Sunday, 14 December 2014
A small town is brought to it's knees. A statue of the crucifixion hangs on a wall. A bucket of pigs blood falls from the ceiling and covers the Prom Queen. It could only be Stephen King.
Here is where I stand on this one. I'm a life long fan of the Master of Horror but I've never quite got round to reading this one until now. It's such an iconic book and it probably comes to the mind of anybody when they hear Stephen King's name mentioned. I remember watching the film when I was about 14 and being mesmerised and infatuated by Sissy Spacek. King fans like myself have a lot to thank this book for. It was his first published book and maybe if it wasn't for Carrie we would never have had such a collection of fantastic books.
However putting aside my fan loyalty I have to say that this is one of his weaker books. It was written at a time when Stephen King was still developing his style and voice and it is pretty average. There are flashes of genius in there but the writing isn't up there with his best works. It's scary and twisty and warped but he has written far superior books. Iconic but not my favourite.
Thursday, 11 December 2014
Sometimes when I'm not ticking I go hungry.
I sit in my capsule and nothing will happen. The Zolk doesn't appear no matter how hard I try to concentrate. On a good day I will get enough to keep me going until noonfest but on a bad day I will be lucky to get enough to feed a tinkle.
It was Sourday and that meant double helmet. It was the thing I hated the most. Sitting there in my boothical with that thing on my head. It always gave me a headache even though I could always manifest myself a Yoogle afterwards. I don't know what we'd be without our Yoogles. They can cure anything, although I've never worked out what happens to a Yoogle that isn't feeling very well. Does it manifest it's own Yoogle?
I dread the journey to the Helmet Zone and have nightmares about walking the colourdoors that lead to it. The combination is etched into my mind. Yellow Yellow Red Red Red Yellow Blue Orange Pirkle Red Red. It is impossible to get lost. We know our way around the inside of our home like we know the colours of our garments because there is nothing else to do. We walk. We eliminate. We eat and we walk some more.
Ink was sat in the boothical next to me as she always was. We listen in pairs and there are fifty pairs in each section of the Helmet Zone. Ink and me both wear white because we are connected by a birther.
To get the helmets working we have to tick. She is always faster at it than me but maybe that's because she doesn't hate Double Helmet as much as I do. She doesn't get headaches. She doesn't need a Yoogle.
When we are born we spend many years learning how to listen. Even at my age I still struggle to interpret everything and sometimes it still sounds like an incoherent collection of metallic screeches. I think that's why I get my headaches. Everybody is so much better at this than me. While they listen and learn all about the old times, I struggle to hear anything of any use to anybody.
I STARTED OFF with smaller things. Books, cups, napkins, those kinds of things. Things that were relatively easy to sweep under the carpet when nobody was looking.
With practice I developed my own technique where I could blink inside my head so that nobody would notice me doing it. I blinked out many things. The books, cups and napkins were only the beginning. Because of my blinks I was never a bored kid. But my family never noticed things going missing so I couldn't rely on them for entertainment purposes. Even when the dog disappeared they didn't even notice. It was a mistake that one. An oversight on my part. He never came back and I've been trying to bring him back ever since.
But I don't know where they go. Maybe there is a spare room inside my head where they all end up. A junk room as it probably is by now. I imagine my dog lying lifeless on top of the pile. Or does somebody feed him?
When I got older I found that I could blink out things collectively.
It was a difficult skill to master but eventually blinking out one lamp post took away all of them and in one foul swoop I managed to wipe out the humble goldfish. I checked my encyclopedia and as I expected there was no sign of the aforementioned Carassius Auratus Auratus. That's when I learned that I had to use my gift sparingly but unfortunately things like Goldfish, elephants, vinyl records and motorbike helmets didn't make the cut.
Sometimes when life gets me down I feel like erasing everything but I think most teenagers feel like that a lot of the time, but they just lock themselves in their room, they don't have an option to make everything else disappear as well. You see I have to be very careful when I get angry. I've already lost one teacher and two classmates. It's as easy to make a slip of a blink as it is to make a slip of the tongue but obviously the repercussions are much worse. I nearly made mum disappear once. But she's still there. She gets on my nerves all the time and she's always moaning about how I shouldn't be out in the dark seeing as there are no lamp posts and all.
(C) Ally Atherton 2014
Written for this weeks Light & Shade Challenge
'One morning in the dead of the winter three German soldiers head out into the frozen Polish countryside to find one of them - a Jew.'
This is a perfect example of the phrase 'sometimes less is more.' To write a really good book you don't always need a plot the size of The Spanish Armada. Sometimes a book can contain too many fanfares and whistles. Translated from the original French by Sam Taylor, this packs a strong punch. It invites the reader into a world not long gone. A world where 'cruelty' is sadly much more than a word made up of seven letters.
Sunday, 7 December 2014
'Every aspect of Penna's life is controlled for her: a computer programme tells her when to get up, eat, sleep. But one day the programme goes wrong.'
This is fabulous! It's quirky, dark, creepy and right up my alley!
It can't be easy writing a quick read like this but as far as I'm concerned Mary Chapman got it all perfect. This has ticked all the boxes for me. It is original and imaginative and full of fun and excitement. But I think the best compliment I can give 'Virus' is that it's just the kind of book I want to write!
Go read it!
Friday, 5 December 2014
'Jack didn't mean to fall in love with Grace Lynch that morning- or any other morning for that matter. He didn't mean to fall in love with anyone.'
This is a neat little book. My favourite so far of my 'quick reads' sprint. As a middle aged bald bloke I don't read many romance books at all. But this is great. It's like Mills & Boon with a dark twist! It's the perfect way to pass an hour. Enjoyed.
Thursday, 4 December 2014
This is one of Ian Rankin's short stories in book form for Shortlist.
It's a pretty decent story and a good way of passing half an hour to 40 minutes. It's the first Inspector Rebus story that I've read and maybe I should read more from Ian Rankin.
A decent short story or short book, whatever you want to call it.
Wednesday, 3 December 2014
This is another example of a book that isn't really aimed at me.
If you are interested in the military then this might be right up your street. It's a personal account of Andy McNab and how he went from being a juvenile delinquent to playing a major role in the Gulf War and the SAS. His account is both fascinating and a real eye opener. Although I'm not interested in anything military in any shape of form, this book is quite educational and I can appreciate it from that perspective.
Tuesday, 2 December 2014
Do you switch off the life support or do you wait for a miracle?
A brother and sister lock horns in the saddest of battles.
It feels like Jodi Picoult books are everywhere I look these days, whether it's in W.H Smiths, ASDA or my local charity shop. But she's one of those Authors I've either avoided or just never got round to reading. I don't know which.
And if ever there was a book that was just OK, this would be it. It manages to be very readable without out being anything special. OK is the best word I can use to describe it. The story is OK, the plot is OK, the writing is OK. It's a steady 4 stars.
I liked the main plot and Jodi Picoult weaves a decent tale and it's got all the ingredients needed for a good book. There are a few plot holes and a few unrealistic and convenient moments along the way but overall they didn't interfere with my enjoyment too much. I am a nature lover so all the wolfy bits were my favourite bits and maybe that's a bloke thing. Because at the end of the day this isn't really a blokey book. The cover almost screams out women's fiction and although I usually prefer books written by women, it did feel very much like this was step too far for me!
It's a decent read with maybe a little bit too much padding for my taste. What starts off as an interesting and thoughtful plot turns into a bit of a legal drama towards the end. And I'm not a huge fan of legal dramas.
Saturday, 29 November 2014
Dreams come true. Without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them.
I will bag your dream before you even notice it's gone.
I'm a professional dream catcher. Sleight of hand is important but your desire to cling onto your dream is the deal clincher. Some dreams are like limp handshakes. I don't even bother with them anymore, trying to grab hold of a limp handshake dream is like trying to eat soup with a sieve whilst wearing Floyd Mayweather Jr's boxing gloves.
I stick to dreams that are practically flashing their panties. Dreams that are so desperate to escape their human host they will sell their soul to Fred Phelps. Then they come easily enough. A cuddle is all it takes. Or sometimes I will feign a stumble, bump into somebody that is carrying a dream on their back that is making their knees buckle and their souls shrink. Sometimes unrequited dreams make people so miserable their dreams can't wait to jump into my bag. I call them jumpers.
It's a fact that some dreams have longer legs than others and some of them have no legs at all. Some dreams are all mouth. I can hear them from miles away. Some are howlers and some are screamers. Howlers are more common and the likelihood is that there is one standing near to you right now or maybe you have your own howler inside you. Desperate to burst out of a soul that is struggling to stay upright. Desperate to jump into my bag before your dream eats you from the insides and spits you out again.
Ally Atherton (C) 2014
Written for this week's Light & Shade Challenge. Take a peek. It's fun. As usual I appreciate any comments, any feedback, any critique.
Saturday, 22 November 2014
On the outer deck of a North Sea ferry stands Futh, a middle-aged and newly separated man, on his way to Germany for a restorative walking holiday. After an inexplicably hostile encounter with a hotel landlord, Futh sets off along the Rhine. As he contemplates an earlier trip to Germany and the things he has done in his life, he does not foresee the potentially devastating consequences of things not done.
Sometimes when I read a book that has been shortlisted for a major literary prize I find it a little bit off putting and I half expect myself to be disappointed. But I really did enjoy 'The Lighthouse'.
It's not the most exciting book I've ever read and I wouldn't exactly call it a thrill a minute but the beauty lies elsewhere. Rather than being plot heavy it is character driven and cleverly crafted. It pulled me in from the beginning and I found that the pages were literally turning themselves. This is a story about memories and about how bad memories cling to the surface of happy memories like a snow drop sticking to a cold window. It is also a story that gives the reader time to breathe and time to fill in the blanks. I always say that 50% of a book is written by the person that is reading it. Alison Moore makes use of this with a clever use of subtle, yet powerful ambiguity.
I think it's the ambiguity that I like the most about this short novel. It's the story untold rather than the story told that makes it work so well. Whether it is deserving of a Man Booker Prize shortlisting, I'll let you decide.
Tuesday, 18 November 2014
Eight year old TC skips school to explore the city's overgrown, forgotten corners. Sophia, seventy-eight, watches with concern as he slips past her window, through the little park she loves. She's writing to her granddaughter, Daisy, whose privileged upbringing means she exists in a different world from TC - though the two children live less than a mile apart.
I have been waiting for a book like this to come along for a long time. It just goes to show what hidden gems are waiting for us in our local libraries.
As a nature lover it's as if this book was written for me. Each page is full of such wonderful prose, it's beautiful, almost edible. It's quite a short book but I found it impossible to read quickly, almost obligatory that I should read it slowly. The setting, an unnamed urban city area is as real as the main characters are perfectly drawn. This is one of those books that has an atmosphere. Or as Paul Farley, Author of The Ice Age: Poems, says, 'it has it's own weather.'
I was wandering through the brambles and the tree roots with TC. I was there. In this book and it captured me. What an impressive debut novel. You can find out more about Melissa Harrison at Tales Of The City
I can't wait for her new book.
Tuesday, 11 November 2014
On a trip to London a young man sees a woman sat on the opposite platform and falls head over heels in love. Then she disappears.
Yesterday I visited my local library and came back with five very different books and I chose to read this Quick Read first. The beauty of Quick Reads is that you have the opportunity to try out something different, something that you wouldn't normally even look at. This is what I would normally call a kitchen sink drama. There's no big storyline or plot, it just follows the antics of a couple of twenty somethings on a night out in London.
It's harmless enough but it left me feeling unfulfilled. The story is pretty unrealistic (especially the night out in London) and the ending is so convenient Josephine Cox may as well have wrapped it in a little cotton bow and finished it off with the famous last line 'and they all lived happily ever after.'
Try flicking through a woman's magazine the next time you visit your dentist and you may find a story just like this. That's all I can say really.
Monday, 10 November 2014
Set in post war Leeds, a young boy's world is turned upside down when a local man is hanged for a crime he didn't commit. A crime that goes to the heart of everything he believes in.
This could have been such a great read. It's nostalgic, the main characters are well written and the main story is enough for any reader to get their teeth into. But unfortunately this book commits the ultimate crime that has befallen many a book over the years. It tries to be too many things. For some reason the author didn't seem to have a lot of faith in his story (which was good by the way) and the story ends up going off into all kinds of strange directions.
For some reason he throws a rape storyline into the mix as well as a bizarre car chase and then an even more bizarre dead body in the back of a car and caps it all off with a mining disaster! Not to mention a couple of murders and the main character waking up to find a dead boy hanging at the end of his bed! There's too much going on in such a short book that it well and truly borders on the ridiculous at times. And the frustrating thing is that the main storyline is very good and didn't need everything that I've just mentioned.
I fell in love with the main characters and the main storyline was gripping and had everything that a reader would want. But sadly a good book has been ruined by going off into too many crazy tangents. It made the whole book unrealistic.
Monday, 3 November 2014
Anchored somewhere in the Thames, a sailor tells his shipmates a story. A story about savages, a story about an amazing journey, a story about ivory.
Ok I hold my hands up. I read this because Stephen King mentioned it in his fabulously helpful book 'On Writing.' But I can only describe my experience of reading Heart of Darkness by saying it's a bit like reading Marmite. In parts the writing is faultless. Conrad's prose and use of imagery is in places exceptional and anybody wanting to improve their writing can learn so much from it. The book also gives a fascinating and gloomy insight into what atrocities were committed at the hands of the British Empire. Most of us roll our eyes up at some of the terrible things that are happening around the world at the moment but books like this are a startling reminder that were arguably just as bad at one time.
However this was also a difficult read. At times it was like reading a very long and annoying cryptic poem. For such a short book it did feel much longer and I wouldn't advise anybody to read it too quickly. There isn't much of a plot and I can't honestly say that I enjoyed it exactly, although I did appreciate some of the wonderful prose.
To sum up I'd say that reading Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is like eating a very strange fruit. It's different and it tastes funny but it's not something you'd necessarily want to eat again in a hurry.
Fundamentally this is a story about power and greed. And coincidentally enough I can draw real parallels between this and my last read, The Great Gatsby. Both books revolving around selfishness and featuring mysterious elusive characters who come to a sudden, tragic end.
Did I appreciate it's educational merits? Yes. Did I enjoy it? Not really. Essentially books should be fun to read. This has no doubt been used around the world as an English homework staple but that doesn't mean it's fun!
Monday, 27 October 2014
Ever had that scenario where the whole of Amazon and Goodreads seems to have read a totally different book to you? Well it just happened to me.
Don't get me wrong, this book isn't terrible, I just don't get all the hype! I had high expectations considering the fact that it's considered a classic and has also been made into a major blockbuster movie. But for me I couldn't really get into it. And when I did get into it, the book was almost over.
It's well written and I love the narration and I can appreciate that the book is allegorical for the anti American dream and all that. But it didn't rock my world, the way it seems to have rocked the world of a lots of most people out there in AmazonWorld and GoodreadsWorld.
It doesn't go into my top ten but it doesn't go into my bottom ten either. I can appreciate the style of writing but that's as far as it goes for me. I loved Scott F Fitzgerald's collection of stories, The Popular Girl, but this one wasn't as enjoyable.
Wednesday, 22 October 2014
One 5 year old boy (preferably with an an uncanny psychic ability.)
One alcoholic and slightly unhinged father.
A haunted house with lots of creepy corridors.
One dead lady in a bath tub.
A glass of wine of your choice.
Mix together all your ingredients until you create a vintage Stephen King novel that will give you lots of thrills and the inevitable crazy nightmares.
Drink the wine!
I have always been a big fan of Stephen King and have read quite a few of his books over the years but his old ones are the best if you ask me. I don't know how I have missed reading the Shining, but it's superb. Classic King. The movie was great. The book is greater.
Friday, 10 October 2014
Mum was told the police were dealing with something urgent, she didn't realise it was her daughter they were dealing with.
On January 21st 2008, Jessica Knight, a 14 year old schoolgirl, was stabbed twenty times and left for dead in a frenzied attack in Astley Park in Chorley, Lancashire. Found by a passing cyclist she was rushed to hospital and spent over three hours in theatre with medics desperately trying to save her life. Her mother reported her missing at 9pm only to be told that police were busy dealing with something urgent. Little did she know at the time that the urgent matter they were dealing with was her own daughter.
Jessica spent six weeks in a coma and woke up one day after a visit by Spice Girl Geri Halliwell. As a result of the attack Jessica sustained stab wounds to her bowel, chest and neck, narrowly missing a vital artery. She also suffered a fractured eye socket and a stroke which affected the left side of her body. She was finally released from hospital in May 2008 after multiple operations and an intense period of rehabilitation.
In December 2008 Kristofer Beddar, an unemployed French national was given a life sentence for attempted murder. On the evening of the attack he drank half a bottle of whisky after being losing his job as a trainee baker at Tesco.
Jessica, now 21, is making a concerted effort to move on with her life and is thankful for the magnificent support she received from friends and family. One of her biggest supports was her Grandmother, Pat Walmsley who maintained a bedside vigil throughout the height of her ordeal.
Thankfully Jessica doesn't remember anything about that cold evening in 2008. But over the years she had to battle against the odds, a fight that that included severe nerve pain as well as increasing worries about her future. She also became frustrated at not being able to complete her GCSE's and often felt like she was a step behind her fellow pupils.
She feels that as a result of what happened she had to grown up quickly and now has a new perspective on life and how quickly it can be taken away from you in an instant of madness. The subject of knife crime is close to her heart and she is hoping to do whatever she and her family can to raise awareness. Although hearing about knife crime and watching it on television often brings memories flooding back.
Jessica is now determined to rebuild a life for herself and dreams of having a career in graphic design. She doesn't believe in looking backwards and as far as she is concerned the man who attacked her doesn't exist. He means nothing to her and that's how she is determined to live her life. Although she is not looking forward to the day when he is released.
Jessica also has some important advice for other victims of knife crime. She says that 'victims should not go through it alone'. And that, 'it is important that they talk to somebody that they trust, whether it's a friend or a member of the family who can help them through the darkest times.'
Jessica has certainly taken the road less travelled but hopefully now she is coming out on the other side.
Wednesday, 8 October 2014
'I'm afraid they are not very good swimmers.'
My English teacher once told me that the secret to writing was to understand that all words dress differently and that to be able to use them properly you have to see what they are really wearing.
I don't know what I was waiting for but I think I was expecting the doctor to come out with words like hypogonadism or flagellum or oligozoospermia. The kinds of words that wear bullet proof vests and night vision goggles and carry M14 sniper rifles. But he used different words. Words that wore Bermuda shorts and Converse trainers.
Apparently my sperm are trying to win an egg and spoon race with a pair of chopsticks. Apparently my sperm are jumping out of aeroplanes with umbrellas instead of parachutes.
Throughout the consultation my wife sat next to me with a look on her face that I know well.
It is a little known known fact that cows have four parts to their stomach to enable them to digest grass. They are called the rumen, the reticulum, the omasum and the abomasum. Similarly my wife is the only woman in human history that has a secret place somewhere between her mouth and her brain, a place where she is able to store her words until absolutely necessary. Words that you would cross the road to avoid. Words that wear shoulder pads and helmets.
(C) Ally Atherton
Written for this week's Sunday Photo Fiction.
Please take a look and join in if you love writing.
As usual I'd really appreciate any comments or feedback.
Tuesday, 7 October 2014
Last night my wife was unborn.
And you can't bury the unborn just like you can't brush your teeth in your sleep no matter how many times you go to bed clutching your toothbrush. And I know there isn't a therapist in the world I can convince that my wife and my entire non existent family have disappeared into a hole in my bedroom wall.
Lyssa. The girl that arrived into my universe wearing a bomber jacket and a pair of monkey boots. The girl that once told me that success has eight legs and a hairy belly and that all you have to do is decide whether to be scared of it or to smash it over the head with a rolled up newspaper. I know she would have put up a fight if she hadn't been sleeping. I'll give the bastards that much. Either they were doing me a favour or they knew what was good for them. But they got her in the end like they got the rest of my family.
I'd swap places with Ebenezer Scrooge any day. What I would do to wake up every six months with The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come's decapitated head floating over my headboard. I'd settle for a poltergeist in training. I'd sleep with an incubus. Anything but Dark Entry Yard.
It appears on my bedroom wall every six months, in the middle of the night, whether I like it or not and I don't. I then have one minute to chose a blood relative and if I don't make my mind up quickly I lose them all. My whole family. So over the years I have had to draw up a list of every member of my family in order of preference depending on who I want to become unborn first.
Uncle Bill had the unfortunate honour of going first. Which was sadly ironic because the poor guy had never come first at anything in his whole life. But his name just popped into my head. Uncle Bill. A guy that had one foot in 1977 and the other in Ladbrokes. A guy of few words and even fewer redeeming qualities. He would have bet on the outcome of a full frontal lobotomy if somebody had let him. He was an easy pick but my choices would get more difficult.
My cousin Marlowe was next. I hadn't seen him since he was ten and I remembered him being all lugholes and teeth, but when they dragged him away he was a big pile of tattoos and triceps. He didn't go quietly and I can still hear him screaming now if I close my eyes. Most of them scream. The screaming kills me. And the screams drown out the sounds of the hooves and the teeth and the breaking flesh.
Then the hole closes for another six months.The hole in my bedroom wall that leads to Dark Entry Yard. A hole that Enid Blyton would have been proud of if she had been given a personality transplant. If she had ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed and decided to give the Secret Seven a suitcase full of AK-47 assault rifles.
(C) Ally Atherton
Written for the Light & Shade Challenge. Why not take a look and join in? They have reached their sixmonthanniversary and it's a great challenge for any writers.
As usual I'd appreciate any comments and feedback.
Saturday, 27 September 2014
'Open with care. Each packet contains one instant woman who will fall in love with you immediately. Guaranteed to satisfy all your Earthly needs. Just add 500 mls of water. Use by April 2014.'
MY HANDS were shaking as I tore open the packet and poured the contents into the jug.
So it was a few months out of date? What was the worst that could happen? A speech impediment? A limp? A penis?
I added the water and stirred. Nothing happened at first, then it started to fizzle and I detected a hint of vanilla in the air. Vanilla mixed with wild roses and bubblegum. I closed my eyes and inhaled the aroma and then there she was, sat on my kitchen counter in a pair of hot pants and a crop top.
'Howdy lover,' she said.
She was perfect. Two eyes, a nose and a mouth and everything else was where it should have been. And she was all mine. To satisfy all my needs forever.
But I really wished I had taken notice of the expiry date.
She smiled at me. Beautiful and thankfully Penisless. But I would have to wait, I had to get her through kindergarten first.
Thursday, 18 September 2014
I really wanted a Snickers but the love of my life was too much of an opportunity to miss, so I put the coin in the slot and pressed the button.
I don't know what I was expecting. I was on a deserted platform in the middle of the Scottish Highlands and hundreds of miles away from home. I turned towards the strange little vending machine and searched for the returned coins button and that's when I felt a small tug on my sleeve.
A girl of about 10 was stuck to me like a barnacle.
'Is it you?' she said.
'I beg your pardon.'
She seemed to be highly amused and excited about something.
'Which button did you press?' she said.
'That one,' I said, pointing at the love of my life button, 'But I have a feeling it's not you.'
'Of course not silly,' she said, 'because you're my new Dad.'
She pointed up at the new dad button and then at me. I hadn't seen that one and was sure it wasn't there when I looked the first time.
'I'm not your Dad.'
'Yes you are. I pressed the button and then you came.'
'Don't be ridiculous,' I said, 'I've been here all along. It's you that just appeared out of nowhere.'
'No. You're here because I pressed the new dad button.'
'And I asked for a lover, not a daughter.'
''It works every time,' she said.
'Where's your mum?' I asked.
'Haven't got one.'
'Then who are you with?'
'You,' she said.
She had Sarah's blonde hair. And the more I looked there were other similarities. Her stubby nose. Her pale features. And freckles. I was being ridiculous but the resemblance was uncanny.
'Why do you keep looking around?' she said.
'In case the love of my life makes an appearance.'
'You didn't ask for a lover,' said the girl.
'Yes I did. I want my money back.'
She laughed. A familiar laugh that took me back eight years.
'No you didn't. You pressed the Love of your life button.'
She had a point but it was screwing with my head. When Sarah died it wasn't just a wife I lost but our hopes and dreams for the future. And we hoped to have children.
I looked straight at the kid and I saw Sarah looking back at me.
'This is ridiculous,' I said.
She walked back over to the machine, placing another coin in the slot.
'Don't press that button,' I said.
I had seen that button from the beginning but hadn't had the nerve to press it. It was a word that filled me with dread and excitement in equal measures.
'No. Please don't press it. It's not right.'
She pressed it and we both held our breath. And waited.
(C) Ally Atherton
Written for Sunday Photo Fiction
Monday, 15 September 2014
Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be
'Slept with her yet?'
That's how abrupt he was. But I had grown accustomed to his ways in the short time I had been visiting him. He didn't want to know what I'd had for breakfast, he wanted to know if I'd fucked her yet.
His silence betrayed his disappointment so I placed my hands on his cold grey shoulders and let him have it.
'Strawberries,' I said.
The miserable old bastard could get what he was given. I wasn't about to stop eating all the things I wanted just to please him but I think he enjoyed it because his gravestone had gone blank. He was wordless for once and that only happened when he was eating or drinking or thinking of something shitty to say.
'You never had Strawberries?'
'Of course I fucking haven't,' he said, 'In my days you were lucky to get bread and butter for supper and a slap on your backside for dessert.'
I didn't argue, he was probably right.
'What else have you got for me?'
I thought for a moment. Then decided to do it.
Now I knew he was interested. Women and ale was all he was ever interested in.
'Go on. Do it,' he said.
I closed my eyes and thought about last night.
Mary's lips that tasted of the strawberries we'd been eating from the basket at the back of her Aunty Veronica's house. Her rosewood hair that would never do anything she wanted it to when she wanted it to. And then her tongue. Her tongue finding mine for the first time. And my hand wandering nervously down the crease of her back. Slowly downwards. Mary closing her eyes. Mary gasping. Mary's gap-toothed crooked smile.
That would do. I removed my hands from his gravestone and turned to walk home.
Let him stew for a while. Dirty old git. That's all he was getting.
I got as far as the gate at the end of the church yard and looked back to see what he had written on his stone. I had to squint but I could just about make it out.
(C) Ally Atherton
Written for this Monday's Light & Shade Challenge. Take a look and join in if you like.
Thursday, 11 September 2014
He'd seen it in the movies hundreds of times but here he was with the fate of the human race balanced between his fingers.
If he chose to cut the wrong wire he wouldn't be receiving any more Christmas cards from God and his maintenance man days would be over.
So red wire or blue wire?
If he chose correctly the Jesus circuit would be fixed and everybody's sins would be forgiven.
But if he chose incorrectly the Holy Trinity would be lost forever. Wiped from the face of the Earth with one cold sharp snap of a wire.
(C) Ally Atherton
Wednesday, 10 September 2014
'Hello I'd like to speak to Nan please.'
Today they were playing 'Stairway to Heaven' on a loop, great song, but it was a bit much after over an hour of waiting.
Thank you for waiting, if you'd like to call back later the phone lines are open until 5 00 pm.
It was always nine till bloody five. Every Sunday without fail, nine till five. You couldn't complain though because it was a great service. Unbeatable.
There was a website too. Heaven.com. You can write a message at any time of the week, you just don't get a reply. But that's what the phone lines were for. But leaving a message on the website helped. It helped Bryan. He liked to know his loved one's were receiving his messages. It was an incredible comfort and all his spare time was spent on there.
Thank you for waiting, if you'd like to call back later the phones lines are open until 5 00 pm.
He was always on edge when he was waiting but you left your request and waited. There wasn't anything else you could do. Most weeks he wanted Nan and got Nan. She was a phone-a-holic when she was alive and she didn't seem to have changed much on the other side. But occasionally she was unavailable but there was always somebody waiting to talk to him.
Waiting costs money but he didn't have to worry too much about that side of things. He had a well paid job and it was well worth every penny. It was £3.50 a minute but that was still cheaper than paying some middle aged (and probably very overweight and hairy) woman to talk you through a decent wank.
Thanks for waiting, if you'd like to call back later the phones lines are open until 5 00 pm.
Mind you the phone got answered a damn site quicker on the sex lines.
'Nan? Is That Nan?'
'Hello Bryan, no it's Madge Honey.'
Madge again. She was answering the phone a bit to much recently. He didn't mind too much, anybody was better than nobody, but he hardly knew the woman. Some relative of his Nan's, three or four times removed. He'd never even met the woman but she seemed to want to know him inside out.
'Hi Madge. How are you?'
She was belting. She was always belting.Say what you wanted about Madge but she was always belting. She didn't half go on a bit though in her broad, if a little put on Northern accent. She could talk the head off a vacuum cleaner salesman and spit him out again before you could get two words out.
She didn't half sound like Nan though. Funny that. And Aunty Irene and Aunty Beatrice and Great Nan Esther. I guess they all grew up around the same area or maybe Heaven does that to you. You end up talking the same.
'Madge, can I ask you a question?'
'Yes Dear of course but you know we can't tell you too much. Some things are meant to be secrets.'
Bryan had been thinking about this all night and he didn't hold up much hope but there was no harm in trying.
'What do you do?'
'Well what do you do up there in Heaven? Do you work? Do you have fun? What's it like?'
Bryan waited. It wasn't like Madge to hold her breath for more than two seconds. But there was stuff that he really wanted to know. Eventually you got to the point where a conversation with a loved one wasn't quite enough.You wanted, needed more.
'Bryan you know we can't talk about things like that.'
'Well why not? All you all seem to do is ask questions about me and what I do. Can't you tell me a bit about what it's like over there instead?'
'Please Sweety you know we can't.'
'Please? Can't you tell me a little bit?'
'No Honey but go on tell me, how's work going? How's the family? Is your mum still going to badminton on a Wednesday?
She wasn't biting but he was half expecting it. So it was time to try out something else.
'Nan, do you remember when we all used to turn up at your front door at Christmas.?'
'It was fun wasn't it Nan? The whole family sat around your front room table eating the biggest turkey in the whole world.'
'It sure was Sweety.'
'That's good but I thought you were Madge, not my Nan.'
There was pause and something incomprehensible was mumbled on the other side of the receiver.
Thanks for waiting, if you'd like to call back later the phones lines are open until 5 00 pm.
(C) Ally Atherton
Stairs aren't a problem as long as you stick to the rules.
It was always left foot first for Kathleen. On small step at a time but always the left foot first because that's the way it had always been.
And then there were doorhandles. The briefest of touches. A tap of a finger would do but it was important, potentially life threatening. She knew the kind of terrors that awaited her if there wasn't that touch on the handle before leaving a room or that left foot first on the stairs.
Small things but important things.Anything to avoid that phone call in the middle of the night or that knock on the door. She had learned the hard truth at an early age.
When she was eight she would always avoid the red flags on the playground
until one day her foot slipped. None of the other kids noticed anything out out the ordinary but at that very moment the Earth stopped spinning, the ground fell from beneath her feet and her father decided that she was old enough.
(C) Ally Atherton 2014
I wrote this for Sunday Photo Fiction. A new writing challenge that I have stumbled upon.
Monday, 8 September 2014
Image courtesy of Messi and taken from the Wiki Commons
It wasn't the monster under my bed I was worried about. It was the monsters inside my head and they were never a problem until the day they decided to escape.
Most people have nightmares but I think there's a switch or a circuit that keeps them from getting loose and mine is broken. I have a broken switch and my broken switch is responsible for so much crap in this world it would be better if I ended it right here and now.
I remember the first time it happened. One turned up at my school and killed two teachers and fifteen children. It was all over the news and there was nothing I could do but hide. That first one killed itself so my secret was safe but every time it happens I'm scared that my monsters will dob me in. They know where they have come from and I have to live with that and my fear that the police could turn up at my door at any hour.
I'm 43 now and my little monsters are everywhere. Over the years many of them have been imprisoned or executed and a few of them are still awaiting trial at the Hague. But I worry about the ones that have disappeared. The ones that are still out there. I turn on Sky News and they stare back at me with their blank, nightmare eyes. I open the newspaper and they fall out like adverts for shampoo or hair extensions.
But what scares me the most are the ones that are trying to get back inside. I hear them banging on my front door at night. I see their twisted faces through my window. They stand at the end of my bed at night and stare. But they can't get back in because the switch in my head is broken.
The switch is broken. Every morning they creep out but can't get back in. No matter how many times I pick them up and try to shove them back in. And for that I'm sorry. I'm so terrible sorry. Because I'm the reason your world is so fucked up and the reason why your monsters no longer stay under your bed but walk alongside you instead.
(C) Ally Atherton 2014
I wrote this for this Mondays Light & Shade Challenge. Please take a look and join in if you love to write, whether you are published or not.
Thursday, 4 September 2014
'When I was sick, you gave me bitter pills;
And I must minister the like to you'
- Two gentleman of Verona, William Shakespeare
I placed my palm against the screen and waited for it to tumble into the slot.
We are allowed one a day and today I chose a total body healing pill. I have been feeling run down lately and my usual 24 hour orgasm pill would have to wait till tomorrow. I placed it on the tip of my tongue and it dissolved.
I didn't hang around. There was a queue. There is always a queue. We are a nation of waiters but we do it peacefully and in silence. We don't plan our silence, we are forced to swallow a spoonful of silence every morning. It's the first thing we do every day but I don't mind because I am normally in the middle of a rampaging orgasm.
I recommend that everybody takes a total body healing pill at least once every six months. I think of it as a six monthly MOT but most people don't bother. They are too busy experimenting with the new line of pills that are coming out. People these days are obsessed with their slow release sense of humour capsules and their nostalgia capsules and those new pills that make you devastatingly attractive to everything that walks and crawls. Nope. I'll stick with my 24 hour orgasms. Take my word for it, there's nothing better. Once you've tried it you'll be hooked. The rest is junk.
Anyway they get me through the day and I go to sleep with a smile on my face. But we work hard. They make sure of that. Everybody has to pull their weight and they only provide us with the pills so that we don't stop to think about how crap this life is. Because there's nothing else to look forward to here. They work us until our hands bleed and our backs break. We work and we wait and we take our pills and we stay silent, but most of all we wish that we had behaved ourselves when we had the chance. When we were living.
(C) Ally Atherton 2014
I wrote this for this weeks Light & Shade Challenge. Please take a look at the link and join in if you like to write. It's fun and it's a community of lovely people.
Friday, 8 August 2014
'He travels the fastest that travels alone'
~ Rudyard Kipling
It wasn't how I imagined Oz.
Within minutes I had my hands tied behind my back and was hurtling along the yellow brick road by my ankles. I had a sack over my head and something very unpleasant in my mouth.
It had all gone so well. My work transfer to Kansas, the house, the Toto lookalike. And the tornado came just like it said on the weather reports.
But then the house let me down and now there's only one place I'm going.
Fucking house landed right on top of Dorothy didn't it? Killed her outright.
Written for the Light & Shade Challenge. Why not join in? It's fun.
Monday, 7 July 2014
Don't look up, don't even think about it.
Alice was right of course. Looking up would be fatal. So we carried on walking the subways of Boris because that's where we belonged. On the subways. The ever changing, ever twisting, ever screaming subways. We were tired but they made sure we didn't even think about looking up or slowing down.
We walked two by two. Not exactly safety in numbers but luckily today all we had come across were a couple of maintenance droids and a single One Tail that had copped it during the night. Alice has stared at it with morbid curiosity but I kept my eyes on the path. I felt sick to the stomach already and concrete walls are the safest thing to look at because dead One Tails and Two Tails are everywhere and most of them are half eaten.
They only scream in monosyllables. Move,Get Up, Stand Up and Faster being their favourites. You can't get into a conversation with a subway, they talk at you, not with you. They talk at you and kill you. There's nothing in between.
We feel like we're breaking. The only time we get to rest is during the night when we get seven minute rest periods but most of us walk and sleep at the same time as well as shitting and pissing and walking. Most of us are walking skeletons. We wear what we can grab and most of us are shoeless.
The subways are getting longer all the time. You can hear their construction in the background, a metallic wind amongst the sounds of our groaning and puking and wailing.
The No Tails are building the subways 24/7 and I've heard that soon we will have underground tunnels to crawl down when our legs have given way. Underground tunnels to live in, to crawl in. Underground tunnels to die in.
And soon we will be invisible to the inhabitants of Boris. The rightful, worthy,
No Tailed inhabitants of Boris.
(C) Albert Atherton
Written for this week's Light And Shade Challenge. A great place to meet other writers. Why not have a go yourself? You want to write? They Don't Bite! Not unless you ask them nicely.
Monday, 23 June 2014
All you have to do is kiss the bastard and say it backwards three times.
Did I make it too difficult?
Surely it's not rocket science! I'm not asking you to balance the sum of human kindness on the head of a pin. Go on, kiss me and say it,
Is it too high up? Then use a ladder. Levitate. Jump!
Maybe it's an advertising problem. Maybe I didn't deliver enough leaflets. Stuff it, I don't do maybe's. Just kiss the bastard and say the magic words. How difficult can it be?
It's been eighty years now. If I wasn't an Angel I'd probably be riddled with arthritis by now, sitting all alone like this inside my self imposed prison. It isn't very roomy I can assure you, barely enough room to stretch my legs. It's not as if I'm a bloody Genie. Genies have it easy I can tell you. All cosied up in their lamps with their wine and their doilies and their fluffy pillows.
I'd give my right wing for a fluffy pillow.
Kiss me for God's sake, just kiss me and say the magic words.
Don't you want your own Angel?
Ok so I'm not Archangel Gabriel or that bleeding moron Micheal, because as far as Angels are concerned I don't walk in those circles. They're celebrity Guardian Angels whereas I'm just your common Garden variety. Do you think one of them would be stupid enough to lock themselves inside a street sign?
No I'm just Gavin the Knob-head Angel and I was a bit pissed at the time to be honest. But seriously you don't know what you're missing. We could do things, you and me. Do you want to fly? Do you want money coming out of your armpits? Do you want every man and woman to fall in love with you even though you fell out of the ugly cart and landed in a puddle when you were born?
I'm your man. Go on kiss me, say the magic words.
Let me out. Please I'm begging you. Let me out.
(C) Ally Atherton 2014
This was written for this week's Light and Shade Challenge. If you love writing then why not give it a go? It's new, its fabulous and you don't know what you're missing.