Human Stories

Continuing with the theme of the February Femmes Fatales, and for those who have not read it, I wrote Push especially for this particular showcase.  It's been described as gritty and harrowing and that is because it looks at the very terrible horror we inflict on ourselves and those around us. 

Writing is about examining human nature; we strive to find answers to why we do the things we do.  Human stories are the basis of good fiction.  Push delves into the human reality of drugs and poverty, and the human cost that it brings. It is reality, even if we don't want to believe it.  The title works two fold; it symbolises how human nature pushes itself to a darkened brink, and it's the action of the drugs being injected into the body.


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 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, mesmerised 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.


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.

Dream States and the Dark...

For those already familiar with Lily Childs' February Femmes Fatales, you might recognise this short story called Nocturne.  It started life as a short story entry for a competition a while back, and although it didn't get anywhere, I rehashed it to make it much darker and creepier. 

Those who have experienced hypnagogic states will probably understand the terror lurking in this story.  I have only ever experienced it once (thankfully) about 24 years ago while in my teens, and even to this day I still recall the terror and the feeling it caused.  Of course, it wasn't helped by my irrational fear of the dark...


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.


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.


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 breath; 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.

February Femmes Fatales Stories

Over at Lily Childs' Feardom, the February Femme Fatales showcase has lots stories and poems written by women.  My short story, Driftwood, started life as a flash fiction piece, written as an entry in Lily's weekly Friday Prediction competition, and many people said that the flash story should be expanded into a short story, so I did just that and wrote an extended piece especially for the February Femme Fatales.

Here are the two versions.  First the flash piece, followed by the full short story.

Flash Fiction - Driftwood

Their voices melted into the night. dust particles, swept from the bow.

The ladder parried against the side of the boat, knuckles white against a savage God of the sea, a grotesque creature that rose up and snarled, lashing at his feet.


Her fingers outstretched - her deviant invitation, but a malignant demon squatted in her expression, shuddered with rancour, hungry for spite.

Fear dribbled from his face. His life revolved around the yacht, his pride and joy.

Fingers touched.

The slight upturn of her mouth betrayed her intention. She let go.

His screams. Drifting. Diminishing.

Then silence.

Short Story - Driftwood

Amphitrite glided gracefully through the water, unaware of the jagged darkness just over the horizon.

Stella Harris peered over the side of the yacht at the swirling dark water. Childhood fears bubbled at the bottom of her stomach, the thought of what lurked beneath the surface. She hated the water.

And now she was stuck on a boat drifting around the Mediterranean.

It was her husband’s idea of a perfect holiday, even though he knew she was terrified of water, but she always caved in to his forceful ideas. It was easier to do that than have his hands rip at her skin in a drunken, violent haze.

Every holiday revolved around the yacht, but this was their first foray into Peloponnese.

His voice punched through her reverie.

‘Don’t just stand there, get me a drink.’

She looked up.

Her husband at the helm, faux captain’s peak cap glinting beneath the last of the ruby tainted sunlight that shimmered in the distance, his hands caressing the wheel as though it was his mistress.

The polished wood of Amphitrite’s deck moaned against the swell. The sound made him smile.

She moved away from the rail, moved across the deck towards the steps to the lower cabin. Her voice bristled with caution. ‘It looks quite squally in the distance.’

‘It’s nothing unusual in these waters,’ he said. ‘It’s the Med, for Christ’s sake.’

Her stomached pitched. ‘Perhaps we c--’

‘Just shut up and get me a drink, yeah?’

She silently recoiled against his sting, carefully descended the steps into the galley and grabbed a beer from the fridge. She gazed at a framed picture hanging on the wall, two people laughing beneath a cherry blossom tree in full, lusty bloom.

Her wedding day, twenty-three years ago.

They had no children. He didn’t want them, but she was too lost in the ideal of love that her needs eventually became redundant. And now familiarity bred contempt, like a rotting corpse beneath a hot sun. Maggots writhed beneath the surface.

She went back up the steps. A vermillion scar stretched across the horizon to her right, steadily devoured by a creeping darkness to her left. The wind had picked up, no longer satiated by the sunlight.

She handed him the beer, watched as he steered Amphitrite into the speckled grey clouds clinging to the ocean.

The sound of the sails made her look up. They flapped like a flock of stricken birds, became loud.

She fastened her life jacket.

He didn’t wear one. He hated wearing them. Confident as always.

Soft spittle grazed her face; the squall rolled in from the distance.

Her gaze shifted. She watched as the yacht sailed headlong into the approaching theatre of darkness. The sickly swell in her stomach rose up her gullet and threatened to make her vomit, but somehow she managed to keep it down as she continually sucked in the rapidly cooling air.

The yacht creaked, rolled a little.

The dark crept in quickly, brought rain with it.

Something across the ocean rumbled. Her insides shuddered as the storm rushed at them. ‘We should turn the yacht around and go back.’

‘You wanted to go to Crete. This was your stupid idea.’

‘We can still turn back,’ she said. ‘No point in being foolish.’

‘Foolish? The only foolish idiot around here is you!’

The water around them gurgled.

The wave rushed up and over the stern, washing them towards the rails. The boat listed, heaved by the engorged swell. Their voices melted into the night. dust particles, swept from the bow.

She clung tight to a capstan, saw of blur of colour sweep by as her husband shot across the deck, swept by the force of the wave. He clung to the metal rail; his eyes bright with dread through the dark, but the ocean heaved again and sucked him down.

She crawled forward, lurched as the yacht panned. She gazed down; saw him clinging to the ladder.

‘Help me...’

The ladder parried against the side of the boat and the frothy swell undulated as though drawing the strength to wrench him from his security. His knuckles whitened against a savage God of the sea, a grotesque creature that rose up and snarled, lashing at his feet.

She could almost see the trident rising from the depths, the shape of Poseidon lurching beneath the surface.

His voice cleanly sliced through the darkness. ‘Help...Christ!’

His frightened call brought her to. She leaned over the rail, barely able to cling on, her fingers outstretched.

Her life with him inked her conscience; the memories dulled the numb sensation in her fingers. The cold closed in around them.

He reached out for her.

Grasping fingers lured him: her deviant invitation, but a malignant demon squatted in her expression, shuddered with rancour, hungry for spite.

Fear dribbled from his face as he reached up.

She saw through the thin thread of his panic. She saw fear of a different kind.

His life revolved around the yacht, his pride and joy.

Fingers touched.

His pulse was strong and fearful against hers.

The God of the sea growled, churned with effortless malice, as the demons of the deep gathered beneath her husband’s feet.

The slight upturn of her mouth betrayed her intention. She let go.

He dropped into the water, sucked by a devious current into the darkness.

Then, above the storm, she heard his screams. Drifting.

She clung to the deck, insides spinning with relief.

His screamed slowly diminished.

Then silence.

Winning Flash Fiction

I'm pleased that my flash fiction story, A Bad Colour, has recently won Lily's Friday Predictions, over at Lily Child's Feardom.  This story was inspired by recent events of prejudice and bigotry and how they can affect people's lives.  Of course, it's not just the human ability to prejudge, it's the infallible ability to misunderstand.

A Bad Colour

Amber slices projected through the trees, the haze of the fire began to swell. The hint of burnt sienna wafted close, scorched a path beneath their noses.

Rope fibres moaned as they became taut, to temper the weight.

Shadows appeared through the smoke, circled him. Milk coloured robes flapped in the breeze, bathed by the fire glow, their faces hidden by hoods.

Red over black; the colour of life slinked down his skin, snaked down the channels they had gouged through his flesh. Open viscera gleamed.

He swung from the tree as the cross burned; the price for being different.