Friday Fictioneers – Alone

PHOTO PROMPT © David Stewart

In all the vastness of the universe, we are alone. Three millennia of searching and not a sausage, not even microbes. Theory says life should be common. So, why? Why does no-one answer us?

The solution, I think, lies in dark matter. This, too, we sought for thousands of years without explanation. Two mysteries? Or, maybe, one?

The only remaining possibility is that dark matter is the gravitational effect of adjacent universes. 

Yesterday, we finished the test—collided two galaxies together, then four, then eight. If there’s anyone in the universe next door, maybe they’ll hear our message and tap back on the wall. The reply should be “sixteen”.

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Friday Fictioneers – Up Went the Barrel

PHOTO PROMPT © Anne Higa

M’lud, it went like this. The cascading water turned the wheel. The wheel cranked the rope. I steadied the rope, which raised the barrel of bricks.

Unfortunately, the water ran out. The barrel was now heavier than I. It started down, jerking me off my feet.

Halfway up, I met the falling barrel, receiving a severe blow on the shoulder. When it hit the ground, the bottom burst, releasing the bricks.

I was now heavier than the barrel. I started downwards. The barrel was coming up, so I swung through the window like an action hero. Mrs Cuthbertson was very surprised. So too the man who wasn’t Mr Cuthbertson.

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With admiration for Gerard Hoffnung. Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.

Friday Fictioneers – I want a table

PHOTO PROMPT © Brenda Cox

Look, I can’t even read those signs. How am I supposed to know whether this is a taxidermist or a tailor? Is that even a proper language? And there’s nobody in the alley, no cues. A murder’s possible, of course, but CE will have that sewn-up. 

So, what the actual…. I’m trying my best, honest. Maybe a philosophical rumination on signifier and signified? Well, bugger that.

I just want a table, a nice table beside the river. Watch the world go by, have an absinthe, make eyes at the girl on the next table. That’s all I ask. You couldn’t even give me a river?

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Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Friday Fictioneers – Baking

PHOTO PROMPT © Jennifer Pendergast

The past occupies my present. I make tea, bake biscuits, cut the grass. The change is too vast to comprehend.

I take the garbage out, go to the shops, do the laundry. The machine runs out of control and the engineers panic. Old gods shake their shaggy heads and snuffle in the underbrush.

When it’s all over, when today has become yesterday: maybe, then, we’ll be able to tell what it meant.

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Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

152. Special Offer

My literary thriller, The Tears of Boabdil, will be on special offer on Amazon at 0.99 for a week from Friday 26 March to Thursday 1 April.

A solitary undercover cop, torn between duty and desire, risks his sanity. Everything he believes he knows, including himself, is a story

Grab your copy at this great price while you can!

Here’s what some reviewers have said on Goodreads

They variously characterized the book as Thriller, Psychological Crime, and Fantasy Romance.

Take a look and decide what you think it is.

Buy The Tears of Boabdil.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Friday Fictioneers – Writer in Lockdown

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Writer in lockdown

Cries and moans punctured the sky, a flight of bats escaping into the night. The church bells tolled and tolled ceaselessly for the dead. The scent of rosemary burning in the chafing dish irked Will’s nostrils, but at least it kept the stench of rotting corpses at bay. Mayhaps, Mistress Tomkins next door had succumbed, along with her babes, boarded as they were into their quarantine house.

And yet, the closure of the theatres gave Will time to write. His quill poised over the page. “A plague on both your houses,” he wrote. Aye, it had a ring to it.

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Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Friday Fictioneers – Maestro

PHOTO PROMPT © Liz Young

The fan was adoring, half bending from the waist in a stiff posture that must have been uncomfortable. Probably, he wasn’t aware of anything but being in the presence of the Master.

“I don’t know how you do it,” he babbled, “thinking of these ideas for your books.”

On a whim, I decided to tell him the truth. He’d never believe me, anyway.

“Life. I encode a simple story into a bacterial genome. Let it evolve randomly over millions of generations. Read out the results. An AI selects the most surprising viable outcomes.”

The fan tittered.

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Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Friday Fictioneers – Truth Telling

PHOTO PROMPT © CEAyr

I don’t care for Bill. He likes the style himself as William.

“You put on airs,” I say. “But you’re nobody special.”

His fist clenches, as if he’s going to hit me. The punch will hurt, but he’ll be finished.

Instead, he pushes his mug into mine. “Cheeky little bugger.”

Then he does something weird with his face—it goes all crumply.

“Are you sad?” I ask.

“No.”

“Yes you are. I can see.”

Bill sighs, gazing out to sea. “You think telling the truth is obligatory. But you’re wrong.”

This is puzzling. “What’s more important?”

“Getting on with people.”

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Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

151. Tartan and Treachery – a Scottish fascination with spooks

What is it about the Scots? I’m not talking about the whisky, but rather about destructive fictional spooks. There are four recent novels I know of dealing with the misdemeanours of undercover cops. Kirsten Innes’ 2020 Scabby Queen features one who is cynical and malevolent, seen largely through the lasting damage he leaves in the lives of the targets he sleeps with.

The unfortunately named Jimmy Bond in James Robertson’s 2010 And the Land Lay Still is alcoholic and disillusioned.

Khurrum Rahman’s 2018 East of Hounslow features as its protagonist a minor drug peddler dragooned by MI5 into penetrating a jihadi cell.

And then there is the emotionally damaged Vince/Zami, the central character of my 2020 The Tears of Boabdil, a police agent masquerading as a jihadi and sleeping with the sister of his targets. Of these four authors, only Rahman isn’t Scots.

Why might Scots be particularly drawn to the theme? In my case, I wanted to explore the question “what kind of person would do this?”.  Like Innes, I deal with the crime of state-sanctioned rape. Robertson’s spook is much more a device to explore the ideological battles within Scottish Nationalism and the British State’s response. There’s no obvious connection between the three.

But is the underlying commonality, perhaps, a sense of grievance, of marginalization? Or perhaps, of a lie that has been told to us? There was, once, a truth that the idea of Britain represented, at least to the inhabitants of these islands—a common destiny of Empire and a common class identity forged in the coal mines, the steel factories and the shipyards.

Photo credit © Wikimedia Commons

The Empire has gone, followed rapidly by the heavy industry that created class solidarity across the lands.  And that poses the question “who are we?” in a way that hasn’t been necessary since Walter Scott subsumed Scottishness into the Union with England by a romantic vision of a noble and brigand past.

FF – The Fourth Third

I read “make free adults from children” to interpret make free as the verb. It changed the meaning entirely until I realised my mistake

elmowrites

So much to say about this one, but here’s the photo and story first, in case you want to skip the expo!

copyright Roger Bultot

The Fourth Third

Dad would call it an inauspicious entryway. A narrow staircase ascended between dirty red walls into darkness above. Clutter covered half the bottom step. It was a long way from the ranch back home.

But if all went well, this was home now, and its occupants like a new family. I make free adults from children, the university motto began. Faye felt so old to be here, and yet so green to be just beginning. The others were all second years – her guides and chaperones.

A light came on and she recognised Grace from zoom calls.

“Our D’Artagnan has arrived!”

Extroduction

I glimpsed at today’s photo on my phone over breakfast this morning and was reminded of the old university…

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