Monthly Archives: July 2013

Cactus of Discretion

Colin slammed the door to his office and slumped down into his chair. How dare they? he thought. How could they?

He pulled himself over to his computer and began to type an email. His fingers stabbed at the keyboard, the repeated batterings causing it to jump around on the desk. Capital letters filled the screen. Angry phrases hit the page. Completely unacceptable. Recriminations. Lawyers. Courts.

The words before Colin’s eyes began to blur. He stopped typing, pushed his chair back and scrunched his eyes shut. He felt a throbbed sensation between his temples, and his nose felt like he’d inhaled chilli. There was something going wrong in his head.

He attempted to stand, and had to grab the edge of the desk to steady himself. Was the room tipping to one side? His feet were obeying their own desires, and his head felt very heavy. Through the fog, he saw the cactus on his desk had turned a dark purple.

He dragged himself to his feet and ran from the room, eyes streaming with tears. Water. Air. Space.


He returned hours later. He sat back in the chair, and looked at the screen. He read the email again. The contents seemed a little… absurd. The situation wasn’t that bad. He understood what had happened now.

Returning his fingers to the keyboard he went through the message deleting, refining, moderating. Finally happy, he relaxed.

He looked over at his cactus. It was a vibrant green.

“Thanks, buddy,” he said.


…And Reflect

Continued from “Pause…”

“He’s gorgeous,” purred Isabelle to her father, the duke, who stood by her side. She tucked her golden hair behind her ear and drank in the prince, who alone occupied the centre of the dancing floor and the attention of all present. She shivered with excitement.

The prince stood dressed in black and gold, adored by every swooning young woman. He flicked a wrist towards his musicians, and they struck a lively piece. The prince, with graceful sweeps of his ring-laden hands, began to move in concert with the rhythms. He swirled, swayed, spiralled and swished in the traditional dance of the monarch-to-be.

“He’s so handsome,” Isabelle whispered to her father.

“He is a tyrant and a murderer,” whispered the duke in return.

“He understands power, father,” Isabelle hissed, glaring under furrowed brow. “He achieves glories that your restraint denies you.”

As the music ended there was applause, not just in deference but with appreciation of the prince’s art, practised to exquisite perfection. Then the prince walked into the crowd, a snaking path around each appreciative beauty, soaking up the adoration, seeking a partner. Isabelle stepped forward, eagerly… but her advance was checked by the grip of the duke upon her elbow.

Then prince had chosen, kissing the hand of an apparition of fantasy with raven-black hair and a fiery red dress. Isabelle choked with bitter frustration, wrenching her arm free, oblivious to the tears in her father’s eyes as they watched the couple begin the prince’s last dance.

The End


He pulled her from her burning home when the prince’s soldiers had left. He was dressed in the livery of a duke, gold jewellery shining in the sun. She was fixated by it, not wanting to look back at the wreckage of her parents’ grave.

The duke took her, in secret, to an apartment on the city outskirts. There he left her, with a servant to comb her raven-black hair, a cook to feed her well, and a tutor to rule her time, teaching her to dance with precise and unrelenting instructions. Only when her feet bled was she allowed moments alone, and she thought of her parents, and anger rose within her, and she returned to dance enraged.

When the duke visited he would watch from a corner. His eyes followed her form, bright not with the lust of young men her own age, but some colder spirit. It scared her, yet in her heart she danced for him, her rescuer.

Did he think of her as his daughter? Would she be announced at court as such when her tuition was complete? He had a daughter, she heard, blonde and pretty and impetuous. Perhaps they would meet.

After months of this regime the duke had a dress made, an angry red flame that twisted over her curves and would set fire to any man who gazed upon her. The dress concealed a secret, a poisoned blade wrapped in the folds. Or perhaps two secrets, as the duke explained…

To be continued…

Baking Encouragement

Peli sat in her big wooden chair,
absorbed in a book, with nary a care
for the sounds that floated up from downstairs,
where her brother, Muse, was cooking with flare.
So skilled was he in the culinary arts,
that connoisseurs arrived from far-flung parts
to taste and praise his extraordinary creations
matched so skilfully to his brewed libations.

The reverie around Peli was gently peeled back
its encloaking diminished by the promise of a snack
cooked by a great as he practised his trade
who tested on her the delights he had made.
Today he was working a new kind of skill,
a crossing of art and flavour which filled
a sorrowful hole in every human breast,
the existence of which only few had guessed.

She leapt from her chair, placed the book to one side
and headed for the kitchen, where her family’s pride
removed from his oven what appeared to be bread
but with a colour of deep, pretty red.
With the loaf on a rack he stood back to admire
the result of his work with yeast and with fire.
She tore off some crust, just a corner to taste,
and was struck by the flavours that her mouth embraced.

Through her mind floated images, music and joy.
Memories and feelings and thoughts of boys.
Her mother, her father, her closest friends,
her dreams, her works, her whole life to the end.
“What is this?” she said. “It is more than just bread!”
She marvelled again at the dance in her head.
He replied, “Bread, yes, but with a greater rôle,
for my magnum opus can nourish your soul.”

For Idle Hands (Part II)

Continued from Part I.

Thompson sits in a white, undecorated room. Across from him sits a woman dressed in a suit. She is old, grey-haired, and has beady eyes that search him, taking in every slight movement. She has the bearing of authority.

“Who…” she begins, then corrects herself. “What are you?”

“I’m a surgeon,” replies Thompson. “A very good one. My records will show over eight hundred successful operations.”

“They do,” she agrees. “I’ve checked. You are the best surgeon at this hospital. But,” and she leans forward, “there is something inside you that nobody can explain. Something that makes you… what? Other than human?”

Thompson looks away from her, shifting his shoes, tensing and releasing his legs. His reply comes more quietly, so that his interrogator has to strain her ears to listen.

“Surgery is terrifying,” he says. “To hold another’s life in your hands, to make one slip and remove their connection to the light. To have their family’s hope chase you down corridors, peering over your shoulder as you cheat nature and re-write rules. Think of the ugly fear that creates. Think of what that creeping, crushing weight does to someone inside.”

“Is that what is inside you?” she asks. “Something ugly? Something terrifying? Something beyond easy comprehension? Are you a monster? Are you the devil?”

“What monster am I?” he says. “Does it matter what I am? Or does it matter what I do?”

“You do well,” she concedes. “You save lives. Why?”

“To keep busy,” he replies.

The End

For Idle Hands (Part I)

Thompson sees the primary surgeon suddenly stiffen in surprise, jerk backwards and then collapse. The helmet that connects the surgeon to the camera inside the patient’s body hits the floor with a crack. Surgical instruments clatter down as a tray is upturned, a technician screams, and the room drops into chaos.

“Keep the patient stabilised!” Thompson yells. Then he steps quickly around the operating table, and pushes aside the nurses crowding over the collapsed surgeon. Her body is shaking and convulsing, hands clawing, gasping screams escape from her mouth. Thompson grabs the helmet from her head, steps out the way to let the nurses through, and jams it onto his own scalp.

The helmet links him to the surgical camera inside the patient. His eyes see through its tiny lens, but where he expects to find the microscopic machine amongst a crowd of red blood cells, instead he sees a large dark eye staring back at him. The iris twists and flares angrily, jerked around by a white sclera. Then clouds of red swirl across the pupil, its vibrant intensity searing across the camera connection to burn Thompson’s retinas.

He knocks the headset off his head. The surgeon is now screaming. The nurses are trying to carry her from the room.

Thompson looks down at his blood-covered gloves. There is a tear over the left thumb. His hands had been on the patient when…

The camera isn’t in the patient, Thompson realises.

It’s inside his own body.

To be continued…

Corrupts Absolutely

Nathan walked down the road where he lived, towards his house. He was seething with anger at the events he had just witnessed.

“No I’m not,” he said. “I’m not angry at all, and I haven’t witnessed anything.” He walked on, kicking bushes and low walls, taking his aggression out on inanimate objects.

“I’m definitely not doing that,” he said. “That’s ridiculous, and it would hurt.”

He reached the gate that led to his house. There was a small overgrown garden out front, while the house itself was small, old and dingy-looking.

“It’s not that bad,” he said. “Stop messing with me.”

He strolled up the garden path and went through the front door.

“No I didn’t,” he protested. “I’m still out here on the front path until you leave me alone. I don’t want to go inside.”

He went inside.

“No, I’m staying here on the path,” he said.

It began to rain.

“Stop it,” he said. “You can’t make me go inside.”

Heavy rain, that soaked through his clothes and make his foppish hair drip water underneath his collar. He felt cold and extremely uncomfortable.

“Enjoying the power you have, are you?” he snarled.

A vast flood of water flowed into the front garden, destroying bushes and flowers. It roared towards his legs and threatened to sweep him away.

“You’re just showing off now,” he yelled. “Alright, I’ll go in.”

The water vanished as if by magic. He went into the house, muttering about writers under his breath.