Category Archives: Flash Fiction

Flock

Another piece of flash fiction, entered for a competition for darker stories at Darker Times.

It didn’t win, and if I’m honest I wasn’t totally happy with it.  Sometimes the word limit helps, and sometimes it doesn’t, I think this is one where it didn’t.

 

Flock

The rain lashed down, soaking me in the darkness.  I didn’t want to be out here, but the flock hadn’t come in for their feed.  That meant they’d gotten out again.

Fortunately I found the hole in the fence quickly.  Unfortunately it was into the forest.  I’d rushed out without a jacket, and now I was paying the price.  Even better, my torch was running low.  No wait, now it was out.  So now I was in a dark forest, at night, in driving rain, looking for creatures whose colouring ranged from brown to black.  Could it get any worse?

“Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.”

The sound chilled my blood.  It was off to my right.  I called out, “Hazel… Catkin…”  The two leaders of the flock would normally come to me, though I’d always felt their names somewhat mis-sold them.  Hazel could be a real monster when she wanted to be, and Catkin was worse if anything.

“Maaaaaaaa.”

Off to my right again, then answered from the left.  If I hadn’t known better I’d have thought they were stalking me.  Then what sounded like a cry, followed by several more angry bleats.  I ran towards the sound.  I heard screaming.  The flock had found someone, and were stalking them.  I had to do something before it got out of hand.  I tried to go faster, but I was no longer on the path and the branches kept whipping my face.

The scream sounded again, and I leapt forward in a panic.  I found myself on my back, seeing stars and with blinding pain across my forehead.  I must’ve hit a branch.  The screaming had stopped and I could hear snuffling.  The rain seemed to be easing off.

Had whoever screamed been able to get away?  There were a few fences around the wood which the flock wouldn’t be able to get over.  Perhaps they’d made it?  I got up and headed towards the sounds.  I kept telling myself that whoever it was must have got away.

The moon had broken through the clouds, and I could see a clearing ahead.  Dark figures seemed to be clustered near the centre of the clearing, and they were making a lot of snuffling sounds.  I walked towards them, knowing that as they were pheromone bonded to me they’d just assume I was part of the flock.  I gingerly looked over at what they were gathered around.  It was the fresh corpse of a small Scottie dog.  I gagged a little but was relieved, it could have been much worse..

Then I heard more snuffling at the edge of the clearing.  The rest of the flock were there, gathered round a much bigger form.  Peering closely I made out a woman’s shape in the moonlight.  I gagged.  She was obviously beyond help.  I slumped to the floor, dazed and not knowing what I would do.  I couldn’t help railing at the madness of genetically engineering a cross between Soay sheep and wolves.

 

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Filed under Flash Fiction

A Friend in Need

I wrote this as an entry for a competition where the theme was ‘A Friend in Need’.  It was a bit of fun really, and I enjoyed writing it, even if it didn’t catch the judges’ eyes.

A Friend in Need

By Jason Gibbs

Paul sat fidgeting at the table, wondering when the waiter would come.  Laura looked at him and mentally shook her head.  He’d be great if he’d just sort himself out.

“Do you love me?”

Paul froze, caught in the headlights of the question.  The problem was that he did love Laura, or at least thought he did.  It was just that she was, well, demanding.

“Yes! Of course!”  Squeaking out the yes didn’t help.

“Oh Paul.  I love you too, but when are you going to get serious?  How is the job going?”

“Ah well.”

“You were fired… you quit?”

“No, actually.”  He looked a bit abashed, “They promoted me, and asked me to become a permie.”

Laura was shocked.  Maybe he was finally growing up, she was worried he’d stay a man child for ever.

“That’s great Paul!  We should have something to celebrate!”

Paul kind of thought coming out to a nice French restaurant counted as celebrating, but given the smile on Laura’s face he didn’t want to disappoint her.  As she waved the waiter over his phone buzzed.  It was Terry, but he didn’t have time to read the message before Laura turned back.  She’d been very clear with him that he wasn’t to check his texts, or answer anything other than an emergency, while he was sitting with her.  Or she’d storm out.  Again.

The waiter came over and Laura ordered some Moet, which he hated.  Perhaps there was something he could teach her for a change.  He stopped the waiter, and said, “Actually, do you have any Veuve Cliquot?”  The waiter nodded his reply and went off to get some.

Laura was impressed, she didn’t realise Paul knew anything about Champagne, or indeed anything that wasn’t in the Urban Dictionary.

Paul’s phoned buzzed again.  He managed not to make any sign.  Laura was looking particularly beautiful tonight, and he thought he might have properly impressed her for a change.  He didn’t reveal he’d learnt about Champagne during a summer serving at weddings.

When they’d first started going out she’d seemed quite happy with his jokes, and she never seemed bothered when he went out with his mates.  He’d spent time with her friends, who all seemed nice enough.  He’d even tried to set up Carol with Terry.  That had been a disaster though, and it felt like that had been the turning point.  From then on Laura had been pushing him, get a proper job, don’t drink so much, had he ever seen a gym, on and on.  The problem was, he did really want to be with her, he just wasn’t ready for all this responsibility.  The money from the job helped though.

After the starter she went to the toilet.  He’d had a dozen texts by this point, and he now read them.  They were all from Terry.  The first one was just ‘Help!’, they got worse and worse from there.  He was in big trouble, real trouble and he needed Paul.  Desperately.  Paul was certain it was to do with those gangsters Terry had been doing a deal with.  Clearly it had gone bad.  Damn.  How was he going to explain this to Laura?

He tried.  Her mouth slipped from a luminescent smile to a frown before ending flat and angry.

How could he?  She just didn’t understand him.  She’d tried to tell him that Terry was bad news, so many times.  This was it.

“Paul, if you leave now, then we’re over.  Don’t ever bother me again.”

He had no choice.  He left eighty quid on the table, grabbed his jacket and headed out without another word.  After all, what could he say?  He wasn’t going to abandon his mates.

He jumped into his motor and sped home, hoping he’d be in time.  Terry called, and his car automatically answered.

“Paul!”

“Mate, I’m on my way.”

There was a grunt of relief.

“I thought you were leaving me hanging!  Look, I can hold them off for a few more minutes but..”

There was the sound of gunshots.

“Where the hell are you?”

“Back of the warehouses, behind the Fedex office.”

Paul screeched up to his house.

“I’ll get tooled up and be right there.”

“Hurry!”

Paul ran into the house, and dived into the games room.  He jumped into his control chair, with the keyboard on one side and the controller on the other, and hit un-pause.  The speakers squawked, and the logo of East End Wars came up on the screen, along with a Ray Winstone quote he no longer noticed.  His character already had a load of weapons ready, he just needed to dump them in the Jag and get going.  He had to hurry, his friend was in real need.

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Coffee

I’ve been trying to explore different ways of telling stories.  This was my first attempt as using coffee ordering.  The aim was to write a 500 word piece of flash fiction just in coffee orders.  I’m relatively happy with it, and might well come back to the technique.

 

Coffee

By Jason Gibbs

“Can I have a tall, by which I mean medium, skinny: you see not only am I trying to lose weight, but also it turns out I’m slightly lactose intolerant, and actually since I started having skinny I have far fewer stomach cramps, though in all honesty I’d prefer it if you had goats milk, decaf: a few years ago I gave up caffeine for a couple of weeks as a test to see what it did, and I had two weeks of headaches and feeling like I had a fever so I haven’t touched the stuff since, in fact I think I’ve been caffeine free for over three years now, except once when someone accidentally gave me a cup and my heart started racing and I started feeling paranoid, really, it was horrible, never again, it’s evil I tell you, latte: yes I know it’s a weird Americanised version of an Italian drink which is only really had at breakfast in Italy and even then is considered more for kids, it has milk in it after all, but I like it, though I’m starting to wonder if I should have a white Americano, because I think it’s the espresso I like and not the milk, and what with the intolerance thing, and the lack of goat’s milk, I wonder if that would be more sensible, but in all honesty I’ve ordered this so many times I’m not sure I could really change.

“Anything else.”

“Yes, could I have a grande: what we used to call large, it’s for my boss who’s too damn lazy to buy his own coffee and thinks he’s a big man, both in size and organisationally so should have a big coffee, soya: after he heard about my lactose intolerance he had his checked and it was apparently much worse, so he has soya even though it churns his stomach, mocha: because he can’t admit he doesn’t actually like coffee, with an extra shot: as he thinks that makes him seem more macho, or possibly because he heard his boss get an extra shot once and thinks it’ll help in his campaign to get to the top.  Oh, and also extra hot: I’m not sure he knows what this means, but he asks for it, in a kind of, look at me I’m hot aren’t I kind of way, and his secretary rolls her eyes.”

“Cream on the mocha?”

“Yes, obviously, the guy isn’t actually lactose intolerant, and he hates the soya, so he always says yes to the cream and then pretends he only has a bit.  They used to ask about sugar too, but I don’t think even they would agree to add the seven teaspoons he has to have to stomach the stuff.  I suggested he have tea once and he nearly ripped my head off.”

“A tall, skinny, decaf latte and an extra hot grande soya mocha with an extra shot?  Can I have your name?”

“Murphys”

 

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Filed under Different storytelling, Flash Fiction

Hunting

This one was written for a competition which set the opening line, and had a 750 word limit.  I actually wrote an entirely different entry for the competition.

 

I like this version, though an early draft had R.O.U.S.es which were vetoed.  Unfortunately it feels too much like the intro to a story to be a proper piece of flash fiction on it’s own.  I may come back to it and finish the story…

 

Hunting

By Jason Gibbs

“Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”

Father had always been a well of great advice.  I’m not sure that was the best for my first day at boarding school, but his heart was in the right place.  Brain too, probably.

Another favourite was, “Penguins don’t need frying pans.”  If I’m honest I still don’t know what he meant, probably something jolly healthy like: eat raw fish.  Or possibly: technology isn’t always required.  Though he probably just liked how it scanned.

Of course the advice I should have given him was, “If you’ve just shot a large cat, don’t put your head in its mouth for a triumphal shot until you’re absolutely certain it’s properly dead.”  Not snappy I realise, but might have meant he’d have seen me graduate.

The years since hadn’t been kind.  But that piece of advice, while unhelpful at boarding school, had become surprisingly useful in the last few years.

“Jenkins!  Are you day dreaming again?”

“No sir, sorry sir.  Just remembering advice from my father.”

“Jolly good chap, pity about that whole lion thing.”

“Tiger sir.”

“Yes yes.  Get to work boy.  Sewers don’t clean themselves.  Take Jones with you.”

I nearly groaned.  Jones was such a despicable lick-spittle.  If I wanted to stop for a toke or two he’d be off tattling before I’d taken the first draw.  Also, more seriously, he didn’t understand the job.

Like my father I was a hunter.  Admittedly I was hunting in the sewers of our great capital, and not out in one of the colonies.

Jones arrived, cockily throwing his hat on the peg.

I nodded to him.  We were rarely on speaking terms.  He went to get his orders, and came back with his grin quite removed.  It would have been satisfying if I didn’t have to spend the next few days with him.

“Now Jones, we’re going out to the far reaches first.  Rumours of rat activity.”

“Spencer, we work in the sewers, there are rats everywhere.”

“Dammit man, this is the kind of activity we investigate!”

He rolled his eyes.

We were well kitted out.  Leather armour, including steel toecaps and heavy gloves.  Jones had the flame thrower, and I had the flechette gun.  It fired lots of tiny ice needles, which meant it was much less likely to cause damage to the walls, and the needles rarely penetrated leather.  They’d pass through skin and fur easily though.

We set out, and I tried to be civil to Jones.

“How long have you been here Jones?”

“Four extremely boring weeks.  Look, love to chat, but my brother sent me this great podcast which I need to listen too.”

With that he plugged in, and the only sound in the tunnels was our footsteps.

After hours of walking, and a couple of silent rest stops, we started to approach the area where the rat activity had been seen.  I looked around for any clues.  Jones carried on regardless, even after I tapped him and indicated we were approaching the danger area.  He’d never seen real rats.

I noticed slash marks on the wall.  Often the bigger rats would mark the walls of their territory.  We’d had a scientist studying them, he thought there might be a rudimentary language contained within them.  I hadn’t seen him for a while.

A screech made me stop.  The worrying thing was that it was from behind.  I tapped Jones again, and tried to indicate that he needed to get the flamethrower ready.  He ignored me and kept walking.

A few steps on he stopped and then started to scrabble back.  Clearly he’d seen the rats.  It’s always a shock the first time.

He backed towards me and started the flamethrower up.

I aimed up the tunnel as the creatures came round the corner.  There were hundreds of them, their eyes sparkling in our torchlight.  We must have found one of the bigger nests.

Jones opened up with the flamethrower, and the smell of burned rat filled the tunnel.  My job was more technical; I picked off rats which escaped around the edge of the flame.  I liked to think I’d inherited my father’s marksmanship as I killed them.  Each rat was stupid, but the swarm had intelligence and if enough got round they’d be all over us, so I made sure to focus on the task.  My father would have been proud of me.

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Something for the future?

Steamed Pumpkins

This was a Halloween themed competition.  The limit was 750 words, and the guidance was parallel worlds.  I really enjoyed writing this one (and also did a version featuring zombies), but struggled to find a solid finish, a point which was mentioned in the very nice feedback I received explaining why I’d missed out on placing.

I think there’s definitely a much bigger story here, and may well return to this world in the future.

 

Steamed Pumpkins

By Jason Gibbs

Behold, the incredible Hopkins Pumpkin Farm, wonder of the modern world.  Be amazed by the giant chimneys, spewing forth the by-products of pumpkin production, standing tall above the fortress-like barns at the centre of the farm.  Shall we go closer?

This is the main barn.  All the pumpkins are fed in here, and these giant machines sort them.  The wheels, belts, smashers and knives are all powered by pumpkin steam.  Where are the people you ask?  As well you might.  This wonderful machine was built by Theodore Hopkins, even before the plague hit.  He was rather an unpleasant man, and did not like people.

Theodore, never Ted, had a gift with machines; with steam, and, as we shall see, with wind up mechanisms of all kinds.  He built machines to help his workers, to make them faster, and save wages of course.  Then there was an accident.  A smasher hit a head, and not a head-sized pumpkin.  The poor victim took hours to die, and the screams lived on for some time.  Then a cutter took off a man’s leg instead of the stalk of the pumpkin.  The wound was so deep that eight pints of blood had coated the floor long before the doctor arrived.  The other workers, petrified, refused to work with the frightening machines, so he fired them, all of them.  Just like that.

The farm was closed for weeks, and the field workers heard mighty crashes, and some said, mighty screams too.  Then one day Theodore walked out and told them to start loading the pumpkins again.  They peered in to see a monstrous iron creature, all cogs, wheels and steaming pipes.  They fed pumpkins into the monster’s maw, and it cleaned, chopped and selected them.  It boxed and labelled them.  It was even able to cut lanterns, though some said that the designs were so ghoulish they must be tainted by the blood of the dead workers.

Then the plague struck.  The field workers seemed most susceptible to its evil charms, and soon Theodore had almost no one to work the fields.  He had been tinkering, but hadn’t been ready to unleash his new mechanisms, until he realised he had no choice if he was to gather in his pumpkins.  The first of his cog-driven men stumbled out into the field.  The few remaining workers laughed; convinced the old man had finally gone mad.  The cog-men could do the job though, and they didn’t stop at night.  Every few hours they would return to the innards of the factory, where they would be wound up again by the main machine.  They wouldn’t stop, even if someone was in their way.  A field worker didn’t move fast enough, and cog-man shattered his leg.  In previous days this would have been the cause of a strike.  Now the tired workers just packed up their bags, picked up their fallen comrade, and trekked home, never to return.

The pumpkin farm prospered, even as the plague strangled the life out of the countryside.  Theodore continued to tinker.  When the coal stopped coming he barely noticed, as he’d already converted the boiler to run on pumpkin waste, and gas from the giant compost heaps.  His greatest invention though, was the Pumpkin Master.  He invested it with all his energy, and gave it the magic of imagination.  It created the next set of cog-men.  These could plough up new fields, move boulders and even put in fences.  The plague emptied the neighbouring farms.  The pumpkin farm expanded.

Theodore Hopkins’ last day came.  He was ill and wanted to see his creation one last time.  He stumbled into the factory, and beheld the wonder he had built.  He went to see the Pumpkin Master, and after stroking it a final time, fell dying to the floor.  No human came for old Theodore, instead one of the cog-men came and picked him up, and carried him to the compost heap.  Nothing was ever wasted on the pumpkin farm.

The years passed, and the farm grew ever larger.  Farms were swallowed up, their fields converted to pumpkins, their buildings knocked down for more space.  Each year saw yet more tens of millions of pumpkins produced.  The factory farm produced them as whole pumpkins, as sliced pumpkin, it created lanterns in hundreds of designs and even experimented with pumpkin pies, all ready for Halloween.

What a wonder, a marvel even.  Where are the people you ask? As well you might.

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Filed under Dark, Flash Fiction, Something for the future?, Steampunk