Monday, 28 February 2011

This is the end - beautiful February Femme Fatale, A.J. Humpage

February Femmes Fatales - 
February 28th

So, here we are. This is the end - as the beautiful Mr Morrison sang - and continues to do. The final February Femmes Fatales showcase piece.

I chose this carefully, and yes it's poetry rather than fiction. But Arbeit Macht Frei by A.J. Humpage is remarkable. I confess I've bigged Ally up throughout this showcase, but it's not without warrant. All contributors to, and readers of my weekly Friday Prediction will know how capable she is of scaring the human hell out of us. She sees the horror in mankind, and throws it in our faces - deal with it.

Arbeit Macht Frei upsets and distresses, confuses and hurts. It is a brilliant work that forces us to address inequality. Please do read it. And thank you, Ally for contributing this disturbing, and so well crafted poem.

Arbeit Macht Frei By A J Humpage

Hopeless voices

Entangled branches

Deep wine coloured leaves

Cold breath dancing

In frozen streams.

Slung back rifles, relaxed

And the satisfied stench

Of smiles etched cold

In ribbons of smoke

Stark against the haze.

Hoisted skirts, akimbo legs

Semen stains to soil the skin

Bare breasts like trophies

Chilled to the touch

And wretched in death.

Eyes wide open

But blood still warm

Captured by the camera

Dignity stolen

By the men of war.

Star of David sewn on the arm

But the smile is gone

Clouds fill with spite

The fires burn bright

Day and night.

Their ghostly faces

Shine; frozen in fright

Stilled, fooled hearts

Peace in death

At a price. 
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Bio: A J Humpage has stories published in many anthologies like 6 Sentences, Pill Hill Press, Static Movement and many e-zines. She also writes articles and dispenses writing advice at http://allwritefictionadvice.blogspot.com. She has completed her first novel and some of her stories and poetry can be found at http://ajhumpage.blogspot.com.


Sunday, 27 February 2011

All Change for R.S. Bohn - Penultimate February Femme Fatale

February Femmes Fatales - 
February 27th

She may not forgive me for saying so but R.S. Bohn is bad to the bone - at least her writing is - in the most stunning and beautiful way. She consistently captivates her audience with the obscure and bizarre, treading with ballet-shoes across egg-shells, plunging us in and out of labyrinths.

She is myth and she is corsets; she is a challenge to psychology and a purveyor dreams. Rebecca Bohn is a writer I can't get enough of, and I await her fictional future with relish.

Rebecca's final Femmes Fatales tale First Time For Everything explores misconceptions and bigotry. It equally saddens, frustrates and maddens me; a clever achievement in under 1000 words.

First Time For Everything by R.S. Bohn

Victor’s at the end of the bar with the game machine, blowing smoke over it and taking sips of a martini. He’s not wearing the wig tonight, because it needs to be washed and re-styled, and anyway, it’s too damn hot in Frank’s. They’ve got the door propped open by him, but there isn’t a hint of a breeze. He sighs and rubs his temple. Wishes he could go to another bar.

The front door opens, everyone looks. A skinny kid in a long black coat, no shirt underneath, sunglasses on even as he makes his way through the gloom up to the stretch of polished mahogany, a relic of days when Frank’s was Frankie’s Place and the after crowd would hang here, talking about the play or orchestra or whatever the hell had gone on down at the Broad. Before the Broad closed and they all went away, leaving the junkies and people like Victor to fill in the empty spaces.

The kid's hair is greased, slicked back. Victor thinks the kids these days try too hard. He thinks this as he puts down his martini glass and cigarette and swivels up lipstick for a fresh coat.

He stares at the screen, waiting for the door to open again. The kid’s got a clique, no doubt. They’ll be in here any minute, loud, boisterous, annoying Frank’s regulars, who just want to drink their drinks and smoke their smokes and talk about how it isn’t like it used to be.

Another martini – no rocks, extra olives – appears at his elbow. He frowns at Danny. “What’s this?”

Danny grins. “You got an admirer.” He walks away. “There’s a fucking first for everything.”

“Fuck off,” tsks Victor after him, but he’s nervous. What does the kid want? He’s coming over, trying to sway, trying to make the most of the slim bit of chest he’s got, those matchstick hips. Twelve. He looks twelve to Victor. But then, they all do these days. Little boys.

“Hey. What’s your name?”

Victor could laugh at the dramatic huskiness the kid’s putting on. He puts a hand over his mouth, then says, “Victor. Thanks for the drink. Now kindly fuck off.”

The kid’s face falls. It’s a pretty face. Narrow, smooth, tanned. Dark eyes behind the cheap sunglasses. No. Victor will not fall for pretty boys that look Brazilian. He had enough of those seven years ago with Juan.

“I thought we could…”

“What? Talk? Go out back for a quick suck?” Victor rolls his eyes when the kid’s face momentarily lights up.

“I heard that…” The kid pauses. “I heard that this place, you know, Frank’s…”

“Yes, this is Frank’s.”

“You know. That sometimes, some guys. Uh.”

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-one.”

Victor stares.

“Eighteen.”

“That’s better. No lies.” He sips his martini and lowers his voice. “There are a lot of men in here who might be interested, but I’m not one of them.”

The kid shuffles closer. He smells like tanning lotion and Gaultier, dear god. He leans in. “Look. I’ve never done this before. You…”

“Look like I’ve done this before?”

The kid shrugs. He looks miserable.

Victor takes pity on the kid, who probably just got out of school after keeping his sexual orientation secret for four years. A kid who’s trying too hard, and doesn’t know the rules yet. And besides, he looks Brazilian.

The bathroom’s just behind them. Victor tips his head, the kid follows him. The light is dim yellow, the walls and ceiling burgundy rubber.

“What’s your name?”

“Paul.”

“Well, Paul, there is a first for everything,” he says, and undoes the top button of the kid’s jeans.

He’s amazed, though he shouldn’t be. He’s forgotten what eighteen is like: the kid probably woke up hard, jerked off, and has been hard all day since.

“Lock the door,” whispers Paul.

Victor, already down on his knees, groans and shoots the kid a look for making him get up off his old knees. He locks the door. When he turns around, Paul is zipped back up. He starts to think the boy’s changed his mind, when it hits him. The kid’s fist. Left cheek. He goes down to one side, unable to defend himself – it’s happening too quick. Another blow. Another. He can’t call out. He’s got no breath to call out. His head knocks against the sink, and he tries to slip under it.

“I’m not a faggot.”

The blows have stopped. For the moment. Victor, hand over one side of his face, looks up. Paul is shaking.

“I’m not a faggot. Say it.”

Victor wipes a hand across his mouth, smearing blood and China Red. “You. Are not a faggot,” he says softly.

“No,” says the kid, staring down, wild-eyed. His thin chest heaves. He looks like he’s going to cry. He’s out the door, fumbling with lock, yanking it open and disappearing. The door shuts again, leaving Victor, the faggot, on the floor with a face full of pain. It’s not the first time. He wishes it was, but it’s not.

He thinks about Paul, running shirtless into the summer night, black coat flapping. No, it’s not the first time. It hasn’t been the first time for a long time now.
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Bio:
RS Bohn lives in a suburb outside of Detroit with a motley troupe of creatures and one lucky man. She's currently writing a steampunk novel, and you can find more of her shorter work here: http://rsbohn.blogspot.com/
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Saturday, 26 February 2011

Counting Down, 1..2..3... Dorothy Davies, February Femme Fatale

February Femmes Fatales - 
February 26th

And so we count down to the final three days of the February Femmes Fatales showcase. The standard of writing has been extraordinary, and these upcoming pieces are by no means last in quality. On the contrary.

Dorothy Davies; author, editor, mentor displays herself here in a literary sense. Hers is a matter-of-fact declaration of intolerance. There is no moral high-ground, simply a territorial case of 'this belongs to me, and if you break the rules - you pay.' That's the way it is; if you don't like it...

Of course, as a piece of fiction we do like it very much. I've already read Do You Happen To Have... several times,  but I still want more. How about you...?

Do You Happen To Have... by Dorothy Davies

Do you happen to have...

No, before I ask you that, let me explain why I need to know. You know the best way to dispose of a body? Dump it in the cellar and let the rats feed. Simple, isn’t it? How come no one seems to have done it? Oh, there’s the small problem of what to do with the bones but – well, come night and a mallet, you can smash bones into tiny fragments which can then be tossed in with the household refuse and who knows what goes into the back of the refuse lorry and then to the landfill site?

That’s what I did with the charity worker who refused to accept ‘no thank you’ as a polite way of saying ‘I don’t care about your charity; I have enough to do catering for my own, thank you very much’. He would argue, so I invited him in. Fool that he was he came in, too, thinking he would convince me with his superlatives and his greased hair and his false teeth. He didn’t, he just gave me a good deal more to smash up. Good job I don’t have neighbours.

The rats fed well that night.

It’s not that I enjoy killing, you understand. I am not that heartless. I just – like the power of life and death. I like to survey the person standing on my doorstep and decide whether they should live or die. Are they of any use to mankind; are they better off being disposed of? Those who come to deceive and steal, they are of no use to anyone so they become – well, rat food, basically. Other people go to the supermarkets and buy cat food and dog food; I get rat food delivered to the door. On foot. No effort involved.

The rats are multiplying, though and they need more food than they did when I began. Oh, when did I begin? Who was the first to meet his fate in my cellar? I think it was the simpering irritating canvasser for the local Tory party. I don’t vote. Don’t believe in it. Why waste time and effort putting a pencil cross – and how demeaning is that, I ask you? Make your mark, peasant! No signatures needed here! – to vote in someone who you will never hear from again. No, I refuse and I told this simpering twit I refuse.

‘Suffragettes fought for your right to vote!’ he insisted.

‘No,’ I said, ‘you have it entirely wrong, little man. They fought for the right for women to vote. Not for me. I came into this world a long time after that right was given – and remember this, they didn’t win the vote; it came about through the war.’

At this point he put a foot in the house as if to attack me, so great was his rage, so I stood back and let him in. Not a thought in my head at that moment of anything but – shall I be honest? Pure malice. I wanted to confound him; I wanted to flatten the ego with which he came. Instead I flattened his head and threw him down the steps... No I didn’t, I rolled him down the steps into the cellar.

You see, I knew there were rats down there and I had done nothing about them. Animal lover, you understand, can’t bear to kill anything. No traps or poison for me. So they lived there quite happily, cohabiting with me. I didn’t bother them, they didn’t bother me.

Until they got the taste for flesh.

It’s a bit of a job keeping them supplied but I can do it, if I work hard enough at it. No sign on my door about no callers, I welcome them.

Then I invite them in to talk. And tea. And a visit to the cellar – that’s not optional, by the way, that’s compulsory.

I started a new game last week. Not killing them first. Oh the fun I had hearing the squeals and shrieks and screams and hammering on the cellar door. They don’t know I bribed the local builder to reinforce that door with steel. Looks like old battered wood on their side. What a joke, I laughed myself silly first time it happened.

I just have this small problem. The rats are multiplying and like I said, no traps or poisons for me, animal lover that I am.

There’s only one solution and you might be able to help me with that.

Do you happen to have the mobile number for the Pied Piper?
_____________________________________

Bio:
Dorothy Davies, writer, medium and editor, lives on the Isle of Wight, that small haunted island off the south coast of England. There she writes her very strange stories and channels books from spirit authors about their lives and loves and their need to put the record straight.

Dorothy Davies Author, 'Death Be Pardoner To Me', the life of George, duke of Clarence.
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Friday, 25 February 2011

Lily's Friday Prediction

The glory of morning rises over the Sussex coast... or at least it would if it wasn't so damp and squib-like. (What is a squib anyway, and why does it always have to be damp?) Anyway, it's my final day off and I intend to use it, skin-sucking mist or not.

This is of course has nothing whatsoever to do with the Friday Prediction so I'll ram my fist into my big mouth and get on with it.

Firstly, many congratulations to Mimimanderly whose poignant and dignified tale Letting Go was the winner of last week's challenge. Well done too to Melenka for her marvellously twisted poem Wed, which caught the runner-up cup.

To me, this week's words are simple but immediately evocative. I just know they'll inspire you. And for regulars, I'm sure you'll be relieved to know I'm giving your Thursdays back - at least for the time being.

  • Fertile
  • Thirst
  • Denounce

Rules:

The rules are: 100 words max flash fiction or poetry using all of the words above. Please add your entries in the Comments box below. You have all week until 9pm UK time on Thursday 3rd March to enter.

Winner will be announced next Thursday or Friday. If you can, please tweet about your entry, using the #fridayflash hashtag, and blog if you feel like it.

I look forward to your scribbles, drabbles, poems, coquettish prose and dangerous flash. In fact, I'm hungry for them...

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Sparkling and sumptuous Susan May James - February Femme Fatale

February Femmes Fatales - February 25th

Susan May James opened the February Femmes Fatales showcase with Shadows. Her second generous offering, Rubies is equally well-written, and just as strange.

There's a poetic magic to the story of Jasmine and her rubies; the conversations she has with them twinkle as much as the fairy-lights in her London apartment.

But I will say no more, except that life is not all roses, even if they are ruby-red...



Rubies by Susan May James

Pulling on her stiletto boots Jasmine sits on the bench near the door and casts a final glance around the studio flat. Everything is perfect; the dark burgundy curtains are drawn, fairy lights twinkle in strands from the ceiling to the walls and unlit candles dot tabletops and shelves. The sofa bed has been made up with satin sheets and topped with a crushed velvet throw and three plump pillows. ‘Sumptuous,’ she coos as she stands up and crosses the room. Her steps are heavy, causing her heels to echo against the laminate floor. Pausing in front of a small table in the corner of the room she closes her eyes for a moment, breathing deeply and calming her nerves. Incense wafts up, drenching her in a cloud of sandalwood as she opens her eyes to look down at her collection of crystals and gemstones. Amber, rose quartz and amethyst catch her eye but her hand reaches out to wrap around a large polished piece of aventurine. Holding the pale turquoise coloured sphere tight to her chest, absorbing its properties, she reaches with her other hand for a small velvet bag. After a few moments, she replaces the sphere, slips the velvet bag into her coat pocket and leaves the flat.

Sirens blare as she makes her way along Camden High Street. The street is wet and the air damp and thick with the smell of fast-food. She darts down a small alleyway and into a bar. Music pulses and her eyes take time to adjust while she buys a drink and sits down, her long skirt brushing the floor. She takes out the velvet pouch and shakes three raw rubies into her palm. Each the size of the tip of her baby finger, they are dull and flecked with impurities. Nonetheless she smiles as she holds them, knowing the process won’t take long.

She sheds her leather coat and is just leaning back to sip her drink when a man at the next table smiles and tries to catch her eye. She grips the rubies but nothing happens and so she ignores him and checks her watch. The man turns away and she sighs, looking round the room as she strokes one of the rubies between her thumb and forefinger. The second one is more self-assured as he approaches, greeting her with a cocky grin. He sits down and introduces himself but his voice is lost in the dull roar that washes over her. The experience is similar to holding a seashell to her ear, only much more intense. As the rush fades, the rubies grow cool in her palm and when she glances down she sees that they’ve grown darker in colour. The rubies work more quickly now. Looking up at the man she meets his gaze and smiles. He is the one, the rubies whisper.

‘What are those?’ he asks as she puts them back into their velvet pouch.

‘Oh, just my lucky charms,’ she replies before taking a sip of her drink.

His name is Thomas and he works for a small PR firm in Kentish Town. “I don’t normally come in here,” he says. “But it’s been a long day so I thought I’d stop in for a swift half.”

Jasmine nods, he’s not really her type, but that doesn’t matter, it’s not her decision. She notes the faint line on his finger; slightly indented and pale in contrast to the rest of his tanned skin.

“Are you married?” she asks.

“No,” he is quick to reply and changes the subject. “What do you do?”

Looking away so he doesn’t see the flash of resentment in her eyes, Jasmine finishes her drink. “I’m a pharmacist.”

Thomas stands up, “So, what are you drinking?” he asks but she hesitates, explaining that she prefers to get her own drinks.

“It’s just that I don’t know you,” she says as he sits back down. “I’m sorry if I’ve offended you but I like to be careful.” He accepts this and passes her a banknote before she heads to the bar.

As she waits for their drinks she turns her back to him and slips her hand into her skirt pocket, discreetly working a small tablet into her palm. Then, as the bartender turns away, she deftly drops it into the drink and reaches for a swizzle stick. Smiling, Jasmine returns to the table.

It doesn’t take long for the alcohol and drug to take effect and they stagger towards her flat. Although Jasmine is sober, she stumbles under his weight as she guides him up the stairs. Once inside, she just manages to get him onto the bed as he passes out. With a sigh of relief and anticipation, she quickly rolls him over and cuffs his hands behind his back. She then lights the candles and a fresh stick of incense, taking a moment to switch on the stereo and lava lamp. The sound of pan flutes fills the room as she spreads a large tarpaulin onto the floor and drags her tools out from under the sofa bed. Fairy lights twinkle and she pauses to admire the atmosphere.

After awhile she heaves Thomas onto the floor and strips off his clothes. Folding them into a bundle she places them into a carrier bag; tomorrow she will donate them to a charity shop.

Hours later she sits with her head on the kitchen table, exhausted. Her task is near completion; the cutting had been arduous but now all the pieces are individually wrapped in plastic and packed into two large suitcases. It had taken her longer this time and daylight now creeps in round the edges of the curtains. Disposal must wait.

Nonetheless she is satisfied; she always listens to her rubies and follows their bidding.
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Bio:

SUSAN MAY JAMES is a Canadian born writer living in London. She writes flash fiction, short stories and is currently working on a novel. Her other passions include travel, photography and history and she can be found scribbling and scattering on her blog; Scribble & Scatter.


Thursday, 24 February 2011

Prediction Winner

Giddy up and get those hosses on the run. I'm off to the pub and thar's rum to be drunk. Actually more like a sedate white wine and orange juice, but even so...

Excellent Prediction entries this week, though the numbers have dropped a bit. Seems there's a lot of poorliness going round at the moment so big hugs of good health going out to all.

OK, enough of the niceties and over to the matter at hand. To summarise:

  • In David's Lights Out a manipulator uses the narrator to exact revenge without getting blood on his own hands.
  • The victims in Ellie's story ebb and flow against the cliff in hope of capturing their killer, in Waiting for the Fall.
  • Mimi told a tragic but touching tale of assisted suicide in Letting Go.
  • A girl in the throws of deluded adoration takes the final plunge in Sandra's Bastard.
  • Antonia has the strangest of creatures learning the even weirder ways of the world in Alien Invasion.
  • Diana's back, and she's carrying blades, in Chris' Moonless Night Sonata in D.
  • A flight from hell severs its passengers' heads from their travel-weary bodies in Sue's Delayed In Transit.
  • Twisted matrimony sees Melenka waiting for for her ex-lover's cast off in Wed.
  • A victim of abuse escapes to the Land of Liberty but will never forget her tormenter in AJ's Slowburn.
  • The Gods are angry and looking for breakfast in the guise of a fat coach driver in Col Bury's Moody Bastard.
  • Erin's murdering weregirl hides her evidence within her scent and under her nails in The San Francisco Slayer.
  • My story A Lonely Soldier He tells of one ghost waiting for another, above and below the crumbling cliffs of Sussex.
  • Grumpy and thirsty, Anthony's character sees his own face in a dead girl's pram then turns on the boring girlfriend in Nursery Crimes.
  • Aidan runs a painful race, planning his revenge through the agony in Crosscountry 2038
  • Smugglers take no prisoners in the rush for whiskey barrels for the Abbey in Kim's Holy Water.

Diverse and varied themes made the Prediction a challenge to judge but my winner this week is the poignant and dignified Letting Go from Mimimanderly. Congratulations Mimi, a truly touching read.

Runner-up is Melenka with her matrimonial poem Wed, I loved the delivery and the final twist. Well done Melenka.

I can't finish without a special mention for Anthony's concept of his antihero seeing his own face on the doll in the pram. Tony - the graphic is just for you ;)

Back tomorrow - I'll be waiting...
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Listen to Laurita Miller - February Femme Fatale

February Femmes Fatales - 
February 24th

Welcome to Laurita Miller's second Femmes Fatales entry, Consumed. It's an appropriate title as according to Laurita's blog she has been consuming the old vino lately. If you are considering a wine trip or a tasting festival she has some very sensible advice - in vino veritas.

Reaction to Laurita's earlier short, Red was excellent. I'm sure you will enjoy Consumed just as much. The delivery is vocal and clever, and the whole piece is full of Laurita's unique style and dark, teasing prose.

I - for one - absolutely love it.

Consumed by Laurita Miller

She worked from dawn ‘til dusk on the farm her daddy left her, trying to coax milk from emaciated cows and crops from the dry, cracked earth. Only destitution thrives here.

She wanted better things, fine things. Instead she suffered a solitary life, chained to a ramshackle farmhouse, unable to keep a farmhand long enough to bring in the pitiful harvest. They seemed to disappear as fast as they arrived, leaving her to take care of things on her own once again.

She said she was meant for great things, remarkable things, and she was right. She said nothing ever happened here, nothing worth staying for, and she was right about that too.

Nothing ever happened here, until that day Jim McNally found those indentations behind the remains of her barn, six of ‘em, and the whole town came out to see the other remains, the ones that lay beneath the soil.

They would have asked her about it, but no one has seen her since that night the farm burned to the ground.
__________________________________

Bio:
Laurita Miller enjoys writing in the dark and walking through revolving doors. Her work has been featured at Gloom Cupboard, Six Sentences, Flashes in the Dark, The New Flesh, Yellow Mama and has appeared in several anthologies. She blogs here: http://ringkeeper.blogspot.com/
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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

A.J. Humpage - oh, the human horror. February Femme Fatale

February Femmes Fatales - 
February 23rd

A.J. Humpage's skill is in laying bare the bones of human discord, revealing the extreme horror that man - and woman - is capable of. She tackles taboo events of war and abuse, targeting the evil that lies in the hearts of the guilty, exploring too the excuses that are used to defend such behaviour by the individuals themselves but just as frighteningly, by their protectors and governments.

A mistress of sensory description Ally weaves though taste and smells, and also captures the unsubstantiated sense of intuition. Here, in Push the theatre of drug addiction is splattered with filth; the scenario is vile, the victims - tragic. I've already mentioned in a previous Friday Prediction my phobia of heroin addiction due to somewhere I worked for many years where I met both the unfortunate, and some wicked, wicked shites.

Ally's description of the pimp and his victims is spot on. I was always told heroin can't be smelled on users - but I beg to differ. It's a sweet, heady, sickly scent that sticks in your throat like malignant honey. I used to know before an addict even walked in the room that he/she was on their way. I can still sniff out them in the street.

Push is brilliant. It is disturbing, horrifying - a nightmare. Be prepared. I will have to tell myself over and over again not to dream about this tonight.

Push by A J Humpage

The walls gleamed with a strange kind of mucus; a sticky leftover stew gilded by the foul air. Dark, fetid handprints led a path down the silent hallway. The piss-tainted stench, caught by the breeze that rattled through broken windows, lifted from the cold floor and wafted through darkened, rat-infested passageways. Bits of paper and rubbish scuttled against the cool air, settled again.

Distorted reflections shimmered from corners.

A line of dangling light bulbs flickered in tandem. Bare concrete, cold like ice sheets, sucked the dim light from the narrow corridor as Danny parted the darkness and hunched forward, each footstep an empty echo that reverberated long after his presence had drifted into the shifting umbra. He turned a corner, focused on the thin shaft of light at the end of the hallway. The light wavered momentarily; a shadow moved.

He poked a sullen grey face around the broken doorframe. The muted glow from dozens of candles freckled his expression and highlighted every line, every blemish, every droop and every dark, shrunken vein.

A soiled, stale odour of unwashed skin and greasy hair found its way up his nose as he walked through the cans, bottles and cardboard boxes that littered the floor. His young prostitute, Tiffany, sat beneath the broken window while the dusk pressed against the jagged remnants. She swigged from a cider bottle, seemed at ease with his invasive presence, though he suspected that had more to do with her need for a fix.

He dropped onto the stained mattress opposite her, lit a cigarette. The candle flames invoked lithe shadows that flitted across her face, lightened the contours of her sunken cheekbones with irascible definition. Her eyes, just visible beneath the dishevelled fringe, looked like two ball bearings rolling around in an empty skull.

He reached into his coat, pulled out a small foil parcel and dropped it on the floor in front of her. ‘I want paying, so you better get out on the street tomorrow.’

She stared at the silver packet, mesmerised by the way it glimmered beneath the light, the way it seemed to draw her in beyond the gleam, beyond the superficial nature of it. It plunged her headlong into the darkness of want.

‘You had everything yesterday,’ she said, throaty, absent. ‘I’m sore...’

Movement in the corner caught his eye. ‘Tough. You better get me my money, Tiff, or I’ll sling the kid off the balcony.’

Tiff’s four-year-old daughter stood tiptoe in the shit-stained cot, blue eyes bright through a grime-riddled face. She cried out for her mother.

Tiff unfolded the silver parcel and emptied some onto a dessert spoon. She picked up a nearby hypodermic needle, drew up some water from a cup, released some over the powder.

Danny eyed the child, the result of the first time he’d forced Tiffany.

Tiff placed a lighter beneath the spoon, watched the mixture bubble. After a short while, she picked up the syringe and drew the liquid.

Danny looked at Tiff. ‘Suck it up, bitch. That’s good shit.’

The colour of night painted her skin as she turned from him; it withered against the quiet corridors in her mind as insipid eyes rolled back in her head.

He picked up the syringe, drew some of the discoloured liquid.

Tiff crawled forward, shuffled to the cot and picked up the girl. She returned and sat next to the window, scratched around the floor. She found a stale piece of pizza and handed it to the child.

Danny grabbed the needle, pushed it into his bruised flesh, leaving a small amount left in the syringe.

The child fingered the mouldy pizza, watched him.

He sat back, patiently waited for the illusions to creep in to spin their webs.

Time slithered around the room.

After a while, tall thin silhouettes oozed into Tiff’s imaginings, iced her dark eyes like a blackened glacier. She slumped back onto the mattress, but in her mind, she was dropping like an imaginary stone into an abyss.

The child looked up.

Sounds minced inside Danny’s head; how they swirled, spinning like a drunken, nauseous haze and setting him adrift from the darkness of reality. His head suddenly lolled and vomit spilled from his mouth in a thick watery stream. He gurgled and slumped onto the cold floor, embraced by the empty cans, newspapers and bile. His voice broke into a long laugh.

The little girl peered at the strange shapes across the walls. She pointed, spoke into the coiling darkness, her child speak lost to the motionless shapes on the floor. She slowly got to her feet. The tattered curtain above her billowed against the breeze from the window and cast a cold haze across her mother’s skeletal, fading features.

The child turned to Danny, watched his cold breath coiling from the bilious crust forming around his mouth.

She picked up the syringe.

An engorged silence pressed against her as though urging. The needle glinted in the light. The liquid inside moved about, fascinated her.

She crouched beside Danny. Remembering how her mother and Danny had done it, she placed her thumbs against the plunger. Her mother referred to it as medicine, to make people feel better.

She pushed the needle into the soft skin between Danny’s knuckles, pressed down on the plunger and watched the liquid disappear from the tiny tube.

It would make him better, she thought. The medicine. After a nice sleep.

She patted his arm, left the needle sticking out of his hand and went back over to her mother. She sat down and pressed a button on her toy and listened as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star played into the silence that crept through the corridors, the hallways, the open doors, the wretched abandoned rooms, the blackened staircases and the empty floors of the lonely, crumbling tenement block.

Echoes.

She watched as Danny’s skin slowly began to change colour - turning blue, then deathly grey - before eventually falling asleep in her mother’s stiff, cold arms.
_____________________________________

Bio:
A J Humpage has stories published in many anthologies like 6 Sentences, Pill Hill Press, Static Movement and many e-zines. She also writes articles and dispenses writing advice at http://allwritefictionadvice.blogspot.com. She has completed her first novel and some of her stories and poetry can be found at http://ajhumpage.blogspot.com.
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Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Something tastes delicious from Sue Harding - February Femme Fatale

February Femmes Fatales - 
February 22nd

And so we enter the final week of the February Femmes Fatales showcase, and what a journey it's been with some extraordinary talent and deliciously dark fiction and poetry. And there's more to come.

To kick off the next seven days, Sue Harding returns with a tasty platter of chilling goodies. Sue is so good at spelling out revenge that I want her as a friend for life.

So tuck into A Dish Best Served Cold; I hope you're hungry...

A Dish Best Served Cold by Sue Harding

Chefs quaked at the mention of her name. Sommeliers swooned at the thought of her presence descending unannounced upon their domains. Even the stoniest faced Maitre d’ had been known to shut themselves in the toilets passing square ones at the suggestion of receiving her in their premises.

Yet now, Erin Stacey, could think only of tomorrow’s headlines announcing the demise of Regan O’Nais, the nemesis of restaurant critics.

Erin poured herself another cognac, swirling it gently around the balloon glass, smelling the vapours it released warmed by the gentle heat of her hand. A self-satisfied grin flooded her face at her mind’s imagination of Ms O’Nais’ current dilemma.

The woman had gone a step too far. Her disastrous and vindictive critique of Erin’s restaurant, ‘Little Red Hen’, had caused her not only financial ruin, but had also resulted in her father suffering a fatal heart attack.

There was no doubt in Erin’s mind that Regan’s vitriolic onslaught was precipitated by the fact that she had recently parted from Erin’s father, Edwin. Determined to inflict unnecessary pain, the virago had swept into Erin’s restaurant and proceeded to exude charm to all and sundry, lulling them into a false sense of security. Only after she had returned to her office and penned her review of fulminating spite and malice, did the effluent really hit the air circulation system.

In three brief paragraphs, Little Red Hen’s goose was cooked. Bookings evaporated overnight and drop-in ‘traffic’ took their cue from the lack of occupied tables and moved onwards towards other purveyors of fine cuisine.

Edwin had taken the financial hit extremely hard. It was his collateral that had funded Erin’s venture, the last dregs of his personal fortune after the acrimonious divorce from Regan that had seen her pillage his finances and strip him of most of his assets. The shock stopped his heart.

Three nights after her father’s funeral, Erin had closed the doors of her darkened and empty restaurant for the last time and vowed revenge on her ex-stepmother. As she’d turned the key in the lock her mind had already been formulating her plan. She would strike back and the revenge would be deliciously piquant, appropriately tailored to suit her adversary. She’d smiled for the first time in weeks and galloped the flight of stairs that led to her apartment above the restaurant, taking the steps two at a time.

In the days and weeks that had passed, she’d immersed herself in books and study and the internet, researching her new culinary adventure. With the restaurant leased out as a sandwich bar she’d been able to eke out enough money to keep the apartment and more importantly the use of the kitchen after hours.

She’d been careful to keep her cooking experiments under wraps, often staying up until the wee small hours to clean and air the place to ensure that no tell-tale aromas would alert her tenants.

The art work and advertising had been a challenge, but once again the internet had brought salvation as she’d set up a very professional looking website. The countdown to the launch of her new venture had been Facebooked and Tweeted to within an inch of its life, drawing in unprecedented hits from the glitterati of the culinary world, eager to know about her elite door-to-door gourmet service.

Trying hard not to throw up, she’d obsequiously ingratiated herself into Regan’s confidence, with emails flitting back and forth. Of course, she’d written, she’d be honoured if Ms O’Nais would deign to review her work. Erin had gushed that she would be delighted to inform Ms O’Nais that she was to be the first customer of the new venture. In fact, she’d had to turn down several A-list candidates, including a number of Hollywood ‘names’, as she’d felt that the culinary nature of her business demanded only the best food critic should be granted the cachet of being her premiere client. It was an exclusivity that had ensnared Regan O’Nais’ ego.

All lies of course. The accolades and messages on Erin’s website had been written by herself. The flaming gold calligraphy of “Montezuma’s” had given the website an air of sumptuousness and the menu options were a gastronomic delight. Such a pity really, she’d thought latterly, that it would be a one-night stand.

Now, she took another gulp of brandy, feeling it course around her mouth, enjoying the taste as it melted towards her throat. She looked at the clock on the mantelpiece. Counting back the hours since she’d arrived, disguised, at Regan’s apartment and heard a barely suppressed squeal of self-satisfied delight as the gilded tray of elegant food had been handed over, she mused on Ms O’Nais’ current predicament.

She imagined the food critic savouring the delights and tastes created by Erin’s own hands. She licked her lips, much as her client would have done at the choice tastes and textures that had been baked and poached and marinated to perfection.

It would have taken perhaps forty minutes for the first signs to manifest themselves. A deep, drawing sensation in the gut would herald the ignominy that would follow. She wondered how elegant Ms O’Nais would be in her scramble for the bathroom.

The careful concoction of herbs and spices and plant extracts that Erin had suffused into each dish would ensure that her adversary would now be enthroned in splendour. As the bottom had fallen out of Erin’s world so now the high and mighty doyenne of all things culinary, the great Regan O’Nais, would feel that the world had dropped out of her bottom.

Diarrhoea, of course, was only the first manifestation. Heart palpitations would inflict their own sense of fear and pulmonary oedema would take its toll as the stomach lining would begin to disintegrate, creating a liquor that would quickly dissolve the internal organs.

Erin smiled and reached forward to her laptop, pressing the key that would delete “Montezuma’s” from digital existence.

Revenge was, indeed, so sweet.
___________________________________

Bio
Sue Harding worked in public libraries for eleven years. Her great joy was introducing customers to new books and authors and also discovering them for herself. Having taken early retirement the intention now is to knuckle down to serious writing. Perhaps one day her colleagues will be shelving her books!
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Monday, 21 February 2011

Ellie Garratt's Passing Time as a February Femme Fatale

February Femmes Fatales - February 21st

The lovely Ellie Garratt is a prolific writer, and a fine inspiration in how to knuckle down and get on with it. Her blog - with its stunning header - is evidence of Ellie's dedication to the craft.

We first crossed paths at Talkback, already mentioned several times here on the February Femmes Fatales showcase, since then we've shared printed space in Pill Hill Press' Daily Bites of Flesh 2011 (Ellie's the February 7th story, my two are June 19 and June 28). We also dallied on The Mysterious Dr. Ramsey from the Six Sentences network.

Ellie's story Passing Time is reminiscent of a different age. It's what I'd consider a classic supernatural tale and I'm particularly grateful to Ellie for allowing me to present it on February Femmes Fatales.

Passing Time by Ellie Garratt

We took death for granted, you and I. We spent our lives in quiet desperation, hoping the call of time would come later rather than sooner. But we know it was coming and until we met the man with the raincoat, we believed there was nothing we or anyone else could do to stop it. We were wrong.

The first time I saw the man who would change everything he was by the entrance to my office block, one week before my retirement. He wore a dirty raincoat and was carrying the same briefcase as I, though his was worn around the edges, perhaps by a lifetime of use, and his face bore a myriad of lines gained through hard living. His clothes were dirty and holes caressed every edge. I guessed by his silver-patched hair and gait he was in 80s or 90s. I did not know it at the time but he’d been waiting for me; I’d passed him twice a day for 30 years and never even noticed.

“Mr. Ashby?” he asked, as he placed his sinewy body in front of mine, blocking my path. He was the same height as I and we stared at each other, eye to eye, like two men preparing to fight.

“Yes,” I said, after a few seconds of hesitation.

He reached out a skeletal-looking hand and I took it, though I did not know why.

“Thank you,” he said, the timbre of his voice sounding more jubilant, and then began walking down the steps I’d just assailed with tremendous ease for a man of his age.

“For what?” I called after him.

He stopped for a moment and looked back. “For passing time, Mr. Ashby. Passing time.”

I stood watching as he disappeared along the pavement that stretched several blocks in either direction and tried to fathom what had just taken place. When I realised I could make no sense of it, I carried on with my day as I’d originally planned – work and then home to my one-bedroom flat.

My housekeeper was waiting for me with dinner when I returned home at just after 7pm. I thanked her as always and she left me to my self-imposed solitude.

It was whilst eating dinner that I was first alerted to the gradual change creeping through me. As I had gotten older my appetite had waned, but that night I was ravenous. When I’d eaten every morsel of dinner, I turned to the contents of the fridge to satisfy my sudden hunger. A piece of raw meat stood out amongst the healthier options. I picked it up and smelt its sweet aroma, and then seared it for a few seconds in a pan; I’d decided eating it almost raw would be more pleasurable and I was right – the steak was the finest I’d ever tasted. It was as if my senses had been re-born.

That night I slept longer than I had in years and found myself late for work the following day. My colleagues teased me ferociously; old dependable Mr. Ashby was never late.

There was no sign of the strange man.

Friday night and Saturday morning passed as a blur, as I played the best tennis of my life and decided to accept an invitation to a work party I’d previously declined. I danced all evening and drank liberally; something my tired body had not allowed in years.

It was on the way home from the party I finally began to re-consider the strange man’s last line, ‘Passing time, Mr. Ashby. Passing time.’ Had I been passing time? In waiting for death had I been guilty of wishing my life away?

It was on my last day of employment that I saw him for the second and last time. He was standing on the same steps, wearing the same rancid-looking raincoat. In his right hand he clutched the handle of his tattered briefcase.

I decided to stop and talk. I was sure it was he who had brought about the changes in me and I was eager to know if it would last – to find out if this sudden feeling of being truly alive would continue.

He smiled as I approached, revealing several rotten and missing teeth, and I grimaced.

“Good evening, Mr. Ashby,” he said, reaching out his arm again for us to shake hands.

This time I declined.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I’m you, Mr. Ashby.”

I thought he was quite mad. “Right . . .Who are you really?”

“Do you have your briefcase with you, Mr. Ashby?”

“Yes,” I said, raising it up towards him.

He looked down at it with a look that seemed to convey both avarice and fond remembrance; I could not decide which.

My gut instinct was to walk away but I was mesmerised.

“May I look at it?” he asked.

“And then you’ll tell me who you really are?”

“Of course.”

I’d not intended to take his briefcase when he reached out for mine, nor had I expected him to touch my hand for a second time, but it happened nevertheless and I’ve lived with that mistake for 29 years, 364 days, and 23 hours. I’ve relived that last glorious week of my life enough times to regret taking my death for granted. You see I’ve been stood next to the same office entrance for 30 years now; an aging briefcase in my hands and invisible for all to see. I’ve been passing time. I’ve been waiting for you.

It’s one week until you retire and I have a gift for you – a few heady days of youthful exuberance – before you take my place and allow me to pass on to the next level of life; death.
______________________________________

Bio:
Ellie Garratt lives in the UK and writes speculative fiction. She’s appeared in several anthologies, including Pill Hill Press’s Fem-Fangs, Haunted, Daily Bites of Flesh, and Dark Things V, and Static Movement’s Creepy Things. When she’s not bossing characters around to make fiction, you can find her at www.elliegarratt.blogspot.com.
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Sunday, 20 February 2011

Bloody Poetry from Lily Childs - February Femme Fatale

February Femmes Fatales - February 20th
This is my final inclusion in the FFF showcase (having been told off for calling my pieces 'fillers'!)

It's the penultimate poem, and is something I wrote some time ago. I like the exchange of life-force, the shift of power - wrong or right.

Wipe your blades dry, let them glisten - clean. All the better to reflect your fine - and oh so white - teeth.

La Sanguinette by Lily Childs

I am humble.
A bumbling fool
to your decadence.

Spread yourself out
before me.
Let an old soul
eek out its
wanton breath
at the sight of you.

Splay your fine limbs
in deviant poses.
I’ll cover you
in roses
red.

A boy to a woman
of centuries, slave.
Seeking young blood
to swell your veins.
I took my fair share
on the journey.

I’m tired,
so very tired.
I want you -
as always
but
there’s only one way.

Begging to taste
you accede
on my terms.
The exchange begins.
I drink of you
one last time.

Tears spill
to wash you clean.
Your body flails.
It spasms, it kicks.
Spines and spikes
pierce your curvature,
pricking you dead
in sweet sacrifice.

My mouth, drips
scarlet.
I lick your life away.
My skin, pale
shines bright.
Revitalized.
It blooms, and it’s pink.

And me, I’m
the youth
I used to be.
Looking for fools
and brimming with hunger.
________________________________

Bio:
Lily Childs is a writer of dark fiction and horror. Her stories have been published in several small press anthologies including Their Dark Masters; Extreme Vampire Horror, Daily Bites of Flesh 2011 and Caught By Darkness. You can read more dark fiction and poetry here on her blog Lily Childs' Feardom, where her demons dance in tutus.
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Saturday, 19 February 2011

Meet Dorothy - or maybe you already know today's February Femme Fatale?

February Femmes Fatales - 
February 19th

I've really been looking forward to introducing Dorothy Davies. Along with A.J. Humpage she was one of the first to welcome and support me on Talkback, the online forum of the UK's Writers' News and Writing Magazine. And I am so appreciative of her continued encouragement.

Dorothy is as diverse an author as you can imagine with a wealth of experience across genres, but her speciality lies in historical fiction. Her latest novel, Death Be Pardoner To Me is testament to her knowledge, and more.

An editor in her own right, Dorothy also joined Static Movement last year, an indie press which has published work by several Femmes Fatales. She is now editor of a growing number of dark fiction and horror anthologies.

Dorothy's first short story here, Comes The Sweet Autumn, is sweet indeed.

Please welcome Dorothy Davies; some of you may know her as Antonia Woodville...

Comes The Sweet Autumn by Dorothy Davies

Comes the sweet Autumn with colour, with brilliant skies fit to fracture at the touch of a migrating bird, with the good scent of wood smoke and a hint of coldness. Time to bring out the wool, the thick blankets, the boots, everything that makes you feel good in these crisp autumn days.

It is a time to begin to close down, to stockpile food against the days you cannot go out, to ensure there is sufficient fuel for the fire, to prepare for the blizzards ahead.

The sweet Autumn is a good time to think of the empty cellar, with its hooks and its racks and its shelves awaiting supplies.

And so the Autumn is a good time to make sure that there are bodies aplenty for the cold days ahead.

Just think of the hooks and the racks and the shelves filled with fresh meat.

Is it not a good enough thought to make Autumn seem even sweeter?

Then come with me, we will hunt together and together we will ensure the cellar is full.

And if you do not offend me in any way, you may even survive until Spring.
___________________________________________

Bio:
Dorothy Davies
Writer, medium, editor, full member Fictioneer, lives on the Isle of Wight and writes strange stories.

Dorothy Davies
Author, 'Death Be Pardoner To Me', the life of George, duke of Clarence.

Amor Vincit Omnia
__________________________________________

Friday, 18 February 2011

A quickie - if you don't mind.

I took possession of a shiny new laptop with a disturbingly white keyboard today, for the day job (yes, I do have one). In my teeny, weeny lunch-break I took a peek at The Prediction, only to find the entire thing was a ghastly red with black text. As I train people in Web Accessibility I was somewhat horrified, as I'm sure you can imagine. It's only using IE7.

Below is what I hope you all see; if instead you see something resembling my horror experience above please do let me know. As I use a blogger template I'm not sure what I can do about it, but thank you.

What Lily Childs' Feardom Should Look Like (click to see in full size):

Lily's Friday Prediction

The moon, as I sloped off to bed in the early hours was fat and aglow with promise. This morning I can't even see the roofs for the mist that has crept off the sea in her wake. Apparently the sun is sending forth bursts of magnetic fire today which will interfere with technology, networks and infrastructure - a battle with Mercury then.

Congratulations to David Barber, good friend and traveller on the writing journey who was the winner of last week's Prediction with his tragic farewell, The Shape Of An Angel. Well done too to runners-up Aidan Fritz with the terrifying Halfbreeds and Ellie Garratt with her sci-fi apocalypse Gravity.

I have three new words for you. I hope they get under your skin:

  • Irish
  • Tide
  • Coach
Rules:

The rules are: 100 words max flash fiction or poetry using all of the words above. Please add your entries in the Comments box below. You have all week until 9pm UK time on Wednesday 23rd February to enter. (Note - a day early)

Winner will be announced next Thursday or Friday. If you can, please tweet about your entry, using the #fridayflash hashtag, and blog if you feel like it.

There's a dance in my head - not sure if it's a jig or a tango...
___________________________________

Enter the live labyrinth of Asuqi - February Femme Fatale.

February Femmes Fatales -
February 18th 


This second piece of prose from Asuqi perfectly demonstrates her art. She has a unique attitude, studded with astute observation and delivery.

Betrayed thunders through the subject of abuse, at the heart of which is a little Alice lost and ever on the escape yet trapped by affection and loyalty.

For me there's a 1950s feel to Betrayed with deliberate exclamations to contradict the tragedy; unnerving as Sylvia Plath poetry.

Enter the maze; may you follow your own path...

Betrayed by Asuqi

This is a confined space, too narrow to live in or like, but it’s what I’ve got left and in a way, I suppose it suits me.

I lost myself in a labyrinth, the pretty one, in our vast garden. My sisters were snatched away from our lovely childhood by a monster too abhorrent to speak of. Me, I chose the maze.

Try chasing me here! Try finding me! I’m lost, I’m lost, impossible to find!

I spent these long years ensuring the labyrinth’s utter complexity. I recreated the paths, reorganized the hedges. I made a science of intricacy.

I sometimes see my sisters cry, the monster’s shadow heavy on their chests. I turn to lightness then, bend myself backwards and spiral away – I only dance abstract pieces.

The laces I’m wrapped in are my mother’s from a lifetime ago, I think the monster wanted me in them, but I can’t discard them, freedom is not mine to take.

Oh my God! He came for me! Last night in my dreams! Soft brown eyes, wine-scented kisses and his treacherous hands fumbling under my layers of lace.

My heart and my thoughts fluttered endlessly then, like the delicate membranes of a butterfly.

"Someone ought to have saved you," you say, your eyes a glacial sincerity. "Someone should have come for you!"

But there’s no one left, you see! And the softness in my eyes is as brown as his. We’re two of a kind, and this is what holds me secured more than anything; his body so close to mine, our minds entwined, the horrors he performed - are they the tales of my soul?

So I stay here, trapped, between him and myself. If you hear me scream, please go away, if I plead just leave! I´m ruined beyond salvation and if you come from a place of light, your heart pure and sweet, just forget about me, for I will turn my face to you, and I cannot promise my smile won´t be his.
_________________________________

Bio:
Please accept me as Asuqi. On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero. So I go about searching for near-life experiences. I know them when they hit me, they tickle my brain. I only have questions, I am Jack's complete lack of certainty. Yes; "Fight Club". Always.

__________________________________

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Prediction Winner

Goodness gracious; here's a thing. A record number of entries to the Prediction challenge. Let's start with the summaries - I'll try to keep it brief, as it could take a while.

  • David Barber promised an assault and boy, did he deliver:
    • #1 That bad chat-up line scores our hero a finely-shaped dinner, in Delicious.
    • #2 Debbie's dead and Peter's spotted the unnatural killer in In The Shadows.
    • #3 Genders twist, abused and controlled in the tragic A Broken Promise.
    • #4 A haunted husband and loving father finds the light in The Shape Of An Angel.
  • Ellie's Helward gave up the ghost in the face of overwhelming alien attention in Gravity.
  • Justice all round as Mimi's slob does his back in taking revenge in Edgewise.
  • Me, I went all poetic and wistful this week:
    • #1 Carnal Dox sings of pox in the port on the old main drag
    • #2 Stellar Song stops the stars from sparkling - but only for a moment, Gods or no Gods.
  • Rebecca's soul prowls through primal night, the hunter or the hunted? In The Night Hind.
  • Chris's spider bite turns his character's thoughts inside out in his copper-coloured Scratch.
  • The guilty turns killer in the reflection of AJ's adulterous Prelude.
  • He's gorgeous! Sue's cop in drag drags his heels in the street in Night Shift.
  • Aidan has siblings teasing  and toying with Mother's magic in the forestral Half Breeds.
  • The agony of betrayal slashes through ravenways' debut in Don't Look Now.
  • Melenka's curling entities wrap their shadows around frantic lovers before sucking them dry in Stock In Trade.
  • Shape-shifters rule. Antonia's doesn't tolerate inappropriate advances in Mistaken Identity.
  • She drags her burden with a smile, does Susan; completely Brazen she is.
  • Kook's back, evacuating body and soul in reverence to his unholy visions in William's Revelation.
  • More shape-shifters cause havoc in Kim's Appearances can be deceiving - and they don't even make the effort!
  • Pixie's fluttering fairy friend says goodbye to the deceiver with a poison arrow in Adieu.


Humble am I in such presence. I truly enjoyed not only every entry but also every comment - as always. Thank you all, for dallying at The Feardom.

David Barber is my winner this week, with the haunting and heart-rending The Shape Of An Angel. Beautifully tragic. Congratulations David.

Aidan's Halfbreeds crept into my skin, and Ellie's Gravity tore my world in two, three, four... Both are runners-up. Well done.

Back in the morn' - with its orange, sun burst sky - for a new Prediction.

_________________________________________

My name is Lily and I'm a... February Femme Fatale.

February Femmes Fatales - February 17th

My third filler piece on the Femmes Fatales showcase is one that is dangerously close to my heart. It has 'done the rounds' but hasn't been quite right for any publication so far.

Sometimes the desire to get it out there is stronger than the need to be paid (please don't quote me on that!) so I'm bringing Birthright out into the light. My protagonist is very dear to me, tortured and divine as she is; she makes me remember...

Please be gentle with her.

Birthright by Lily Childs

There is a child in my belly; in my womb. Yet no-one put it there. No-one I know.

Sixty seven years I have drummed this landscape, dancing and playing around the coasts of this island, but it is a good ten years since a prick thrust its way into my orchard.

Voluptuous was I. “Homely” they said. Vibrant of face and auburn of hair. Breasts to sleep against, curves to wallow in. But I slipped, and I fell, until my inevitable profession became one of passing love, a satisfier of desperate lust - over in an instant. Pregnancy, blissful and joyous, became an occupational hazard. I bore one child. It died. I bore a second – to order, and a third; fees of which I only saw a shilling or two, quickly spent. I could bear it no more; thereafter the back street snippers stole my earnings. By my fortieth year their butchery and the syphilis had taken its toll. No more a mother to be. Yet here I lie, a babe inside.

I am half-blind, toothless. My breasts hang to my knees. I can imagine how aroused you are by my unique beauty. But someone must have been, to have paid to experiment upon me. Someone slit me, opened me, stuffed me with nonsense, chemicals and embryos.

I feel it growing. My hands pulse with its heartbeat as I splay aged fingers across my rounded stomach. The size of it pushing upwards makes it hard to breathe. It means I must lay, propped up, when I need to sleep. The child kicks me, headbutts and beats my insides, making me shit and puke ‘til I faint on the floor. Everything I eat, it consumes. All I drink, it sucks dry.

I question the origins of the thing within me; it’s been two years in gestation. But I feel a mother’s love no less. Even as it eats me from the inside out, I adore it. Where it leaches my every last ounce of energy, I offer up my strength freely.

I lie in no hospital bed. No nurse, quack or doctor cares for me. My apartments are regal and glorious though I cannot tell if I linger in a fairy-tale tower or slumber beneath the ground, staring as I do through gaps and spaces. Windows on high, or subterranean vents - I know only that clawed creatures fly by the spines and vines that crawl with unspeakable insects, illuminated by stars and moonlight at the strangest angles.

Maids dress my suppurations, unseen servants deliver my feasts – for they are feasts, and they are extraordinary. Rare fruits dance across pewter platters with vials of rust-brown liquid peppering the scene. Here is softening laudanum; it dulls my senses, opens the blossom of my creativity, speaks with my soul, makes me cry…

Nothing, they tell me, can stop the progress. ‘Perceived genealogy’ means everything. It matters not that the foetus does not usher from twixt the legs of a Royal. Whatever the babe - miscreant or fully formed - they will nurture it, shape it, form it. It is their tool – political, governmental. A forgery. The princess, as in time immemorial will drop the cushion from beneath her dresses to show the next heir to the masses, and to her king. It is as it has always been.

“My son” the princess shall say. “His Royal Highness.” The crowds will adore their monarch as they have for centuries… And me? I will fade away, quietly, discreetly; a simple vessel for the monster.

I fought against this, my destiny. I knew, you see. Parading my flesh, denying my heritage - it was to no avail. The old blood of England fires through my veins. No Queen am I. A whore, they call me, but my mothers have slept with and comforted the Edwards, the Georges, the Henrys and Charleses. They tended the Annes and the Marys even, though no issue came from those unions. We, we are of ancient dynasties, as old as this land; worshipped ourselves once as deities – as Goddesses for the people. Look how far we have fallen.

Labour. Heavy, agonising labour courses through me. I vomit between screams, dropping in and out of consciousness. Women – women of child-bearing age with child-bearing hips unlike me stand around, deliberately ignoring my plight, waiting only for the birth.

It begins. Raging. Stinging. Even in my slack, flaccid, well-used tunnel the creature gets stuck. It flails around in my entry, causing us harm. But still I push. Hours; brutal, painful hours later the thing slithers from my blistered hole. Finally, I get some attention.

They take it away, expressionless.

It lived, I understand. You will know better than I if it was a girl or a boy. In your generation, or your descendants’ history books they will talk of this king or that, this princess or prince, waiting in turn to serve on the throne whilst the government bows its head in servitude. You will not hear, or read of the women left to bleed, untended until they die, their purposes served, again and again and again. All you will recognise are the tales, wondrous and heroic of your leaders, the Kings and Queens of England.

There is no Prince Charming. No happy and glorious benefactor reigning over us. There is only dominion; a bloody empire that accepts no blame.

Blame me. Blame my mothers and sisters.

Swear at me, tear at me. Point your fingers in accusation and disgust. But I beg you - not too much.

I had no choice. We did it for you.
__________________________________

Bio:
Lily Childs is a writer of dark fiction and horror. Her stories have been published in several small press anthologies including Their Dark Masters; Extreme Vampire Horror, Daily Bites of Flesh 2011 and Caught By Darkness. You can read more dark fiction and poetry here on her blog Lily Childs' Feardom, where her demons dance in tutus.
__________________________________


Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Sue Harding says it's cold outside - a frosty February Femme Fatale

February Femmes Fatales -
February 15th


Sue Harding has a very mischievous side. Her writing is often tinged with a unique humour, and her second Femmes Fatales piece, Frosty Relations is no exception.

I love the matter-of-fact delivery of this story as it unashamedly details Mandy's gruesome acts, making me laugh out loud.

With no further ado, wrap up warm and turn up the heat...


Frosty Relations by Sue Harding

Mandy couldn’t close the freezer. Each time she tried a hand or foot popped out. Exasperated, she snapped them off.

“Damn you, Kevin,” she thought, “Fighting to the last!”

She slammed the freezer lid down defiantly. It popped up again, just an inch or two. Finally on the third attempt it clicked shut and stayed that way.

She heaved a sigh of satisfied relief and waddled out of the garage and back to the kitchen, defiantly turning the key in the lock as if to underline the fact that Kevin was very much a part of her past.

Frizz, the cat, weaved around her ankles, raising a delicate pink nose and sniffing the air. Her eyes were big and bright as a familiar aroma teased at her nostrils. Mandy bent down and gathered the adoring feline to her more than ample bust, sinking her nose into the black, silky fur.

“Hmmm,” she whispered. “I know you’d like to see Daddy again, but it’s just not going to happen!”

She thought back to the last time. She’d been out to the freezer a few hours later to see how Kevin was doing. A few judicious prods had told her that although the body was cold, it wasn’t quite solid. She’d turned aside to pick up the bucket of ice cubes she’d gathered from the domestic freezer in the kitchen, intending to add them to speed up the process and when she’d straightened up she’d seen that Frizz had found her way into the garage. The cat had jumped up into the open freezer and was gently chewing on one of Kevin’s toes.

Holding the cat closely to her, Mandy walked back into the lounge and sat down. That had been six weeks ago. Kevin, minus the last inch or so of one of his left foot toes, was now much more friable, evidenced by the fact that she’d been able to snap off the offending appendages with relative ease.

She’d been putting off the question of what to do with Kevin’s body for a while now. At least storing him in the freezer had taken care of the odour issue, even if it had been a marathon event to manoeuvre his body down the stairs and haul him into his frigid sarcophagus. She’d surprised herself with what she could do when she put her mind, not to mention her own considerable poundage, to removing him from his initial resting place in the bathroom.

His prone position, with his head down the toilet, had made his demise all the easier to achieve. As he’d been bracing himself with his hands on the rim of the toilet bowl, throwing up the delightful meal she’d spent all day carefully preparing, it was not an arduous task for her to push his head down with the toilet lid and then sit on it.

True, his retaliatory bucking had had made for an uncomfortable ride as she’d tried to maintain a balanced posture but his already weakened state, from the debilitating reaction to the emetics she’d concealed in the spicy cuisine, was combined with the physical crushing on his windpipe and all she had to do was sit tight and wait and try not to breathe through her nose.

Finally dragging his body to the top of the stairs, she’d sunk to her massive haunches and sat down with her back braced to the wall. Pushing for all her worth, her feet made contact with the small of Kevin’s back and forced his body forward over the top step. She’d watched as the momentum carried the dead weight of his body to the foot of the stairs, falling over and over like some strange rag doll, to land in an untidy heap by the front door.

From there to the internal door that opened into the garage, it was a matter of pushing, dragging and rolling until she’d managed to reach the freezer. She’d propped him against the tumble dryer, letting the top half of his torso bend over into semi-repose, whilst she opened the freezer and stared briefly into the icy, cavernous opening. It had given her a few seconds to catch her breath, then she’d grabbed hold of a handful of Kevin’s shirt and propelled him sidewards into the waiting cabinet.

Although the disparity between his lean athletic figure and her more rotund curves had been the spark that had ignited the rift had driven them apart in the first place, she’d been glad that he’d slimmed down. Even if he had suffered some sort of mid-life crisis and found her ample figure less appealing as he’d shed several pounds acquired by her good home cooking, it had at least made the job of moving his body a little easier.

Now, as she sat still stroking Frizz, her thoughts came back to the present. Tracking down his ‘bit on the side’, that skinny girl he’d met at the gym, had been difficult. Only when Mandy had finally cracked Kevin’s password was she able to access his emails and there the full treachery of his betrayal was sordidly set out. It had taken her a full twenty-four hours to regain her composure after reading the cruel things he’d said about her. They were more hurtful, it seemed, than the sleazy details of his affair.

However, this was her only way to ensnare Miss Stick Insect and so she had entered into a fabrication, pretending to be Kevin. With email contact substituting for the real thing she’d had to invent a reason for his physical absence from the gym. That had been easy: Mandy simply detailed the same lie she’d fed to inquisitive neighbours – Kevin had undertaken some short term contract work abroad.

She’d strung Miss Waif-like along for a while before finally reeling her in. Yesterday’s email message had announced Kevin’s arrival back in the UK. It was a simple matter for ‘him’ to arrange a quiet, romantic meal for the two of them, especially as his ‘lard-tub’ of a wife was away visiting the dragon, otherwise known as his mother-in-law. So, he’d meet her at the house and they’d go on from there. Or maybe not, depending on how the mood took them. Mandy physically retched as she typed the last words, full of innuendo.

Miss Stick-thin had arrived on cue and having received no answer to her insistent doorbell ringing, had found the key in the planter by the front door as per Kevin’s instructions.

Mandy had lain in wait, concealing herself awkwardly in the folds of the heavy door –curtain. She savoured the startled look of disbelief that met her cold, hard gaze before despatching her love-rival with one of Kevin’s fitness dumbbells. The smack of weighted rubber making contact with teeth and bone had been like music to Mandy’s ears but it was merely the overture to a lengthy performance. It had reached its crescendo when her fury had abated and she’d looked down at the pulverised and eviscerated flesh that lay at her feet. It resembled well-tenderised steak, with a hint of blonde streaked hair splayed out like a rough halo around what had once been a dainty little face with a charming snub-nose and sensuous lips.

Mandy stroked Frizz again, as she recalled how much easier it had been to remove Miss Rake to her final resting place; she supposed there was something to be said for all this dieting lark. Still, it had been quite difficult making room for her. Manipulating Kevin’s limbs had proved awkward, but she’d finally managed to get the lid closed and then left the garage. It had seemed appropriate to let the two lovers have some time together on their own.

Sitting in the lounge with Frizz purring like a little generator on her lap, she lifted the travel brochure from the coffee table beside her and flicked through the pages. A nice long holiday was what she needed. Somewhere nice and warm. After all, she thought, imagining the icy repository in the garage and its occupants, two’s company and three’s most definitely a crowd.
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Bio:
Sue Harding worked in public libraries for eleven years. Her great joy was introducing customers to new books and authors and also discovering them for herself. Having taken early retirement the intention now is to knuckle down to serious writing. Perhaps one day her colleagues will be shelving her books!

Sue blogs at http://irefusetogoquietly.blogspot.com
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Tuesday, 15 February 2011

She's back - with a vengeance. A.J. Humpage - February Femme Fatale.

February Femmes Fatales - February 15th

A.J. Humpage's second entry in the Femmes Fatales showcase is a demonic little number, which means it's right up my street. Creepy and chilling, tickling all those raw nerve endings with a wicked, probing fear.

And you know what? I have a theory (actually I have more than one). I think this is Ally's reply, or the opposite side to Pixie J. King's Sleeping Shadows. I've asked them, but like the naughty vixens they are, they ain't tellin'! But whether yay or nay, it works perfectly in its own right.

Let A.J. Humpage take you to bed...

Nocturne by A J Humpage

Kate had always suffered bad dreams, for as long as she could remember. The kind that crept into her consciousness each night, fingering and ripping at her nerves like a dirty, eager demonic whore.

She often dreaded sleep. It brought with it the creature that feasted on her fears and sneered at her like a repellent child.

Hypnagogia, the doctors said. The transitional stage between wakefulness and sleep, and the cause of her strange visions. But despite the medication, she still dreamed about the night demon which breached her mind, mocking and pawing and frightening her.

This night was no different, as the drum of her heartbeat echoed around the room, pulling her deep into sleep. So soft and malleable. Vulnerable. Outside, silhouetted shadows of naked, gnarled branches danced as the wind taunted.

Kate drifted towards an empty blackness.

Movement.

Her bedroom door slowly opened to the shadows in the hallway; they sucked out the warmth and left a slicing chill, but Kate remained in slumber, despite the room growing colder. A teasing stream of vapour coiled into the air as she breathed.

The door wavered as though a soft breeze had swept past. The shadow in the corridor lurched, grew black.

Quiet vibrations undulated beneath the floorboards, crept across the room like a rolling bank of fog. The metal bed frame rattled slightly and then fell silent.

Kate’s eyes fluttered open, the blurred line between consciousness and sleep somewhat jaded. She half-listened for a moment; her mind tuning into the peripheral. Sounds in the conscience.

A creak spilled into the chilly air.

She lifted her head, gazed at the darkened doorway and shuddered at the cold pressing against her skin with steel fingertips. She could have sworn she’d closed the door. She got up and closed the door against the blackness, then returned to bed. She drew the sheet up over her shoulders and settled back into the pillows. Perhaps tonight would be her first nightmare free sleep.

Perhaps.

She drifted.

A stilted, oppressive silence descended like a clammy cloud of vapour, clung to the cold air. The darkness brooded; grew thick with each minute and filled the stairs and hallway as though shrouding something from view.

The bedroom door silently swung wide. Like an invitation.

The dark mass in the hallway slithered forward into the chilled room and oozed towards the bed as though seeking out her warmth.

The trees outside stopped moving. Shadows became still.

The bedcovers moved. The sheet slowly slipped down her body.

The bed creaked. An indentation appeared beside her torso, as though something rested against the mattress.

Kate groaned. Through the fog of sleep, she felt pressure on her back and her eyes immediately opened to the greyness.

A rancid smell instantly drifted up her nostrils and slithered down her throat like a hungry serpent. She retched, opened her mouth to scream, but no sound came; her voice stifled by the entity pressing down on her, pushing her into the bedclothes, forceful, angry.

The pressure on her body increased, sharp nails etched into her back.

Muscles stuttered, but she couldn’t move; nothing would work.

Christ! Help!

The sound of her heartbeat became loud and fast in her ears, and her stomach churned, full with a fearful, bilious torrent; the sickly swell instantly filling her veins and numbing her body further into submission.

The wardrobe doors rattled.

God, how she wanted to scream, but raw terror clawed at shredded nerves; no sound could get past her swollen larynx. Fear fizzled at the back of her mind, inching through broken synapses to fill her conscience with the sickly torrent.

Sounds crept in; low and brooding. She knew the demon from her nightmares had perched on her back with a glib, Faustian grin. Sometimes she could almost hear it laughing. Sometimes she could hear it breathe; the rough rattle of its lungs. She would often smell the fetid scent of death drape over her, smothering her, but she knew it would be over soon; the nightmarish episodes never lasted long...the horror would subside and she would slip into a deep sleep once again.

Something gurgled. The weight shifted on her back.

Lungs depleted and instantly filled with air. The stench receded.

A noise finally seeped into the darkness; her voice broke. She lifted her head, eyes wide as she peered over her shoulder, fearful she might catch a glimpse of a demonic creature, but only a shifting darkness stared back at her.

The pressure gradually eased from her and feeling returned to her limbs. She shot out her arm to grab the lamp on the side table, almost knocked it over. And then, at last, light filled the room, sending the shadows into retreat.

She sat up, eyes adjusting to the glow. She gazed at the door. It lay wide open against the baleful blackness that seemed to be squatting near the stairs. Fear crawled beneath her skin like a parasite.

Had she shut the door? Or had she dreamed she had?

She glanced at the wardrobe. The rattling noises had seemed so real. The sense of the demonic imp crushing her into the bed had seemed real, but she knew they were all in her mind, the soupy residue of near sleep, just gossamer strings of her imaginings and fears.

But curiosity drew her from the bed to the wardrobe. She reached out, heartbeat pulsating in her fingertips as she gripped the handle, momentarily resisting the urge to...

...face her fears...

She opened the doors, sighed at the cluttered space in the wardrobe, cursed. You dreamed it, idiot.

She shut the wardrobe, went to the bathroom to get a glass of water, still muttering.

* * * 

Bereft of her warmth, the air in the bedroom quickly cooled again, laced with an arctic hush. The light dimmed.

The wardrobe door slowly swung open.

The stench of rotten flesh oozed into the ether.

A hunched, spidery shadow smothered the wall, entered her bed.

The daemon patiently awaited her return.
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Bio:
A J Humpage has stories published in many anthologies like 6 Sentences, Pill Hill Press, Static Movement and many e-zines. She also writes articles and dispenses writing advice at http://allwritefictionadvice.blogspot.com. She has completed her first novel and some of her stories and poetry can be found at http://ajhumpage.blogspot.com.
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Lily Childs is a writer of horror, esoteric, mystery and chilling fiction.

If you see her dancing outside in a thunder storm - don't try to bring her in. She's safe.