Ten ghosts

ten ghosts

I was in bed one night last month, all as per usual. Todd was gently snoring and I was fidgeting about trying to fall asleep, when I heard it. “What did you say?” I asked. But on he snored, so this time I gave him a little shove as I repeated: “what did you say?” “Eh, oh, what?” he replied. I repeated myself and he insisted that not a word had passed his lips before returning to that gentle snore. To be fair, it hadn’t sounded like him. Todd’s a bit loud and this had been the gentlest of whispers. I lay still and listened for what seemed like ages before starting to drift off again. Then it happened again, but this time I stayed quiet and listened – really, really hard.

I’d turned a fan on before going to sleep, but there was definitely something else and it sounded like whispers. The longer I listened, the more certain I became that there were multiple voices whispering in the dark. At some point I must’ve drifted off because when I woke up, the fan was off and the whispers were clear.

They were talking about me. I heard them say “Her” and yes, it was with a capital H. Then one of them used my name. I tried not to freak out and concentrated on just keeping my breathing regular as if I was meditating. I heard one of them say “that car, it’s so old” whilst another chimed in with “and yet she drives it so fast, always going over the speed limit”. I had to really focus on not sitting up and saying “hey, don’t talk about me like that!” Then a really little girl voice said: “I’m so scared for her, there’s been too many near misses on roundabouts”. And that chilled me. She was right, I’d become a tad cavalier and noticed that I was getting rather more hoots than usual on roundabouts. I made a mental note to scale back the speed and be more careful at junctions. And then I drifted back to sleep.

In the morning, I convinced myself it had all been a dream. But it kept happening. If I woke in the middle of the night, kept quiet and really listened, I could hear them. There were a lot of voices, although four were particularly vocal. They would discuss what had been happening during the day and sometimes they would hark back to other stuff. Each seemed to have a particular bee in their bonnet. One man didn’t like Todd and kept pointing out negative things about him: “he drinks too much” or “I don’t like his temper” and “why does he’s keep saying uncomplimentary things about how she looks?” It was weird, if I was having a conversation, I’d been able to defend him, but I wasn’t, and so their opinions stayed out there, worming their way into my mind. I can’t say I liked what I heard. The worst was when they all started to agree with him “he’s so controlling …”.

I took that man’s advice one day and packed my bags. I’d pretended to go to work, but came home once he’d gone. I’d been planning it for a while now – putting aside a bit of money in a secret savings account and arranging to work for my old mate Julie in her pub down in Wales. I hated my job anyway and as I’d just been paid – straight into that new savings account – I was skipping town with my month’s wages. The doorbell rang – it was that man-with-a-van I’d hired to help me move. There wasn’t much I wanted to take mind, I didn’t want any reminders, so I took only what I’d brought with me. The van followed me on my final task – dropping my car at the local second-hand dealer. He was only giving me a few quid for scrap value, but it was one more thing put behind me.

My whispering ghosts were going to be happy tonight …


© Debra Carey, 2017

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Flashfiction -Photoprompt

We had made the campfire, cooked something to eat, and swapped yarns: the whole thing was quite festive.

The fire was dying down, so we lay down and looked up at the night sky, continuing our discussion about how Earth-like the planet was, complete with the rock shaped by wind and water.  The night-sky was both familiar and unfamiliar – we could still make out the Milky Way, but none of our familiar constellations.

As wreckage from our spaceship made shooting stars,  two questions were in everyone’s minds: How were we going to get home?  Did we want to?

© David Jesson, 2017 (100 words)

Guide to identifying a time-traveller

About Time

I looked out of the high window to the street outside.  The rain poured down, not torrentially, but with an insistent persistance, that left the pavement devoid of pedestrians, and road itself almost barren of of vehicles.  What should have been a quiet summer’s evening was a complete wash out, and I was glad to be inside.  I turned from the window and picked up my glass from an antique occaisonal table.

“Not a time to be outside” I stated to the room at large, not really expecting a response.  The four of us had, as was our wont, adjourned to the Library after dinner, scowling concertedly at a new member who had the temerity to ty an join us.  The Library had been ours for time immemorial.  Greywood had plomped into ‘his’ armchair and, tumbler of single malt not withstanding, had fallen asleep.  None of us could really understand how he did it.  He was demonstrably asleep, with light purring snore emanating from around a large fluffy moustache – that we would often joke had a life of it’s own – and yet not a drop of whisky would be lost from the glass, all would be consumed before the evening’s end.

The Commonwealth Club (we often called it the  Prune Club – being elderly curmudgeons was our raisin d’etra) is an anachronym, looking like something that Phileas Fogg might have belonged, hundreds of years before.  But even in our supposed modern world it has its place.

Darbishire and Memana were bickering over some item or other that they had read in the news as I was looking out of the window, but they broke off as I made my comment on the weather outside and Darbishire said “that reminds me of a joke: time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana!”

Memana groaned and I looked round for a pillow, or failing that a book, that I could throw.  Greywood huffed through his moustache and fixed Darbishire with a steely gaze.  This was another of Greywood’s traits that we had never fathomed: no matter how deeply asleep he seemed to be, he always knew what was being talked about.  We waited for the inevitable anecdote from his time in The Service.

That was a truly terrible joke [said Greywood], and besides which, it is factually incorrect.  Fruit flies may, indeed, like a banana, but time does not fly like an arrow. Every moment in history is available to us if we had but the means to access it, and what we experience is merely the brain trying to make sense of all this time happening at once.  During my time in The Service, I was seconded for a period to the Bureau of Anomolies in Time and Space.  Some boffin or other had managed to crack a limited form of time travel, and whilst the Government had tried to keep it under wraps, a boot-leg version had leaked out to the criminal classes.  There were two issues with this technology.  One, whilst you could jump a reasonable amount of time into the past or future, you could only do so for a few seconds, a minute at most and you would come back to where you jumped from as if you were on a bit of elastic.  The other was that the process of jumping had a physiological effect and all the muscle fibres in the body would contract a small but significant amount.   As a result, the technology was all but useless for espionage, and the technology was suppressed lest it fall into the wrong hands. Suppressed badly, and inevitably it did fall into the wrong hands.

The head of BATS was not a complete fool – you don’t get to head up such a specialist group if you’re an idiot.   He acted promptly, called in extra support as required and the team were able to track the leak and find the criminal group who were planning to use the equipment.  They had had some plan of using the  technology to gain information on sporting events.  We managed to catch up with them in the midst of their first attempt and scooped them all up, with the exception of the time-traveller.   Police records indicated that we had the whole gang as far as was known and so it was no simple matter to find our lost waif.  We did not know what he (or she) looked like, we did not know where they had jumped from, how far into the past or future they had jumped, or when they had returned to our time.  As I say, the head of the team that I had been seconded to was not a complete idiot and, as he had seen me at work before, he called me in early.   A job like this is tricky in so many ways, but I was able to tell the team reviewing the CCTV footage from the venue what to look for and the Police were able to pick up the, as it turned out, man before he had got too far.

Greywood sipped his whisky, wiped his moustache, resettled himself into his chair and started to fall back to sleep.  There is only one thing to do at such times and we all knew the drill.  Memana was closest and kicked Greywood’s foot.

“Hey! Oh no you don’t!  How did you know who to look for?”

“I would have thought it was perfectly obvious – I told you about the technology, and it’s physilogical effects.  All they had to do was look for the person who suddenly had serious problems walking – time wounds all heels, you know”.

© David Jesson, 2017

 

One man’s now is another man’s history

Sonia awoke to a persistent beeping noise: “What the hell is that?” she muttered. She’d told her team not to wake her under pain of death and they’d never not complied. That’s when she realised it wasn’t her phone but the Gadget. Pulling open the drawer she read the message flashing in fluorescent letters: “Report immediately.”

Punching in her entry code – not her birthdate (she’d terrorised all her staff with instant dismissal if they used that) her’s was the date her dog died – Sonia strode into the office.. She found them all sitting round the coffee machine, feet up and chatting. “Up!” she yelled in her best sergeant major voice and enjoyed the scampering response. “We’ve got a top priority alert. A suspect on his way from Boston. Time Traveller. Someone down there goofed and he used a ray gun on the senior security guy who’s now gone all ga-ga.”

Her team looked decidedly unhappy with that news: “Erm boss, how’re we supposed to handle that without getting fried ourselves?”

“We’re just running interference” she reassured them. “We announce a delay with the refuelling truck which gives them enough time to get a specialist out here from Boston. Everyone needs to keep calm, act natural and it’ll be just fine.”

It’d been Sonia’s suggestion that they use the excuse of the refuelling truck as a delaying tactic. Here in Anchorage, the conditions meant they frequently needed to handle freezing weather and today was certainly cold enough to freeze the proverbials off a brass monkey.

Sonia changed out of her uniform into something a bit more unchallenging and low level before making the announcement about the delay. Her announcement was greeted with the expected groans, so she announced that free hot refreshments were available. She took the opportunity to move amongst the passengers and engage each of them in brief conversation, but no-one was triggering her spidey senses.

Her phone rang “John’s landed” she heard in her ear. This time it was her turn to groan. Really, her little brother? They’d had to send the doofus to handle this on her territory? Sonia flashed her best smile to the cute looking guy in the Bruins sweatshirt and excused herself. Pity this wasn’t a real delay, she could’ve pulled there.

Pulling on her outdoor layers and boots, Sonia crossed the runway to where John’s plane was taxiing to a stop. Bundled up, John emerged first and hurried down the stairs. “Hi Sis, it’s the guy in the Bruins sweatshirt. Have you spotted him yet?” “Don’t be ridiculous” she snapped in response, “I’ve just been chatting to him and he’s just an ordinary guy.” John grinned, “Yeah he is exactly your type, but he’s the guy, I promise you.” “So why didn’t you stop him at Boston then?” John sighed, he could feel his big sister assessing him cooling, expecting him to confess that he’d messed up. “I identified him, but while I went to get my kit to put him down, the head of security persuaded my boss that he could handle it without any fuss himself. Seems he was wrong.”

“What this ray gun he’s using?” Sonia enquired. “We don’t know yet. It’s the first of its type we’ve come across” John admitted. “They usually just knock you out, but these ones seem to make their victims loose their memories and their mental faculties.” “Sounds nasty.” “Yup, that’s why I put out the instruction to just delay him. I didn’t want my big sis getting into any trouble she couldn’t handle” grinned John.

Swiping him round the ear, Sonia asked for details of John’s plan. “Well, he’s seen me before, so …” “He’s seen you before? That’ll make it more difficult. How well would he know you?” “We chatted for nearly an hour, so it’s a risk. I’m going to need to disguise myself. Any thoughts?”

Sonia pondered as they walked across to the airport terminal. Going to her office, she signalled a cleaner pushing a mop and bucket to join them. There John and the cleaner switched outfits, including the glasses and knitted hat the cleaner was wearing. Sonia walked round John and admitted “I’d not recognise you even if I was expecting to see you.” “Perfect” said John and got his kit prepared. Pulling on thick heavy cleaning gloves, he pushed the mop and bucket across the terminal building and into the lounge. John pushed the mop around in the guy’s eye-line and when he was confident there’d been no reaction, he moved round behind him. Looking over the top of his glasses, John picked his spot carefully and plunged the needles into the guy’s neck. The guy startled, but collapsed before he could get his hand into his pocket. Sonia and her team raced in, removed his ray gun carefully, and cuffed the guy.

Later, as they were walking back to his plane with the prisoner, Sonia asked “I forgot to check, how’d you know it was him in Boston?” “Usual thing, I got an instinct …” “Oh come on” said Sonia “this is me remember, I know how your mind works. What was it that trigged those instincts?

“There was something wrong I couldn’t put my finger on, so I struck up a conversation with him. We talked ice hockey ‘cos he was wearing a Bruins shirt. He knew facts and figures, but there was no colour, no opinion. Even though he said he was a long-term fan, there was no passion. So I asked about more stuff. And he was the same – all facts and figures, but nothing personal.”

“Time travellers need to get their cultural references right, especially when they come from the future. My guy sounded like he was reciting history … not talking about life.”

© Debra Carey, 2017

The Cake

It seems a bit…daft?…disingenuous?  to write a story based on your own prompt,  but I promise that I hadn’t thought about it before, and I woke up one morning this week with a story that wanted to be told and, well, here we are!

******

I used to love baking.  I was never very good, certainly not bake-off standard.  I was competent and never had any problems with taste; well, nobody ever complained.  But bakes were never particularly even – I laugh at the idea of trying to get a dozen biscuits to look identical.  Over time, I stopped.  The other half was much better at baking, in every way: cakes were neater, biscuits crisper, icing immaculate.  And so it goes: we fell in to the jobs that we were good at, although we did our best to split the nobody-wants-to-do-this jobs fairly.

When the twins arrived, it was more of the same, but with an added veneer of never enough sleep.  I ended up changing more nappies, but that’s just because I was home more.  Hubbie would leave me with meals ready for the day and I would do my best to make sure that entropy didn’t swallow us whole.

Suddenly, the twins were eight – how on Earth did that happen? – and I realised that life was a lot better than it had been, and I’d not noticed.  Things were still manic, with clubs and classes and Brownies and Cubs and all the rest of it, but it was amazing how much of a difference a full night’s sleep every night of the week made.  The twins could also occupy themselves for longer without causing (too much) mischief and mayhem, which in turn allowed more time to get things done and to keep the house ship-shape and Bristol fashion despite being back at work part-time.

The twins, as I said, were magically eight, and that meant DH would be thirty-five.  That’s one of those odd birthdays, which feels like it should be a big one, but isn’t really.  It’s half of your three score years and ten, but in terms of a working life, you still haven’t hit half way to retirement.  Forty’s the new thirty, and – well, you take my point.

Normally I buy a cake for his birthday.  He, of course, does the children’s and there have been some amazing ones.  There are a lot of misconceptions about twins, in terms of them liking the same stuff.  Our two are inseparable (except when they’re not), but they definitely have their own personalities.  No dressing our two identically, oh no, and not just because we’ve got one of each!  My lovely little girl is a complete tom-boy, so there wouldn’t be any problem in her wearing the same as her brother, but they just like different things.  I think my favourite cake was probably the Gruffalo/Ivor-the-Engine mash-up, although the best concept we’d discussed was Peppa Pig being eaten by a giant Mr Dinosaur. Tthat’s the kind of cake you can only ever talk about – it’s not one you can put in front of (most) five year olds.

The build-up to DH’s birthday went along the usual lines.  I’d decided what I was going to get him about six months beforehand, purchased it four months beforehand and kept it hidden.  I had time(!), so whilst helping the twins make their present and card, I made a rather lovely card myself – all rainbow paper and 3D flowers, almost professional, if I do say so myself.

It came to me that I could actually make a cake myself.  Whoa.  I checked the cupboards and the basics were there.  My motto is, when in doubt, less is more – keep it simple, stupid.  So I decided on a classic Victoria sponge.  To up the ante (slightly) I got some up-market jam, fresh strawberries and proper cream.  The tricky bit was hiding these extra ingredients, but I put them at the back of the fridge, putting some things around them as a disguise, but so that it didn’t look like a wall that was shielding something important.

I’d planned on making the cake the night before but life being what it is, I didn’t get that far.  No worries, DH was treating himself to a round of golf for his birthday so he’d be out of the way, and I thought the kids could look after themselves for an hour, or so.  I wanted clear decks for this – I know how easy it is to get in a mess just because there aren’t any clear surfaces.  I cleared everything away, put the oven on to warm up and then picked up the bag of washing and went through the living room to the patio to hang it up.  This was the second load of the day, so I folded up the dry stuff already out and put it in a basket to put away.  I thought it wouldn’t take me a minute so I went upstairs and sorted all of that lot out.

It was about then that it struck me that the house was awfully quiet and that I hadn’t seen the children for a while.  Oh dear.  I called out and looked in all the rooms upstairs.  Oh dear oh dear.  Downstairs, still calling.  I was about to poke my head round the door into the living room when I realised that the kitchen door was firmly shut, which was not how I had left it.  Hmmmm.

I opened the door and the two guiltiest faces you’ve ever seen looked up at me.  The mess was epic, with flour in the air, dribbles of egg running down the side, sugar scattered everywhere.  To be fair, the mix looked good – they’d been cooking with their Dad for years – and they’d got it in the pans without spilling too much.  There are two ways we could have gone after that: I chose to help them tidy up and bake the cake, to decorate it with the strawberries and cream and jam.  When DH came home, we had a lovely party.

But you know what? The expression on their faces as I walked into the mess they’d made in the kitchen – that. That really was the cherry on top.

(1000 words)

© 2016 David Jesson

Writing Prompt – The Cake

A writing prompt in honour of the new series of the Great British Bakeoff!

Hi, thanks for stopping by.  If you’ve read the welcome post, you’ll have seen that we offer a mix of posts here.  As it happens, the first proper writing post on our new project is going to be a #FlashFiction prompt.  In honour of the return of the Great British Bakeoff (#GBBO), we thought

THE CAKE

would be an appropriate prompt.

1000 words, by Friday 9th September, 2 pm GMT.

As is usual with this kind of thing, please post on your own site when you’re ready and add a link in the comments section below.  If you don’t have your own blog or similar outlet, do send us your story via the contact form on the About page and we’ll post for you, with an appropriate by-line.  Two caveats if you want to go down this route: if you want to retain the copyright, then you will need to state this, and this is a family show, so we reserve the right not to post anything that strays into NSFW or offends against ‘common decency’.

Update:

Comments section on this now closed – please comment on any stories on the home page for that story!

There’ll be another prompt next month – watch this space!