short fiction

White Rabbit

download

“Men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore, the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.”

Nicollo Machiavelli, The Prince.

 

1.

 

Ibrahim walked down the street, cursing Ellen for making him clean out the frier again before he left to attend mosque with his uncle. He hated the job, but Mohammed insisted he finish out the summer before he got him an internship at the firm.

 

He didn’t want to be late. Mohammed was fastidious without being vain and he had known nothing but his faith but he did business without it being a problem.

 

Ibrahim drew comments and stares. No one wanted to feel alien in their own skin and he would slip out of the way, finding something to do in the back until their attention went elsewhere or he pretended not to have heard anything. He simpered and it hurt to do it but once he was working with his uncle, he would earn respect without being made to suffer for it.

 

He was running late.

 

It was the only thing which saved him.

 

He saw the mosque and quickened his pace before a massive hand slapped him backwards. He smelled his hair burning and his eardrops popped like balloons as he fell backwards, breaking his coccyx against the sidewalk.

 

Ibrahim lay there, mute with pain as his hair burned and his body turned inside out with pain. He had bitten his tongue and each swallow tasted of burnt copper as he struggled to breathe.

Continue reading

Advertisements
Standard
romance, women

Home – Episode 13

Previous episodes are in the link below

https://mbblissett.com/untitled-wolf-series/

1.

 

They had been walking through the twilight, almost in lockstep with one another, when John heard Kelly give a shiver as she wrapped her arms around herself. He turned and looked at her, the purple half-crescents of exhaustion tattooed beneath her eyes and the waxy pallor of her skin made him stop and put his hand out to touch the small of her back.

 

‘We will stop and get warm now, Kelly.’ he said.

 

His voice was low and rough with the burden of his own exhaustion. He knew he had pushed their pursuit to mitigate his mistake, but he saw the impact of his decisions reflected in her face. She nodded with gratitude as she drew closer to him.

 

‘Good, I’m feeling the cold.’ she said.

 

Kelly resented the admission, but she had been forcing one foot in front of the other for hours, wracked with hunger and cold, as she fought the looming exhaustion which dogged her harder than the men hunting her.

 

He looked ahead and sniffed. The scent of chill, running water ran down his throat as he smiled and gazed at her as he took the tomahawk and gripped it in his right hand. He told her to wait here whilst he found wood for the fire. She sat down before she collapsed, fighting a sudden squall of tears by lowering her chin and letting her hair fall over her face.

 

She awoke to his touch as he squatted in front of her but he shook his head and told her to go back to sleep. A burst of gratitude, gentle and delightful ran through her as she lowered her chin and slipped back into a blank, exhausted sleep.

 

The fire woke her up as John sat there, cross legged and going through his rucksack. She watched him, the fire highlighting the hints of gold in his brown eyes as he worked with a careful diligence.

 

She got up, rubbed her legs to get the blood flowing again and joined him by the fire.

 

‘How long do you think we’ll be out here?’ she said.

 

He gave a hesitant smile as he handed her a strip of jerky and a fresh canteen of water. She chewed as the salty, meat taste flooded her mouth with sustenance but the salt stung and she washed it away with a slug of cold, clean water.

 

‘There’s not many of them but they looked prepared.’ he said.

 

She caught the unspoken fact of the reduction in their numbers by how the skin around his eyes crinkled with a sharp pang of acknowledgement. He sighed and looked down, calculating their odds as Kelly watched him, hopeful for a sign of a positive outcome.

 

Her assessment was as bleak as it was undefined. Despite moving, they were hidden, detached from their lives and circumstances and she wondered if she would ever have cause to feel dissatisfied with a late arriving cab or bad service in a restaurant again. The time spent unplugged had stripped away much of her affectations, but it came to her as a relief. She had a love of puzzles, which is part of why she adapted to computing, then its darker applications but here she had been confronted with two puzzles.

 

John.

 

Herself.

 

Kelly realised she had not touched a computer in days, had missed the flow of information which served as a secondary memory for her with a piquant ache. She dabbled in the self-pity before she saw it as an affectation and let it go. Her skills had earned her a death sentence, and out here, she was safe from the consequences.

 

She hoped she was.

 

They sat by the fire in companionable silence until she drew closer and rested her head on his shoulder. He had accepted her overtures with stoicism, and he kept his hands from wandering over her, nor had he forced a kiss on her. Kelly wondered if this was how he was with people, or whether he was too polite to reject her but he embraced her with a tenderness which made her wish, she could stay like this with him.

 

John did not answer her question. He would need to see for himself, which invited further risk and conflict. He had his hungers but no genuine appetite for murder, and each time it took something from him he was unsure he could replace.

 

For now, they were safe and warm, which was enough.

 

Jasper was not fluent in the language of conciliation and failure. If there were an app or a phrase book available, he would have devoured it. Instead, he was sat in a restaurant, plucking the linen napkins instead of smoking, thinking through what he needed to do.

 

His employer was coming to the U.S. This evening.

 

Grant and the others were back, holed up in a secure location and collating their information so Jasper had a hymn sheet to sing from. The waiter came over and took his order as he received a report from Olivia.

 

She had threaded the few facts with supposition. Kelly had lucked into the presence of an eccentric wealthy survivalist, with a dog he trained to hunt, and the charitable nature to help her evade capture. They had fled into the woods but Olivia had been confident they would return to civilisation and had suggested surveillance on any known associates. Jasper did not correct her with the fact her closest friend and collaborator had died in the plane but he figured doing something was better than not doing anything. The briefcase was so much ash, but he had to be seen to be acting in his employer’s interests.

 

Jasper had never met his employer. A lawyer had approached him with a contract, followed by a telephone conversation and a set of directives. A transfusion of credit to his failing security business had smoothed over any concerns and the work kept Jasper busy and wealthy if a little uncertain of his role.

 

Last night, Jasper had received a phone call to announce his employer was coming to the area on business. Jasper had swallowed his nerves, fearful the visit was a termination of their agreement but a phone call would have sufficed. A bullet to the head was an international and expansive gesture, but Jasper feared disappointing his employer more than death.

 

Since his childhood as a twitching nerve, Jasper had bullied his way through basic military training then selection into the SAS before eight years of operations and the nascent idea of his own business. Now, he was little more than an hour away from wondering if this was the last good day he would ever know.

 

He forwarded the report to his employer and by the time his food had arrived, his phone rang.

 

‘Who wrote this report?’

 

Jasper broke out in gooseflesh as he stammered out Olivia’s name.

 

‘Excellent. Will she be available to discuss her findings?’

 

Jasper agreed she would be because it limited his chances of dying. At heart, Jasper had an animal’s instinct for survival. Some breeds chewed off limbs to escape traps, but it did not mean they enjoyed the taste and he was no different.

 

He rang the number for the secure location and told Olivia she needed to meet him at the Chateau Marmont at 1400. He ended the call before she could ask anything and he sat back in his chair with a sense of reprieve lifting his mood.

 

Jasper even found his appetite again.

 

3.

 

Kelly awoke as the blue light of dawn washed over her. John was not in his sleeping bag and she swore under her breath as she looked around for him. He had left her a note, pinned underneath a flat rock.

 

GONE TO SEE THE LAY OF THE LAND.

 

She got out of the sleeping bag when she heard a faint rustling from the foliage to her left. Kelly had the gun in her hands but John poked his head through and looked at the gun with a frown.

 

‘I should have warned you but I have good news.’

 

Kelly lowered the gun, it had gained a weight which drew her arms down as she looked at him with expectation.

 

‘They’ve backed off. I followed the scent trail and it died off. There aren’t any drones and they’ve hidden their two guys.’

 

Kelly was disarmed by the news as she sat back down, her head light and stunned with feeling.

 

‘They’re gone?’ she said.

 

John buttoned up his shirt and raised his eyebrows as he nodded.

 

Kelly put her head down and wept. She felt John’s arms wrap around her, solid and safe as she let go, ensconced in the rich, dark presence of the man.

 

It was time to go, if not home, then somewhere.

 

Anywhere.

 

4.

 

He made no requests. The items were made available, and in duplicate around the world. Installations were completed and tested before his arrival, so he could exist in a state of comfort fitting to his achievements and station.

 

The meeting at the Marmont was to collect the pair of them. He had purchased a beachfront villa, perfect to accommodate the additional equipment which made him comfortable. By the time his plane landed on American soil, his base of operations was complete and correct.

It had been a long time since he had been in the country. He was aware, and amused by the changes, ephemeral flickers disguised as fundamental spasms of change but he remained silent as the car took him to his home.

 

A hot meal had been arranged, he was informed and the only thing he said was thank you before returning to his reading. The report was interesting and he read it through twice without blinking, absorbing the pertinent sections and asking questions of his own.

 

The couple were more interesting to him alive, he decided. Jasper’s call to retreat had been a good one, although he would take pleasure from seeing his aide sweat through the details. He closed the laptop and sat back, closing his eyes as he looked forward to a good meal and the assertion of his authority.

 

Standard
short fiction, women

Good Meat – Episode 3.

Previous episodes are here and here. If you enjoy my work and want to buy me a coffee, you can do that here .

 

John had left the cabin when she woke up. She found a note on the table, written in a neat, delicate hand that he was out hunting and would be back soon. He had left coffee, and the last of the bread from last night. She had not seen a rifle and then gooseflesh arose on her forearms and thighs.

 

It’s because he doesn’t need one, she thought.

Continue reading

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
beauty, fiction, short fiction, women, writing

The Last Face I’ll See

There’s a kind of relief in knowing it will all be over soon. Acceptance is the key to integration.

We will not live past tonight.

Oh come on, we’ve been running for a long time now. We had a long stretch of good times before that, but we fucked up.

I objected to the mark from the start.

Not because of him. I called that from the start. A mark goes one of two ways.

They bend or they break.

You want the ones that bend. They don’t go to the law because they’re worried what people will think of them, or there’s enough dirt on them they want to just take the hit and keep going.

My concern was with her.

I know you laughed at me behind my back that you thought Mike kept me around like a mascot but I taught him everything he knows.

We’re still here because I didn’t teach him everything I knew.

He was brittle and soft like candy floss. His success had not been of his own making, and when we did the last round of recon, I pointed that out.

Do you remember?

No not, sometimes when you hear hooves, you need to think horses not zebras.

Some cons are too easy because you don’t see what you will owe on the back end.

Here is something useful to remember.

Women need security like men need approval.

Taking that reveals what is underneath a person. The mark is not always the mark.

No, I’m not going soft. I mean, I was fucking right, weren’t I?

You don’t last in the game if you’re soft, but intelligence is a smart trait

Him killing himself wasn’t a surprise. It happens, and I said it would happen.

We thought she would go away. They do that.

Don’t make that face at me. You know computers; I know people. We both got it wrong.

None of us saw her coming.

A year is a long time in the game. The money ran out before we knew what was happening.

It was too late.

Carl was sharp, but he did not recognise her.

It might have been why she was so messy. The coroner said there wasn’t enough unmarked skin to cover a stamp.

We were used to marks coming after us. It never went too violent, but we were picking on start-ups and small businesses. No one could have imagined that it would be the wife that brought us down.

She had engaged his lower brain, a push up bra and a good wig. Making his want simmer into need.

Things like that make me glad to be old. Having a libido, to quote Bertrand Russell, is like being chained to a lunatic in a burning building.

She shot Herc, low in the belly. He had been selling time shares in Orlando and she had sat through his presentation, asked questions that drew his attention but not his memory. She walked up and pulled the pistol from her purse.

Did he recognise her? Men forget.

Women remember everything. They play things over in their heads, they are mysteries sometimes even to themselves.

It is the most wonderful and terrible thing about them.

She’s not a monster. Calling someone that excuses them, and she has no excuse.

She has her reasons.

We gave them to her.

I know she’s checked in. I didn’t hear what room and I don’t care to.

Sure, grab the gun.

It’s as good a way to go out as any.

Me, I’m going to sit here, finish this bottle, a few cigarettes and wait for her.

She’s beautiful, and if I have any choice in going, then if the last thing I see is a beautiful face, then that’s the best I can hope for.

Even if it’s a beauty inflamed by hate.

Standard
beauty, fiction, short fiction, women

Belt

I had wrestled through college, even winning first place in the WCWA. A hundred people watched me win with a torn rotator cuff and when the referee held my hand up, I saw the man with the stetson hat and the horn-rimmed glasses through a film of tears.

He was a talent agent. You know what promotion he represented and under legal advice, I will not name them.

All the hours training, the bruises and sprains, the hunger pangs and the brutal, dehydrated hours spent cutting to make weight and you know why they signed me?

I was pretty.

The athletic department found me a lawyer who went along with me but the promotion had experience with young, talented athletes like me.

Private jet.

Limousine.

The compound, a cartoon temple to the male ego, a level in an old school arcade game made real.

A deal that meant I would suplex my student loans into submission.

He was the company. A body builder’s bulk tamed by a custom suit that cost more than my car. He spoke of faith, family and federation as the foundations of the company.

I simpered in the right places, working the appeal of my appearance without trying to seduce anyone. He reached a hand like a manicured catcher’s mitt and turned my head before smiling like a fairytale wolf.

Three hundred days of shows.

Pouring garbage bags of ice into motel bathtubs and slipping into the water, trading the agony of exertion for the chill of the water.

My signing bonus formed part of the nondisclosure agreement but it was large enough to pay off my loans. I earned every single cent of it, working matches on the development circuit until summoned to a hotel suite in Orlando.

Tired all the time.

Too tired for men.

Too fearful of the drugs that everyone did to keep going.

I believed I was earning my place, doing my make up in greasy mirrors with drugstore cosmetics. It was war-paint, reduced to smears before the heat and light of the crowd.

They would put me over.

A new character. Playing a face that would get a title shot in the upcoming pay-per-view.

A shot that would hit dead centre.

Against Mama Voodoo.

She was the promotion’s major draw. A thick Caribbean accent, voodoo affectations and a boa constrictor around her neck. She stuck her tongue out like Gene Simmons.

We met at the arena in Orlando. She sauntered into the dressing room, custom sweats with her logo emblazoned on the front, a skull with a snake running through it from left eye socket to the open grinning mouth.

‘Angela.’

A curt, perfect voice. Educated and melodious. She had majored in Theatre and Afro-Caribbean Studies. I tried to hide my surprise, but she raised a perfect eyebrow and smiled.

‘I know it’s blackface, but I paid for my house in cash. Name a theatre major who could do that without dealing drugs?’

I blushed and looked away. All the ambient racist sentiments of my childhood returned to my ears.

We worked through the match.

2.

She quoted Mamet and Campbell as we worked out what we would do and to whom. We would perform a series of reversals and peaks that would leave them drained and screaming for more culminating in my victory.

Her tactile authority became the world.She would lead me around the ring with a chill confidence that made my legs weak and my nipples stiffen. She grinned and clapped me on the shoulder.

‘You will be amazing.’ she said.

I went back to the hotel and ran a hot bath. My phone rang.

‘I’ve just had a new contract come through.’ he said.

An amendment to the contract but not a favourable one.

I would be a champion on the cheap.

He talked numbers, explaining that the points on merchandising and a potential production deal for their embryonic movie studio would work out well but I would take a cut in salary and do more shows and pay per views. A dull dread reverberated in my skull and a film of nausea coated my lips and tongue with each swallow.

‘Is there any room to negotiate?’ I said.

He chuckled in a way that made me want to reach through the phone and choke him.

I made my decision. I told him. He advised me not to. I was a star on the rise and I was tough enough not to jump at the first shot across my bows. My determination would earn his respect. I never flinched.

Never.

3.

My theme music was pure brass and strings-saturated cheese. Lots of stock footage of cornfields and flags, edited with middle distance shots of me in the ring and with my hands on my hips, chin up and grinning for the people.

The booing was terrifying. A monster made of a million voices. I roughed it out on the walk to the ring, knowing I would be their champion soon enough.

Angela’s entrance was fronts of purple smoke, low dissonant moans and stabs of synthesizer chords. She sauntered out, oiled and terrifying, her thick thighs flexing with each step. Her hair was styled into thick dreadlocks all dip dyed garish colours.

Her assistant. Ghoul, who had once played bass with a 90’s metal band before finding his true calling as a clown of a different stripe. She had her boa constrictor around her neck, listless from the tranquilizers they gave it to keep it under control. She handed the championship belt and the snake to him then looked at me. The referee pointed at us, the announcer did his thing and I prepared to lock up with her then transition into a hip toss.

She slapped me across the cheek, a stiff blow that knocked my head back and made my eyes water.

We had not rehearsed that. She charged at me, wrapping her arms around my waist and lifting me into a suplex.

I shot my legs out and lowered my hips to the mat, pressed my head to the side of hers and hissed into her ear.

‘What are you doing?’

She jabbed me in the ribs with a strength that took my breath away.

‘You should have signed.’

The world went away and my instincts took over, fuelled by my exhaustion and my scarlet, thundering betrayal towards a single aim.

Victory.

Angela was a great actress, a capable athlete and an intelligent, aware woman.

She was not a wrestler.

I surrendered to my training, muscling up through her grip and sweeping around her with an ease and speed that drew howls of delight from the crowd.

My right arm wrapped around her throat and my left wrist clamped onto the other before I drove upwards from my hips. I was not seeing anything beyond the veil of rage and upset that had fallen over my face.

I saw the owner, his eyes wide as he grabbed a security guard by the arm and pushed him towards the ring. All his control and arrogance had shattered against the monolith of my pain.

The belt would never be mine.

The victory would.

She went limp, but I did not let go. It took two shots with the tazer before I fell away but she collapsed onto her face and laid still.

It stood for something in here where I will spend the rest of my life. A kind of faded celebrity and public knowledge about my crime has kept me safe from the other inmates. I put myself through drills in the courtyard and my cell, endless burpees and push ups, air squats until I could not walk.

Professional wrestling was built on the bodies of people. They were used for everything they were worth and then dumped by the side of the road.

At least I was alive when it happened.

Standard
animals, creative writing, dogs, fiction, short fiction

Wet Dog

The pair of them sat in the flat, candles burning because they couldn’t shift anything until the morning and they had used the emergency on the meter a few days ago. The laptop had a password on it, but they used it’s glowing screen to provide further illumination.

Iain sat slumped against the wall, his grimy index finger dancing over the screen of the ipad, his heavy lidded eyes focused on the activity in front of him. He had taken some of the medication they grabbed, and it made his pupils dilate until it looked like his eyes were black. He scratched his head, and his pulse fluttered against the ornate, black tattoo on his neck, making it breathe.

Smurf glared at him, chain smoking until his fingers were glowing and his lungs burned, tight and angry as the rest of him.

Iain glanced up, sucking his chapped lips over his protruding, yellowed overbite.

‘Fucking what?’

Smurf was never one to hold someone’s eye for long. He was quick, smart but soft in the wrong places, Iain thought, but he had never appeared so angry as he did now.

‘You know what, you stupid fucking cunt.’

Iain set down the ipad and rolled a cigarette. He put his full attention into it, although that did not stop him from sacrificing most of what he had picked out to the thin, rough carpet that had turned the colour of fungus. Soon he managed something that would smoke, stuck it between his lips and patted himself down for a lighter. He stared at Smurf, who shook his head.

‘Give us a fucking light, Smurf.’

Smurf sat back, folded his arms and set his jaw in a hard line. Most of the time, his big eyes and shaved head made him look like a war orphan but the anger that coursed through him lent him a gravity that unnerved Iain.

Smurf drilled his eyes into Iain hard enough to cause internal bleeding. Iain glanced around him, knowing there was a lighter around there somewhere.

Iain patted the ground, then his pockets again before he got up and made his hands into fists.

He was about to launch at Smurf, although the pills had given him the reflexes of a slug on valium when they heard the thump from upstairs. Smurf got to his feet, his chest rising in panicked breaths.

‘Won’t be pigs.’ Iain said.

Smurf looked at him with disgust and fear.

‘You sure about that? Because you mate, have done something that will get us fucking cut.’

Iain rolled his eyes and tried to slip his hand into the pocket of Smurf’s jacket. Smurf darted backwards, losing his balance and falling over the chair to land on the base of his spine. He swore and rolled onto his side, rubbing his back before he sprung to his feet and closed the distance between the pair of them.

There was another thump from upstairs, then a splattering sound, like a million wet paintbrushes flicked into the air.

The pair of them looked up, then at each other.

‘It’s the boiler.’ Iain said.

Smurf squeezed his eyes shut.

‘We used the emergency on the gas before the fucking electric. Boiler’s got nothing in it.’ he said.

Another thump. Iain glanced around him and picked up the iron in the corner, from where Smurf had ironed a shirt for an interview at a care home. He was waiting to hear how it went, but inside the little imp of failure that used his life as a toilet had already predicted the outcome. Smurf watched him pick it up and stepped back.

‘Might as well get use out of it, eh?’ Iain said.

Smurf hid the impact of the comment by lowering his eyes and putting his hands into his pockets. Iain was already turning, with the cold grace of a shark sensing blood in the water.

‘There’s nothing up there.’ Smurf said.

Iain gave a single dry peal of laughter. It had no humour in it at all. He lifted the iron up and gestured it towards Smurf.

‘No, but if anyone is, they’re getting this in the fucking mush.’

He turned and walked away. Smurf stared at the back of his neck, aghast at his lack of courage, his complicity and his inability to voice how fucked up tonight had been. How he wanted to sell some of the stuff to get so fucking high he could pretend that it had never happened.

Smurf heard another thump then Iain making a retching sound.

‘Oh that fucking stinks up here, Smurf.’ Iain said.

Smurf figured that Iain was not referring to his own room. Smurf had gone in there once, to look for a tenner he was sure Iain had stashed in there. After seeing the yellow duvet and the mattress that looked like a child’s painting in the medium of bodily fluids decided that he could walk to the interview.

Smurf had little, but he looked after it, kept things clean. He would rather buy washing powder than eat sometimes, drinking endless glasses of water to keep the hunger pangs from hurting too much.

Smurf walked through to the stairs when he felt, rather than heard the growling insinuate through the floorboards. Iain fell silent.

The growl gained in volume and power. Smurf asked once if God had pets and got laughed at but he stood there and wondered if this was what one of them would sound like.

If it was angry.

Smurf’s stomach churned with acid. Iain was spurting a litany of curses and swear words before the growl shook the universe and a series of short thumps showed that whatever it was up there was advancing with power and momentum.

Smurf ran through the hallway just as Iain screamed in terror, his voice reaching a pitch that would shatter glass. Smurf heard the sounds of wet paper being ripped, a breathy series of exhalations, something breathing through its nose because it had something in its mouth, teeth sunk in and digging, tearing and sucking down whatever was there. Smurf pulled the door open and ran. He turned back and saw the mist of blood and Iain’s head sail through the air and roll down the stairs, his face forever cast in a final expression of disbelief and terror.

Smurf ran, skipping down the metal spiral staircase and taking off at a sprint. A shard of glass stabbed through the heel of his left foot but he kept going as he heard the wet thump of whatever had been in the house run out after him.

Each step made Smurf cry out in agony.

Something hit him between the shoulder blades and pushed him down to the ground with a brute ease. It kept him down and twin hot blasts of fetid air blasted against his neck. Smurf sobbed, bringing his hands to his face.

Whatever held him did not react. The pressure lessened and Smurf continued to cry, trying to say he was sorry but the words kept falling apart, bashed in by the force of his grief and his guilt.

‘I’m so fucking sorry. I didn’t know. I didn’t know.’

The weight came off and Smurf laid there, nose pressed to the path and continuing to weep for what he had been witness to, and what it had done to him.

The wet flat slap against his neck, muscles powerful as pistons left a thick slob of something hot and wet against his head but he let it happen. The stink made his eyes water, wet fur and dark earth, shit from a diet of hate and red meat but with each breath he noted how it had started to fade.

He turned around and saw that he was alone. He glanced back at the open door and how Danny from next door looked inside, swathed in the Star Wars dressing gown and onesie as Anna stood there, on tiptoes pushing him forward as a cigarette dangled from the corner of her mouth.

He sat there, looking up at the sky and pressed his hand against his mouth as the sound of sirens began to wail in the distance.

Standard