Welcome

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Hello!  Thanks for stopping by!  Fiction Can Be Fun is a writing project run by David (@breakerofthings) and Debs (@debsdespatches).

We started the blog because we wanted to practice writing stories, and to talk about what writing (and reading) means to us.  Over the last few years we’ve showcased a number of short stories of different lengths, genres, voices, and you can find these via the Index.

We run a monthly prompt for #FlashFiction (used here in both senses: a short story that can be read quickly, and one that is written within a short period of time).  We like to go with quirky prompts (again, have a look at the Index!), and we mix in a few photoprompts together with one of our USPs, the Gutenberg Prompt – have a look out for these.  We’d love to get more people involved with these, so do spread the word.

We post every Sunday, following a regular schedule.  As of January 2020, we’ve revamped this slightly.  We’re still presenting our stories, and one of our other USPs, #SecondThoughts, but we’ll be adding some features on the items on our Resources page, together with a new series of articles written by guests on how there chosen genre is entwined with their normal life.

If you’d like to find out more/get involved, please do take a look at the About page.  Or you can send us a message via the Contact page or our Twitter handles (above).

Our (revised) regular schedule

1st Sunday #FF Prompt – submission deadline the next Sunday @ 8 am GMT
(or use our #TortoiseFlashFiction page if the deadline is too tight)

2nd Sunday #FF stories

3rd and 4th Sundays

Either:

A #SecondThoughts piece from David or Debs (except for those occasions when we’ve been able to persuade a guest to write one for us!).

Or:

A focus on one of the resources on our resource page, or on something else of writerly interest.

Or:

Occasionally a short story from one or another of us.

Exactly what turns up will depend on what we’ve been doing, and what is going on in the wider world.

5th Sunday On the occasion when these occur, we’ll be posting our guests’ musings on the intersections between their life and their chosen genre. (Do get in touch if you’re interested in writing one yourself).  The post that kicked it all off is here.

#FuriousFiction – The Hunter

wIRe thE MoNEy tO THIS account

k33P Ur moUth z1pPed – TEll No 1

OR elS3

 

The note was a cliché, pure and simple, the latest in an attempt to blackmail my client, and followed the well-worn convention of text cut from a newspaper. The use of l33t-speak, replacing letters with numbers, was an evolution: the blackmailer considered themselves rather sophisticated and was attempting to prevent an analysis of the note from the perspective of the source of the text.  Mind you, if the black mailer was as smart as they thought they were, the newspapers used to produce this sequence of letters had been destroyed by now.

In practice, it didn’t matter.  One detail told me more than the blackmailer realised.  Perfect squares had been excised with a craft-knife rather than scissors.   It told me exactly who we were dealing with.

This blackmailer considered themselves to be the equal of Charles Augustus Milverton.  Following my wife’s suicide, I vowed to become Sherlock Holmes, to track them down.  They were a spider, sitting in a global web of agents and proxies.  I would need to become the same.  My wealth bankrolled digital knights, hunting down trolls and cyber-dragons, exposing them to the light.  We tracked down the individuals who made the world worse for their own benefit.  Most were easily dealt with by the authorities.

But there are those who will never face justice.  Those who are clever and cunning in their lairs.  Those for whom the evidence has been made to disappear.  How will these barbarians at the gate be brought to justice? I do not condone mob rule, even for those who prey on the weak and vulnerable. I took responsibility.

There is always a weak link.  They had given the account details, a Cayman Islands one, naturally, but the money didn’t stay there for long. An electronic handshake and it was off on a magical mystery tour.

It took 13 years, but every victim gave me another piece of information. My white-hat hackers finally tracked the blackguard to a sleepy English village, where he was playing at being the lord of the manor.  I tracked him from the cosy pub, where he had been spilling largesse into the eager hands and mouths of the locals.  I hunted him across his own estate, confronting him on a bridge.

There were 11 rounds in the clip of my custom-made pistol.  The rounds are rather special because – well, perhaps I won’t give that little bit of intelligence away.  Not just yet anyway.  As I say, 11 rounds, but only one was needed.   In the dark of the night, he staggered backwards and fell over the railing.

Beneath a crescent moon the body floated on the river and went over a weir.

© David Jesson, 2020


I submitted this story to the Australian Writer’s Centre monthly writing competition, #FuriousFiction.  The competition provides a prompt (typically much more intricate than the ones we offer here!), 55 hours to turn around a 500 word story, and AUD$500 as a prize.  This time round the prompt was to include an interpretation of five emojis (see below), to finish the story with an anagram of the first word, and to include the phrase “There were 11 ____ in the____”, to be completed as the writer sees fit.

The emojis to be included were:

emojis

New Year, new Fiction Can Be Fun

As we kick off 2020, we’d like to say a huge thank you to all those who’ve been following this blog over the last couple of years – your support, and in particular the feedback we’ve received is much appreciated.

When we started up the blog, we were looking to get into a good writing practice – we both respond well to a deadline, and are motivated by a commitment, even if it’s a virtual one.  We’ve had a really great time, and are extremely proud of the innovations that we’ve come up with.  The prompts based on Project Gutenberg titles feel particularly inspired!

But all good things come to an end…

Gotcha!  Only kidding – sort of… Since we set the blog up we’ve maintained a schedule of a prompt, our stories based on the prompt, another story from each of us each month and another of our innovations, the #secondthoughts ‘essays’.  We’ve been extremely lucky to get some contributions from various people along the way, but essentially all that writing has come down to us.

We’ve both seen some life changes over the last six months, and some of our priorities have changed a little bit.  We’re still looking forward to sharing our work through the blog, but now seems like a good opportunity to revise the schedule a little bit.

Instead of our responses to the #FlashFiction prompts being posted on the Friday after we set the prompt, from next month they’ll become a normal Sunday posting, which will mean that we won’t be posting other stories as frequently.  We’ll also be introducing a new range of reviews, focusing on the items that are on our resources page.

Hopefully you’ll still enjoy what we’ve got to say, and hopefully you’ll still feel like commenting!

David and Debs

Writing Experiment: Epilogue

…stumbles through a doorway into a room that, if they were in a position to feel anything other than pain, to notice anything more than a metre or so away, would feel vaguely familar.  Ahead there is a dais formed of a shimmering silvery metal, with an odd iridescent sheen to it.  Lights blink in all the colours of the rainbow.  There is a grouping of red lights that seem to form a sequence.

…Lurches across the room towards the dais, blundering into a table and scattering its contents.  Instinct causes a tractormorphic appendage to snake out and pick up a cloth which shimmers with the same iridescence as the block of metal.  …climbs-collapses onto the dais and pulls the cloth over its recumbent form.

Time passes.

The room and all it contains begins to contract, eventually becoming a single point of light, bright and white.  Dazzlingly white. Blindingly white.

The light disappears and nothing is left except nothingness…

Time passes.  Or perhaps it doesn’t.

Welcome to the Forge.  The Forge of Dreams.  From time to time things happen here. From time to time.  Although this is not the right word: there is no time, here.

Mostly though, there is nothing.  It might be inky black.  But that would indicate an absence of light, and there is nothing. It might be brilliant white.  But that would suggest a light source, and there is nothing.  Perhaps it is grey.  But that would give rise to the possibility of choice, and there is nothing.

What is this?  It is different from the nothingness that surrounds it.  It is a point of true light, bright, clean and demonstrably something. 

Time passes.  Or perhaps it doesn’t.

The point of light resolves.  It glitters, and scatters light all around.  As a consequence, the nothingness surrounding it appears to be much darker than we might have initially thought, although further away, the void is unchanged.

Time passes, or perhaps it…no, time really is starting to pass.  The point of light can be seen to be spinning, and in spinning is slowing down.  Time passes, and the point is resolved as a disc, still spinning.  Spinning too fast to see any details other than that it is a cube, a cube with six very different faces.

Time passes…

The cube appears to be slowing down…

© David Jesson, 2019


 

 

Christmas 2100

christmas-lights-houses-dma-homes-55884

“Hello dear!  Happy Christmas!”

“Happy Christmas Grans, are you ready?”  I’d popped over to the sheltered accommodation where my grandma lived with some of her old cronies,  to pick her up for Christmas dinner with the family.

It was going to be hectic, because my older siblings were coming over with their kids.  The unwritten rule at these events was that I needed to be ‘Fun Uncle Bobby’ and keep the kids entertained until at least we sat down for lunch.  The four of them would keep me busy and the challenge was always to keep things from getting too loud.  There would be Christmas presents to open and play with – which had its pros and cons.

Picking up Grans was a blessedly peaceful interlude.  Christmas Eve had been hectic, as always.  Mum and Dad had long ago developed a timeline for jobs that needed to be done.   It got tweaked in the run-up, depending on what was going on, but Mum always took us, and then more recently the grandchildren, to the Crib Service on Christmas Eve, which gave Dad, and these days me too, a clear run for getting the veg prepped.  We’d make pigs in blankets and other trimmings, as well.  Everything was lined up, ready to go.  In recent years, given the extra people round the table, Dad had moved to turning the barbecue into an oven to cook the joint, so we’d get the fire laid and ready to go.  Dad was a real arsonist when it came to the barbecue and you could always guarantee that it would light with a single match.

In the pod on the way back home, Grans and I chatted about her Bridge club, knitting circle, book club, and she asked me about my semester at uni.  This had been the toughest so far, but everyone said to expect that with the second year.

When we got in, my first job was to make sure that Grans didn’t get mobbed by her great grandchildren.  My nephews and nieces loved her to bits.  My second was to make sure that she got ensconced in her favourite chair with a glass of sherry.   The first was accomplished by telling them it was time to try out the new board game – another family tradition was to get a new board game at Christmas, and I always made sure I was au fait with the rules before it was officially opened on Christmas day.  Clarrie, the eldest (and bossiest took charge by the simple expedient of holding the box above her head and walking through to the living room, trailing the other three like the tail of a comet.  By the time Grans was safely in her chair, glass in easy reach, the board was set up and ready to go and Arwen, the second eldest, was deciding that Clarrie didn’t actually have any special insight afterall: with split second timing I was able to swoop and get the game started before a proper argument started.

Lunch was a noisy affair, of course.  Afterwards, the children opened big presents from my Mum and Dad, a smaller present from me, and a card from Grans with the obligatory voucher.  One of Grans stories that none of us really believed was that you used to get money made of paper, and coins, and that it was a common thing to get money from relatives to buy things for yourself.

And then Grans turned to me and handed me one too.  “This is from all of us, dear.  We’re very proud of you, you know, and you are so wonderful with the little ones.”  I could see my elder sister biting her tongue; she clearly wanted to say something but didn’t want to step on Grans’ toes.

“You didn’t have to – ” I started to say, as I slit open the envelope, and then I noticed that everyone was watching me, even the kids.  This wasn’t just going to be a book voucher then.  Perhaps…no I really didn’t have a clue.  You know when people talk about a jaw dropping open in astonishment?  That was me.  It was a voucher for a cup of coffee.   And not just any cup of coffee, coffee at one of the premier Cafes.  One of the really exclusive ones.  I’d probably need to wear a suit to go and redeem this.  I couldn’t begin to imagine how expensive this voucher had been.

When climate change wrecked the growing conditions for coffee, all the big coffee companies had switched to one of the half dozen or so coffee substitutes that had been the preserve of the kind of people who would be deemed eccentric for drinking roasted dandelion root, or yerba mate, for example.  So you could still get your caffeine fix, or the experience of going to the coffee shop and getting something with steamed oatmilk or whatever, but real coffee had become so expensive that it was not something you drank regularly.

“Well say something then!” My mother exclaimed, breaking the silence.

I just looked at her, speechless.  Grans laughed.

© David Jesson, 2019

 

 

 

 

Take Off

The VIPs filed into the observation lounge, shepherded in after the excellent lunch with the big star by the PR staffers.  Stewards guided them to their seats and took drink orders.  They sank down into the big comfy chairs and prepared to watch the show.

“Welcome!  It’s great that you can be with us here today.  This really is one of the highlights of the year.  You’ll understand that we can’t show you absolutely everything, and I think you’d be cross with us if we kept you here until the bitter end!”  There was a little ripple of laughter at this.  The head of PR stood in front of an enormous window

“For the next 24 hours, this is the nerve centre.  I present” with a flourish he drew their attention to everything in the room below “Mission Control!”

Through the window they could see something that looked a lot like a theatre, but instead of a stage there was simply an enormous screen, with a stack of smaller screens on either side.  They were, in effect, looking out over some sort of pit, with ranks of desks sloping downwards.  The ones at the bottom were some distance from the bottom of the screen, but anyone seated there would still get a serious crick in their neck if they tried to look at the top.

The observers took in the bustling, hurrying figures, the people taking their seats, those running back and forth with bits of paper, those conferring with colleagues at other desks, and realised that even the small screens were probably the size of the window in front of them.  Perspective could be a tricksy thing indeed.

“OK everyone, settle down, settle down.” A gruff voice rang out and filled the room.  The bustling didn’t cease, but did seem to become more purposeful.  Those seated at desks seemed to become more tense.  “Systems check.”

The observers tensed as well.  They hadn’t seen the Mission Controller slip into the room.  Hadn’t seen him place his coffee mug on the table, hadn’t seen him take his seat and plug his headset in.  Things were about to get interesting.  And this was not just any Mission Controller, this was one of the most senior, whose reputation, in certain circles at least, was as big as the person that they had been having dinner with an hour before.

The Head of PR called over one of his minions.  You’d have to be an expert in body language to see the tinge of panic that added a soupçon of peremptoriness to the gesture.  No one in the room was such an expert, so all they saw was the collegiate summoning.  The assistant trotted over.

“What’s he doing here?” the Head hissed quietly.  “He’s not supposed to be on duty!”

“I think he pulled rank.  Said something about not allowing ‘that idiot’ to ruin everything.”

“OK.  Well we can’t do anything about it now.  But we can’t listen in like we’d planned.  Switch the intercom off and go and round up the rest of the team.  We’ll provide a running commentary, and provide every VIP with someone who can answer any questions that come up.” The assistant ran off, and the Head of PR turned a megawatt smile on the audience.  “I’m afraid I have some bad news, the intercom system has broken and we’re not going to be able to listen in on the Mission as planned, but we will be providing a full commentary and there will be colleagues ready, willing, and able to answer any questions you might have.”  With a gesture that the audience missed completely, he set the Chief Steward to work on top-ups.

*****

“OK everyone, settle down, settle down.  Systems check.”

“Transport.  Check.”

“Dispatch. Check.”Oslo

“Tracking. Check.”

“Weather. Check: there is nothing major brewing in the next 24 hours; you can stand down the emergency back-up.”

“Intelligence. Check.”

Department after department checked in and red lights turned green across the board.  The Mission Controller chased antacids down with the last of his cold coffee, snapped his fingers and pointed to the empty, branded, mug.  A steward come over and refilled the mug from a large jug, placed a mince pie in a little silver case by the side of it and moved off, repeating the task again and again before heading back to the galley for further refills.  It would be a long night.

“Right, ladies and gentlemen, listen in.  Thirty minutes to take off.  We will be doing this by the freakin’ book – do you understand?”  There were murmurs of assent.  “Some of my fellow mission controllers have reported some issues over the last few years.  I know that it’s difficult to predict exactly what is going to happen in the field, but let me make this absolutely clear, I do not want a repeat of Oslo, I do not want a repeat of Fremantle, and I do not want a repeat of freakin’ Milwaukee!  By the book ladies and gentlemen, let’s get to it.”

He pulled out a cigar from a pocket, bit off the end and swallowed it.  A nervous steward scuttled up and quavered “I’m afraid it’s No Smoking in here now, sir.”

He received a glare of rock-melting intensity.  After a moment the Mission Controller said: “It’s chocolate” and returned his attention to the board in front of him.  Satisfactory.  He looked up at the screens.  Everything seemed to be going well.  The emergency back-up system was being taken away from the launch zone.  Last minute checks were being carried out.

“Where is he?” The Mission Controller mutter to himself.  Then he spotted the operative.  “Who does he freakin’ think he is?  Freakin’ Rocky Marciano?” This was not said sotto voce, and a number of staff pricked up their ears at this.  Only one or two of the old timers were brave enough to look round.

The crowds on the screen were cheering as a figure made its way down a flight of steps, waving, making thumbs up signs, hands clasped above head in the ‘I’m the champ’ pose.  The figure paused to write autographs, shake hands, kiss a proffered cheek.

The Mission Controller flipped a toggle and growled into the mic “Five minutes.”

On the screen a minder spoke into the mic clipped to his sleeve “Affirmative”.

Minders closed around the figure and moved him along amidst protestors from the crowd and indeed the star himself.

Another toggle was flicked.  “OK, the fat guy’s on his way, get him aboard and settled, stat.”

Everyone in mission control watched as the minders hustled their charge up to the transport zone and handed him off to the team on the launch pad, who helped him up onto his seat and tucked him in, handed him a flask and lunch-box.

“And in ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, GO!”

There was a flick of the reins and the deer started running, pulling the sleigh.  It leaped into the air.  The driver couldn’t resist a circle over the crowds, a wave, to the cheering folk below.  And then he was away.

“About freakin’ time”, the Mission Controller said, turning on the timer.

© David Jesson, 2019

Experimental Writing: Part 12

This is the last installment in a story that I’ve been writing over the course of the year.  There is a prologue which was used to shape the story, which starts here, but which you can easily miss out.  The story proper starts here.

Esther and Owain crouched low behind some rocks that were the least worst option that they’d found for cover.  Owain tried to watch the lake where Meredith had disappeared and the path up which a group of people were coming.  Hard to tell from this distance, but the words ‘thug’ and ‘disgruntled’ sprang to mind.  Esther was similarly trying to split her attention, but she was watching vicariously through the HUD’s relayed imagery from the drones.

Whilst the thugs looked dangerously muscled, Owain and Esther were surprised at how out-of-breath they looked when they finally reached the edge of the lake.  Esther zoomed in and was amazed at the details she could see, down to beads of sweat forming on foreheads and dribbling down the side of red faces.  Zooming back out she watched as their leader directed them to fan out.

Nothing much happened for several minutes.  The muscle visibly relaxed as they got their breath back, but with each passing second the head honcho became more worried, more irritated, more tense.

The geyser of water took everyone by surprised, and completely soaked the men standing at the edge of the lake.  The plume of water topped out at some 150 m.  Esther was fascinated to see the exact height marked in the HUD.  She wasn’t quite sure what she did, but an icon next to the information blinked, opened into a box and informed her that this was taller than the eruptions of the Steamboat Geyser of Yellowstone, currently the tallest known geyser in the world, but not enough to displace the world record of 490 m held by Waimangu in New Zealand.  She blinked and the box disappeared.  The distraction gone, she realised that Meredith was at the top of the column of water – and coming back to earth fast.

Or rather, coming back to water.  Meredith hit the lake at a speed 50 metres per second, bounced, and then sank back below the water.  Esther and Owain looked at each other, and then back at the milling people at the lake edge.  There was a lot of shouting and gesticulating, but it was difficult to work out what was going on.  They deduced that people were being ordered into the water by the fact that heavy-duty jackets were reluctantly being shrugged off, and boot-laces were being untied.  You could tell that their hearts weren’t really in it though, until the point that the leader pulled out a pistol, then they started moving a bit faster.

It was at this point that a second geyser erupted.  This was not quite as impressive as the first, but worth watching all the same for at the centre there was some kind of wrestling match occurring.  Meredith seemed to be grappling with something: an indeterminate number of tractomorphic arms were attempting to get the upperhand.  Esther, with the benefit of the HUD, realised that not all the arms were Meredith’s.

“Miss Esther?”

“Bunter?”

“Yes, miss.”

“Oh – just call me Esther.”

“I couldn’t possibly do that, miss.  Is everything well, miss?”

“Hard to say.  There’s some kind of wrestling match going on and there’s a load of gangsters getting ready, but I don’t know what for.”

“I see.”

“Are you another alien, Bunter?”

“That doesn’t really matter right now.  At the moment I’m at the heart of the operations of Rhys Probert’s operations.  My orders are to shut them down at the appropriate psychological moment.  Would you say that’s now?”

“Errm…I really don’t know.  What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to going to sequester his computer system and call the police in.”

“That sounds like it might take a while.”

“It’ll certainly take a while for the police to sift through everything, but I can send Probert a message to tell him what’s going on.”

“Alright…Do it.  Send the message when I say.”

“Very good, miss.”

The geyser of water subsided again and the combatants sank below the water.  A moment later something appeared to rise above the surface.  Was it an arm?  What was it holding?  The men on the shore were looking at it intently, one or two pointing, and the man with the pistol started gesticulating furiously again.  He seemed to reach fever pitch when the arm or whatever it was got dragged back down much more quickly than it had risen.

“Ok – now!”

It was not the man with the pistol that reacted, but one that Esther had not noticed so far, one that appeared to be unaffected by the dramas unfolding out on the lake and on the shore.  He pulled out a mobile phone from the pocket of his suit, and glanced at the screen.  Hard to tell from this distance, but his body language suggested an increasing interest in the phone and increasing tension.  Bad news, clearly.   He called to the man with the pistol, and when that gained no response, he bravely grabbed at the man’s arm and shoved the phone into his face.

***

Rhys Probert was not a happy man.  The entity in the lake was under some form of attack, and it wasn’t really clear from what.  His family had called it ‘The Lady’ since time out of mind, and several legends had grown up.  It wasn’t really a blood ancestor, but it’s help had shaped his family’s fortunes for generations.  His whole operation depended on the tech that it had provided, and his continued existence relied on the the medicines that it gave him.

And now the Gardeners had some fit of the collywobbles and didn’t want to get involved, and Jenkins was pushing a phone at him saying there was a problem.

Probert was about 30 seconds away from shooting someone.

***

“It’s not working, bach, he’s just getting more angry – he looks fit to burst!”

“Not to worry, miss, I have an idea.  Can you give me control of one of the drones, please?”

“I could if I knew how to!”

“Nothing simpler, miss” Bunter was relishing the role.  He talked her through it and took control.

The drone flew closer and lower.

“Rhys Probert!” A strong Cardiff accent boomed out of a speaker on the drone. “Rhys Probert!  Attention.  This is Superintendent Brydon.  Put your weapon down, return to your car and await the arrival of officers who will be with you momentarily.”

This was too much for most of the group who broke and scattered.  Probert was practically frothing at the mouth now, and he shot at the drone, emptying the entire clip in an attempt to bring it down.

Jenkins, unflappable as ever, waited until the shooting stopped then grabbed Probert’s arm and dragged him away.

Peace returned to Llyn-y-fan Fach.  So much peace, in fact, that Esther began to worry.

“What’ll we do, Owain?  How are we going to get Meredith out?”

“Look, bet!” Owain said, pointing. Meredith was oozing out of the lake, pulling something behind them.

Owain and Esther broke cover and ran to their fallen friend.  What on earth would they be able to do?  How did you do first aid on an alien?  How could you tell what was wrong?  How could you tell if they were still alive?

“Bunter!  What do we do?”

***

Owain and Esther watched from a safe distance as the spaceship took off.  Meredith was barely conscious, but Bunter had managed things admirably, and had ensured that Owain and Esther had been suitably reassured.  They had gently transferred the limp form back to the Landrover, attached the medi-pack under Bunter’s direction and secured all the equipment.  While they were getting sorted, Bunter had sent one of the drones off.  It came back just as they were getting ready to leave with a vial of something that Bunter directed that they pour into the lake.  The thing that Meredith had recovered turned out to be remarkably disappointing, but apparently this was just a control-nexus or something, and there was a lot more at the bottom of the lake that should be left just lying around.  The vial contained a programmable liquid robot that would dismantle the operations that ‘the Lady’ had built up over the time spent on Earth.

Bunter directed them to place the used equipment into the bay on the side of the craft.  Meredith had just about managed to get themself into the cockpit, with a little help.

“I guess we’d better go and get Nerys then,” Owain had said.

“Hopefully she hasn’t rung Ma and Da” Esther giggled.

***

A few days later, Owain and Esther began to wonder if they’d dreamed it all.  That was, until a letter arrived for their parents.  Apparently Bunter and Partners, representing a distant relative needed to arrange for a legacy to be paid to them.

© David Jesson, 2019


Ok  – a slight fib.  This was the last installment of the story proper, but there will be an epilogue, of sorts to round things out.  This will be posted on the 31st December and will close my writing experiment that I’ve been running this year.