fic: Good Intentions

by Mhairi Simpson on May 3, 2016

day #4

Fire snaps and sparkles, lighting my way to Hell. A well-travelled path this, paved with I need the money and just this once, I swear. The stones beneath my feet are deeply graven, but the lines only resolve into letters I can read as they connect with the soles of my hand-tooled boots. They all say the same thing, these stones I step on as I travel downwards, spiralling to my right and into the abyss.

This is different the stones tell me, echoing my thoughts back at me in silent, deafening mockery.

I stop and look ahead. The light I have been heading for is bright and steady. Behind me lies darkness, full of teeth and despair. The gun is heavy in my hand and strains towards the light. It thirsts for blood, as do I.

So why have I stopped? The fires in the braziers crackle, ever more inviting, as though beckoning me forward. The gun feels lighter, a cooler blue than the menacing tint it held when I started down these stairs. Now it only wants to help me. I imagine a dog, a non-threatening, people dog, a Golden Labrador, cocking its head and gently wagging its tail. It only wants to make me happy. So eager to please.

It’s all a lie, and as I think it, the stone changes beneath my feet. It’s blank now, waiting for me to justify the crime I intend to commit. Shedding this blood won’t bring back my mother and sister, nor the brother who killed himself soon after they were lost. I wasn’t anchor enough for him. Hardly surprising when I could barely anchor myself.

He deserves it appears beneath my feet, immediately replaced by the world would be better off without him.

Is there a reason the stones won’t recognise as a lie?

I look inside myself. I want revenge stares back at me from the floor. He is evil replaces it.

I want to cry. There is nothing left for me above. Nowhere to go, no one to love. My next thought hits me like a two by four to the back of the head, then waits. It does not appear on the stones. I frown.

“I am lonely,” I tell the stone aloud. It remains silent. My truth has erased its words.

I open my hand and the gun falls to the ground but vanishes, depriving me of the ringing clatter of metal on stone. The braziers are dark now and the light no longer shines ahead. I feel my way forward through the gentle black. I will find him. I want to talk to him, to know what he told himself when he slid behind the wheel, knowing he’d drunk too much. I will bring him here. I want to know what the stones will say. I want to see his truth.


fic: Say Please

by Mhairi Simpson on May 2, 2016

Old Werrig’s orchard produced the fattest, juiciest fruit around, they told Jack, the new boy, walking past on their way to school. Plums the size of your fist, apples so tart and golden they were used as currency in the market. Time was, three of Johan Werrig’s Fairy Queen apples bought you a roast dinner at the Hart’s Last Stand on Kerryman Street.

Not anymore, though, not for a long time. Not since Mr. Werrig left. Or died. Or maybe just decided he didn’t want to talk to people anymore. There was often talk of scaling the tall knapped flint wall which ran around the orchard and sampling the fabled fruit, but no one ever did it. It was a thing to be talked about, not actually done.

Jack and Lenny looked up at the wall, one cool Friday afternoon on their way home.

“It’s not that tall,” said Jack. “Why does no one ever go in?”

Lenny shrugged. Jack had only been in Little Walsingham for a few weeks but he’d fast grown accustomed to Lenny, a boy of few words.

“And they don’t even know what happened to the old man?” Jack asked. Lenny shook his head, then looked up at the sky. Clouds were mustering, gathering their thoughts before loosing their contents on the village. Jack sighed but let himself be pulled away. Knapped flint wasn’t impossible to climb, but wet knapped flint was, or close to it. Tomorrow was another day.

Tomorrow was brilliantly sunny and the wall was already dry by the time Jack arrived. He hadn’t told Lenny he was going to do this today. Figured Lenny might not approve and besides, it was easier to do something the second time than the first. By the time he went and got an audience, he’d know the little tricks this wall held, the sticky out stones he’d find on his way up, and no doubt scrape half his legs on coming down.

The wall was taller than it looked, it seemed, and it took a good dozen sweating, scraping attempts before Jack finally straddled the mortared top and surveyed the land beyond. Getting down the other side seemed like a grand idea until he finally dropped onto the grass and realised he was going to have to climb the wall all over again to get out.

“There has to be a gate somewhere,” he murmured and turned away from the threat of more hard work. In truth, the orchard was far more interesting than the wall which surrounded it, not least because it was so unexpected.

The trees were bowed low under the weight of the fruit they held, a fact all the more astonishing as it was only April. Apples half the size of his head, plums as big as his fist, just like he’d been told. He plucked one, bit into it. The juice squirted all down his chin and the flavour had him reaching for another, then another. Cool and tart and rich, the flesh slid down his throat like the promise of summer. Munching on an apple, he went exploring.

It was amazing. There was no other word he could think of, although he kind of wanted to find one because ‘amazing’ just didn’t seem, well, amazing enough. There were grapefruit and pineapples and bananas here, and grapes on vines strung back and forth, masses and masses of every kind of fruit he’d ever heard of and plenty he hadn’t. It was rather strange that there was only one cherry tree, though.

It stood in the centre of the orchard, tall and wide and covered with huge, crimson cherries. Something made him leave it alone on his first turn of the grounds. It seemed almost regal, standing there alone, right in the middle of everything. And hadn’t they learnt in Classical Civilisations that crimson, or a kind of reddy purple, as Jack thought of it, was historically the colour of royalty? Maybe this was the King tree and it ruled over all the others and that was why there was only one of it.

He snorted and wandered towards the house. It seemed dead and empty. No one stirred inside. There wasn’t even a Sky dish on it, or a car in the drive. Maybe the guy really had died.

He turned back to the orchard and found himself at the King tree almost by accident. He noticed a bare stem, as though someone else had just plucked one of the fruits.

“Well, it would be rude not to, really,” he said, grinning. Reaching out, he picked a fat, juicy cherry.

It was dark when Jack’s mum knocked on the door of Lenny’s house. His mother answered. No, she hadn’t seen Jack today. She called Lenny who shook his head when asked. It was only when the police came the following morning that he remembered them talking about the orchard.

It was empty, though, when they went to look. The house was too. And all the trees bare, no fruit, no blossom, not even any leaves, like they had been ever since Johan Werrig’s disappearance eighty years previous. No sign of a missing boy, no indication he’d ever been there.

“It’s a silly local legend,” DS Donnelly told his younger colleague as they came away from the property. “The place was fabled for its fruit, people said there must have been fairies or witches involved or something. More like the guy just knew what he was doing. Apparently they all just died soon after he lef. It’s like they gave up or something.”

In the orchard, a faint breeze blew, carrying with it the sound of laughter and tiny silver bells and, just on the very edge of the air, desperate, terrified screams.


fic: And When The Battle Ends

May 1, 2016

day #2 of a story a day… Quill peered through the trees. Flashes of crimson and metal announced the knights’ position as clearly as if they’d nailed signs to every branch. Only a hundred paces or so from the road. Not the most cleverly hidden ambush he’d ever seen. But he was tired, so tired, […]

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flash fiction: Nightlight

April 30, 2016

New challenge: write and post a story every day. This is day #1… There’s a tiny hole in the wall near my bed, just above the wainscot. It’s been there for as long as I can remember. Etta tuts over it every morning when she helps me dress and David comes in periodically with his bucket […]

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A glance over my shoulder

April 13, 2016

It occurred to me today that my current back issues are identical to those that laid me up back in January 2011. Back then I didn’t have a TENS machine (although one of my friends tried valiantly to get me to try it – stubbornness has its drawbacks), nor did I have any money to […]

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The merit in ‘also ran’

April 10, 2016

Still laid up in bed and no, it isn’t fun, but I bought myself a present, Liz Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC (believe it or not, the hardcover is currently cheaper than the paperback, and only 38p more expensive than the ebook). Thanks to the eternal glory of Amazon Prime it arrived this afternoon. A hot cuppa, […]

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You’re badass. No, really, you are.

April 8, 2016

Can a disabled Hunter be badass? Well, of course she can. She’s a Hunter, for crying out loud. Just because her built-in blades barely work, doesn’t mean the rest of her is compromised. I just started writing the first book in a quartet set in the same world as The Scent of Freedom. The main […]

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Some lines have to be crossed

April 7, 2016

(this post talks about bodily functions. you have been warned) I’ve been suffering with back pain lately. We’re pretty sure it traces back to stacking a lot of firewood in the greenhouse a couple of weeks ago. Whatever the cause, the back pain started out as uncomfortable and requiring fairly consistent application of ibuprofen and […]

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The battle chicken can(n)on

March 19, 2016

Me: I love how any time the battle chickens are played, there’s a cheer. Him: Yes, especially with our history with them. Me: Yep, it’s a nice addition to the battle chicken canon. Him: HAHAHAHAHA Me: Eh? Oh, right, yes, well… *thinks about it* HAHAHAHAHA Him: Yes. “We don’t charge our battle chickens here.” “Sir?” […]

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On not writing in order to write better

March 18, 2016

I finished the last book a couple of weeks ago and haven’t written a word since. I am working on the next one but I can’t just start writing. I do have to do a substantial amount of planning before I start drafting a new story and of course, in this case I’m actually planning to […]

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