The Zoo: an everyday tale of life within a Demon Zoo

his story was written for the Steem five minute freewrite challenge. It was first published in fourteen parts on the steem blockchain (here is the link to part 14). There will be more to come. I welcome your feedback as to if it flows ok (given it is written in five minute chunks)

The Zoo

“So is this there natural habitat, Uncle?” Joe looked up at Pete his eyes wide with excitement and interest.

“Well, no,” Pete shook his head smiling. “They wouldn’t normally be living above ground like this. And they wouldn’t be this close to humans, not in this state.” Joe nodded, as if he had know that all along, but just wanted to check that his uncle Pete knew too. “The habitat is as close to their natural one as we can make it. Although, as none of us have actually seen it, we can’t really be sure. Are you ready?” Joe nodded, a big grin on his face. “You sure? You ain’t scared are you?” Joe shook his head, his facial features morphing into what Pete assumed as a tough guy look. “Come on then,” he pushed open the heavy metal door that led into the enclosed space. Joe looked startled as the hot air hit him in the face.

“Where are they?” he said, trying to peer round Pete. “Where are the demons?”

Pete smiled. “Hold on my friend,” he said. “Let’s not rush things. You know that old proverb?” Joe shook his head, “The devil takes a hand in what is done in haste. Now, what that means is when people are in too much of a hurry, mistakes can be made. And believe you me, my boy, when your dealing with demons you don’t want to make mistakes. You remember your aunt Jenny, don’t you boy?” Joe screwed up his face, an expression Pete recognised straight away as his thinking face.

“Kinda. I think.”

Pete nodded. Joe was… what nine now? So he would have only been five when Jenny died. Back in the day when keeping demons wasn’t strictly legal.

“Well, one day she was in a bit of a hurry, and her mind wasn’t on the job. She rushed it, and made mistakes and do you know what happened?” Joe shook his head, his mouth open.

“The demon took advantage of her lack of attention. She died, Joe. And let me tell you, boy, it wasn’t a pretty death,” Joe’s face paled. Pete didn’t like scaring the child, but he needed to know the risks involved. “And it took us a long time to catch that demon. He caused us a lot of problems.” Including a full investigation into his zoo.

“Is he in there?” Joe said.

“Well,” Pete said. “Yes, he is. But he is in the restricted area. You can’t see him.”

“Okay,” Joe said, chewing his lip. Pete wasn’t sure if Joe was relieved or disappointed. “And what about Aunt Jenny. Is she in there?”

“How do you… what makes you say that?” Pete asked.

“My friend, Henry, said that when a demon kills someone, they turn into their slave,” Joe said, his young face very earnest. “Henry said unless you kill the demon the bond can’t be broken. And he said that if you do kill the demon you kill the soul of the person they killed to. Is that why you’ve kept the demon alive.”

Pete paused, considering his answer carefully. “I’m not sure where your friend got that from,” he said, wondering if Joe would notice he hadn’t answered the question. He felt his mind was at a standstill. As if there was a roadblock in his thought processes.

Pete wondered why he had agreed to take the boy on this tour. The government regulations were quite strict regarding underage visits of zoos such as his. They were strictly prohibited. If he was caught he could lose his licence.

Joe was staring at him. Pete realised he’d missed something the boy had said. “Sorry,” he said. “Could you repeat that, Joe? I didn’t catch it.”

“Can we go in now?” Joe said, his brow furrowed deep.

The demon zoo had been set up almost by mistake. Pete had captured his first demon – the same one that had escaped, killing Jenny, his wife, and almost destroying the entire world in the process – one summer evening.

Before he met Rungis, Pete had been skeptical about the existence of demons. There had been increased speculation in the media about the creatures, after more sightings and encounters with more credible witnesses had been reported. But Pete was a show me, don’t tell me kinda guy: if he didn’t see something for himself he didn’t put much faith in it being real.

That evening, he was walking alone along the beach, lost in his thoughts, offering his face to the salt laden wind, in the hope it would bring some sense of order to his confusion. He and Jenny had been arguing again, and he was thinking dark thoughts when all of a sudden he felt something in the air shimmer and shift and then, standing before him, were there was nothing before was a man.

No. Not a man.

Pete realised straight away that this was no ordinary human. No human at all. He wasn’t sure what it was but he had the sense that it was a creature of absolute convictions. That phrase popped into his head, and he wasn’t sure where it came from – or what it meant. But he knew it to be true.

“Good evening,” the creature said, bowing low. “You called, and I answered.” Pete stared at the man, his mouth open, uncertain of what he was talking about.

“Er,” he said. “I don’t think so.”

The man – creature, Pete still thought of him – looked at his wrist, at a small device that looked a little like a watch but a lot not like one.

“How odd,” he said. “I could have sworn you called,” he flicked the device and it made a noise like Pete imagined a cat would make if you stuffed a firework up it’s arse and lit it.

“Oh,” the man-creature said. “I see what has happened there. The sequence is all wrong. It wasn’t you. Well, it was. Just not yet.”

Pete looked at the man-creature as if he were insane – which he had not ruled out as a distinct possibility – and shrugged.

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” he said.

The man-creature bowed again. “I should have come later,” he said. He flicked the screaming not watch on his wrist again and said, “Next year, actually. I was supposed to visit a woman in New England today. As I say, all out of sequence.”

Pete didn’t know what to say to that and began to walk away.

“Wait!” the man-creature shouted. And Pete found himself doing as the voice commanded, his feet sticking to the sand like metal to magnets. “This is the perfect day,” the man-creature said. “For me to introduce myself, to explain my services to you. So that when you docall upon me, you know precisely what it is you are asking.”

Pete looked at the man-creature – he had no choice, he was cemented to the spot.

“Okay,” he said, relieved that at least his voice appeared to work.

“My name,” the man-creature said. “Is Rungis and I am a demon.”

Pete laughed, or rather he tried to, but the noise that came out was, “Okay, that sounds reasonable.”

“You are not a believer,” Rungis said, and his smile made the ends of Pete’s toes curl so much so that he thought his toenails might cut into the base of his feet. “I will teach you to believe, and when you have benefited from this great gift you can go forth and share it with the world.”

Pete managed to laugh, but it sounded empty and hollow. He didn’t really believe in very much, and frankly thought this Rungis character was some kind of madman, or a trickster of some sort. Rungis smiled and the air around Pete’s head chilled almost to freezing, his eyes stung with the cold.

“See that man,” Rungis said, pointing to a figure far away on the beach. Pete recognised Mr Broom, a miserable old fellow with a happy bouncing dog. He always thought the man and dog were very ill suited, but perhaps the opposite natures kept them both grounded in some way. He nodded. Rungis’ smile disappeared and he clicked his fingers. Mr Broom fell into the sand and the bouncing dog began to bounce further.

“Is he dead?” Pete asked, a stupid question, he realised even as it left his lips. Rungis nodded.

“Oh yes,” he said. “He will come and join us.”

“Join us?” Pete asked, feeling lightheaded as though drunk or high, was this Rungis creature doing something to his mind? Perhaps the man was not dead after all, but would rise from the beach and run towards them. Perhaps this whole thing was just one big joke.

“He will become one of us,” Rungis said.

“A demon.” Pete croaked. His mouth was dry and he needed water. Rungis smiled and handed him a water bottle. Pete took it, reluctantly – how did he know what he wanted – but desperate for water he took a sip. It was warm, unpleasant tasting. Pete swilled it around his mouth, and spat it out.

Rungis laughed. “It’s not poisoned,” he said. “If I wanted to kill you I could just wish it to happen.”

Pete handed the bottle back to the demon – he thought of him as such now – and nodded.

Rungis clicked his fingers again, and Pete flinched, closing his eyes, scrunching them tight against the expected pain, wondering if his heart would stop like Mr Broom’s. But nothing happened, he was still breathing, his heart was still beating. He opened his eyes and beside the demon, Mr Broom stood, smiling. Except it wasn’t really Mr Broom, Pete realised. And he wasn’t really smiling. Pete could tell the man was not as he was.

“He is neither dead, nor alive,” Rungis said, answering Pete’s unasked question. “The laws of physics do not apply to us. We have new laws.”

Pete didn’t care about the laws that governed the demon realm, he wanted to get as far away from the demon as possible. But he didn’t think it was wise to upset him. He didn’t want to end up like Mr Broom, whatever that was. Was he a demon too? Pete thought perhaps he was, but not quite. Mr Broom’s smile stretched so far across his face Pete thought the top of his head might fall off.

“What do you want?” Pete asked Rungis, trying not to look at Mr Broom, because he was looking less and less human, and Pete was becoming frightened.

Rungis pulled out a piece of paper from a pocket in his jacket. The paper seemed to be a very long list. Pete was not near enough to see what was written on it, but he thought they were names.

“My shopping list,” Rungis explained. Pete shook his head, trying to dislodge the cloud of confusion that seemed to be suffocating him. “It is a list of souls I intend to have.” He scrolled the paper until he came to a section he was looking for and pointed at it. “Here it is,” he said, and gestured for Pete to come and look.

Pete did not want to come and look.

But his feet had other ideas and he began to walk steadily towards the demon.

“Look,” Rungis said, and despite himself, Pete found that he was peering at his name.

His name stared back at him on the page. Although, Pete noticed, it did not stay still. It swirled and moved and sometimes letters jumped from one place to another. It was as if, Pete thought, the name hadn’t decided whether it belonged on the list or not. As he watched it did a little dance.

No. Not a dance: it was unravelling.

Pete was reminded of a game he used to play with his sister when he was a child. They would each have an apple and try to peel the fruit in one piece so the skin was as long and as thin as possible, without it snapping. The one who had the longest unbroken piece of apple peel was the winner and would take both apples. His name seemed to be unpeeling before his eyes.

“That’s not right!” Rungis said, snatching the list from Pete’s grip. Pete saw that the demon looked as if he were worried. Pete had not thought much about demons before – not believing in them he had no reason to – but he had not thought that they would suffer from human emotions, and issues, like worry, anxiety and depression. But Rungis definitely looked worried.

Perhaps he was not as all knowing and all powerful as he had seemed when he killed Mr Broom.

Mr Broom’s smile was now so wide that his mouth met at the back of his head. Pete had an urge to push the man’s forehead to see if it would topple off. Whilst Rungis looked anxiously at the list and cursed – using words Pete had never heard of but somehow knew were very bad indeed – he reached his hand out and pushed.

At first nothing happened, apart from Mr Broom’s eyes widened in surprise, and perhaps happiness. And then the top of his head did indeed fall off revealing a rather shrunken looking grey brain inside. Pete stepped back, bringing his hand to his mouth in horror. Mr Broom did not fall down dead or react in any way a person should, who had just had his head fall into two pieces. He just stood their swaying in the sea breeze. The top of his head was on the floor, skull side down, rocking back and forth, his eyes staring at Pete.

And then, as Pete watched, his brain pulsated and changed. It morphed into the shape of a dog. No, not a dog. A large cat? It was a cougar, Pete realised, pleased he could identify it, but not sure why he had felt the need to do so, or why he felt so pleased he had. The cougar leaped from Mr Broom’s skull flying through the air straight at Pete’s face.

Pete ducked, in a pathetic attempt to avoid the claws of the tiny brain-cougar that were stretched open, about scratch his face. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Rungis gesture and then something changed, everything froze. The cougar stayed in the air the tips of it’s sharp claws an inch from his face, a seagull was suspended in flight just above him. Rungis sighed and stepped over to Mr Broom and gave him a slap.

“I’ll tell you if I want you to go brain-cougar on anyone. I make the decisions around here, not you.”

Pete stepped back, away from the cougar-brain as Rungis grabbed it and began to shove it back into the open head of Mr Broom. At his movement Rungis stopped what he was doing and stared at him.

“How are you moving?” he said. Biting down on a sarcastic response Pete said nothing. “You should be effected by the Big Freeze,” Rungis said. “You don’t have the power to disobey my commands.”

“What is the Big Freeze?” Pete asked, genuinely curious.

He could have guessed of course. He wasn’t stupid, although he often asked stupid questions, sometimes because he hadn’t thought things through, sometimes just to annoy others.

Time was frozen. Pete could see that.

The demon did not answer, but became agitated. Presumably, Pete surmised, the demon was frustrated that his power to freeze time did not appear to stretch to him. How could this be? Did Pete have some special Demon Defying power that he had hitherto been unaware of (of course he would have been unaware of such a power for two main reasons: the first being he did not think he had ever met a demon before – he was wrong about that, of course – and; secondly that he didn’t believe in them – before meeting one today, of course).

He suddenly had a strange feeling of contentment sweep over him.

No, not contentment. Happiness.

He was happy he realised. And the happier Pete became the more agitated the demon became.

I can control him, Pete thought, his smile growing. I can control HIM!

And that’s how Pete discovered he could control demons.

Years later, when he was running the zoo, a reporter asked him how it was possible to go from a non believer of demons to a controler of demons in just a few short minutes. Pete considered the question carefully and then smiled.

“Perfume,” he said.

The reporter looked up from his notepad – he was an old fashioned type, although he used a voice recorder too, he liked the feel of pen on paper, it helped him think he said – his face startled.

“Perfume?” he asked.

“Yes,” Pete said, settling back in his chair and taking a sip of earl grey tea. “It was like inhaling a perfume. Standing there next to the demon I suddenly realised I knew more about him than he did about me.”

The reporter made a mark on his notepad and looked up again. “I don’t understand the connection to perfume,” he said.

“He had the same smell as my mother,” Pete said, his voice soft. The reporter paused waiting for Pete to continue.

“My mother was a demon,” Pete said, after a short pause. The reporter looked up, startled. Pete smiled. He had kept that piece of the puzzle to himself for so many years. He was surprised the reporter had not made the connection himself.

“Your mother was a demon?” the man said, his pen hovering above the page of the notepad. Was it quivering slightly, Pete wondered. Was the man scared of him. “Does that make you..?”

Pete nodded. “My father was human, he died before I was born. My mother was a demon. A risen demon.”

“Risen?”

“Kind of the opposite of a fallen angel, I guess,” Pete said.

“Okay,” the reporter said, his facial expression telling Pete he was far from okay with this. Then there was a shrill repeating sound. “What the hell..?” the reporter said, sitting up, clearly worried there was an escape from the demon zoo.

Pete smiled, checking his watch. “Don’t worry,” he said. “It is just the fire alarm.”

My First Year doing NaNoWriMo

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So November is almost over! I have finished writing my latest chapter in my NaNoWriMo novel. It isn’t finished yet, so I’ll be continuing until it is. I “won” it last week (got past the 50000 word target), and I wrote 57317 words in total in November. I’m going to continue to write every day, but instead of 2000 words my target will be a leisurely 1000. Early next year I intend to edit and publish the stories I have written this year.

At the moment you can become an early bird patreon for as little as 1$ a month and you’ll receive a copy of my first ebook (whenever that is published)

You can read the rough draft of my novel for free! Click here to find Chapter 25 (Part 2) and you’ll find links to all the other chapters.

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“The Bag” a bit of weekend freewrite fun

Every weekend the freewrite group on steemit has a bit of fun by writing a story using three prompts (five minutes per prompt). See this post to find out more

This is my effort (the prompts are in bold)

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“Clarity and protection is all I want from you,” she said. I shifted behind the counter, feeling just a little bit uncomfortable.

“Errr,” I said. “I think we are all sold out of both of those brands. But I could offer you Jeepers a brand new perfume. I think it smells of burnt grapes, or something.”

She wrinkled her nose. “No, thank you,” she said, and limped away from the counter.

“Excuse me!” I said, holding up her bag. “I think you’ve forgotton your purse.”

She turned around and looked at the bag, and then at me. “I think it suits you better,” she said. “Keep it.”

I stared, open mouthed, at her as she continued her way out of the shop.

“What was that all about,” Millie said, coming out of the office.

“I think she was looking for perfume, or something,” I said. “But she left her bag. Or rather, she’s given it to me.” Millie took the bag and leapt over the counter, running towards the door.

Just before starting second grade, Tom moved across the country. He hated it. He is now fifty seven, and he still holds it against the rest of us. He stuck his foot out as Millie ran towards the door, bag in hand. Like the pro she is she jumped neatly over the outstretched leg and gave Tom a whack in the face with the woman’s bag.

“You’re a fucking arsehole, Tom!” she shouted. She skidded out of the door and I watched as she stood there, bag in hand looking first one way and then another. She shook her head, and popped her head back in the door. “Did you see which way she went?” she asked.

I shrugged. “Nope, but she couldn’t have gotten very far. She had a slow moving limp.” Millie looked at me, a strange expression on her face.

“Slow moving limp?” she asked. I shrugged again. Millie ran out into the car park (or in that direction, anyway) and then a few minutes later she returned, bag still very much in hand. “I have no idea where she went,” she said. “Vanished into thin air.”

“Very mysterious,” I said. “Perhaps I am meant to keep the bag.”

“Don’t be an arse,” Millie said. “I’ll take a look inside and see if I can find some ID.”

Millie plonked the bag onto the counter. We both looked at it for a moment. It was a pretty big back. Not quite suitcase size, but too big to be described as a handbag.

Unless you had particularly big hands.

It had a large zip on the top, and with confidence Millie took hold of it and gave it a big tug.

It made a very unusual noise. It sounded a little bit how I would imagine a dinosaur fart would be like.

“Wow!” Millie said, leaping back from the bag, clutching her hand to her nose. It kind of smelled a little bit how I would imagine dinosaur arse-gas to smell like. I stepped forward.

“Allow me,” I said. I pride myself on my ability to endure bad smells (I produce a lot of them) and so I opened the top of the bag and peeked in. And then closed it again, quickly. “I think we should just zip that baby up, and pretend we haven’t seen it,” I said.

“What?” Millie said.

I took hold of the zipper and closed the bag and then turned my back on it.

“If we pretend it is not there, perhaps it will go away,” I said.

Unfortunately… it did not.

A couple of Freewrites for you…

I thought I would share a couple of freewrites I have written recently on steemit (as part of @mariannewest’s freewrite group

Upload

The prompt was see you on the other side

Original post can be found here

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“See you on the other side,” he said, and put the gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger.

The explosion was louder than she expected and the blood and brain splatter on the walls of the motel room was impressive.

It would take more than a wipe down and a lick of paint to get of the stains, she thought.

Quickly she activated the SoulSearch App and located his soul as it shrieked its way out of his body. She managed to put it into the container and began the upload process. He would be on the cloud with the others within a few minutes. She tapped nervously while the upload bar moved so slowly.

This was the dangerous time.

The motel was chosen well, but all it took was a nervous newcomer and the police would be on their way. It wasn’t getting caught that worried her, she could blag her way out of this, and she had enough contacts high up in politics and law enforcement to get any ridiculous charges dropped. Not it was the danger of losing his soul that concerned her.

If the upload process was interrupted then everything was lost: he was lost forever.

The Tear Collector

Prompt: tears

You’ll find the original post here

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She was crying again. The tears, not being made of salt water like you and I, of course, hurt as they tore their way out of her tear ducts, and I wondered if this made her cry all the more. The dry diamond dust tears were collected by the special dust collector that was attached to her face. The man sitting beside her nodded happily as she wept, and prodded her with a sharp stick every time he thought she might stop. I knew from experience that this process would last for an hour or so, and then they would unhook her from the tear collection unit and go fetch another one from the pit. She would be allowed to rest, to build up more of the precious tear material before being tortured and ridiculed into crying once more. I forced myself to watch. It was the least I could do, I thought. To witness the cruelty of my species. To record it with my own eyes and to transmit it to the rest of humanity. This is what we are doing! I would yell. Do you care? And then I would listen for a response, and be disappointed that no, resources are always more important to us than basic kindness and goodness.

 

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“The Creeps” A weekend Freewrite

Every Saturday on the steemit freewrite group we do something a little different. Instead of one prompt there are three. So you write three 5 minute freewrites using the prompts given (at the weekend the first two you use as the first sentence or so of your story). Go and check it out: it is fun.

Anyway, this is the story I came up with (the given prompts are in bold):

The Creeps

 

She had, what they call a healthy smile. But whenever I looked at her, she gave me the creeps.

“I don’t want them,” I says, handing the tiny struggling bag of little creatures back to her. “You know the rules,” she says, smiling her so called healthy smile. “If you look at me you got to take the bag of creeps.” I look away. I’m not sure who invented this game, or indeed where the horrible creatures, the creeps, come from. But whenever I end up looking after the dirty little blighters things always go wrong.

She (of the healthy smile) makes me keep the creeps for twenty four hours (“punishment for looking at my healthy smile, you dirty little man,” she says).

Usually the first hour or so aren’t too bad. The creeps are – like most creatures with well deserved reputations of badness and madness – nocturnal. They love the night. Usually when I run into healthy smile it’s mid afternoon, and whilst the bag of creatures are lively, they can easily be contained. You just have to make sure they’re not put into a cupboard, or any other dark place.

Today, it’s almost dusk. I only have an hour or so before things go haywire!

Sunday afternoon walks were mandatory. But sometimes, I hid in the kitchen and cooked huge pots of food.” One of the creeps is talking its nonsense, and the woman I pass on the street gives me a strange look.

Shame I have an unhealthy smile, I think, or I could have offloaded my bag of creeps onto her, for looking at me.

The creeps are tiny, about the size of a gobstopper. In fact the first time she gave me the small paper bag that bulged and moved strangely, I thought she was sharing candy with me. But I guess, no one has a smile that healthy if they eat big bags of candy.

The creeps are small but powerful. In the bag there are about twenty of them, sometimes more, sometimes less. I know not to open the bag to check, they are cunning little sods, and will escape easily. They have very loud voices, despite being small, so passers by often think it is me speaking when it is just my bag of creeps.

But luckily there is only one talking now, the others are quiet. Perhaps they are sleeping.

This is not a good sign, they will be conserving their energy for night time.

I have an idea, and I head off to Stoner Steve’s house. I ring the bell and hear him shuffle to answer it.

Stoner Steve answers the door, with a grunt and a joint in his hand (he is well named, you see).

“What do you want,” he says.

I don’t answer but push past him. He has a book in his hand and as I brush past if falls to the floor with a crash (it is obviously a heavy book, possibly with a metal cover, or maybe made of glass, to make such a racket).

“You clumsy bastard!” says the wide awake creep.

“What did you say?” Steve says.

“Nothing,” says I. “I need access to your growing room, Steve my man.”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” says he.

“You showed it to me the other week. The one in your cellar. With the hydroponics and the lights. It’s the lights I need.”

My idea is simple: get the little creeps in a place with permanent light and try to fool them into thinking it is day time, and thereby reducing the mayhem they may cause me and anyone else who is around me. Also, I think, I can have a big spliff and a catch up with Steve, so everyone is a winner.

Steve is a good friend, albeit a forgetful one, and he lets me use his room for the above described purpose.

The creeps make a bit of a rustling noise and one of the pipes up, “turn the fucking light off, twat face!” but then I hear the bag snoring and Steve passes me a joint and I smile.

 

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“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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“Jump!” a short story

I wrote this today (first published on my steemit blog earlier)

“Jump!”

 

The water might have looked inviting if it wasn’t so bloody far away. It was clear, and I could see the sand and the rocks below the surface.

That didn’t help.

I licked my lips, nervously. I wasn’t exactly afraid of heights (if I was I wouldn’t be up here looking down into the ocean below) but I did have a healthy fear of dying. It had served me well up until this point.

“You’ll be alright,” Jim said. “You don’t need to do a fancy dive. Just a jump, straight down, legs together. It’s deeper than it looks.”

That was good. It didn’t look very deep.

“And, everyone does this, do they?” I asked again.

“Yes, I told you. It’s part of the initiation.”

I couldn’t make out the others: they were so far below I could barely see there were people in the boats, let alone make out their faces. I imagined they were looking up at me, a tiny dot standing on the rock that jutted out over the ocean above them. I imagined Clara’s face, laughter lines accentuated as she squinted against the strong sunlight.

What would she think of me if I bottled it? Would she think less of me? Would she think anything at all? I swallowed. Was I really going to go through with this insanity, just to impress a girl? At my age?

Who am I kidding? Of course I was.

I took a deep breath closed my eyes and leaped into the air. I could feel my legs moving, and fought to keep them together, as the air rushed past my face. I hoped my decent didn’t look as undignified as I felt it was. There was an unpleasent noise – a scream. I knew it was me. I tried to turn it into an excited sounding whooop! but – to my ears at least – it sounded like someone torturing a puppy.

And then my legs hit the water. I seemed to be going downward for so long I thought I would never stop. And I realised with all the screaming and falling I’d been doing, I had forgotten to take a breath, before I hit the water. I began to panic, and started flailing. My feet made contact with the sand – just a touch – and then I was moving back towards the surface. By this time my eyes were open, my lungs were aching and I wanted to scream again, but knew as soon as I opened my mouth the water would be pouring down my throat filling my body. The light was getting nearer and I broke the surface with a cry, sucking in air. Around me I heard the others whooping with excitement, and at least one “Nice one, Phil!”. And then I felt hands grasping mine, and I was helped onto one of the boats.

“I can’t believe you did it, man!” someone said – I think it was Frank. “I can’t believe it!”

I smiled, trying to pretend I’d enjoyed the experience. Frank – it was he – passed me an open bottle of beer. I took it and took a gulp. It was warm, but I drank it anyway. Kit and Olly were the others on the boat. I was a little disappointed not to be on the same boat as Clara. Looking around – trying to appear casual, as I sipped my beer – I spotted her. She was on the same boat as bloody Martin. I watched as he said something and Clara laughed, leaning in and touching him on the shoulder as she said something in his ear.

Fucker.

I didn’t like Martin. He was funny – or thought he was – handsome – if you liked that kind of thing – and young. I hated him. He looked over, our eyes met and he waved. I dragged a smile onto my face and raised my bottle at him. Clara didn’t look over.

“Come on,” Olly said. “Let’s get over to the beach. I’m bloody starving!” Olly was always hungry, it seemed. Skinny as an anorexic stick insect, but he ate more than I have ever seen a human being eat.

“Are we not waiting for Jim?” I asked.

“Jim?”

“To jump.”

Olly laughed. Kit looked a bit embarrased.

“What?”

“No one else is stupid enough to do that jump, man!” Frank said, starting the engine. “It has always been a bit of a joke,” he shouted over the noise. “You’re the first. You’re a legend, man! You’ve got balls, especially for an old dude.”

Oh.

Frank took the lead, and the boat skimmed over the waves. I sat back in the boat, toying with the now empty bottle of beer, pulling of the label, trying not to notice Olly and Kit sucking each other’s faces off.

What was I doing? It was one thing to chuck in my job, and go see the world. Why not? My brother’s death – four years younger than me – from a heart attack brought home how random the lottery of life is. If you have a chance to do something – to grab hold of life and give it a shake, before it turns round and chokes you – then do it.

But this…

Joining up with a bunch of kids I could have been old enough to father, and to pretend that they were hanging with me because they thought I had something to bring to the party. To hope they thought I was “cool”. God, I felt like an idiot.

And Clara… did I honestly think she was interested in me? Because she seemed interested in my story? Because she laughed at a couple of jokes.

Oh God. I’d turned into that guy.

I’d been so desperate to impress Clara – and the others, too, but mostly her – that I had fallen (literally, it turns out – into the fucking ocean!) for this story about an initiation into their group. An initiation ceremony for fucks sake. What was I thinking of?

Frank brought the boat right up to the beach. Jim was there – he’d driven down from the cliff top – and clapped me on the back when he saw me, laughing and telling me I was a good man. I smiled, accepted the beer he offered me. I watched Clara, Martin and Frank as they set about organising the barbecue and then assured no one was looking at me, I headed off, up the beach, back towards the campsite.

I turned around, just once. No one seemed to have noticed I’d gone.

 

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