“The Bad Folk (part one)”

This was written today and first published on my steemit blog (check out steemit if you don’t know it, it is a really supportive platform for writers, or at least I’ve found it to be so).

The Bad Folk

 

“Mummy?” Eliot said, tugging at Audrey’s hand.

“Yes, dear?” Audrey, pushing the trolley (which for once was travelling in a straight line) with one hand, holding onto her son with the other, did not look up from the recept she was checking (resting it on the handle of the trolley).

“Is that man sleeping or dead?”

“Hmmmm?” Audrey said, not really hearing the question.

“That man, over there. Is he dead? Or just asleep? It’s a funny place to sleep!” Audrey looked up and followed her son’s pointing finger. She wasn’t sure what she expected to see – her son, like most children, had an imagination that left her speechless, quite often, and what came out of his mouth often featured on the pages of her social media accounts (much to the irritation, she suspected, of her childless friends) – but it certainly wasn’t the body of a man lying on the edge of the wall of the multi-story carpark. Her son was right: he looked either dead, or asleep.

The dilemma of a caring empathetic young mother. Should she show her son that one should always try to help people who need it? Should she approach the man to see if he was alright? But what if he wasn’t? If he was dead, Audrey certainly wouldn’t want her son to be that close to a dead body? And if he was just asleep? Perhaps he would be angry at being woken, and use threatening language… or worse. If he was asleep, at this time in the afternoon, it would be a fairly safe assumption that he was drunk or had taken some kind of drug or another.

She should probably find someone. Call the police, perhaps. Or an ambulance? Audrey rummaged (one handed of course) in her bag, that was balanced on top of the trolley, looking for her phone.

“I think he moved, Mummy!” Eliot tugged again at her hand. “Come on! Let’s go and see if he is okay.”

“I think we should probably call someone, darling.”

“Daddy says, you should never ask someone else to do something you are not prepared to do yourself,” Eliot sung the sentence, as if he had learned it word for word. It certainly sounded like the kind of think Dan would say.

“Yes, well your father… never mind. Okay, we’ll get a bit closer and then we’ll call out to him to see if he needs our help. Not too close! Some people don’t like being woken up. You wouldn’t wake up a grumpy old bear from a sleep, would you?”

Eliot seemed to ponder this for a moment. “I think it depends on the situation,” he said. That sounded like Dan too.

Audrey wheeled the trolley, holding on tightly to her son’s hand up the ramp, closer to where the man was lying on the wall. It was a pretty dangerous place to sleep – if he was asleep – if he rolled over the wrong way he would fall several stories down. If he was lucky enough to avoid killing himself he’d end up with a broken back at the very least.

“Hello?” Audrey called, when she was with hailing distance. The body didn’t move. Eliot tugged at her hand. Audrey moved a little closer. “Excuse me. Are you alright?”

This time there was a definite twitch. The man was alive. That was something.

“I don’t want to bother you, but I-” tug. “- we, just wanted to check you were alright. It doesn’t look like the safest place to sleep.”

The man stretched and sat up. He smiled at Audrey and then at Eliot.

“Hello again,” he said.

“Errr, I don’t think we’ve met,” Audrey said. Eliot was grinning like an idiot at the man. That was odd. He was usually shy with strangers.

“No, we haven’t,” the man said, leaping down from the wall and bouncing over towards them. Audrey gripped hold of Eliot’s hand, pulling him closer to her. She swung the trolley round slightly, to form a small barrier between the man and them. The man reached over the trolley with one hand outstretched, ready for a hand shake. It was to Eliot he offered the hand.

To Audrey’s amazment (and concern) Eliot pulled his hand from hers and took the man’s hand.

“Hello, again!” Eliot said, his voice bright and cheerful. “I didn’t know it was you! I didn’t expect to see you here!”

The man shook Eliot’s hand warmly and then turned to Audrey.

“You must be Eliot’s mother,” he said. “Audrey, isn’t it?”

Audrey nodded, and automatically shook the man’s hand. It was warm and dry, a firm confident shake.

“My name is Gillien,” the man said. “We’ve not met, but I’ve worked with your son, on a number of occations.”

“Worked?” Audrey said, confused. “Oh, do you work at his school?”

“No, no!” the man smiled. It was a pleasent smile, and Audrey couldn’t help but return it. “No, not at all. This is the first time I’ve been in this Realm. I know nothing of these schools. I have had the pleasure of traveling with your son in another world.”

Okay. This was getting weird, now. Audrey’s hand took her son’s again, whilst the other grabbed her phone. Just in case.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said. “And I don’t know how you know my son, or my name. But if you don’t go away I’m going to phone the police.”

It was the man’s turn to look confused.

“The police? Who, or what, is the police?”

“He is perfectly safe, mummy,” Eliot said. “He lives in my dreams. He helps me fight the Bad Folk. He protects me.”

“I- what?” Was this some kind of sick joke? Had Dan some how put Eliot and this man up to playing a joke on her? Try to freak her out? To make her look bad? Was she being filmed? Some kind of YouTube sick prank? She looked around, frantically, but couldn’t see anyone else. But of course, cameras could be hidden anywhere these days.

“Look,” the man said, his face, suddenly very serious. “I know this might be a little bit weird for you. But I’ve come to warn you. The Bad Folk have crossed over. They are coming for your son. I am here to protect you.”

“Look,” Audrey said, backing up. Eliot was looking the man, his eyes wide with fear. “I don’t know who put you up to this – Dan, was it? – but it isn’t very funny. You’re freaking my son out. I’m going to leave now. And I’m calling the police now,” she pressed the three numbers quickly. “So I suggest you leave, before they arrive.”

The man shook his head.

“I can’t do that, I’m afraid,” he said.

To be continued…

 

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“Deception”

This was a story I wrote today in response to the daily picture prompt on Steemit (I’ve been writing something every day for 242 days and counting)

 

“Deception”

 

“You go first,” Saranda touched his shoulder, just gave it a little push. He felt his skin beneath his shirt tingle at her touch. “Go on!” she insisted. Maikel looked out over the bridge. It was a bloody long way to the other side. He looked down. And an even further drop to the valley below.

The light was beginning to fade, the trees – already wearing a thick blanket of mist – were beginning to disappear into the dusk. The bridge was lit by the twinkling light from thousands of Burning Bugs that clung to the sides.

“Is there another way?” of course, he knew the answer.

“If you know the answer why are you wasting my time, with stupid questions?” she said.

He smiled. He still wasn’t sure if he was entirely comfortable with all her abilities but there was a certain thrill about knowing he had to be one hundred percent honest with this woman. It had meant he’d become more honest with himself.

“I’m scared,” Maikel said. “Why don’t you go first?”

She laughed.

“I don’t think so.” She reached out and touched him again. “It will be alright. I know we get across this… it’s just important you lead the way.”

He nodded his head.

“Okay,” he pulled the hood over his head, and started to walk. The bridge was as stable as it looked. That is: not very. It swayed with every step he took and he felt it move again when Saranda joined him. It took them a moment before they got into the swing of it – so to speak – they learned to roll with the motion, if they fought against it they fell against the flimsy feeling guide rope.

They were almost halfway across when Maikel heard it coming. At first he wasn’t certain – the wind was whistling past his hood, and whipped his clothing, creating a noise that was hard to describe. But the second time he heard it he was certain. The sound of thick leather wings beating their way fast, high above them.

“Don’t look, keep going!” Saranda said. She wasn’t shouting, but he could hear her voice clearly, despite his hood, the wind and the pounding of his heart. “Don’t run, either. Concentrate on putting one foot in front of another.”

They’ll burn the bridge, Maikel thought. That’s what I would do. If I wanted to stop us. Take the bridge out, kill the runaways. End of problem.

“They won’t destroy the bridge,” Saranda said. “They need the bridge. They want to intimidate us. They are counting on you making a mistake. They think they’ll scare you into doing something foolish.”

Maikel tried to shut the fear from his mind, and when that failed, tried to dampen it. He kept his eyes straight ahead – he couldn’t look down at his feet, and if he looked up… if he saw them. Well, look what happened the last time.

He could feel wind generated by the massive wings as they came closer. One of them shrieked as it flew by and his nostrils were filled with the creatures stench. It flew along the bridge and for a moment Maikel doubted Saranda: they are going to destroy the bridge.

“Hold on tight!”

Maikel did as Saranda commanded – he usually did – using both hands to grab hold of the rope either side of the bridge, as the great winged serpent skated the length of the bridge and then flapped its wings twice. The shock wave travelled the bridge towards them, rippling the wood. The sound of the clacking of the wood as it bent and beat against itself was deafening, and if Maikel wasn’t holding on for dear life he would have been happy to cover his ears to try to block out the terrible noise. Then as the beast climbed high into the sky it let out a roar and a jet of flame setting the tops of the trees on the far side of the bridge alight.

Where is its companion?

“It’s searching for the others. This one is alone. Keep on going. We have another three minutes before it comes again!”

Still keeping his hands on the rope – it burned the skin on the palms of his hands as he moved them – he ran forward, ignoring the violent swaying of the bridge as best as he could.

He could hear the dragon’s approach, he felt his bowels lurch and he prayed he wouldn’t embarrass himself – or create a slipping hazard for Saranda.

“You’re doing fine.”

He felt her touch – not physical but tangible, nonetheless – a comfortable feeling came over him and he found the strength he had thought had deserted him.

The end of the bridge was in sight now. The solid ground was two hundred paces away.

“Run!” Saranda shouted, and even though he was running already he found the power to increase the pace.

He could hear the wings beating as he threw himself at the ground on the otherside, skidding into the dusty earth, stones grazing his hands and legs, dirt flying into his eyes. He lay still for a moment, blinking the filth from his eyes, spitting it from his mouth. And then he sat up, laughing with relief.

The dragon passed over head, screeching with rage.

Or… perhaps it was victory.

For as Maikel looked around in desperation, at the ground around him, and then at the bridge that still swung back and forth, he could see no sign of Saranda.

He felt a fear overcome him. She said they would be safe. She said they would both make it over the bridge. Maikel let out a wounded cry.

The only woman he’d met he could never manage to deceive had lied to him.

 

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Outwitted (a long short story)

Today, I completed my story Outwitted (a 32 part fantasy story of around 32000 words in total). It is the tale of magic, family, betrayal, and murder

You can find all the parts to the story on steemit. Below is part one
Part one: https://steemit.com/fiction/@felt.buzz/outwitted-a-little-bit-of-fiction-for-365daysofwriting-challenge

In cold blue light of the moon the streets appeared to be made of ice. Barefoot, I followed the old man as he made his way slowly through the alleys and passages, trying to avoid the central lowered flagstones where faeces floated in puddles of urine.

The clunk of his clogs, and the tap-tap-tap of his stick echoed around the walls, creating a strangely hypnotic music. He stopped, suddenly. Leaning on his stick for support, he turned and peered into the eerie light behind him. I ducked back into a doorway, trying not to inhale the odd mixture of odours: cabbage, spices and cat piss.

At this time of the evening, it was hard to follow someone without being noticed: this close to the curfew there were few people on the streets. If he spotted me he would lead me away from her, not to her. And no doubt he would lead me into a place where I could be taken, questioned and killed.

I took a breath and peered round the corner. The old man had vanished. I had not heard the percussion of his walk, which meant he must be close.

She must be close.

I crept towards the spot I had last seen the man. Hidden, on the left, was a passageway with steps leading up to a door.

The door was ajar.

Aware this was likely to be a trap, but seeing no other option, I eased the knife from its scabbard, hidden under my cloak and skipped lightly up the steps.

Neither light nor sound trickled from the cracks in the door. Perhaps I should mark this place, somehow. Come back in daylight. But if I was right and she was here, it was unlikely she would remain until I returned with my friends.

The regimented sound of boots on stone echoed up the streets behind me. The City Guards were out, strictly enforcing the curfew with their steel. If I wanted to leave, I should have already done so. My mind made up, I inched towards the door and, taking a deep breath, pushed the door open.

The hinges were well oiled, and did not creak. That both relieved me and worried me in equal measure. Noisy hinges were useful for alerting those who listened for them to the presence of unwanted intruders. Either, she was not here, after all, or they did not care who entered.

Inside it was dark, and very cold. This dwelling would have been carved into the rocks of the city many centuries ago. I stood for a moment, listening, and letting my eyes adjust. I could hear something, I realised. Music. And laughter. Using the walls as a guide I slid along the passage until my hand touched the warmth of wood. Another door. I pressed my ear to the door. It was from within that the music and laughter came. I adjusted the grip on my knife and let my other hand wander over the door until it found the handle. I took a deep breath and turned it and pushed the door open.

The room was lit by lamps flickering oily flames up the walls, and by a fire that sat in the middle of the room, the smoke flowing up a metal tube that led up through the high ceiling above. She sat behind a table laden with food, and jugs of what I assumed was wine. Musicians playing flutes and instruments stringed with animal gut were sat on cushions and rugs beside her. There did not seem to be any guards, or visible weapons.

Perhaps this would be easier than I thought.

The musicians continued to play their music, despite my intrusion. If she was surprised to see me – barefoot, black cloak covering my thin body, knife held out towards her – she did not show it. Her smile widened and she gestured towards the table in front of her.

“You must be hungry,” she said, her voice loud enough to carry through the music. “Come, eat. We have much to talk about.”

I sensed a movement from behind me, and turning I found the old man’s toothless face in mine. With a flick of his staff, he sent my knife spinning from my hand, across the room. She caught it, without seeming to move.

All the while the musicians played on.

I have been outwitted, I realised, as I am led by the old man to her table.

“Eat,” she said, pushing a plate towards me, with my knife. “Drink,” she said, gesturing at a goblet already full of dark red wine. “And then, my dear brother, we will talk.”

Part two: https://steemit.com/fiction/@felt.buzz/outwitted-part-2-a-fictional-tale-for-365daysofwriting-challenge

A thief from the Night (410 words)

This story is also available in audio format on Soundcloud

 

Night began as a whisper: a rumour of shadows at the very edges of the Day. But once started, it quickly gathered pace.

Leba knew Day would fail soon. The dark cracks would spread, tendril-like through its foundations. Inevitably, Day would split, shatter, and crumble into the sea.

And when Day failed she would too.

As she ran, Leba risked a glance, back, towards the Waghorn. Immediately, her breath was sucked from her lungs, pulled back back towards the dark rocky outcrop. Despite this sign – this symptom – they were not following.

Not yet, anyway.

The tide was coming in fast, threatening to cut her off from her friends. The hungry sea licked at her feet. It tasted her. It wanted to consume her. Her feet sank a little deeper into the wet sand with every stride. A moment of doubt overcame her. She had left it too late. She would be swallowed by the sea, or the sand. Or the Night.

No. She could make it. She would make it. She had to.

Leba knew her friend’s waited for her, but could not see them. The distance and the diminishing light made that impossible. Over the sound of her breathing – in….OUT….in…OUT –  and the pounding of her heart and feet, she fancied she could hear them shout. Encouragement? Warnings? She couldn’t tell.

She could feel the sharp edges of the stolen object cutting into the palm of her left hand. The pain gave her comfort, strength even. Pain meant it was safe.

She could see them now, her friends. Emaj was jumping in the air, hands and arms all over the place. She could hear him, too. His words, shouted over the sand, distinct and clear: “You CAN make it Leba: come on!” Nimos was standing statue-like beside him. She could see he was not looking at her, but straight behind her.

She would not look back. Not now. She had seen them before and had no desire to see them again. She could feel their icy presence, as they closed on her, cold fingers at her neck. Emaj was yelling for her to HurryUpForFuckSake! She was close enough to read the expression of terror on Nimos’s face, to see the dark stain of urine crawl down his breeches.

She was nearly there. Emaj had stopped jumping and was reaching down, his strong hands reaching for hers. She was going to make it.
And then the Night came.

It is Time (266 words)

According to The Clock on the sacred tree in the heart of the Sombre Forest it was ten minutes past Blue Tit.

Time to move. Time to fight.

Matt re-checked his supply of arrows, and the tension in his bow, trying not to look at Allenia. She was busy organising the ForestFolk, moving quickly but reassuringly amongst the small group of newly made warriors. Her easy way and positivity motivated the others, until a few weeks ago more suited to foraging for fruit and nuts, rather than battle. She gave them confidence and strength.

She gave them hope.

The Forest had endured weeks of attacks. The OtherKind had demonstrated no mercy in their slaughter of the ForestFolk, and the destruction of the trees. They had been forced back into the heart of the forest, and this little band, pathetic as it was, was all that was left of a once large, happy and peaceful species.

Allenia her axe held in her hand, her long knife hanging at her side. She carried no arrows: her fighting style was better suited to up close work.
It was Matt’s task to clear the way for her to get close enough to the King of the OtherKind. He would not fail her.

Not this time.

He felt her hand on his shoulder and felt his heart swell with love. With pride.
He looked up at Allenia, her mossy hair was pulled back allowing him to look deep into her eyes.

The fear had left him now.

“It’s time,” she said. “Are you ready, Father?”

Matt found that he was.

__________________

This story was inspired by this photo: http://matthias-hauser.artistwebsites.com/featured/strange-find-in-the-forest-orange-clock-hanging-on-tree-matthias-hauser.html