Author Reading of The Still Blood-Soaked Path

 

The SteemFiction book Dead Silence  has a murder-themed story written especially for the book by me!

You can listen to me read the first 900 or so words of the 9000 word story on SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/feltbuzz/author-reading-first-900-words-the-still-blood-soaked-path-by-bruce-arbuckle

Or you can watch me read it on YouTube:

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Voices In The Darkness: Free KINDLE download (available Friday 14th June for 5 days only)!

If you are looking for a bargain you can’t get much better than a FREEbie! From 14th June you can download the first SteemFiction book Voices In The Darkness (featuring my short story The Tale-Tell Dead) for FREE! But don’t leave it too long! The offer runs out on 18th June so hurry over to your Kindle store!

This is to celebrate the publication of the second SteemFiction book Dead Silence (featuring my short story The Still Blood-Soaked Path), available in Paperback and Kindle NOW on Amazon!

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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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“Fortune Cookie” a short story by Felt.Buzz

This story was first published on my Steemit blog (you can find it here)

“It’s here somewhere,” Graham said, pulling her along by the hand.

“Can’t we just eat in this place?” Marie said, pointing at the nearest restaurant, The Golden Dragon. She looked at her phone. “It’s got good reviews! The crispy pancakes are to die for, apparently.”

“I don’t want to eat at the fucking Golden Dragon, I want to eat at the Rising Sun!” He stopped, turned towards her and looked into her eyes. “Sorry,” he said, looking like he actually meant it for once. “I didn’t mean to swear at you. It’s just it’s significant, isn’t it? It means something. At least it does to me.” A smile. “I want things to be right, just for once. Just for tonight, at least.”

Marie smiled, weakly. She was getting a little tired of Graham’s little mood snaps, as she called them. But Dr Jenkins said it was part of his condition. She had to be more accommodating, he said. She thought she had been pretty bloody accommodating, already, thank you very much!

“I know,” she said. “But perhaps it’s closed down.”

“It hasn’t,” he said, looking around him again. “I passed it a couple of weeks ago. I’m sure I did, I remember…” he stopped. “Anyway…” he said, looking away, over his shoulder. Was he blushing?

“You were in town a couple of weeks ago?” Marie asked. “I don’t remember you mentioning it.”

“Er… no. It was probably longer ago, than that. You’re probably right. I mean,” he laughed, it sounded hollow, false to Marie’s ears. “What kind of restaurant doesn’t have a website these days?” Marie was about to reply, when he grabbed her hand. “There!” he said. “I recognised that sign! I think it’s over there.”

And she was being pulled again. She sighed, although it was one of her internal, silent sighs, that Marie had perfected, recently. Don’t show frustration with him. You must be patient. Easier said than done, Doctor.

Anne said Marie had “the patience of a Saint. If it had been me, I’d have booted him out after that dalience with that woman!” And perhaps she should have done. But after thirty years of marriage, it wasn’t that easy, was it? To throw everything away. To start again. They had married so young. Marie hadn’t been with anyone else. Graham had been her one, her only.

And the affair with the other woman (a fellow lawyer at the firm he’d been working at for seventeen years) had been a result of his illness.

Right?

His depression caused a lack of judgment. He wasn’t thinking straight. Doctor Jenkins seemed to think so, anyway. Although Marie wasn’t sure if things fitted together quite that conveniently. In her mind (and she had replayed the events of the last year in her head over and over and over – particularly at night when sleep escaped her) the depression had come after the affair had ended. After he had confessed.

After Marie had threatened to leave him.

But Dr Jenkins said that was just when the depression had gone through “a different phase”. Anne said that was “just bollocks”.

Or had so at the time.

Graham had taken time off work. And the lawyer he slept with – Jenny Somethingorother – had left the firm now. He was getting better. Dr Jenkins said he’d be ready to return to work soon. And Marie had thought so too. Over the last couple of months, or so, Graham had perked up. Found his mojo. He’d started reading again, showing an interest in current events. He’d even started going out.

Marie thought she had the “old Graham” back. And then a couple of days ago, the return of his mood snaps. He didn’t want to go out. Marie had phoned Dr Jenkins and brought his appointment forward.

Then, this evening, when she returned from work Graham had been waiting for her. Smartly dressed, clean shaven. Even wearing that aftershave she bought him for Christmas, last year.

“Let’s go back to the Rising Sun!” he said. It took Marie a few seconds to place it. It was there, thirty years ago that Graham had proposed to her. It had been unplanned. Silly really. At the end of the meal they had been given a fortune cookie each. Marie had broken her’s open and read it and burst out laughing. It wasn’t the usual fortune cookie message, enigmatic and badly spelled. This one just said “You’ll be happily married for thirty years”.

Graham had asked what she was laughing at, and she passed over the bit of paper, and he looked at it and asked, “Well, why not?”

“Why not what?” she countered.

“Why don’t we get married?”

Not the most romantic proposal, but it was the only one Marie had ever had and she cherished it. She said yes, and he had saved for a ring and then asked her properly two months later. They married the following spring.

Graham explained, in the back of the taxi, on the way to Chinatown, that the fortune cookie had correctly predicted the number of years they were happily married. They needed to go back and to get another cookie, he explained. Marie worried that this was another “phase” of his illness. He had never been superstitious before, and she was worried that he had got this strange idea in his head that a generic message in a stale-tasting confectionery could fix everything.

The restaurant looked as it had thirty years ago. The staff had changed, of course, the man who showed them to their table – the same one as they had sat in thirty years before – probably hadn’t even been born when they had last set foot in there. But the decoration, the smell, and the paint work looked the same.

Graham insisted they have the same meal as they had thirty years ago – although how he could remember, Marie had no idea – so she let him order.

At the end of the meal the fortune cookies were delivered and Marie opened hers, whilst Graham looked on expectantly.

“All good things come to an end,” she read. Graham snatched it from her and read it before throwing it aside.

“No, no,” he said. “Not that one.”

“True friends will never betray you.”

“No!” Graham shouted, whipping the paper from her hand. He stood up, abruptly, the chair crashed to the floor. “I’m going to the toilet, and then I’ll demand to see the manager!” he said.

Perhaps, he had organised something, Marie thought. Arranged for a romantic message to be delivered to her. But they had given her the wrong cookie. As she pondered this, her husband’s phone, vibrated gently on the table beside his half empty water glass. Without thinking Marie reached over and swiped the screen.

“I’m sorry, my love,” the text read. “Forgive me. We are meant to be together.”

Marie read and reread the message, and checked the number three times. It was from Anne. Their best friend.

Her best friend.

Marie stood up and picked up Graham’s chair, tucking it neatly under the table. She found the two crumpled pieces of paper Graham had thrown away. She carefully flattened them out so he could read their message, placed them next to his illuminated phone, and left.

True friends will never betray you. All good things come to an end.

 

 

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Nessie (462 words)

“You’re new,” the girl said, looking Maggie up and down. Not a statement, not a question: an accusation. The girl wore a sneer like Maggie’s dad wore his favourite jacket. It was ugly, but a perfect fit. And, just like her dad, this girl wasn’t about to take it off because Maggie didn’t like it.

Maggie considered all the various responses on the sarcastic spectrum, before settling on a neutral, “Yes”. This morning, over breakfast, she’d given Dad her word she would try her very best not to get expelled, not on the first day, anyway. It was a promise she intended to keep. This time.

The girl nodded, and continued to size Maggie up. There was a lot to take in, as Maggie was all too aware. She was tall for her age, and she felt as awkward as she thought she looked. Her size always drew the attention of people with something to prove, bullies and teachers alike. Being self conscious about it never helped: they could smell weakness, they thrived on it. Jenny, her last psychologist, said not to worry about it, she would grow into her body. Whatever the fuck that meant.

“Where you from?”

“Totnes, “ Maggie said.

“You Scottish?”

“Do I sound Scottish?”

“I don’t know. Never met a Scottish, before.”

“You still haven’t. I’m from Devon. Totnes is in Devon.”

“Hey! Anna!” the girl called over Maggie shoulder. “This one’s a Scottish! From that place with the monster.”

Maggie opened her mouth to respond, but another girl – presumably Anna – stuck her head in her face. Bright green sparkling eyes stared into Maggie’s brown ones.

“Looks like they’ve mislaid the monster, to me,” Anna said. “You are fucking huge, Nessie.” There was something in the way she spoke, in her smile, in her general manner, which stopped Maggie from punching her. Despite the words, there didn’t seem to be any malice.

Anna’s smile widened and she stuck her hand out, like her dad did when he was introduced to someone for the first time. “My name’s Anna,” she said. “What brings you down from Scotland, Nessie?”

Maggie found herself duplicating the strange girl’s smile as she shook her hand.

“I’m not Scottish,” she said. “Your friend, here, obviously doesn’t pay attention in her geography lessons. I’m from Totnes. My name is Maggie.”

“Don’t pay no attention to Dips,” Anna said. “She thinks the world ends at the M25. Never been out of London, have you Dips?” Dips shook her head, nearly – but not quite – dislodging the sneer.

“I know Totnes,” Anna continued. “Spent last summer at my cousin’s house, in Paignton. Went to Totnes for a day. Full of hippies and crystal shops. You’re well out of it, Nessie. Come on, I’ll introduce you to the others.”

First Date (273 words)​

They met at the vernissage of an art installation called “Mirrors in Scarlet”. Supposedly “a three dimensional critique on the use of reflection in The Scarlet Letter”, Dave thought it was actually just a load of bollocks. Red lights, scarlet ribbons dancing in currents of air (produced by two large men dressed as Pilgrim women each pumping a pair of massive bellows), mirrors of various sizes, and shitty atmospherique music, did not make what he considered to be art. There were, of course, the requisite number of beard-stroking hipster types, nodding appreciatively, as they quaffed the free champagne. And some dreary bloke (presumably the “artist”) wanking on about imagery, symbolism and other bullshit to a crowd of sycophantic hangers-on.

He watched Diane as she contemplated the scene. He couldn’t read her expression: did she actually like this crap? It had been her who had suggested meeting here for their first date: her friend had given her tickets. Dave hoped her friend wasn’t the dreary bloke or one of his simpering groupies. He really liked Diane: online chats, and the five minutes they had spent chatting outside, had shown she was funny, intelligent and cute. But he was fairly sure he would end up insulting someone if they didn’t leave soon.

Diane mouthed something. Dave raised an eyebrow, not quite sure if he’d understood. She moved close to him, and whispered in his ear.

“Let’s go to the pub,” she said, her breath tickling his lobe. “Before I end up punching one of these arseholes.”

Dave smiled, and they linked arms as they left the room. They were going to get on just fine.