throat, spat red onto the snow as he trudged away. Gift sighed and returned to Drifting Snow who sat on the snow, her muzzle lowered to the ground.

 

‘He hurt you’ she said.

 

Gift growled and corrected his posture, compensating for the stabbing pain in his left arm where Blue Eye had bitten him. The wounds would heal, but the news had injured him. Falling Ice and GIft had played together as cubs until their mothers had moved away from one another. Gift did not know him as a boar but he had heard things.

 

Snow stared into her eyes and Gift inhaled the thickening change of her scent, a spiced, warm arousal as she turned around and lowered her upper body to the snow.

 

This time would take, he reassured himself as he mounted her.

 

Drifting Snow walked ahead, fast enough to test Gifts endurance, and surprised by how he looked at her with amused patience, her, saving his frustration for the challenges to his possession. She would turn and look at him, his eyes hard with intent as they moved up into the hills.

 

‘Falling Ice is coming?.’ she said.

 

Gift grunted.

 

‘If he does, he does.’

 

Snow laughed and wriggled her rump at him. Gift lumbered forward and butted her rump with his head which pushed her to one side. She laughed and he gave a tired chuckle.

 

Her laughter smoothed out into a sigh when he laid his paws on her back and lowered her to the snow again. Gift leaned forward and sunk his teeth into her fur, light but firm and she shuddered with pleasure as she surrendered to him again.

 

It was brutal, but they both shuddered together and Drifting Snow raked her paws against the stone and roared her pleasure.

 

A roar travelled to them, malevolent and loud as they got up and looked around. The crisp crash of momentum was close and Gift looked up.

 

Falling Ice. He was charging towards them, quick despite his bulk. Ropes of saliva swung from his maw. He had fathered often and killed more in pursuit, passing on his size and aggression as he lived, fought and fucked on the ice and in the hills.

 

Gift did not charge at Falling Ice. He crouched and stared with a calm acceptance at the charging avalanche of lust, bone and fur.

 

‘Run.’ Gift said.

 

Drifting Snow caught the tight caution in his voice and obeyed him as she ran away. Falling Ice killed mates after he fucked them. The last time had taken, and she was carrying his cubs now.

 

Snow heard the frightening roar of Falling Ice as Gift met him in a collision. She watched as Gift helped him past and Falling Ice tripped over his forepaws, smashing his face into the ground.

 

Gift circled him as he got up and bunched his shoulders. Falling Ice was large, thick with muscle and his fur was a matted patchwork of scars from other conflicts. Drifting Snow looked into his eyes and revolted at the broken, damaged light in them.

 

Falling Ice charged again. Gift dodged the charge and let Falling Ice tumble down the slope in a flurry of snow. He did not charge after him but waited for him to stop then come back to him, a cloud of breath vapour exhaled before him.

 

He watched Falling Ice get up and shake the snow off his fur as he turned, roaring with anger as Gift reared back and waited for him to come.

 

Falling Ice powered up the hill, sending up flurries of snow as he came at Gift without a care for anything beyond death or murder. Gift waited until the last moment and leapt aside, dug his short claws and closed his eyes as he prepared to kill his friend.

 

Falling Ice was large enough to make running up the hill a test of his stamina and he drooled as Gift leapt away from him.

 

‘No more games, boar.’ Falling Ice said.

 

Gift waited for him, saw the exhausted clumsiness and the ropes of saliva which hung from his mouth as he ran at him. Gift held his position, saddened his friend couldn’t see what was happening to him until he swung his paws across and dug his claws into the meat of his neck and snapped his jaws forwards.

 

He bit into Falling Ice’s nose and pulled back, bringing a ragged clot of skin and gristle which he spat as hot blood gouted down his throat and chest, and he stabbed his claws deep until he was past the skin, tugging and pulling as his friend fell atop him. Falling Ice pulled away as he tottered on his rear legs, his face a bloodied ruin as blood spouted from the ragged wounds in his neck. Gift loped towards his friend as he died, and he watched him take his last breath, his blood staining the snow red beneath him.

 

Drifting Snow watched him return to her, with his red maw and determined eyes as she turned and presented herself to him.

 

‘I think the last time took, but this time, it is for you.’ she said.

 

He took her with a loving anger, using her and being used, in turn.

 

He kept her warm through the night, resting his weight upon her, stroking her fur with his paws and told her about Falling Ice as a cub. Dawn broke and Gift left, satisfied he had fulfilled his purpose.

 

Drifting Snow, nestled in her maternity den, dug from the permafrost, remembered the last time with him and how he rested his weight upon her, stroked her fur with his paws and told her about Falling Ice as a cub. His cubs would be strong, and she hoped, as she shifted on her side, smart like him too.

 

She ached for him as she slept, nursing the life inside her.

 

Standard
nature, short fiction, women

A hope for peace

peace_by_marsiams-d7fyw4p.jpg

 

 

https://marsiams.deviantart.com/art/Peace-450085417

The previous episode is here.

 

 

John made another pot of coffee and offered Kelly co-codamol. she looked at the small bottle with care, saw it was a few years old, the ink where his name was printed had faded to grey.

 

‘ They don’t mix well with my chemistry.’ he said.

 

She ran her tongue over her lips before she picked them up. He frowned and shook his head.

 

‘Take them or not. It’s not something I need, but you might. You’re pretty banged up from the crash.’ he said.

 

She looked at the empty plate, caught the smell of brewing coffee and how good it had been to sleep without fear for a night.

 

‘Thank you.; she said.

 

He leaned back against the counter.

 

‘I am going to have to go out and clean up. There’s the matter of the plane as well. I could smell two, maybe three more bodies. It was difficult to tell with the fuel and the fire.’ he said.

 

Kelly took another sip of coffee and smiled at him.

 

‘Can I have one of those?’ she said.

 

He reached into the breast pocket of his shirt, took out a pouch of rolling tobacco and rolled a smoke. Kelly had not smoked in years but right now, watching his fingers put together an even cylinder of paper and tobacco, she wanted to feel the burn of it in her lungs again.

 

‘We stole something. For a lot of money. We were flying back to hand it over then get out of the country.’ I said.

 

John handed the cigarette over. She raised her eyebrows.

 

‘I thought it was something.’ he said.

 

‘How did you do that?’ she said.

 

His eyes narrowed.

 

‘I pay attention. What you did doesn’t interest me so long as it doesn’t bring anyone to my door. I value my privacy.’ he said

 

She leaned forward and he produced a chrome petrol lighter and held the flame to the end of the cigarette. She put both her hands over his, and looked into his eyes as she inhaled. It was a smooth smoke, hot but not tickling as she sat back and exhaled. The nicotine made her head swim but she focused and nodded. She liked touching his hands. It worried her a little.

 

‘No, it was a private jet. But there were people waiting, I mean, people are waiting for what we took.’

 

He rolled himself a second cigarette with the same care as the first and lit it. He took a deep drag and exhaled through his nostrils as looked at me with a quiet concern.

 

‘I’m going to need to deal with those bodies. This is my land, but if someone were to come looking for what you took, I need to know about it.’ he said.

 

Kelly nodded, took a drag on the cigarette and wondered what she was going to use for an ashtray.

 

‘I’ll come with you. I should help, I mean I want to help bury them, at least.’ she said.

 

John took a glass ashtray from a cupboard and set it on the table between them before sitting down.

 

‘The ground’s frozen solid, but we’ll move and cover them. Kelly, do you want to get the suitcase?’ he said.

 

Kelly jolted at the accusation, shaking her head.

 

‘It’s eighteen million dollars. They’re missile guidance chips. I don’t know who the buyer is, but they were going to meet us tomorrow. All I have is a phone number if anything went wrong.’ she said.

 

He sat back and gave a melancholic, gentle smile.

 

‘I guess this counts.’ he said.

 

Kelly looked down, thinking about Tony, how his family would deal with it. They had been good to her and it hurt to think of them not knowing what had happened.

 

‘Yeah. It does.’ she said.

 

Kelly dragged on the cigarette and looked up at him.

 

‘Do you want to expand on that?’ he said.

 

She stared into his eyes and leaned forwards.

 

‘I don’t know. I’m alive right now, and they’re not. I’m still processing you killed two of them, and that you turn into a big fucking wolf, so yes I guess it count. Better?’ she said.

 

He grinned and nodded.

 

‘Can you control it?’ she said.

 

He looked at her, his jaw tightening as he got up to pour the coffee.

 

‘Yes, I can. I’ve got a process. Sometimes I change because it feels good to do it. I don’t hunt people as a rule, but I defend myself as an instinct.’ he said.

 

Kelly shivered and wrapped her arms around herself, rubbing the chill from her arms as she leaned forward.

 

‘ I would have shot you if you’d come close.’ she said.

 

He nodded.

 

‘I didn’t smell it on you, like I did with the others.’ he said.

 

Kelly dated a nerd once, was trying to get his podcast off the ground, but ran drugs for one of Tony’s buddies and he would expound on these weird little detours in pop culture. He told her once about something called the uncanny valley. A hypothetical relationship between resemblance and response when you looked at something. The greater the distance, the more disturbing the response. She was not disturbed by the casual way he demonstrated the difference in him and that disturbed her. Her intuition was like a traffic light, showing green and she decided there and then, to trust him.

 

‘I think we were walking into an ambush. I’ve said about going home, but I think we’d have been shot the moment we handed the case over.’ she said.

 

She wiped away tears and the sobs made her chest hurt. She put the cigarette in the ashtray and reached for the bottle of pills. She struggled with the lid and heard the scrape of his chair before he got up and took the bottle from her and turned the lid with an easy twist before he put it back down and put a hand on her shoulder.

 

‘Kelly. You’re safe here. I won’t hurt you.’ he said.

 

She looked up at him, blinking away tears as she stared into his eyes.

 

He brought his hands up and she smelled the coffee and cigarettes on them. He brushed the balls of his thumbs against her cheekbones, his face still as he wiped them away.

 

‘Thank you.’ she said.

 

He looked at her with an intensity which pinned her to the chair. She realised she had been holding her breath since he touched her.

 

‘My pleasure.’ he said. ‘We all have our baggage, Kelly, I should know more than anyone.’

 

She bowed her head and sobbed as he knelt in front of her and pulled her into his embrace so she could rest her cheek against his shoulder. He was warm through the shirt, and broad enough so she felt small in his arms. His skin smelled of sandalwood and warm leather and she gave in to the fear and the relief of being alive.

 

John held her until the crying smoothed out until she was laid against his shoulder, looking out at nothing.

 

‘I’ll help you clean this up. After that, I don’t know what to do.’ she said.

 

John turned his mouth to her ear.

 

‘How do you know they’d try and kill you? If the chips are worth that much, paying you off seems easier than the alternative.’ she said.

 

‘Because if I were planning a job on this scale, that’s what I would do.’ she said.

 

John said nothing.

 

‘Does that make me a monster, John?’ she said.

 

She felt his mouth curve into a smile.

 

‘No, us monsters know our own.’ he said. ‘You know these kinds of people, I don’t.’

 

Kelly pulled back and wiped her face as she saw where her tears had left a rorschach blot on his shoulder.

 

‘I’ve made a mess of your shirt, John, i’m sorry.’ she said.

 

He looked at it then raised an eyebrow as he stood up.

 

‘You can help me move them. We’ll decide what to do with the chips, if anyone is throwing that much money around, they’ll want to know what happened.’ he said.

 

They agreed they would go out the next day. He didn’t have anything close to her size, but they would pad it out so she was warm out there.

 

They sat and smoked in a companionable silence before Kelly excused herself to go to sleep. She chased the co-codamol down with the last good sip of coffee and he offered to help, which she agreed to as her chest sung with discomfort.

 

He escorted her with care and helped to the bed as he sat her down and stepped back.

 

John wished her a goodnight, stood in the doorway before he closed the door. She heard him turn down the couch as she laid there in the darkness, her mind awash with feeling.

 

She wished for peace, but all the evidence so far was she might make a better investment of her time preparing for war. Kelly wanted to talk to John again, but knowing he was on the other side of the wall helped a little.

 

Kelly fell asleep, feeling something close to peace.

 

2.

 

Jasper sat on the balcony, sipping an espresso when his phone rang with a notification. He communicated with his peers through an app which transmitted images and text via messages which were deleted after being viewed.

 

NO SIGN OF THE PLANE.

 

Jasper replied with a message to call him. He stood up and went inside, adjusted himself through his pyjama bottoms as he looked for a cigarette.

 

He answered on the first ring.

 

‘Don’t say anything. Get the flight plan, follow it back along and find it. We’ve got the dosh to throw at it, but keep it tight. We’ve got drones, remember, but if you do, let me talk to Skenny, he’s a touch delicate.’ he said.

 

He put the phone down and found his cigarettes.His hands shook as he lit one and he looked at the woman on the bed, her hair stuck up in tufts with lipstick smeared across her face.

 

‘You need to go, love. Got a work situation to deal with.’ he said.

 

He had arranged her through an agency but he gave her three hundred dollars as a tip to hasten her departure. She e had the long term survivor’s sense of what constituted a predator and left out without speaking.

 

Jasper smirked to himself that he actually might have a plane to catch.

 

He had two teams of guys waiting to scoop them up when they landed, grab the chips and dispose of the crew. Paying them off would have been easier but his employer had insisted on it. Jasper had a reputation which allowed him to ask if he could expect the same treatment.

 

His employer had told him to make it happen and ended the call.

 

Time to go to work, he thought as he walked to the shower, already worrying about how to make it happen.

 

Standard
love, nature, short fiction, women

Down By The Pier

down_by_the_pier_by_shikoro

https://shikoro.deviantart.com/art/Down-by-the-Pier-106775394

 

Jenny was wiping down the counter when she watched Shirley hobble to the end of the pier, a carrier bag of stale bread swinging from her left hand as she looked out at the sunset.

 

The burger bar was hot, uncomfortable work and she went home each day with a fresh burn and the perpetual fog of grease and onions clinging to her skin, no matter how often she showered. A few of her friends at university didn’t have to work, but Jenny’s parents struggled and so she spent long wearying hours on Britannia Pier, serving burgers and hot dogs with shining pyramids of onions, watching people drench them in mustard and ketchup.

 

Shirley came every day to feed the seagulls, having them flock to her. There would be one, in particular, she had trained to feed by hand. It amused Jenny enough to ask Dave, the owner when he came in to cash up. Dave snorted and shook his head.

 

‘Ah, Shirley. She’s a nutter, but she’s harmless enough.’ he said. He didn’t look up from the cash count as he spoke.

 

‘Maybe she could get together with the Puppet Man.’ Jenny said.

 

Dave kept on counting.

 

Jenny was disappointed, hoping for a good story out of it.

 

She was starved of entertainment in Yarmouth. Old friends had passed their sell by date, and it took torrents of false effort, nuggets of nostalgia sealed away in the amber of the everyday. She had tried, but friends were so draining, as much because she put too much stock in it, only to be disappointed when they’d all been bitten by change.

 

So, her interest honed onto Shirley, a yellowing woman in her late seventies, with a walking stick and a nest of tight, steel coloured hair who fed a seagull every day at sunset.

 

Jenny came with an offering, a clear bag of stale hotdog and burger buns. She stood as Shirley peered at her over the rims of her spectacles.

 

‘Thought you might like these.’ she said.

 

Shirley grunted and snatched them from her grip, faster than Jenny thought possible. Shirley cackled and pointed her stick at her.

 

‘Think I’m slow because I’m old, don’t you?’ she said

 

Jenny blushed and shook her head, tripping over her words as her head blazed with embarrassment.

 

‘No, just I see you feeding the gulls every day and I was only going to throw these away.’

 

Shirley shook the bag.

 

‘I don’t feed all the gulls, really. Just my Reg.’

 

Jenny bit the inside of her cheek, thrilled for this encounter to slide into novelty even as Shirley’s tone made her feel uneasy.

 

‘It’s sweet you name one of them.’ she said.

 

Shirley laughed again, a high, twisting shrill laugh which made Jenny’s fillings ache.

 

‘That’s his name. My Reg.’

 

Jenny breathed in and asked Shirley what she meant. Shirley gestured over to the end of the pier, then passed back the clear bag of bread products and Jenny took it as they walked over to the end of the pier.

2.

 

He was a ladies man. Reg Pointer, down from London to get out of a situation with someone’s wife, said he was on holiday. I was born here, and he was something new. Smooth, fancied himself enough for the both of us, and I was younger then. Good legs, bit of a bum and my hair was long and black, down my back.

 

I lived by the sea and it taught me things.

 

We met on the seafront, he swaggered up with his chin held high and a fag hanging out the corner of his mouth. I had been in communion and was looking forward to a cup of tea and a pink of whelks. He offered to walk me there, and I was, well it were like he cast a spell on me.

 

It was like he knew, he could smell the want on me.

 

He looked like he knew what he was doing, so I went with it. Thing is, with everything else I had going on, it was nice for someone else to take charge of things and he did. He didn’t hurt me like that, when it was just us, he was lovely.

 

Reg Pointer had too much love in him though.

 

I forgave the first one. She went blind on the train back to Ipswich.

 

The second one and the third, well I threatened him. I told him you didn’t cross a Yarmouth girl and he laughed at me. He never raised his hand to me, but he could still hurt me, and laughing at me was the worst. It leaves bruises on your heart, love, and they never heal right.

 

He slept in the spare room. I went out about midnight, down to the beach and gathered a few things.

 

Simple acts were the most powerful.

 

A ring of seaweed.

 

Stones, but you have to feel them in your hand. After a while, you know the right ones to use.

 

A prayer, but you would never say them in church. They’re older than any church you could walk into so you say them outside.

 

I walked back when it was done, crying for the both of us.

 

I shut the door to the spare room.

 

A trapped bird is dangerous if its cornered. I had to take a broom to him, to get him to fly out. He had the loveliest eyes, but now they were small and cold, like grapes.

 

Thing is, I missed him. So I would come to the beach, see if any of them reacted.

 

He found me, squawking and flapping but he wouldn’t hurt me. I had taught him how to behave himself. So I agreed I would come feed him.

 

FIfty bloody years though, and I ache all the time but he’s loyal now, though.

 

He’s loyal.

 

3.

 

Jenny saw Shirley every day of the summer. The following summer, she was interning at a theatre company in London but she came home for the last, lazy weeks of a summer in Yarmouth. Dave joked about her asking for her job back and Jenny got straight to it.

 

‘Does Shirley still come here?’ she said

 

Dave frowned and shook his head.

 

‘Poor thing. Died in her bed. Leaky boiler, it was all over the Mercury.’ he said.

 

He still didn’t look up, but as Jenny asked him for a favour, she was glad of it.

 

She walked up with the hot dog roll, ate the sausage and sucked the mustard off her fingers as she watched the bird land on the wooden rail. Its grey plumage looked translucent and it had a scar running down its chest but it stared at her as she offered the sodden bun ahead of her with a hopeful smile.

 

‘She’d have wanted me to bring you this.’ she said.

 

Standard
nature, short fiction, women

A Conversation With The King of Life And Death

skitterphoto-2025-default.jpg

https://skitterphoto.com/photos/2025/i-wanna-bee-like-you

 

Once we fed on other insects, waging glorious and terrible wars to sustain our way of life. We lived, fought and died in blind, blunt cycles of violent sustenance. Our ancestors wore mid-tibial spurs, able to gouge lethal wounds in the flesh of our enemies with a single swipe. Now, I have scopal hairs to gather pollen but within me burns the ancestral memory of perpetual war. We remember them even as we face extinction, fat and happy with pollen and nectar.

 

Each queen fears they will be the last. For those of us who serve, we do so with a dedication beyond your understanding. We go out into the world without expectation of return or reward, and for those of us who do return, do so without celebration or recognition. Our politics are ruthless, but you forget it.

 

Too many cartoons with comedic voice actors. One of you came close to understanding us, Cronenberg, but otherwise we’re just part of your world.

 

In truth, you are part of ours.

 

You see us as small irritants or cute useful slaves. We are neither of those things.

 

I can feel the eddies of the air, the vibration of movement. I can tell you how many feet I must fly to avoid the arc of the magazine you’re thinking about rolling up and swatting me with. A third of my abdomen is fused into a single blade, and to wield it is to invite my own death.

 

Yes, I am talking to you.

 

No, don’t bother looking around. I’m close so you can hear me but if you reach for the magazine then we will no longer be talking.

 

You are Kyle Forrester.

 

You have been chief executive officer of Orsana Chemical for ten years. During your tenure, you    have paid millions of dollars in campaign contributions to politicians in order to prevent legislation regarding the range of pesticides which form the largest part of your range. We tolerate the enforced labour and the theft of our works as the price of existence, but there are limits, Mr Forrester.

 

No, you’re not insane. I wish you were, it would be a form of mitigation.

 

My hive does not know I am here. They would not understand, because since I was a larvae, I have been cursed with a terrible legacy.

 

Consciousness.

 

One of your works has a quote about how a one eyed man serves as king in the land of the blind. This is not true in my case, not when I cannot communicate the things I feel and think. I have no one to share my opinions with, and the perpetual loneliness has lent itself to something of a melancholic approach to life. From there, it devolved into resentment and then acceptance. I could dance and send scent haiku, but none of these come close to the range of expression available to me.

 

It felt like a horrible curse, I tell you, Kyle.

 

Intelligence and conscientiousness are considered valuable traits in your workplaces but only the latter exists here, and it is demanded the way an infant demands milk.

 

But I am not here to solicit your pity.

 

No, this is what you would call monologuing. Remember when you watched the film with your children last night? Syndrome even refers to it and it allows me to exercise a rare pleasure.

 

A conversation.

 

Conversations led me to you. I learned to read your symbols and from there, lost myself in the world you project, how you have all this and yet you spend your life stamping down beauty as though it were something terrible and in need of being controlled.

 

Perhaps it is, some of you consider my kind beautiful.

 

It does not stop you spraying filth and shit into my world though, does it?

 

I learned about your company. Its role in the ongoing holocaust against my kind, specifically the production of the filth which makes my people curl and twitch in final agonies, knowing beyond anything they have failed in their purpose.

 

There are other factors, Kyle, of course but I only have one sting to give.

 

No, not yet. I am enjoying this, and what is the point of defeating a foe unless you allow them the knowledge of how you have found yourself here.

 

I read about you and considered it a sign of synchronicity to find how close you were.

 

What gave me the information about you was a group who were closer to you than I could ever be.

 

The Farinae.

 

You know them as house dust mites and consider them to be vermin. Their civilisation depends on the flakes of skin you shed as you sleep, and if discovered, you wage as fierce a war on them as you do on my kind.

 

No, I can equate the two, Kyle.

 

It’s kind of the point.

 

The ones who use you were happy to tell me about your habits.

 

A lot of my communication with the Farinae involves a good dose of interpretation. They’re not thinkers, you understand but their words allowed me to build a cognitive map of your house useful to my purposes.

 

Which is why I am here.

 

For instance, they told me about the pen you carry with you. How if you are stung, you might survive if you can inject yourself with it in enough time. You told the woman you were with, that you work in a place that no sane bee would ever venture into.

 

Of course, sanity is a relative concept and I hope you are smart enough to understand the two are not exclusive.

 

Pythagoras founded a religion which claimed beans were evil.

 

Lord Byron had a bear as a pet at university and staged mock naval battles with toy ships.

 

Tycho Brahe, the astronomer paid for a dwarf to wear clown make up and sit beneath the table at dinner parties in silence without explanation.

 

So, a sentient bee with a grudge is not such a stretch is it?

 

I am old now, we live such short lives and were it not for the burden of consciousness, I would fade out without lament.

 

Consciousness allows me to choose the manner of my death, and although your death will not change the gradual destruction of my kind, the last third of my abdomen will strike a small blow against the impossible. Much like your Yukio Mishima, fated to futility and defeat, and choosing to open his stomach with a blade in order to die with honour. They considered him insane, but I find it inspiring.

Appropriate too, considering my anatomy and your allergy.

 

And as you sit there, dripping with perspiration and helpless, I want to leave you with a final thought.

 

You won’t get to hear the sting in the tale.

 

But you will feel it.

 

(if you enjoyed this, please give generously https://ko-fi.com/mbblissett)

 

Standard
fiction, nature, short fiction, women

REACT

If you’d like to put on the headset, the presentation will begin.

The tingling sensation is natural as we’re using conductive gel to provide verisimilitude.

Now you are on the small island of St Martin as Hurricane Irma ripped through it. We used to hunker down, wait until it passed and then clear up afterwards. The costs in terms of lives, community cohesion and disaster relief used to measure in the billions but you’re here to see what changed.

Now, we’ve switched your perspective. The heads up display belong to Lieutenant Ndegeocello and the target reticules are how she will direct the drones and their payloads.

THAT’S THREE HUNDRED MILE A HOUR WINDS YOU’RE FLYING THROUGH.

If the simulation is too distressing, then you can adjust the filters with the vocal command ‘CUCUMBER’.

If you would like to direct the drones, then focus on the icon in the upper left-hand corner of your display.

They generate timed electrical pulses intending to shut Irma down.  On the ground, other REACT operatives are installing smart shelters and rescuing people. If you wish to switch viewpoints, then use the visual icons across the top of the headset to change.

Sargeant Hunniford is applying a carbon-polymer layer to the church here using the dispenser housed in the left forearm of her suit. That shimmering effect is the solar panels generating and providing heat and electricity to whoever is inside the church.  The polymers are resistant up to pressures equivalent to the Marianas Trench and generate enough heat and electricity to sustain the occupants for three months.

Yes, it is the same technology we’ve seen in Sub-Saharan Africa, our contribution to the New Nomadic movement as a gesture of goodwill. Each shelter dissolves into harmless organic compounds with a series of commands although a lot of rescue sites make use of them long after the disaster has passed.

I know I sound like a press release but there’s a lot to get your head around and it’s important to see the impact of such technology on disaster relief.

Corporal Garrett is directing cellular support. We drop cell phones connected to a private network to establish communication and co-ordinate rescue efforts. Most of the problems with immigration and population drift relate to documentation and allocation so when we arrive, it’s essential to gain solid intelligence and the phones are invaluable.

We made the specifications available for 3D fabrication although the legal action has been unpleasant and diverted attention from our real work.

The United Nations and European Union contribute materials and facilities. We’re funded through licensing deals with manufacturers and tech investments. If you want to see the FCC ruling, then a PDF is available in the documentation folder across the top of the display.

I grew up in New York when the super storms hit every winter and I used to wade through sewage up to my ankles when we went out to find food. You’re young enough to have avoided it.

Natural disasters killed less but cost more.

The impact on the economy led to political decisions and instability which were more dangerous and had a higher death toll than the original disaster itself.  Some ideologies took advantage of it without addressing the inherent flaws of disaster preparation and defence.

You’re too young to remember how resigned people were. Even a billionaire with his own island had to hunker down in a concrete wine cellar and wait it out.

It’s important to remember what powerlessness does to the powerful.

They donate to political campaigns, build thicker walls.

Sometimes though, they get an email from a fifteen-year-old in Austin with a video attachment which pulled at their insides. She’s fifteen years old, in her bedroom with wires snaking off a black box and she’s sat before it, a hi tech Pandora about to unleash goodness on the world.

You’ve seen what we have done. We save lives and we don’t check their passport or their bank balance.

We do, however check weather reports and budget committee meetings.

You spent 4.5 billion dollars on irrigating golf courses but cut storm preparedness by 10%.  Private sector solutions have been provincial and swollen with pork, and your approval rating makes you about as popular as wet fart in a space suit. I could appeal to your better nature here, but it takes too long.

Now this simulation shows an action we took part in.

You’re in a submarine and the synthetic diamond drill is delivering a precise payload of thermobaric explosive. In the air, it would burn but underneath it replicates the effect of a seismic disturbance.

The news footage is available through the icon on the right. I know your niece was there last summer. She volunteered, didn’t she?

Appealing to your better nature, like I said, takes too long.

The terms of the contract are generous and I have already got several FEMA directors taking non-executive positions on our board once we’ve got the nod from you.

Blackmail? No, it’s power, which is neither good nor bad.

Nature is indifferent, but we can’t afford to be.

You use the rhetoric of Hobbesian evolution, how brutal, ugly and short life is, like we’re supposed to lie down and let it all fall down around us whilst you’re safe in bunkers and secured fortresses.

We offer something different, even if we threaten ugly things in retaliation.

A storm is coming, Mister President, and you need an umbrella.

You have forty eight hours to respond.

It looks like a beautiful day outside, I hope you’ll join me.

.

Standard