“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.

 

If you like my writing and want to support me you can:

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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.

 

 

If you like my writing and want to support me you can:

1. leave a comment (I love comments, and they cost nothing other than a tiny amount of your time!)

2. If you are on Steemit pop over and say hi! (and upvote or share a post or two, if you’ve a mind to)

3 If you can spare a $ or two a month why not become a patron and you will get access to exclusive stories and offers! https://www.patreon.com/FeltBuzz

 

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.

Careful What You Wish For (1217 words)

 

The barista is a dead woman, or she soon will be. As she prepares his coffee, he sees a bug crawl out of her empty eye socket. It scuttles down her cheek, dislodging a piece of flesh. Rotting meat and bug fall with a plop into the coffee she now offers him.

“Anything else?” she says, smiling. Or at least, Brett thinks she is smiling. It is hard to tell, what with the lower jaw hanging at that odd angle. Yes, he considers saying. Stop serving coffees for the minimum wage, and the occasional tip. Go and experience life: enjoy yourself, while you still can. Life is short. For some – for you – it’s shorter than you could possibly imagine.

But he doesn’t say this. There is no point.

“No, thank you,” Brett says, taking the coffee. He hands over a note, waves away the change. “Keep it,” he says.

He sits at a table, in the corner. There is a mirror on the wall and by sitting with his back to the coffee shop he can use it to see what people really look like. What they look like right now, rather than how they will appear in exactly three hundred and seventy two days time. The woman who served him, he sees now, is an attractive twenty something. She looks healthy enough, no sign of illness. He wonders how she is going to die. By the state of her future self, it will be in the next six to nine months. A car accident, perhaps? A victim of a crime? Wrong person, in the wrong place. She glances over, catches his eye in the mirror, smiles. He looks away.

He takes the wooden stick – a poor imitation of a spoon – and half-heartedly stirs the coffee. There is no bug, no decomposing piece of cheek, floating in the dark liquid. It doesn’t work like that. It was an illusion. He knows this. But he looks anyway.

Brett doesn’t really believe in curses – although he acknowledges that part of him must do for it to work – but there is no other explanation he can find to better describe what happened, so he chooses to accept it.

To be fair, when they first met, Divina said she was a witch. Brett laughed, spraying beer out of his mouth and nostrils.

“It isn’t funny,” she said, her lower lip sticking out, the beginning of a pout enhancing her cuteness. “I’m a good witch. Although, if you cross me, you’ll regret it.” He stopped laughing, then. Not because he believed in her threat, but because it was obviously important to her, and, he realised, he really wanted to sleep with her.

It took eight weeks of hard work (romancing not coming naturally to him, Brett experienced it as such) and tongue biting (her pseudo-hippy-pagan-occult beliefs irritated his scientific-sceptical-atheist brain) before he managed to get her into bed. Weeks became months became a year and he found love had replaced lust (or that’s what he told himself), and they were living together.

One morning, a week before her twenty ninth birthday, he found her crying on the floor of the bathroom, a pregnancy test in her hand. Although Brett was shocked to see the test – he assumed she had been taking precautions, and had no wish to be saddled with a child – he sat down next to her and took her in his arms. Divina sobbed salt water and mucus all over his clean shirt. It took fifteen minutes before he could understand what she was saying. It would have been her Grandma’s birthday, today, a week before her own, she said. Grandma had been a witch too (her head buried in his armpit, Divina would not have seen Brett rolling his eyes at those words). Before she died, twenty years ago, she told Divina she would find her love of her life, but would be alone and childless by the age of thirty. With a year and one week to go she was worried that the prophecy would come true.

“I promise I will never leave you, my love, and we can try for a baby, if that’s what you want,” he said, checking his watch. He was late for work, and wondered if he had time to iron another shirt.

Promises are easily broken, especially when temptation, dressed in a short skirt and low cut top, calling herself Eloise started work in Brett’s office, the very next day. Of course, Eloise wasn’t to know Brett had a girlfriend. Brett kept that information to himself, as he found divulging such facts tended to spoil his chances of sleeping with beautiful women.

Brett finally told Divina he was leaving her, on the eve of her thirtieth birthday, not for any other reason than he had been seen kissing an obviously pregnant Eloise by one of Divina’s girlfriends and was given an ultimatum: you tell her, or I will, you lying, cheating, little shit.

Contrary to Brett’s expectations, Divina did not breakdown into a teary, snotty, begging, mess, nor did she shout, scream, punch or kick.

She simply said, “You promised.”

“That was a year ago!” he said, knowing, even as he said it, the excuse was weak to say the least.

“One year, and one week,” Divina said.

“I couldn’t predict what would happen. No one can see into the future, no one can see what will really happen a year and a week from now,” Brett said. And then he said the words, that would come to haunt him: “I wish I could, but I can’t.”

Divina smiled.

When she arrives Brett is still stirring his coffee. It is cold, now, and bitter tasting.

It is ten years since he saw Divina last. He is single, and despite the loneliness of his situation, he survives. Eloise left him with a stinging face, the final straw a casual observation that she would still be a fat hog a long time after she’d given birth. He has had few dates, and no real relationships since. It is simply impossible to say the right things when you are looking at the image of what someone will look like in three hundred and seventy two days time. He is jobless, but he gets by, thanks to an inheritance: his mother dying, the only luck he has had recently. He lost his job, the same week Eloise threw him out, through unwise, and unkind, comments made to customers.

Brett wants to be normal. Not just for his sake, not anymore. Brett is pleased that Eloise is with Paul – a kind, decent man – he treats Brett’s child as his own. But Brett would like to be a good father to his son.

Brett is a better person, now, he admits to himself. A humbler person. A person who considers others feelings before his own. Most of the time.

Brett is here to ask forgiveness, to ask for the curse to be lifted. When Divina sits down opposite him, the smile on her face as warm, and sweet, as his coffee, he isn’t surprised to see she looks no older than the day they met.

 

KillJoy – A Work Place Drama (256 words)

 

Karen, from Accounts, holds the knife at Joy’s throat. The receptionist’s eyes are wide, fearful. We watch in silence. I see a single tear well, and then roll down Joy’s left cheek. The knife point presses hard, but there is no blood. Steve, from warehousing, stands close to me. I feel him move – just a bit. He is going to intervene, to say something. I put my hand on his arm. I don’t want him to interfere: this is perfect.

“You are going to die, you bitch!” Karen says, spitting the words into Joy’s startled face. Her voice is strong, powerful. For a moment I almost forget that this is a woman normally more comfortable with spreadsheets than people. I had wanted to be the one holding the knife. But, I admit, Karen is a better choice.

The canteen door hits the wall as it swings open. We all jump at the sound. Mr Jennings stands in the doorway.

‘What the hell is going on in here?” he asks, looking at Karen and Joy and then to me. Karen lowers the knife. Joy smiles. They break character in unison.

I cough. “Rehearsal for our entry in the Inter-Office Amateur Dramatic Competition, Mr Jennings. We thought it would be alright if we rehearsed in our lunch hour.”

Jennings stares at me. His eyebrows, always bushy, pulsate with anger.

“What have I said about this, Evans?” he says.

“The workplace is no place for drama, sir,” I say, almost singing the words.

“Quite right,” he says, and leaves.


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