307. In the bowels of the Deep Web

In the bowels of the Deep Web, Paisley Jones was lost, with no place to crawl but deeper into its dark secrets. She was sure no-one else would be as thorough to find out the truth about her, but she was taking no chances, so further she crawled into murky digital waters, fishing for the information that could bury her and her career.

She had ventured further from the surface than she had originally intended, collecting along the way every piece of information that could be harmful, then destroying it. There were more of them than she had envisioned and the deeper she swam, the more snippets she encountered.

Her safety line had been cut long ago. Chances were she herself would not be returning to the calm surface. That she would be lost down here forever, along with her secrets. Most likely someone would come looking for her. Perhaps parts of her and her history would eventually float up to the surface and get caught in one of the millions of nets that littered the digital sea. Perhaps they finally would unravel her secret.

The snippets of truth flew by so amply and damning now that they clung to her, weighing her down and impeding her ability to annihilate them. They dragged her deeper and deeper until she was powerless to fight them.

***

He googled her name. There were no matches.

He tried again. And again.

But to the internet she was a ghost.

From experience he knew this was not a good sign. If an applicant was willing to erase every bit of information about her, it mostly meant she had something to hide.

He crossed out her name.

Soon Paisley Jones would be forgotten altogether.

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306. Eons of rain

Eons of rain had chiselled the Mountains of Vardez into a majestic labyrinth that provided a safe haven for petty thieves, smugglers and outlaws. Cairfax Munroe was one of them, a charismatic con man who had cheated naive villagers out of their inheritance.

The footsteps of his pursuers ricocheted against the cave walls as if to make ominously clear that escaping their wrath was impossible. But Cairfax knew these hollow halls would protect him. And indeed, the sounds subsided, until just the echo of his own breath remained.

As he counted his bounty, the yellow bolts of a violent thunderstorm raging outside lit the dusky caves in erratic intervals. Cairfax did not get worried until the lightning slowed down and then stopped altogether, even as the thunderclaps still boomed regularly above.

***

That night the infant son of a conned villager was treated to a new nursery rhyme.

The Mountains of Vardez,
A comfortable womb.
The Mountains of Vardez,
Yet sometimes a tomb.

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305. The green streaks

The green streaks in an otherwise silver-grey head of hair were perhaps the clearest indication Kendra liked to live the bohemian life. If that was not enough of a hint, the cutesy kitsch of her eighties outfit did the job.

Kendra had her own vintage shop, in one of the smallest – cosiest, she insisted – properties in a cul-de-sac of a sort-of side-lane of the second busiest street in town. Which meant that hardly a customer passed by.

To kill the time Kendra had taken up smoking, but she’d sworn not to overindulge in the bad habit. She never did. Case in point: she was a vegetarian at home, but not on restaurant. A ‘flexitarian’. One not able to distribute the tobacco confidently in the cigarette paper and roll it into a decent cigarette, alas.

The guy who walked by as she leant against the doorpost failing the cigarette test once more did not look the type who could help her out. His Saville Row suit, his timely trimmed five o’clock shadow, his squeaky Italian shoes. Everything about him screamed square, dull and uppity.

“I think I can be of assistance,” he nevertheless said, and before Kendra could reply, he rolled an impeccable cigarette, lit it for her and went back on his merry way.

She looked like the kind of person that just wanted to live her own, uncomplicated life, so he never said he liked her green streaks.

He looked like he’d never be interested in a girl like her, so she didn’t dare run after him to tell him he had lovely eyes.

Yet, her shop location in mind, Kendra smiled.

As did the guy, as he reached the end of the cul-de-sac and realized he had no choice but to walk back towards her shop.

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The future, and what it holds

Many of you have been asking me what my creative plans are for the next year. Now I’ve had some time to mull it over, I can finally reveal some details about my writing goals for the rest of 2014 and 2015.

1. Writing a non-fiction book about the movies

First up is a non-fiction book about my greatest passion: the movies. It’s a proposition I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years now and I think I’ve finally found an interesting subject and angle for the contents of this book.

Great movie years don’t come along all that often. 1939 is often cited as the greatest year for American movies of all, with lots of timeless Hollywood classics. 1974 is another year that seems to have yielded more masterpieces than other years. These ‘anni mirabiles’ appear to occur only once every few decades. So I count myself lucky to have been able to experience one in my lifetime.

1999, in my mind, is one of those amazing years for the movies, where it seemed that every time you walked into a movie theatre, you were treated to a great film. Not necessarily all masterpieces (though there are quite a few), but definitely films that push the boundaries of a genre, make exquisite use of traditional conventions, elevated young auteurs to the forefront or reminded us that established filmmakers still had the magic touch.

The tentative title of the book is: ‘American Beauty – a case for 1999 as the greatest movie year in our lifetime’. I’m currently doing research and drawing up a structure and hope to start writing the chapters by the end of the month. In the most optimistic timeline, the book could be ready by Christmas 2014, though don’t pin me on that date. Chapters that I’m working on might pop up occasionally on the blog.

2. Writing a science-fiction novel

Spurred on by your supportive comments I will also be expanding on the short form stories I’ve written so far, by writing a full-blown novel. As I’ve discovered that writing science-fiction is where my heart lies, it will be a sci-fi novel.

I’m still mulling over the possibilities of a plot that contains enough interesting elements to fill 200-odd pages with, but there are a couple of certainties already. The story will be dystopian, it will contain a social critique on current society and the novel will take us to distant planets. I might use some elements from the short stories I’ve published on the site as well.

As to the tone of the novel: I’m torn between writing a straight-up sci-fi tale, in the vein of the works of Philip K. Dick, and choosing a more tongue-in-cheek route, along the lines of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels. Perhaps you could tell which approach you’d like best, based on the sci-fi stories I’ve written so far? In any case, I hope to have this novel ready sometime in 2015. Chapters that I’m working on might pop up occasionally on the blog.

3. Continuing to write flash fiction stories

Last but not least, I will – as I have promised before – updating this blog with new flash fiction stories of 300 words or less (at least one a week). Meanwhile, if you like my stories and think they deserve a wider audience, you could always tell your friends and family about the recently published book. Feel free to share this link on social media, on your blog or otherwise. I will happily do the same for you.

304. Margaret was a simple soul

Margaret was a simple soul, from humble origins, and all this pomp and circumstance surrounding the wedding was mostly lost on her, even though she was at the centre of it. The king had swept her off her feet but a fortnight ago and already the mud of her father’s pig farm was a remote memory.

In the quiet of her bedroom, after the festivities, Margaret’s mind immediately wandered to the book. It had been just one of many gifts, most of them far more valuable, but the important etiquette surrounding its offering intrigued her.

She opened the book. There were no words, just pictures of unspeakable acts, in graphic detail. Etchings of a naked man and woman, cavorting endlessly.

As her new husband entered the room, flabby and filthy and naked, the reality of the inevitable aftermath of a fairy tale wedding hit the naive country girl, now queen.

“There is no stork involved, is there?” she sobbed.

303. In the grand scheme of things

In the grand scheme of things the fate of Calvin Innerglot meant nothing. He was just another piece of cannon fodder the top brass would send over the top when his sacrifice was called for.

Calvin was young, didn’t have any special skills, didn’t have a whole lot of intelligence. Chances were his contribution to society would be confined to living on benefits, scrounging for jobs and living space, struggling to keep going. The army provided him with the best chance to make a difference to his country. The recruiters knew this. It hadn’t taken them a lot of convincing to get Calvin to sign on the dotted line.

He was almost immediately put on a plane, to a part of the world that had recently caught fire. His training would be on the job. They hadn’t even left him time to drive home and collect some personal stuff. The army would provide for everything now. Clothes, food, money, perhaps a chance at pride and glory.

When the plane set down on the foreign tarmac, amid a barrage of enemy fire, the top brass decided there was no such thing as serving your country too soon. They sent Calvin Innerglot over the top, in the full knowledge the recruiters had probably already found a replacement, ready to be shipped in immediately.

***

Back home, Maisie set the table for two. Her older brother hadn’t been home for two days. It wasn’t the first time that had happened, but she was sure he would eventually return. In case that was tonight, she had made Country Chicken, his favourite. She filled her plate and his, and prayed.

“Please, God, let Calvin return home safely.”

And she wondered what pickle he had gotten himself into this time.

302. Our lives depended on it

Our lives depended on it, so we ran, through bushes, through hedges, through thorns, until our feet were more scar than flesh. We ran from the dogs’ barks, distant but closing in. If we looked back, we could probably see their foaming mouths. But look back we’d sworn we never would. Never again.

Ezekiel knew the way. He had fled before. Or tried. We’d have to reach the abandoned gate on the river bank. There we could swim to our freedom.

Between the withered trees the white stone gateway summoned us. We sprinted as fast our shackles would allow us. Every bone in our body, every muscle hurt. But we felt no pain. We could smell a long desired freedom. We could taste it.

Only when we walked through the gate, crying for joy, did we notice the dinghy on the river and Mister Boss, cocking his gun.

Freedom, while it lasted, would taste as sweet as freshly drawn blood.

 

cover

Did you enjoy this story? Then why not try the 101 stories in 300 words or less in YOU’RE GETTING SLEEPY, THE HYPNOTIST’S APPRENTICE YAWNED.

Available at the Createspace Store, at amazon.com, amazon.co.uk or any other Amazon store in your territory.  E-book is also available.

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Exclusive: the book cover revealed!

As most of you will know by now, I have, with a little input by you,  collected my favourite 101 stories of the past year. These will be published in a book that will carry the title You’re getting sleepy, the hyponotist’s apprentice yawned – and 100 more stories in 300 words (or less).

The book should be available at Amazon sometime next wee, both as a paperback and an e-book. More info about ordering and pricing will follow when the definitive publication date approaches.

But to whet your appetite until then, here is the cover of the book.

cover 2

You have spoken. Here’s your selection!

It was close at times (very close) but the votes for your favourite stories have been tabulated. Mostly I agreed with your vote, though I am sad to see some stories go, especially ‘I saw her naked’ and ‘The Lunar detective’. The following 16 stories, as per your wishes,  will be included in a book containing the 101 best tales from my 300 stories project, on which I will release some very interesting further news over the course of the next few days (so stay tuned).

Your favourite stories:

3. The bird waddled

51. Floppy shoes, a squirting flower and an assortment of red noses

52. The spandex hero was in hot pursuit

69. I should warn you, the box is empty

142. It is possible

153. Time Travel Inc. When can I help you?

194. Kaiser Wilhelm

201. The hypnotic whirl

204. Who’s going to miss him?

235. The labyrinth

250. Certified bullshit

260. Babi’s sugar intake

281. So, mister Smith, we meet at last

282. Hey, God

289. Most of Machu Pichu

298. The radiation will kill you

 

301. Her slim novella

Her slim novella was sandwiched between a dull monograph and a three-volume encyclopaedia, which partly explained why Sorrow for Sawdust had not been lent out even once since it had first appeared on the shelves of the New York Public Library. Each week, Victoria Woodruff, the author, would visit the library, anxiously. But each time her novella would still be there, gathering dust.

She had urged friends and colleagues to lend it out, but most of them possessed copies already – with a personal inscription no less – so none of them did. She had even tried rearranging the books on the shelf to make her novella stand out, but the library staff quickly put a stop to that. That is why, five years on, Victoria was about to violate an unwritten author honours code. She would be lending out her own book.

Ignoring the glint of disapproval in the eyes of the stone lions at the entrance, she walked the same route she walked every Saturday, with one big caveat. At the end, there was no book. Between the monograph and the encyclopaedia remained just a small void, barely recognisable as a space roomy enough to house a book.

It appeared that Sorrow for Sawdust had finally found a reader and that left Victoria elated. She had slaved for three years on the novella and spent another two finding a publisher. Five years later, it appeared she had a certified reader.

Victoria whistled her way out of the building, so happy she did not notice the truck parked in front of the library or the man tossing in unloved books by the bulk, ready to be pulped. Had she known her novella was among them, surely Victoria would have appreciated the bitter irony of its title.

 

cover

Did you enjoy this story? Then why not try the 101 stories in 300 words or less in YOU’RE GETTING SLEEPY, THE HYPNOTIST’S APPRENTICE YAWNED.

Available at the Createspace Store, at amazon.com, amazon.co.uk or any other Amazon store in your territory.  E-book is also available.

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