fiction, short stories, women


Tammy had been Tommy.


She was not my first trans patient, but she was the youngest and the first in a case which appeared to be a response to trauma. I could not discount the factors involved and there had been hormone treatments to consider in terms of their impact on a child’s development.



Jacqui, her mother had thirty thousand followers on social media. Her feed had been pictures of Tammy and her, and a few of the photos and videos gave me pause. She brushed her purple fringe from over her eyes and grimaced at me.


‘She’s my world.’ she said.


She meant it too. Tammy had experienced less internalization of trauma because she had been allowed to present as her chosen gender in an environment where she had been accepted.


Accepted, in the way someone wouldn’t wrestle a crocodile without an audience. Tammy was my patient, I told myself. Not Jacqui. I stayed as clinical as possible with the parents. These days it felt like a faithless priest delivering absolutions they no longer believe in.


‘Jacqui,my concern is to get Tammy well again.’ I said.


Tammy had started screaming at three a.m on a Sunday morning. Jacqui had scrambled to her daughter’s room, found her sat up in bed and shrieking at the darkness. The paramedics had to sedate her, and then she came under my care.


Jacqui had said Tammy was having nightmares for a few weeks before, and her art had taken a darker turn, but she put it down to a recent fascination with Tim Burton. She was an imaginative and loving child, with no trauma to repress, according to her mother.  I asked if she could bring me any drawings or writings she had. Drawings would be useful, I told myself.


Jacqui brought me a sheaf of drawings and stories she had written. There was not much evidence of Tommy, bar a few pages of scribbles. Artless loops of primary colours carved into thick layers of black before he began to develop evidence of realism stage artistry. Expressing the girl he knew himself to be, Jacqui had whispered to me, as we sat in my office. We had spent an hour with Tammy in the day room but she had unresponsive, whispering the same phrase over and over.


There has always been a maze.


A minotaur lives there.


They were the only phrases she would speak. She was eight years old and when she wasn’t rocking back and forth, she would sit there and whisper those two phrases, like a skipped record.


I thanked Jacqui and told her I would continue to oversee her daughter’s treatment until we saw an improvement in her condition. On the way out, Jacqui asked me with dry eyes, what would happen if she did not get better. I smiled and tried to put my hand on her shoulder, but I could not bring myself to do it so I pointed my index finger as though I were about to make some profound point and then decided against it.


‘She’s getting the best possible treatment, Ms Banner.’ I said.


She smiled and nodded.


‘This sort of thing, it gets politicized, you know? You should see some of the things people have sent to me.’ she said.


Her grimace was perfect and then, only then did her eyes water.


I watched her walk to the car, phone held aloft as she narrated her day to the screen.




I spread the drawings out. Jacqui had filed them in chronological order and I had bookmarked videos she posted on her social media, but those had not demonstrated anything beyond her playing for the camera, jumping at the chance to earn Jacqui’s cooing and billowing.


Her art was advanced and the expression of Tammy on paper was fuel for it.


It was the story she had drawn which gave me pause.


There was a repetition of the Tommy era drawing style, which I made notes on in terms of evidence of regressive episodes but scraped into the black was a white face.


A red nose.


White swollen hands.


The smile was a broken nightmare. Distended, broken teeth pointing in all directions.


Hair like horns on a forehead.


These were the most recent drawings. Jacqui had said she was into Tim Burton, watched The NIghtmare Before Christmas year round and dressed as Sally on Halloween twice in a row.


Three drawings of it at various points across each page. One on the left, one in the centre and another on the right, with its left arm out of the edge of the page. I swallowed, went back to the other pictures, saw the lines and details but they lacked the crude visceral glut of these three drawings.


I put everything away bar the three drawings.


My sleep was thin and restless. I woke up and my bedroom was freezing cold, but I slipped under again and only awoke when my alarm bleated at me to get up. The pillow was wet beneath my cheek. I had been crying.




She swept the crayon across the page, a flicker of frustration crossing her face as she drew.


‘I know you don’t like the crayons, Tammy.’


Tammy fixed her gaze on the page. Her blonde hair hung in her face. She had allowed me to brush it this morning. A good day, and one I would type up in the driest of terms, whilst keeping the quiet pleasure of it for myself.


‘Pencils would be nice.’ she said.


Her voice went up at the end, and I looked at my satchel, concerned at bringing the pictures out to show her.


‘What do you like about drawing?’ I said.


She stopped and glared at me.


‘I’ve told you before, Kerry. It makes me happy.’ she said.


I sat forward and rested my forearms on my knees.


‘Are all your drawings happy, Tammy?’


The crayon broke in her fingers. She wiped her fingers against the paper and picked up a pink crayon, sketching in perspective and depth to the unicorn she was drawing.


‘Some of them.’ she said.


I reached and brought my satchel up, retrieved the pictures and laid them to my left, face down.


‘Now there some drawings which I thought we could talk about. Your mum says you drew them before you had your first episode.’


She nodded.

‘You’ve seen it.’ she said.


She continued to sketch details into the flanks of her unicorn.


I took a deep breath, my heart starting to race as I turned the first one over.


‘It’s moving through the maze. Sometimes, it sees me and that’s when I go away. Its why I won’t finish the fourth drawing. It looks like a clown but its a minotaur, it told me” she said.


I glanced at the lens set into the clock above the window. The afternoon light streamed in, warm and bright, but I shuddered as though I had been plunged into ice. Some expressions of ourselves appear alien to us and those feelings remain, no matter how you intellectualise them.


I put my hand over the drawing and put them back in my satchel. Tammy looked up at me.


‘You think I’m sick because of my mother, don’t you? It told me. It told me about my mother, because that’s how it got in.’ she said.


She said it all in a single breath before she stiffened like she had been electrocuted and I was on my feet, calling for help as I put her in the recovery position.


Jacqui came to the hospital. She had a friend with her, pear shaped with a shaved head and greasy lipstick, who tried to film everything. I told her I did not agree to be filmed in any capacity, and I was there in a professional capacity. At some point, I shut my eyes and turned away.


The seizures had stabilised but she remained unresponsive. I took a cab back to my office and typed my notes up until my head throbbed with each word and I had to sit with the shades drawn. After the pain eased, I wept with my head in my hands. One of the nurses poked her head around the door and told me to go home before they committed me. I wanted to laugh with her so I avoided her gaze and muttered something about it being a hard, long day.


I took some pills to help me drift off and my chemical surrender felt like a defeat.


There was dirt beneath my feet, cold and sticking to the soles of my feet. I looked around and saw walls of palsied white marble, coated in lichen and reaching high into the sky.


Tammy ran past me, wearing a dirt-stained smock with her long blonde hair streaming behind her. She turned and looked at me.


‘It’s old, Kerry. It lives in the middle of a maze and if you find your way there, it makes you choose what happens to you. I chose right when it asked me.’


Her eyes widened in the gloom.


‘Make the right choice. Now you need to run.’ she said.


Something roared behind us and I felt the ground shake as it moved out of the darkness.


I awoke, drenched in sweat and decided to try something to save her.


I dressed and went back to the clinic, making an excuse about some reports I needed for a hearing in the morning. The orderly was too tired to argue so he waved me through. I went to my office.


I took out the drawings laid them out left to right then I stood up and reviewed them.


Children had florid imaginations which removed an element of clinicity from my work, they spoke in simple phrases and elemental symbols. I went over to my printer and took out a sheet of paper then went back to the day room and found some crayons. I picked some up, tried to imagine the warmth of her fingers on them and went back to my office.


I used most of the black, had to use my keys to gouge out the shapes, but I tore through the paper in a few places and my fingers were soon oiled with smears of black crayon. I filled in the gaps with colour where I needed it, but I lacked her skill with art.


I finished the sequence.


I stood back and saw my own breath as a plume of mist as I shivered and wrapped my arms around my chest.




It was a voice more felt than heard. It hummed in the pit of my stomach and spat bitterness up with each word it spoke. No wonder she had broken beneath it.




I looked at the last drawing.


I had let it out. Clown or demon, it was here, violating my sanity with its existence.

‘I am aware this might be a reaction to the incident today. I accept that about myself.’


It chuckled, a clotted rough thing which made me want to vomit. My headache returned as I stared around the room, shivering with the cold.




I backed against the wall of my office, fighting the urge to cry.




It chuckled again. I had chosen Jacqui because I thought she was exploiting her child for attention. I did not think about what that meant at the time. Fear made things simple.




I shook my head, decided I needed to get out of the office and see who could help me.




Something broke in me then and I sobbed as I flung open the door, into the arms of an orderly who bellowed for help as I pressed against my face against their chest, grateful beyond words for someone real to speak to.




No one mentioned the fourth drawing. It allowed me some hope of a career.


Especially when, after eight weeks in a private facility on the coast, I was introduced to the events since my psychotic episode.


Jacqui and her friend. They spared me the details but as part of my reintroduction to independence, I had internet access.


Someone took them to pieces.


Or something. Their bones had been cracked open, the marrow sucked out amidst other details which had been kept from the public. It was a naive belief in the face of a ceaseless quest for novelty and horror. It had convinced me to finish the sequence.


Tammy’s catatonia remained constant. Jacqui had been estranged from her family due to her activism and later, celebrity. They were applying for guardianship of her, back to Arizona and their church. The comments were interesting. I could consult, I was told, but there was a reluctance to allow me to practice directly with children again. I agreed with them and asked if I could go back to the clinic and pick up some personal items before taking some vacation time.


I was escorted but a chubby ten year old ran headfirst into a wall, and my orderly barked at me to stay there as he ran to assist, I slipped away down to the long term ward.


I took her hand in both of mine. It was warm but inert like a doll.


‘Tammy, its gone. It doesn’t want you anymore.’


Her fingers twitched and she blinked as she smacked her lips.


‘I know. You let it out, and it found someone else to eat.’ she said.


Her voice was a flat whisper.


‘Tammy, I know you’re not sick. I think I am, but that’s not your fault.’


She tried to sit up and so I slipped my arms around her. She whispered something into my ear and then pulled back and began to scream. I drew back with my hands pressed to my ears as she stared at me, shrieking like I had tried to murder her.


We were still in the maze. Except the minotaur was now an eight year old child, who had lured me into a compromising position which I could never explain. My life was ruined by a single act of kindness tinged with arrogance.


I should have chosen right.


fiction, politics, short stories

A Thanksgiving Guest

Paul sat on the kerb, staring out at nothing, shuddering despite the blanket wrapped around him.The African medallion hung from his neck. There was a single drop of blood splattered across it. Detective Harris stood across from him as she kept an eye on the CSUs processing the scene. He glanced up, brown eyes watering and bulging in their sockets before he ran his tongue over his lips.


‘You got a cigarette?’he said.


She handed him a soft pack of Marlboro Lights. He took one but his hands shook too much to light it. Harris lit it for him and he inhaled with a junkie enthusiasm. When he thanked her, his voice was soft and mannered.


He told her what happened.


He put it as a joke tweet. A list of priced services to provoke reactions. Running up on your creepy uncle cost twenty dollars. Mentioning Black Lives Matter and giving hard stares at anyone who challenged him was ten dollars. He said he would bring a plate and microwave it. He referenced Ving Rhames in ‘Baby Boy’ over Sidney Poitier in ‘Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner’.


Erin Mayhew sent him a direct message and a few messages later, dropped a chunk of change in his bank account. A photo of her made the prospect appealing. Paul thought she was pretty with curled blonde hair and a full, soft build running to fat although her social media feeds were a little confrontational, even for him.


Harris noted how he paused afterwards before she asked him to continue.


He picked her up from her dorm, driving an SUV and she kept touching his knee on the drive down. Paul looked away and Harris asked him what happened.

They had fucked in the back seat, and Paul felt a little objectified even as she came three times. It was, he admitted, the only time she stopped talking about how awful her family were.

He took the sealed plate of ribs, chitlins, collared greens and cornbread in and adopted a rolling, beligierent swagger as Erin giggled and whispered how he should go all in on Trump. The money was good and it would be a good story to share online later, he told himself.


The table was heaving with food and a centrepiece which was a clamshell draped with twigs and dried flowers sprayed silver and gold. Erin’s parents, David and Maria were soft, polite people who struggled to make eye contact and when Paul passed his plate, his stomach soured with distaste as he stared out David without speaking.

Erin grinned with an awful mania as they sat down. Paul told the detective how her uncle wore a MAGA hat at the table, and spoke to Paul about the last Kendrick Lamar album. They were polite to him and every cent he earned came up to haunt him. It was awkward and his nerves made his performance halting and inconstant but he believed things would pan out for the best.


Which was when the jar of vicodin came out. Erin’s aunt Laura had a back injury and good insurance, dished out the pills from her purse and Paul shook his head when she offered. Erin took two and frowned at Paul before she said something to her uncle Eddie about Roy Moore.


Paul cringed at Erin’s zeal before he noted how much it was reflected in her uncle and father’s arguments. They repeated talking points gleaned from the internet, their voices rising and falling as they scored points off one another. Paul saw sympathetic glances thrown his way from Laura and mother but he kept moving his stale cornbread around the plate and kept silent.


The hairs went up on the nape of his neck when he heard three words which haunted him.


Black lives matter.


All lives matter.


He studied his plate like a midterm and wished he had been anywhere else than at the Mayhew Thanksgiving dinner.

He asked Harris for another cigarette before he carried on. His hands shook harder and tears ran down his cheeks as he continued.

What broke the moment was Erin mentioning the Trump admission recorded by Billy Bush, which was cue for Laura to defend Kevin Spacey and her sister turned, indignant and spraying flecks of turkey and sweet potato as she stated how her sister always resented her theatrical talent.

Paul said he was relieved when the argument became personal rather than political but the observation lasted as long as it took for Laura to reach into her purse and take out something other than pain medicine.

Just pain, he said.

The Walther had a lady grip and it looked small in her hands as she lowered the barrel at her sister’s chest and pulled the trigger.

Mrs Mayhew’s mouth formed into a perfect oh as she fell backwards, clutching her chest. Paul flew back from the table as Laura turned and fired at her husband, his red MAGA hat popped off his head with the force of the bullet.

Erin smiled as her aunt shot her in the forehead.

Mr Mayhew wrestled with her, his thick hands dwarfed hers before she fired into the rounded bulk of his midsection and he slumped forwards, making choking sounds as he bled over the table.

‘Did you like the centrepiece?’ Laura said.

Her voice was a rasping screech as she pointed the gun at him. He nodded with as much enthusiasm as his terror allowed him. She had borrowed it from a picture Ivanka posted before she turned the gun on herself.


He butted the cigarette out and looked up at the detective. The best ideas start as jokes, and so do some of the worst.

Harris sat down on the kerb and asked about his family. He said they argued and loved with the same volume and his father had voted for Trump but he had his reasons.

‘Families are fucking weird.’ he said.


Harris smiled and nodded. She’d left her house after her husband had let their daughter pull down a tray of brownies from the kitchen table whilst he was playing with his phone and she had read him the riot act. She gave him the rest of the pack of cigarettes and gestured for the paramedics to come back to him.

‘Happy Thanksgiving.’ she said.

Paul wept as she walked away.

beauty, fairy stories, love, short stories, women

A Messenger (The Wild Man Season 2)

Once upon a time, Paul sat on his throne and listened to the complaints of his people. The love they had for his brother had not translated to him although his reign had been peaceful albeit marked by tragedy.


A messenger arrived. She passed a scroll to him, curtsied despite wearing leggings and a leather tunic, pitted with scars and left, adjusting her cap as she went onto her next errand.


Paul unrolled the parchment and swallowed, surprised by the news to find himself affronted by it. He tucked the parchment into his robes and finished the last hour shuddering with concern.




Eilhu had food brought to him, fresh clothes each day and he noted how their quality had improved. The tailoring and material gained opulence, but he preferred his own clothes and had the guard pass the opinion on.


He would look out onto the courtyard, see the small and teeming garden set in the corner and feel pangs of harsh sadness. Eilhu had never tended to it. His childhood eyes saw the world around him but his adult heart mistrusted with a feral potence.


Eilhu resolved to return to Mirabelle and find out who murdered her father. He would demand access to The Wild Man and determine his involvement, and as he looked out onto the courtyard, his body hummed with the relief of action.


Paul came to him after supper, wreathed in candlelight and dressed in a simple robe, leaning upon a cane and gasping with each step.


‘I am sorry I could not attend to you sooner, Eilhu.’ he said.


Eilhu looked up from the plate and ran his hand through his hair.


‘I wish to leave.’ he said.


Paul took a chair and asked Eilhu to pour him some water. Eilhu peered at his uncle, seeing the drawn expression of someone bearing untold burdens. He poured water for him and walked over.


‘I know you do, Eilhu.’ he said.


Paul’s voice was weary, low and quiet. He looked up at Eilhu and took the cup from him in both hands.  


‘But there’s no point now.’ he said.


Eilhu sucked in a wounded breath, muscles hardening into armour as he stepped back.


‘There’s always a point.’ he said.


Paul drank and rested the cup on his knees, both hands clutching it for comfort.


‘Eilhu, I received a message this morning. It brought grave news. I must pass it onto you.’ he said.


Eilhu shuddered, his skin crawling with unease as he sat on the bed. The food turned into a hot, sour mass in the pit of his stomach. He breathed through it and looked at his uncle.


Paul raised his chin and looked at his nephew.


‘Queen Mirabelle is dead. Murdered by her apothecary.’ he said.


The words stabbed Eilhu in the heart, turned the blade with exquisite, slow precision to widen the wound. It sent burning worms through his veins, robbing him of everything beyond the need to curl up and stare into nothing.


He rolled onto his side, turning his head from side to side.


Paul got up and set the cup on the table. He nodded once and left without speaking.


He went into the hidden chambers beneath the castle, unlocked the door with his key and stood in the dried blood markings on the floor.


‘What have you done?’ he said.


The darkness in the room pooled, rippling like water kissed by moonlight and slid towards him.


‘Protecting our interests.’ it said.


Paul sighed and pressed his fingers into the hollows of his eyes.


‘You’ve made things difficult for me.’ he said.


He felt the air in the room grow brittle and crisp, leaching the warmth from his skin with a violent insistence.


‘We can make things very difficult for you, your highness.’ it said.


Paul took in a deep breath, chanted in a guttural language which made the darkness hum with energy before it retreated.


‘Their apothecary is dead and we used him to murder the queen. It is rare we get to have fun, Paul. It’s a useful development.’ it said.


Paul got to his feet and rubbed his hands together. His wounds throbbed from the cold but he was thinking ahead.


‘Please, no more surprises. They test my constitution.’ he said.


The darkness ebbed away and Paul enjoyed their absence before leaving.


He went to see The Wild Man, but he stopped outside the door. A wave of exhaustion overwhelmed him and he decided against it.


A peal of laughter followed him as he walked away.


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beauty, fairy stories, love, short stories, women

An Unwanted Offer (The Wild Man Season 2, Episode 1)

Once upon a time, a king died in front of his court.

His reign was awash with light and wisdom. HIs absence cast a long shadow over the land, and his daughter inherited the throne, but took no husband to reign alongside her. She walked alongside a cold shadow, a spectre of sadness and failure. Mirabelle imagined it as a soft, fat, capering fool who drained her with his mewling demands for attention. An inconstant shadow dogging her every step.

Eilhu remained at her side where circumstance allowed. He had led the hunt through the lands, searching for the assassin who had cut the king down with a single arrow. Each day, he was the first to leave and the last to arrive back, gathering a fresh horse and heading out into the woods. Mirabelle saw how he looked at her, eyes hollow with guilt and determination as they ate or walked in the gardens together.

They walked in silence, hands brushing against one another but not touching. Eyes watched them both, and her grief was too raw, too vicious to bear affection. Mirabelle would look at him, feeling an overwhelming urge to have him hold her, to dash her fists against his chest and weep until she was empty of grief and anger.

Her station became the barrier his secrets had been.

‘We’ve sent word to every corner of the kingdom.’ she said.

Eilhu walked with her, a slight hitch in his step from the wound in his thigh as he gave a stiff nod.

‘We will find him.’ he said.

Mirabelle grimaced and wrung her hands as she stared at him.

‘We do not understand who it is, Eilhu. Roderick has denied it, but he has the motive to do it.’ she said.

Eilhu swallowed and took her hand in his. The rough press of his fingers brought tears to her eyes. He knew the truth of her, how touch spoke to her more than the most delicate poem or song and yet he had not imposed himself upon her. He had grown beneath the burdens he carried, taller and broader with the efforts of his search.

Mirabelle threw herself into his embrace, pressed her cheek to his throat and wept, her shoulders shaking with grief. Eilhu put his arms around her, and she breathed him in, the warm leather musk of his skin and the faint traces of flowers which clung to him.

It smelled like comfort. Eilhu chased the shadows from her thoughts by his presence.

‘I’ve neglected you.’ she said

He stroked her hair and pressed his lips to her forehead.

‘No, you have your duty. A wedding would not heal this wound, your highness.’ he said.

She raised her head, cheeks flushed with blood as her blue eyes shone with tears.

‘What would?’ she said.

Eilhu swallowed and gazed into her eyes.



He walked her back to her chamber, kissed her on the cheek as he watched her retreat behind her station. Eilhu knew he could force his affection, but it would break her to receive the full force of it.

Eilhu held himself apart for other reasons.

The garden smelled of summer. He stood and listened to the wind, able to give voice to his doubts and fears.

‘Wild Man, I call for your help.’

He whispered it at first.

‘Wild Man, I call for your help.’

A touch of impatience lent rigour to his words.

‘Wild Man, I call for your help.’

He shouted, his voice echoed against the garden walls and cut into him, mocking in its impotence.

Eilhu clenched his fists and stared at the night sky, challenging it for a sign.

Nothing moved and he strode from the garden, changing into his armour, the parts of the three suits he had worn, red, white and black altered and crafted to reflect his origins. A man made of parts unknown, put together by his own hand.

He saddled a horse, took a bow and a quarrel of arrows from the armoury, along with his sword and rode out through the castle gates. Night had stripped the lands of detail, but Eilhu was following an inward direction. Something in his heart tugged at him, and he worked the horse to a gallop, hoping to outrun his own thoughts.

Eilhu tied the horse to a tree and entered on foot. He walked until darkness enveloped him, but his steps were sure and he followed the trail of his own instincts.

He crouched and dug his fingers into the earth, damp and cold from the fall of night and brought them to his lips.

‘Where are you?’ he said.

Eilhu had called the Wild Man for aid on several occasions and he had come without pause.

He had not answered Eilhu and it led to some terrible thoughts which kept Eilhu out hunting and searching, despite a suspicion which had grown thick and powerful within his bones.

Eilhu had feared meeting Peter, expecting punishment for his actions and part of him knew if it came to it, he could call for aid and expect its arrival.

In the dark of the forest, away from everyone, Eilhu looked at the trees and fought a deep pang of loss and horror.

‘What have you done?’ he said.

He feared the answer, but it did not come.

The Wild Man was missing. His silence was devastating to Eilhu because it fed suspicions which coloured his interactions with Mirabelle. He felt he had no right to comfort her when he wondered if his actions had murdered her father.

He breathed in the cool air and looked back towards the castle, then set his gaze into the heart of the forest and continued searching.


In a dark, low place.

He laid in a corner of a room, his wrists bound with cold iron attached to a chain which hung from the ceiling.

‘There’s no key to steal here.’ the voice said.




beauty, fairy stories, love, short stories, women

The Wild Man – Omnibus

Here are the episodes, in order, for you to catch up on.

The Wild Man In The Water

The Golden Ball, The Toad and The Key

To Guard A Golden Pond (The Wild Man 3)

Kitchen Boy ( The Wild Man 4)

Lessons Of The Forest (The Wild Man 5)

The Smell of Wildflowers (The Wild Man 6)

The Strange Knight (The Wild Man 7)

Three Golden Apples (The Wild Man 8)

Into The Wound (The Wild Man 9) 

A Golden Gift (Final Episode)

Please share, leave comments and like.




beauty, creative writing, love, short stories, women, writing

The Work of February

The amethyst set into the ring on his pinkie finger glinted with the sunlight as the young man sat, bringing the oversized cup to his lips as he looked out onto the steps of the Forum. He had a small leather bound notebook to his left, and he picked up a pencil at regular intervals, made small notes that brought a wistful grin to his wide, sensuous mouth before setting it down. He had dusty-blonde hair that caught the sun, held it with a loving care whenever he moved his head. The wintry sunshine made its way, embraced him and upheld his unadorned primal beauty with each ray that fell upon him.
He had on a battered olive leather coat worn over a chunky sweater that had stray threads at the hem and its sleeves protruded past the jacket’s dimensions. The waitresses made regular trips to his table, deferring to him with glazed eyes and dreamy smiles, the flush of emotion lasting long enough to get a refill or another slice of the delicious cheesecake that he would lift to his mouth.
He had spent the better part of the morning there, watching and writing.
Waiting, if anyone asked him.
Sarah had been eager to get away from the office and her head was ringing with the angry voices of the people who owed the business money, which was pretty much everyone. The fifteen minutes of peace that the library trip afforded her gave a brief measure of respite, between which were sandwiched the bear pit that work had become and the needling demands of mother, who had become bitter and mean with illness.
John had been immersed in the last few pages, eyes sucking up the last few drops of adventure and pathos in the heroes’ journey. His reading habits bordered upon the anti-social but he had developed a zen awareness so was able to happily walk around without bumping into anyone. He wanted to like people, but had been so disappointed by them that he sought to love them at a remove. His spectacles were balanced on the tip of his nose, and he often mismatched his clothes, pretending that he was simply affecting a nonchalance about fashion. In truth, he wanted to put his peacock feathers up but he had never found anyone who made his heart thump. He was a quiet man, but beneath that something roared, lost in a forest of propriety and waiting to be found.
The amethyst glinted in the sun as the man raised his hand, a conductor before the massed, unwitting orchestra of humanity. He knew the pattern of gestures, had done so ever since he wrote to the jailer’s daughter, and his words became the first things she had seen since birth. They had been co-opted in the centuries since, and yet his work was still, eternally, healing.
He lowered his hand.
Sarah had been distracted by a flash of purple light in her peripheral vision when she knocked bodily into him.
John held onto his book and managed to remain upright, struck by her green eyes and red hair as he sought to maintain some measure of aplomb from the encounter.
The man closed his notebook, slipped the pencil into the pocket of his coat and wiped the last dollop of mascarpone from the corner of his mouth. He left a healthy tip on the saucer and walked away with a jaunty flourish.
The couple stood there, awkward and stammering as the world gently but inexorably pushed them together.
fiction, flash fiction, short fiction, short stories, Uncategorized, women, writing

A Bridge For The Furies: Too Much Gun


Previous episodes are here, here, here, here and here

Olivia flushed with embarrassment as Cara leaned forward, a salacious grin alive on her features, suffused with the confident air of someone who knew that their charisma operated on a whole other level of ability.

‘Now would you like to know what’s in my giftbag for you, little lady?’

The accent was pure cornball Americana, but delivered with such gusto that Olivia couldn’t be offended by it.

Gloria was stabbing at the air with her fingertips, giving out gasps of awe as she played with her gift. She pushed her knees together and sighed heavily as she collapsed back against her chair.

Olivia glanced over at her. Drea was on her second drink, eyes glazed over with a sloppy drink. Drea had continued to assert that she was dreaming, and when a cloud of sparkling gases floated past, humming something that sounded like ‘Ole MacDonald Had A Farm’, she considered that perhaps she had a point. Her attention returned to Cara who winked at her and clicked her fingers.

Instantly, they were both stood in a room without walls, the pristine white of oblivion stretching out beyond the limits of vision.

‘Always wanted to do that.’ Cara said.

Olivia flinched, crouched and brought her hands up, made fists as she stared out at the infinite expanse.

‘Where the hell are we?’

Cara frowned and gestured around her.

‘Technically, nowhere but it would require too much explaining and I would probably break your brain in the process.’

Olivia found that a burst of incredulous laughter was the most appropriate response.

‘You mean you haven’t already?’

Cara chuckled and winked at her, bowing forward at the waist as she swept her right arm in front of her. Olivia thought that Cara was beautiful, but it was the kind of beauty that could be taken off and discarded. Olivia had a sense of people akin to the rapport she had with animals, that what someone said and did were two different things. She saw what someone did rather than said was a truer indication of how a person was.

Cara clicked her fingers again and a black metal rectangular box arose from the floor.

‘The Phantom Bunyawi Fever K.’

Olivia stepped back, appalled and fascinated.

‘The what?’

Cara shrugged and gestured towards it.

‘Kneel down and open it. It doesn’t bite. Well, it won’t bite you.’

Olivia knelt in front of it, brushed her fingers against it. It had the texture of something living, slippery and smooth, made her fingertips tingle pleasantly.

‘What sort of name is a Phantom Bunyawi Fever K?’

Cara squatted so that they were on the same level.

‘It’s when you’re translating the language of a species who communicate telepathically and visually at the same time, you run into some amusing word play.’

Cara tapped the box.

‘The beauty isn’t in the name.’

The lid rippled away as though it were a memory of a first kiss. What lay inside made Olivia gasp with appalled fascination.

It was what a child imagined they carried when they pretended to shoot one another. It had the shape of a revolver, without any visible moving parts beyond the trigger, which had the intricacy of a mosquito wing, tracings of filigree across the barrel and the butt. Colours ran through it, changing as Olivia stared at it, lost to the alien beauty of it. She barely heard Cara tell her to pick it up until she found herself reaching for it.

The butt hummed against the meat of her palm.


Olivia looked up at Cara, face turned tight and pale with disbelief.

‘The gun is talking to me.’

Cara laughed, a rich pealing sound that Olivia found quite lovely. It had no mockery in it, and Olivia could have listened to it for hours.

‘Where do the bullets go?’

Cara smiled and gestured towards it.

‘Ask it.’


Olivia looked up, shaking with awe and concern.

‘I didn’t understand a word of that.’

Walter sighed, like a parent losing the last vestiges of their patience.


Cara stood back up.

‘OK, so you’re more practical than theory, which is good, so pick Walt up and point it -‘

She looked left and right, touched one of the glowing rings on her fingers and then smiled, pointed left.

Olivia found the gun too light to be plausible, but it sent another pleasurable shiver down the length of her arm and she adjusted without thinking.


Olivia gave a sideways glance to Cara, who put her hands up in a gesture of mock-surrender.

‘Don’t look at me, he comes as part of the gun. The Keltsey plug it straight into their third cortex but we don’t have time for surgery right now.’

Olivia decided that she would just wait and see what happened. The explanations were terrifying to her, but the feel of a gun in her hand, even an alien, talking one was comforting after a fashion.

The sound of something grinding and stomping echoed through the air. A guttural, pained roar hurt her ears. It sounded like something old and terrible, dying but determined not to do so alone. It appeared before her, and she fought the urge to empty her bladder by tightening her grip on the gun.

It was a twisted, scarred thing, with massive swollen limbs wound with barbed wire, bleeding a black ichor that dripped and sent up stinking wisps of steam where it touched the ground. It’s fingers flexed, ending in serrated talons encrusted with blood rusted to copper stains. It was humanoid, and within it’s sunken eyes, Olivia saw an eternity of pain and torment, and the utter implacability of its will to dominate and return the insult that existence had offered it. Its scarred lips peeled back over stainless steel teeth jammed into blackened gums at horrific angles, their edges glinting wetly as it looked at her with the same disdain a coyote showed its prey. It wrenched its head to the right and a swelling on its right shoulder spat out green thick pus that splattered onto the floor and a tentacle emerged with the tip flaring out like an orchid made of meat, and the interior pulsed with awful, malevolent energy before it sent a plume of black flame into the air.

Olivia turned to Cara and grimaced, but Cara bowed and took a step backwards.

‘Just something I came up with on the fly. Now you and Walter start working together.’


Olivia squeezed the trigger, imagined the left eye exploding in a hail of ichor and Walter shifted in her grip.

The left eye dripped down its cheek but that just upset the Penitent enough that it started to pick up its feet and run towards her.


Olivia could not know that Walter had sent microfilaments through her arteries into the Brocas area of her cerebral cortex which is why she experienced his communication as telepathy, a muse, an inner daemon. It also surfed her neurons for associations and ideas, and found a memory of an afternoon spent just after her eighth birthday. It used the imagination as a weapon, a foundry and found what it needed to fulfil its purpose.

Olivia wielded Walter, but Walter wielded Olivia with just as much care.

The Penitent exploded in a tidal wave of meat and grue, its splash falling at her feet and staining the tips of her boots. Olivia lowered the barrel and went to slip it into a holster at her hip but instead Walter appeared to disappear, instead slipping into a pore on the palm of her right hand, waiting to be wielded again.

Olivia looked at her hand in disbelief. Cara came up and put an arm around her.

‘What do you think?’

Olivia kissed her on the cheek and grinned.

‘Can we find something else to shoot? I’ve got all kinds of ideas.’