Bruce Arbuckle writes as @felt.buzz on the Steem blockchain.
Bruce Arbuckle writes as @felt.buzz on the Steem blockchain.
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)
“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.
I thought I would share a couple of freewrites I have written recently on steemit (as part of @mariannewest’s freewrite group
The prompt was see you on the other side
“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.
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.
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):
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.
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).
“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…
I wrote this today (first published on my steemit blog earlier)
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.
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.
Olly laughed. Kit looked a bit embarrased.
“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.”
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.
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.
“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?”
“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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