There’s flash this week largely because I wanted to write something new but I wanted a warm up before I started. It is likely that F3 posting will continue to be a bit irregular as I need to start trying to write stuff that I have a chance of getting published elsewhere and so I’m planning to focus F3 more on story forms that only really work on the internet
This will by its nature mean that I have to be more selective about ideas and that will, in turn, take longer.
I’ll experiment to see what a likely frequency is and then let you know. For now here’s this weeks:
By Neil Beynon
I can tell their story just as easy as looking at them. Always can.
There is the woman leaning against the wall as if listening for something, only she isn’t listening. Not any more. Her purse has spilled open on the paving stones, a big chunky black Mercedes key, a mobile phone, and a note – a shopping list – flapping between her fingers in the breeze. A time written in biro on the back of her hand bearing the legend KIDS.
I move on. The sound of sirens in the distance speaks of comrades on the way and I know I could wait but the screams are still coming from inside. I move up the steps. The grip of my gun is slick from the sweat on my hand and I can feel the sun burning the back of my neck as I move up to the doorway. There have been a lot of slipstreams this summer.
I don’t know why they always pick libraries.
The man that’s sprawled between the automatic doors is still breathing but the black pool of blood underneath him, slowly seeping into the files under his arm, means he won’t be for much longer. Nothing I can do. The pink charity rubber band on his wrist tells enough without the too pale skin, the broken spectacles taped at the arm, the ghost of a ring on his wedding finger and the take away belly.
I avoid the blood and step through the doorway into the building. The aircon is cool on the back of my neck. My shirt envelopes me in a misguided effort to keep the heat that feels more like being covered in a wet flannel. My gun is loose in my hand but I dare not wipe my hands dry.
Bodies and books lay everywhere. Tales entwined with stories, lives with legends.
An out of work writer down on his luck but who believed he had one more tale in him, on the verge of getting signed by the look of the letter clutched in his hand. A coked up dealer next to him, possibly hiding from one of my colleagues…but no… a chemistry book lies next to him. The man’s stash has spilled across the floor and has turned pink with the creeping blood as if mocking him.
The working mum on the phone to one of her family when she shouldn’t have been, her Bluetooth flashing in the dim light of the library like an LED heart. I can hear someone calling, concerned, over the little headset speaker as I round the corner but there is no one to reply.
There is too much glass in here. It’s not like how libraries looked when I was a boy, now they aren’t just full of books but computers, CDs and magazines. Everything spread out in chrome and glass in an attempt to acknowledge the 21st century, to cling to life just a little longer.
I can see my own face, reflected, as I turn the bend. I don’t recognise myself. I haven’t been able to for a while. For all my certainty about others’ stories I am uncertain what my own is.
The slipstream stands in the next corridor. It pays me no attention as it lowers its mandibles to tear the head from the body of the security guard whose shirt looks worn on the shoulder, his hat fallen to reveal a Mohawk and whose right hand nails seem to be a tad too long. I wonder if he was a good player.
I lift the gun and remove the safety.
The creature looks at me. Its carapace is a mottled purple that shimmers in the light and makes it seem almost insubstantial and its tar black eyes are bigger than my mouth. I can see myself in them but I look different again, distorted and almost heroic if with a dash of the tragic – grey around the temples does that. We stay like that for what feels like an eternity but in reality it is only as long as it takes it to swallow the man’s skull. I place the gun down in front of me and move back five paces. My eyes do not move from the creature until I am a way back. Then I run. It seemed like the only thing to do.
I could see my story: and I didn’t like the end.
Intriguing concept and setting, and I like the focus on character over the “slipstreamers”.
I like it. One small thing: I think it should end with the sentence “Then I run.” The last two sentences are superfluous (and in the wrong tense). Otherwise really gripping and interesting.
Thanks for the feedback.
I might have a play with the end in a bit. The tense change was deliberate but I can see the problem with it – at the very least the penultimate line should have shifted to the last line (and paragraph). And, as GLP says, they might well not be needed at all.