Short Tales

This flash fiction piece was written last week, an entry in the October One Word Challenge over at Writer's Talkback, which didn't take long - I'm incredibly fussy about my writing, and most work takes an age - and is one of those stories that simply 'pour out'.  Clara Smile did just that.  For the challenge, the word in question was 'Silence' and this little tale popped into my head.

I must thank fellow writer Lily Childs (among others) for providing a lovely bit of feedback, and who's inspirational words I've cut out and stuck to my notice board.  What a great motivator.

Clara Smile

She sat staring at the light. In her head, there were flowers and fields, horses, stalagmite mountains and granite ledges, brushed blades of grass and swollen trees full with leaves reaching out for the embrace of the sun, while glazed colours soaked her face. They conspired to make Clara smile.

She would go to these places to escape the tinny hiss of her conscience, a respite to the clinical brightness that she sometimes sensed, but Clara loved the palliative silence. It reminded her of a warm blanket shielding her against the cold. The only sound she understood was the rhythmic drum of a heartbeat, constant yet comforting, always present.

‘Lights are on but no one is home,’ the doctor said, as he closed the door on Clara and locked it.

Clara stared at the imaginary scene in her mind. A thick silvery thread dribbled down her open mouth. Her blue eyes remained trapped behind a metallic sheen. Dulled blonde hair hung loosely by her face, lank and long and as waxy as her flesh.

‘Sits staring at nothing all day,’ the doctor said, peering through the grille into her sterile prison. ‘Poor bitch lost her mind, but she’s always smiling...’

Twist in the Tales

I love twist in the tail endings for stories.  Some frown upon it, but it takes a great deal of skill to do it correctly to effect the 'oh I wasn't expecting that' reaction.  You're not just producing a satisfying ending to a story, you're building towards a shock that precedes everything in the story. 

The Watcher, originally published on Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers, was inspired by a true event which occurred in the apartment across from where I live.  I don't think the lady wandering around naked had any idea that she could could be seen...but the story splices thriller with a sense of the erotic and a twist of...well see for yourself...

The Watcher

The darkness around me made it easier to see her.

The soft glare from her window first drew me in; a hint of flesh, innocent tease, a fleeting glimpse had I not looked twice. Pale skin, as supple and striking as summer colours, reflected against the brightness of her lights, and the curiosity of that brief moment held me captive. She was not aware of my attention.

The following night I stood at my window, out of curiosity, and she did it again, disrobing like a flower shedding petals in a breeze, sanguine expression brightened by the lights in her apartment. She stood there a while, taking in the silent appreciation of an invisible audience, before catching herself in the mirror. I watched as she ran her hands through her hair, bright blonde strands reflecting the light, but she gave me only a few minutes before disappearing from view. I felt cheated.

The next night she was bold, moving naked about the kitchen, unaware of my jaded gaze pouring through the darkness. She seemed to enjoy her own parade, and once again, she stopped to admire herself in the mirror, skirting her hands over her breasts and through her hair with intimate appreciation.

Her tease lasted an hour.

On the fourth night she stood in the centre of the room, waiting.

I knew then she had seen me somehow; seen my shadow in the darkness. It troubled me, because I was always careful not to flick on any of my lights when I watched her. But somehow, she knew. Perhaps she saw the curtains twitch, saw my reflection cast from the nearby streetlight.

Perhaps she knew all along.

I pulled aside the curtain, despite the shadows that veiled my face from her. But she didn’t move. She played with her hair, ran her hands down her stomach, a subtle tease, but I knew she was playing with me instead, easily melting the darkness between us. Comfortable now within each other’s presence, I watched her parade for an hour until she disappeared once again.

On the last night, I ventured out and stood on the corner of the street. I looked up at her window. She eventually came to the window, pressed her naked flesh against the glass, looked down at me, and then vanished.

I made my way across the street.

A soft wind rolled across the front of the apartment block, tormented the ivy covering the walls. Stagnant darkness crept through the street and sucked up the fading light of a cold December evening.

I edged towards the entrance, placed my gloved hand upon the door handle and gently pushed down. The door clicked open. I stepped inside the dimly lit hallway, made my way across the tiled floor towards the stairs.

I listened, but there was little sound.

I ascended the stairs to the top floor, wound my way to the bright red door at the end of the hall. The corridors were so silent that it appeared no one lived there, yet my footsteps seemed overtly loud along the corridor, the noise echoing around my head like vile cracks of thunder.

I pushed on the door. It swung open; her invite accepted.

A crowding silence rushed to greet me. I love the silence, the pressing nature of it. I’m a solitary creature; I live a private existence. Silence is my companion. See, my sort is not too welcome in this neighbourhood, so I keep to the shadows.

I drifted forward, surveyed the room. It was sparsely feminine, yet expensive in taste, full with glass and chrome furnishings and polished wooden floors.

I noticed the headline in the newspaper opened out on the coffee table.

Victim No 4 found dead. Police suspect local man...

Poor victim number four, a drug-addled teenager no one would miss.

‘I’ve been watching you for a while now,’ a voice said, breaking the silence.

I looked up. She appeared from a doorway wearing a white bathrobe, hair slicked back.

‘I noticed your reflection in your window,’ she said.

My insides juddered. ‘I didn’t think you could see me.’

Her blue eyes were derisive. ‘Of course I could. Only a slight reflection, I couldn’t see your face completely, but I knew you were watching me. You obviously like what you see.’

I eased forward until I was barely feet from her. The scent of fruits tickled my senses. Now she could see my face, the ghostly reflection that had watched her so many times. ‘Do you entice all your potential lovers like that?’

‘Only the ones who want to be enticed. It gets their attention.’ She loosened the belt on her bathrobe, gazed at my tall shadow. ‘You’re not what I expected.’

That’s what they all say. I shook my head. ‘No, I guess I’m not.’

‘Not that it matters. I don’t mind who I fuck.’ She slowly let the robe open out to reveal soft pink flesh. ‘I’ve seen the way you look at me. I’ve seen the way you mist up your windows. I know you want me.’

I blinked slowly, felt my hands grow clammy inside my gloves.

She unzipped my jacket, and slowly picked apart my shirt buttons. She touched me tentatively, raised a curious eyebrow.

Beneath the calm surface, I fought the urge to grab her, all the while trying to close the black hole opening out in my stomach.

She inched the robe from her shoulders and let it drop to the floor. She turned and slinked towards the bathroom. ‘Why don’t you get out of those clothes and come and join me? The water is hot.’

I followed her to the bathroom door, quiet steps across the floor, watched as she stepped into the porcelain bathtub. I wondered then, absurdly, whether the phone might ring, or a noise from outside would disturb us.

But nothing happened.

She smiled as she eased back into the foamy water. Ripples rolled against her voluminous breasts. She blew bath bubbles into the air and they glittered like slivers of frost beneath the stark bathroom light.

I took off my gloves, knelt down. I leaned in and placed my hand against her neck, touched softly.

She pointed to the door with an exquisitely manicured finger. ‘Patience. It’s £200 for full sex, so leave the money on the side table.’

I stared at her, felt adrenaline from my stomach drain into my bloodstream, but it felt like someone pulling on my innards, tearing me from the inside. The black hole shuddered inside me.

Her voice was cold. ‘No money, no sex, sweetie.’ She swept bath gel along her glistening, wet arms.

I smiled thinly, but remained silent as I straightened and moved through the doorway, mind clamouring. I had no money. That wasn’t the reason I came. I gazed out of the window; saw my apartment across the street, my darkened window. I wondered then, just how long she had been watching me. Gauging me. Tempting me.

A hint of sexual fascination had lured me, but she had been fishing, too, like a silver-eyed angler fish, dangling an alluring bright light through the blackness to entice me into her pencil like jaws.

I wanted to have sex with her – it was an added bonus – but I wasn’t expecting to pay.

I turned from the window and switched off the light, lest someone should see, and I inched towards the darkened kitchen. My ribcage fizzed as I gazed at the assortment of knives.

Her voice drifted into the gloom, broke through my reverie. ‘Hey? You still there?’

I returned to the bathroom and the sweet smell of fruits, and I smiled as I walked towards the bathtub, listening to devious whispers forging ideas in the back of my mind.

‘The money is on the table,’ I lied.

She nodded, and beckoned me with a finger. ‘I trust you.’

I walked around the bathtub and stood at her shoulders. She rested back and looked up at me; her turquoise blue eyes fiercely bright. I stared down at her, my vision filling with satanic colour, belly filling with bile. I placed both hands on her shoulders, kneaded softly.

Her painted lips smiled.

I sucked in a breath, and in one violent jolt, I pushed her beneath the water, all my weight bearing down into my forearms.

She thrashed; legs and water heaving over the bath, heels cracking against the taps.

I held her down for a while, listening to her struggling against me, listening as though it was a lullaby of fear, then I let go. I walked around the side of the bath, and she surfaced, spluttering.

She wiped suds from her eyes, her voice heavy. ‘Christ!’

I grabbed her ankles, pulled them up, plunging her back into the water. She flailed and gurgled, but she was no match for my superior strength. Then I eased off after a few seconds, let her come up for air.

‘Christ, dammit, what the hell are you-’

I tugged again and she slipped below the water, her distorted mouth open beneath the soapy surface, her scream muffled. I eased off again, enjoying this game.

She slammed her fist against the porcelain bath. ‘You fucking crazy shit!’

‘How long have you been watching me?’ My hands were still tight around her ankles.

She caught her breath. Mascara melted down her cheeks in thick black streams. She gripped onto the side of the bath.

My eyes narrowed. ‘How long?’

‘Weeks...’ she gasped. Saliva and water dribbled from her mouth. ‘I’ve been watching you for weeks.’

I pulled her legs again, higher, dragging her beneath the water, but this time I did not ease. Instead, I listened as she thumped her fists against the tub, the sounds echoing from the tiles in bilious waves and making me feel high. Adrenaline soaked into my body, flooding every cell with ecstasy until the sounds of her drowning slowly dissipated and silence once again settled like fine dust. I lowered her legs, left them dangling over the bath, and moved to the side of the tub.

I gazed at the shimmering shadow beneath the water, watched as air bubbles escaped from her nose. Then she blinked. Fingers slowly uncurled. Her body suddenly convulsed, thrusting water from the tub, and she shot up. A strange rattling noise spilled from her lips as she sucked in air

I quickly grabbed her neck, reached to the back of my jeans for the knife I had taken from the kitchen. I leaned over, saw my reflection in her eyes; saw the demon crouched in my expression, devious and dusted with malevolence.

I thrust the knife into her neck, slitting neatly into her windpipe, then I neatly tore sideways, opening out the cherry red innards of her throat. The gash bubbled and frothed, spewed out a dark red torrent over my hands. Her eyes rolled white, then I pushed her back beneath the water again, held her down until she was still.

Scarlet clouds misted her face and soiled the water, turning it to the colour of rust.

I picked up my gloves, wiped the blade and calmly left the bathroom.

I walked past the mirror, the one she had spent so much time gazing into, and I caught my darkened reflection. The figure staring back at me was gaunt; brown eyes turned black, and in my mind, imaginary doors were slamming shut against the voices.

They would find victim No.5 soon enough.

My shirt was open. Thin beads of blood dribbled down my neck, soaked my bra and stained my breasts.

Her voice wouldn’t leave my mind: You’re not what I expected...

I never am.


Heartbeat was written as an entry into the One Word Challenge over at Writer's Talkback, and since I like the unconventional, I opted for free verse with minimal punctuation.  It still remains one of my own personal favourite poems because I tried to capture that moment of fear that every new mother faces after giving birth to her baby.  Not easy, but it was a challenge that I enjoyed, and I think the emotion comes through succinctly.


Heartbeat, rhythm so soft,
A lullaby in the dark.
You clutch my fingers,
Sigh, and settle once more.
Yet my heart still races,
Spliced by fear,
Raised voices and panic
Still fresh in my mind.
My stomach plunged
When your heart stopped.
The doctor grabbed you,
I wanted to scream,
But my throat squeezed shut,
In a vice like grip,
And my eyes turned frantic
As you turned blue.
I watched through stinging tears,
Forgot my own pain
As they breathed life back into you
And started your heart,
To my relief, you cried out.
I thought I had lost you,
That swelling sickness,
That awful feeling of dread.
Now your heart beats, rhythm so soft,
A lullaby in the dark.
You’re barely one day old,
But how beautiful you are.

Dark stories

The title of this short story, Deceit, sums up the deception at the heart of it.  It was written for Thrillers Killers and Chillers, and tells the story of a family weekend to the country which doesn't go according to plan, and has a twist in the tail, although if you follow the clues you might guess the ending...

Note:  Contains swearing and mild references to sex.


Darkness descended quickly. Orange tinted clouds rolled and billowed forward. Grey layers began to form above the forest like a bank of fog.

The rain was coming.

Dan Foster closed the sash window. A few silvery beads of rain hit the pane, then some more, leaving intricate, vein-like threads clinging to the glass. Water reflected the low light from the cottage as it rolled towards the window ledge, collecting like shuddering mercury pools along the sill.

A reflection in the glass caught his eye.

Her shadow moved.

He turned to face his 15-year-old stepdaughter. Her hair was down, released from the ponytail that she always wore. It softened her delicate features. She looked somehow older. Beautiful. More appetising.

He licked his lips. Thinking about what was to come. His expression was cold, despite his deceptive smile.

A stilted silence curled around them. The rain came heavier against the windows, quickly replacing the hush of the previous hour.

‘I’m going for my shower,’ Louise said. ‘It’s freezing up there. Can you stoke the fire or something?’

His blue eyes glittered through the darkness, easily pulling her into his gravitational field like a wayward satellite. His voice was like sandpaper. ‘Sorry, love. I’ll get some more wood.’

Her tongue flicked behind the curl of her lip. ‘Good, ‘cos it always gets cold in this place. My other stepdad kept some firewood in the shed. Should be plenty in there. There’s a torch in the utility cupboard.’

‘It’ll be toasty by the time you’ve had your shower,’ Dan said, glancing at the time. It was approaching 7.30pm and he needed to call his wife, Diane – Louise’s mother – to let them know they got to the cottage okay. They had left London that afternoon for their long weekend in the Lake District.

Diane would follow as soon as she finished work. She’d been talking about it for weeks, and planned a romantic weekend.

He’d planned death.

He removed the mobile phone from his shirt pocket, dialled Diane’s number, and heard her voicemail. He realised she was driving, otherwise she would have picked up. ‘Hey, it’s me. We got here okay. I got a bottle of red waiting for you. Watch out for the rain. See you soon.’ He placed the phone on the side table and grabbed his jacket from the back of the sofa.

Louise stopped on the stairway and watched him.

Dan opened the utility cupboard in the kitchen and found the torch. He noticed Louise watching him, her expression galvanised with a frosty veil. She was still, askance eyes silently gauging him.

An hour didn’t seem long, but he desperately wanted to take her before Diane arrived. There would be enough time afterward to enjoy the girl even more.

He closed the cupboard and opened the back door to the darkness.

There was little wind - just the soft hiss of the rainfall through the trees, and a hint of coolness. He stepped out, panned the torch across the darkness. An eerie, maligned forest glowed briefly in the flashlight before sinking back into the blackness. Water cascaded down his face and into his mouth. It tasted tinny.

He made his way down a narrow path towards the outhouse. Slick paving slabs glowed beneath his light. A rickety old shed emerged from the gloom.

He lifted the latch and stepped inside, listened to the downpour as it drummed softly against the corrugated roof. Dust particles flitted through the amber torch beam. Thick, gauzy cobwebs wavered in the draught seeping through the old windows. He sensed movement, flashed the torch.

Long legged shadows scuttled along the far wall.

He shone the torch around the worktops, gazed at the stacked firewood by the windows, and slowly grazed the light across rusty tools hanging from hooks on the far wall. A large shovel stood against the worktop.

But it was the large rusty screwdriver on the edge of the counter that made his eyes dilate, and mouth salivate. He could almost hear the its raw sound, the squelch of metal against bone. It would cause maximum damage and minimum fuss.

Adrenaline squirted into his stomach at the thought of driving it into Louise’s skull. A pulse shot into his groin. He grabbed the screwdriver and slipped it into his back pocket.

He moved the shovel to the corner, by the door, then reached for the logs. He managed three in his arms and made his way back outside. He looked up; saw Louise hovering at the window like a distorted reflection. She remained expressionless, yet there was something in her pale aura that intrigued him, invited him. She vanished from view.

He pulled the logs in tight to his chest and angled the torch towards the back door. Silver flecks of drizzle danced in the torchlight and guided him back towards the door.

* * *
Louise stepped out of the shower, grabbed a towel and quickly dried herself to stave off the cold.

Beyond the bathroom door, the darkness heaved; the stairway creaked.

She looked up, held herself still. No other sound came.

The light from the bathroom cast an eerie glow cross the landing. But there was no evil shadow lurking, except in her imagination. She eased forward, peered around the door.

Through the banister rails, she could see Dan in the front room, stoking the fire. Relieved, she quickly dressed in fresh underwear and left the bathroom.

Dan looked up at the thick umbra clinging to the landing; saw her shadow casting elfin sprites across the walls.

He slipped the screwdriver into the back of his trousers and slowly ascended the stairs. He reached the top, stood at the edge of the darkness clouding the hallway.

Light from her room cast a harsh diagonal slash through the dark.

He oozed forward, placed a hand against her door and slowly swung it open.

She was facing the mirror, dressed in her underwear, her long, dark hair caressing the small of her back.

Darkened thoughts pounded his frontal lobe like a persistent headache.

Two years had drifted by since he first met her mother. At first, his disposition was naturally cautious with her, after all, she’d just lost her husband in a terrible, freak accident. But he was patient. He rarely stayed longer than a year with any of them, but this widow came with a prize worth the effort of entering into marriage with her – hr newly acquired fortune from her late husband.

And this one came with an added bonus: the girl.

Of course, thirteen was a little too young for his tastes, so he patiently waited for the onset of puberty. Now Louise was ripe and oozing sexual odour.

She would be his first child.

Sometimes the urges felt like a strong wind, blowing anti-clockwise around his mind, whipping up the dust and debris before settling swiftly into dark recesses. He had no control over them, especially since Louise’s recent flirtations. He knew the esoteric glances, the calculated flashing of her legs or a naked shoulder served only to entice him into her subtle sexual games. She teased him, she knew what she was doing, but he somehow kept from imploding.

He had been looking forward to the chance to get both of them alone. He’d been planning this for months. The cottage was perfect, on the edge of a forest, isolated. No one for miles. No interruptions. No distractions. No help.

He could do what he wanted once he’d killed them – he could play with them, bathe them, dress them and fuck them.

He’d planned everything. Right down to the lies he would tell the police.

Now his urges were swelling with each kill, and so was his fortune. He’d come here to kill, to finish what he’d started two years ago. Diane’s fortune, the townhouse back in London, and the cottage, would become his. Then he could move on to the next poor bitch.

Movement brought him to, and he glanced up.

He crept forward.

* * *
Minutes. That’s all it took to for him pin her to the wall and rip at her underwear. He slipped his hand into her knickers.

Her stomach contracted, churned. She squeezed her eyes shut. Fluid spilled from her pores and dribbled down her face.

He could smell her fear. He knew he was hurting her. Her whimpers made him swell and he quickly unzipped himself and forced himself inside her.

She winced; skin sickened.

The more intensely he looked at her pain, the more excited he became. He slipped his right hand behind his back and grabbed the screwdriver from his back of his trousers.

Tears formed in her eyes, gluing together her eyelids.

The smell of sweat clung to the air like dusted particles; the sound of sex sullied the silence, but another sound broke through the atmosphere, and it made Dan stop.

The slow dip...dip...dip of dripping water filtered through the hallway.

He looked to the darkness beyond the bedroom door, his heartbeat stifling his thoughts. He turned back to Louise.

Her eyes clouded with fear. He continued, but the constant drip made him look again at the doorway. He thought the sound was drawing closer.

A sound spilled from Louise’s mouth; hot breath over cold lips. ‘No…’

Dan looked down at her. His grip tightened around her throat; a red handprint seared her alabaster flesh. He was still inside her. He had to finish, had to kill her. He continued to thrust, his body pinning her to the wall as he neared orgasm.

He grabbed the screwdriver, swiftly aimed it at the centre of her skull.

She saw it; her eyes shot wide, body jolted.

He held her firm; thrust the tool down towards her face.

A scream punctured the silence and startled the darkness into momentary retreat, quickly followed by a muffled thud. A long, pitiful moan clung to the walls for some time before eventually petering out.

Blood oozed across the wooden floorboards. The table lamp flickered from the floor where it had fallen, intermittently highlighting startled, ghostly faces.

The body sprawled near the door twitched for a while as severed nerve endings struggled to function. Red sinew and cartilage glistened; muscle bulged through the deep laceration across the neck. Veins continued to pump blood for a short while.

Diane Porter threw down the shovel. Droplets of rain threaded down her face. She looked at her daughter.

‘What the hell took you so long? A second later and would have had me.’

Diane stared down at her husband. He was still twitching. The bony white of Dan’s spine poked through the sliced muscle and seemed the only thing keeping his half-decapitated head attached to his neck.

‘I couldn’t find the damn shovel,’ Diane gasped. ‘Son of a bitch must have moved it.’ She stepped over the body. ‘Anyway, what does it matter? It’s done.’ She couldn’t hide her exhilaration. ‘We did it, Lou. I can’t believe it went exactly to plan. You had him right where we wanted him.’

Louise’s voice was cold. ‘Two years’ deception well spent, don’t you think?’ She stared down at her dying stepfather. ‘Fucker didn’t see that comin’

Diane’s eyes were like blackened stones. ‘At last his money is ours.’

Dan was the third man they had despatched in the last four years. A rich, stupid fool.

Louise slowly wiped Dan’s spattered blood from her mouth and neck. She smiled, licked her lips. Her body tingled from the adrenaline. The urge to do it all again was strong, needy, but that was the trouble with deceit. It was like an addiction – and she couldn’t wait to do all it over again.

Inspiration from unlikely sources...

I was prompted to write a little flash piece called Nothing Lasts after hearing about the passing of a friend, and was originally posted on the 6 Sentence network.  Death makes you realise that nothing lasts, physical or otherwise, so I thought about the metaphorical things that could not outlive even time itself and this short fiction piece came from it.

Nothing Lasts

Nothing lasts, not day or night, not a song by either human or lark, not the phases of the Moon casting silver tinted pockets as it marches silently through the heavens, not the seasons swirling like the wind and churning out myriad colours.

Not even love can breach infinity, no matter how strong.

Nothing lasts, not the ocean or the sky or the shifting earth. Not the sun or the brightest stars, not even your surreal, clouded dreams before they fizzle into oblivion.

Writing and art and all that we once were will be gone, withered and dusted by dark fathomless clouds, then swept up by invisible hands and cast aside into a unknown dimension.

Nothing lasts, not even time; it will eventually run out, sucked in by the universe in a final, fraught gasp when it has burned itself out and it has nothing else to give, and reality will cease.

The ticking of a clock, soft like a heartbeat, sounds in your mind, slowly, gradually counting down to nothing.