Snow – A really, really fast flash fiction piece.

The body was a small broken thing from this distance.  Jake stood looking down across the snow field and there was little more than a coloured smudge against the white.

They wouldn’t go for it now, it was too dangerous.  There were fissures out there, hidden and lethal.  If there had been any chance of life there would be no option but they wouldn’t justify the risk. Witnesses had said that he fell from the summit and there had been no movement since.  No reason for him to fall they had said.  He had made it to safety,  removed the roping and then just fallen back, it was inexplicable, a tragic accident.  Jake had listened into all the communication from his eyrie among the peaks.

They had called his mobile of course and the helicopter had hovered overhead for a long time, powder swirling upwards in the wash but there was no visible sign of life and so he would stay out there.  The dark would hide him and probably more snow would cover him as the season progressed.  In a few weeks he would be invisible, a hump and a sad memory for his climbing mates.

Jake moved away, he wouldn’t come back.  Not then, not in the spring.  If the season was very cold the body would be well-preserved and if they got to it before the wolves and birds there would be something left for the family but Jake didn’t need to see it.  The hullabaloo, if they found the bullet might reach where he was and he would smile at the fuss, but he’d be long gone.

He pulled up the warm fleece around his face and bent to retrieve his ski poles.  He had already tucked the rifle into his backpack.  As the sun slid away the summits turned pink and Jake turned to the East and moved off.  He loved the snow, the chill and the clear cold air but it would be nice to feel the sun warm on his bare skin and he smiled under his face mask.  Life was good when the jobs came up this way.  When he got back to the hotel he needed to call his contacts in Hawaii and organise things ready for his arrival.  Another few years working at this pace and he could retire.  Maybe he’d come back then and ski with no interruptions.

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Literally Stories – Start of the second week.

http://literallystories2014.com/

A Gift For Cheyenne by Nik Eveleigh

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Jogging

It was just a hint of unease to start with, not much more than a tickle on the back of her neck.  Tonia rubbed at the prickling skin and flicked aside the blond ponytail.  She didn’t slow her pace but took the opportunity to glance at her wrist band. Doing well, up on yesterday’s time.

The regular beat of trainers on the pavement changed tone as she turned in through the big iron gates.  Crisp leaves rustled underfoot and brought a smile to her face.  Autumn, her favourite season, the smells, the chill and of course the rich colours of leaves on trees shutting down for sleep.

At this hour the park was almost deserted.  She raised a hand in fellowship as a young man in shorts and a neon T thumped past. A couple of dogs chased sticks near the duck pond and the early sun sparkled on grey water.  All as it should be, peaceful and right.

She was in the zone now and her mind wandered down familiar pathways, work, shopping, Dave.  The image of her partner still snuggled under the duvet warmed her.  They would have breakfast together later, she’d call at the bakery, buy rolls.  The thought of a mug of coffee and hot shower, quickened her step a little.  Twice round the park and then she’d head for home and Saturday stuff.

Now, even deeper into the rhythm she swept the thoughts aside and allowed the regular pumping of her legs and the singing of her breath to take over the world.

The path wound beside the playground, down towards the copse.  There it was again, the thrill of apprehension, something in the quiet part of her mind pricked at her.  She shook it away.  It was daytime, it was a public park.  There was nothing to fear.

The rustle in the leaves barely touched her hearing but something in the air clutched at her gut.  She moved faster.  She wasn’t going to turn round, there was nothing to be afraid if.  The crack of a dried branch alongside drew a nervous glance.  Movement in the shadows dried her mouth.

Unease caused her to change course.  She would head back, towards the wider pathways.  She would run to the far gate and then back out onto the pavement.  In the growing swell of traffic she would be safe.  She turned and ran across the wet grass.

The swish of feet behind her fizzed alarm through her blood, she acknowledged the feeling and picked up the pace, sprinting towards the railings and the south gate.

Her throat nagged at her for moisture and sweat trickled down her back, soaking the blue running top and dampening the waist band of her shorts.

Had she made an error of judgement?  There was no-one here.  This side of the park wasn’t popular with the early morning crowd, this was the football field.  The boarded café and park-keepers hut waited for later visitors.  She wanted to glance back but didn’t dare.  While she stared ahead the threat wasn’t real, it was imagination.  What wasn’t imagination though was the chain and padlock, the gate was locked and barred, the safety of the road unreachable.  She swung away, back towards the pond and the shrubbery, her breath loud in her ears.  She felt the stitch in her side and knew she was reaching a tipping point.  She would have to run through the pain or stop and face the fear.  Turn and take what was coming.

Back around the pond, over the playground, heading for home.  Unable to resist any longer, she risked a glance behind.  There was no-one there.  She let out a gasp of relief, or irritation.  What an idiot she was.

As he reached for her she was raising her bottle to glug water, a treat for her parched throat.

His arms went around her waist and dragged her from her feet.  Her legs flailed.  Before the scream left her throat he had a hand over her mouth.

She had always thought herself strong, fit.  Against his brute strength, his size, she was next to helpless.  Though she kicked and writhed he dragged her back into the shrubbery.  Though she dragged her feet in the soft loam he took her.

This wasn’t happening to her, she was going home, back to Dave, taking him warm rolls from the bakery.

Her panicked brain tried to process the events but already it was over.

He didn’t take long, there was no finesse, no pretence that the act was anything other than what it was.  He forced her to the ground and bent with her, threw a leg across to pin her struggling body to the earth.  Now, as the truth dawned and absolute terror wrapped her around she stared at him with fear drenched eyes.

“Don’t, please.  Don’t hurt me.” She bucked another time and kicked.  Tears flowed across her face, “No, please don’t do this.  Let me go, just let me go.”

He sat astride her body, and gazed down into her desperate face.  He studied her as he would a puzzling stain on his clothes.

Dead eyes.

His head tipped to one side as he raised a knee to the centre of her chest and leaned on her with his great weight. Nobody heard her scream as the first of her ribs broke.  She arched her body fighting the agony and nausea, she twisted and tried to draw in breath to scream again.  He lifted a hand and swiped it backwards, her face whipped sideways as stars spun in front of her eyes.

He reached back now and drew the killing thing from behind him, from where it had rested tucked into his belt.  He brought it round before her horrified eyes and turned it in the dappled light, smiling at the gleam and shine of it.

Darkness at the edge of the world promised peace and escape, she could go now.  She could let it all go.  She closed her eyes and felt the warm brush of his breath on her face as he leaned closer in a deathly embrace.  So, this was to be it, the end.  She had a moment of great sadness, it was so wrong, such a waste and a sob shuddered through her body.

The darkness swept her away and she fell into it.  The pain receded.  The weight on her body lifted and the fear dispersed.

“Come on now, come on.  You’ll be okay.  Can you open your eyes, can you talk.”  It was odd she had expected things to be different from this.  The voice sounded ordinary, the ground still felt hard under her back, her chest hurt, oh God her chest hurt.  Shouldn’t that be all gone by now, that wasn’t fair, how could you hurt when you were dead.

“Come on love, open your eyes.”

She took a tiny painful breath.  She opened her eyes.

The trees were still there.  The sky was still there and peering down at her, a worried crease between his eyes was the boy in his neon T.  His blonde hair was damp with sweat, a hopeful smile played across his lips.

“I’ve called for help.  An ambulance is coming, you’ll be okay.”

“How.”

“I didn’t catch him, sorry.  I thought it best to stay with you.  I saw him though, I saw him and it just clicked with me.  I knew there was something off about him, I turned back but you’d gone over the field down to the other gate.  Hey, you’ve got a good turn of speed.

The siren sounded in the distance as he took hold of her hand and Tonia closed her eyes and blessed the kindness of strangers.

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Friday by Jane Dougherty

Diane:

A gentle poignant story to end the first week of Literally Stories. Lovely writing Jane – thank you.

Originally posted on literally stories:

There are some lives that don’t begin in earnest until they are almost over. Time is almost used up before the moment is reached, the decision taken that will give life some meaning. Until that moment, only holiday snaps show that time has moved at all. Children grow up, then move away and there are no more holidays, no more snaps. Time passes unnoticed.

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Meet and Greet

This story is based on a true event but all names, times and locations have been changed.

 Meet and Greet

Heathrow airport was the usual frantic scramble as Sarah searched the faces around her looking for Fliss.  There she was, in her turn spinning slowly and scanning the crowd.

“Cooee – Fliss,– over here.” The two women embraced lightly.  “What a crowd, come on let’s get coffee.  You look lovely, is that a new dress?  The blue really suits you.  I had to come straight from the hospital; I hope Sammy won’t mind me meeting her still wearing my uniform.”

“I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if you turned up in a sack as long as you were here when she came through the gate.  Quick there’s a table, grab a seat and I’ll get the drinks.  Coffee Okay?”

“Yeah great, cappuccino if they have it but anything really.”

“I can’t wait to see them Fliss.  Three weeks seems such a long time.  Why do they have to go off like this?  When we were kids, a family holiday at the beach was all we expected and now all the students I know are going off to India or America or Thailand.  I really didn’t want her to go you know, then when you said that Tom was going to be there some of the time as well, it made it so much easier.”

“I know love.  Anyway from the post cards they sent it seems that they have had a great time and soon we’ll have them back here.  Back to college for both of them next week and a bit of normality for a while.”

“Lovely.  What time is it due, have you looked at the board?”

“Yep, on time, arriving eleven twenty seven. That’s only another fifteen minutes shall we have a trawl around the shops and then make our way over to the arrivals?”

“Smashing, but don’t let me spend any money, Dave’ll go mad if I buy anything at the prices they charge here.” Gathering their belongings, they threaded between the tables.

“Fliss, what do you think that means.” Sarah pointed to the information board.  “Look the arrival details have disappeared from beside the plane number.”

“Oh no, I’ll bet it’s delayed.  Typical. Lets go and ask at the information desk.”

The uniformed receptionist stared straight  ahead, she looked tense and As the two women approached, she visibly straightened and pinned a forced smile onto her lips.

“Good morning ladies, may I help you?”

Sarah took the initiative, “Yes please, we are here to meet some passengers on your flight from Mexico and the arrival time has disappeared on the board. Is it delayed?

“I’m meeting my daughter Sammy – Samantha Carlisle and my friend here is meeting her son Tom – that’s Tom Reddy.  They met up while they were there and then they are coming back together.  They’ve been there for three weeks.”

Sarah consciously stopped herself, she always gabbled in these situations, filling the spaces with totally irrelevant information.  “Giving too much away Dave called it.” As they stood a moment in silence the young girl in front of them glanced around before calling to a uniformed man standing close by.  “Mr Barr, these ladies are meeting passengers from Mexico.”

Sarah and Fliss glanced at each other.  They both had a quick thrill of disquiet.  This was odd – there was an electric charge around them, an intuition. They had unknowingly clutched each other’s hand.

“Good morning ladies, my name is Steve, Steve Barr.  I am the customer liaison officer, could you come with me for a moment.” Steve put his hand under Sarah’s elbow and gently began to shepherd her away from the desk.

“What, come with you, come where, we just want to know the arrival time.  Why do you want us to go with you?  What’s going on?”

“I’m sorry madam, if you could just bear with me for a moment; we need to go over here to the VIP lounge.”

Sarah glanced at Fliss, her brow wrinkled in puzzlement.  She spoke more firmly. “Mr Barr, all we need is the arrival time.  We have to get down to meet the kids.”  He turned and looked directly at her for the first time, “We have a little problem at the moment and it would be far better if you waited in the lounge.  There are already some other people in there and we want to speak to you all together.” Now, his eyes held the truth.

“Oh God.” Sarah’s hand flew to her mouth as tears sprung to her eyes and she gripped Fliss’s hand even tighter.  It was wrong, all wrong, this was not a delay this was so very, very wrong.

Dazed they followed Steve Barr across the terminal building, they no longer saw the hustle and bustle, all either of them could see was the smiling faces of their babies.  They sat together in the lounge clinging to each other’s hands, linked in fear.

Now, it comes: A uniformed employee appeared at the front of the room, a young woman in a nurse’s uniform stood beside him.  He tried a smile, it was forced and ghastly.  “Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Peter Smart, I am a senior customer service representative.  We have asked you to come in here because I’m afraid we have some worrying news.”

Sarah gasped, her lungs had shrunk, she couldn’t get enough oxygen into her body, her heart pounded and the world spun.  She glanced at Fliss who was motionless, her face chalk white, tears streaming unchecked across her cheeks.

“Our flight from Mexico, which you have all come today to meet, has, at the moment, vanished from the Air Traffic Control Radar.  Somewhere a woman screamed, a man sitting beside Sarah groaned “No, oh no.”   Somewhere else in the room another woman spoke out “What do you mean it’s not showing on the radar, what does that mean.  Where is it?”

“I’m sorry at the moment we have no more information, all I can say for certain at this time is that the plane is not showing where it should be.  I know that this is extremely upsetting, we are doing our very best to get as much information as we can.  Please try and keep calm and we will be back to you with more news as soon as we have it.  Miss Kershaw,” here he indicated the nurse, “is here to help if anyone needs anything.”  With this, he hurried away leaving a room suspended in disbelief, denial and despair.

The sound of Ravel’s Bolero speared the air and in her pocket Sarah’s phone vibrated.  Automatically she dragged the tiny grey handset from her jacket.  The screen was lit, with a miniature picture of her beloved daughter, – “Sammy calling”.  She had jumped from her seat and was half walking, half-staggering to a quiet corner as she jabbed at the receive button.  “Sammy, Sammy is that you – Sammy.”

The line was weak and noisy but she could hear the precious voice “Mum, hello – Mum it’s me Sammy.  Mum, I’m so sorry, can you hear me? Don’t get mad Mum please.”

“I won’t get mad, are you Okay, Sammy is everything all right.”

“No, not really, I am such a fool Mum.  I missed the plane.  I am so sorry I went to the shops in town to get some last minute bits and then the taxi got stuck in traffic and we were late and they wouldn’t let me check in.”  Sammy was crying at the other end of the feeble connection.  “I am sooo sorry Mum, I can’t get another plane now until tomorrow and you’ve come all that way.”

“Is Tom with you Sammy?”

“Tom no – we were meeting at the airport.  He went straight from the hostel, I should have done that. He’ll be nearly home by now I should think. Mum I am so stupid, will you still pick me up tomorrow.”

Sarah looked up and back into the room.  She saw her dear friend in the middle of a group of other relatives.  Anguish swirled around them, unbearable pain was etched on their tear drenched faces as they clutched each other in mutual hopelessness.  The airline reps moved amongst them with lists of passengers from the downed airliner.

“Oh Sammy, I will be here, just come home.  I will be here whenever you arrive.”

“Mum are you OK, I’m sorry about this – are you alright you sound funny.”

Now wasn’t the time to tell her, she would know soon enough.  “I’m fine my love, just come home as soon as you can. Just come home now.”

**************************************************

If you enjoy short fiction don’t forget to visit our new site Literally Stories. 

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The Bargain by Diane M Dickson

Diane:

My first story for Literally Stories.

Originally posted on literally stories:

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I want to show you a picture of me, before.  When I was young, well truth to tell maybe not so young but oh I was a looker, a real looker.  I bet you won’t believe it was me and you’ll think how did she end up like this, now?

Ha, I guess you can say it was greed did it, or just plain wickedness.  Yes, to be fair it was greed.  I just wanted more, more of everything really but mostly time, but even that wasn’t enough.  I wanted time that was unspoiled, without the slow rot.  So there we have it, everything has a price, and a time comes to pay and so it did.  I’ll tell you now, just what it was like.

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Madam Panagoulias and the Pithos by Adam West

Diane:

Our second day. yesterday was exciting I hope today we do even better.

Originally posted on literally stories:

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“May I?”

The man took a step towards the jar.

“You will be careful with it, won’t you?”

“A closer look, that is all. I know it’s worth a small fortune, what, at least…”

“…At least a jolly large amount I shouldn’t imagine and wouldn’t like to say.”

“Well I will say, Madam Panagoulias. Put my cards on the table so to speak.”

“As you wish.”

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Post by Jenny Morton Potts

Diane:

It’s live – Congratulations Jenny on being the first of our authors.

Originally posted on literally stories:

Final credits. Show’s all but over. One last tune from Ed’s iPod and the crematorium doors widen. I’m going where the sun keeps shining, through the pouring rain. Randall lurches outside, wobbles in a thank-god patch of sunshine. Going where the weather suits my clothes. The family shuffle themselves into a line-up: the deceased’s mother reaching just the shoulder of the deceased’s wife. Ed’s brother next? Very tall and looks a little like him. Ed’s children, the daughter only up to her uncle’s waist. A face she loves interrupts the protocol and the little girl’s smile slashes the dark fabric of today. Ed’s son, adolescent and alone at the end, arms meshed over the outrage in his gut. Here now we see the stiff bar chart of the family, offering some kind of analysis.

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Literally Stories – Countdown

Diane:

It’s been a lot of work, a lot of fun and now it’s getting exciting. Adam Hugh, Nik, Tobias and I are really looking forward to getting this thing going. Have a look at the submissions page – have you got a short story that you would like us to publish?

Originally posted on literally stories:

Monday, 17th November, 2014, Literally Stories will publish its first short story. Tuesday, 18th, our second story will appear here.

A new story each weekday and then the Editor’s favourite from the week, featured on Saturday.

On Sunday we aim to put our feet up. Read the paper. Take the dog on a long walk. Play Scrabble. Swim the Channel.

Okay – you’ve seen our bios and none of us – you’re thinking – look anything like long-distance swimmers?

True. We just like making things up. Telling stories.

We hope you will enjoy reading those stories, that they will enthral and entertain you. Scare you. Shock you. Make you think – brilliant protagonist – wonderful plot – original idea – slick narrative – didn’t see that coming – awesome (or whatever superlative you usually use) or just make you think. In fact, you might enjoy reading our stories so much…

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The Glorious Dead

The Glorious Dead

The poppies bloomed in Flanders fields that day

As blood red mud besmirched the sullen ground.

Now all too late to hope or wish or pray

cacophony of death the only sound.

And so to find our friends and brothers each

We left the dreadful hole in which we slept

From trench to pit to wire and then to breach

To serve the solemn oath that must be kept.

Our hands made slick on gore and gut and spew

Our ears turned deaf to desperation’s cries

We fought to save the men that once we knew

Or at the last to close their dying eyes.

And when the silvered moon rose overhead

It didn’t seem so glorious to be dead.

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