Hey there, here are the entries for the latest Flashes of Inspiration contest. I’ve been joined by the lovely Tabatha Wood, who interviewed me last week. In case you weren’t aware, she has a collection of short horror fiction out, called Dark Winds Over Wellington. You can check it out here. Okay, so the words this week were Seminal, Ferocity, Pyjamas. We had 400 words to play with and we were looking to evoke a bygone age with our writing. Let’s see what we’ve got…
Beady – by Tabatha Wood
“He’s up there again.”
“That man, you know the one I mean. Perched on the telephone lines. Watching me.”
“Horace, don’t be ridiculous. Come and sit down. Look, that nice Jack Warner’s on the television again. Dixon of Dock Green.”
He sighed and dropped the edge of the net curtain. Margaret poured him a fresh cup of tea. It was ridiculously hot, and while he did his best to sip it carefully, he noticed with great annoyance that he’d still managed to spill some on his clean pyjama bottoms.
“It’s not right, Margaret. Him being up there like that.”
Margaret sucked her teeth and screwed up her face. Here we go again, she thought dismally.
“Horace, dear, don’t get yourself all worked up. You know, the doctor said it’s all just stress. You need to stop worrying so much.”
Horace slammed his teacup down on the table with such ferocity it made her jump.
“Oh. its all very well for you and him to say that, ain’t it? You’re not the ones who see him up there all the time. Taunting me!”
Margaret sighed. “It’s just birds, Horace dear. Ravens flown over from the Tower, most likely. Try not to worry yourself.”
Horace grumbled and opened his newspaper. He shook the pages angrily, holding up a paper wall between him and his wife. Margaret could hear him muttering behind the print. “Ravens… ha! It’s not bloody ravens. It’s some bloody odd bloke sitting on the lines. Leering at me. Listening to me. Poking his nose into my business… Ravens, my arse!”
Margaret wondered if she should call Doctor Charrington again, tell him that his medicine didn’t seem to be working. The Doctor was expensive, but she’d been told his work on avian psychosis had been seminal in his field. He was the best person — indeed maybe the only person — who could help them.
Carefully, sneakily, so that Horace wouldn’t notice, she leant forwards so she could see out of the lounge window.
The telephone line was thick with black birds. They moved as one as a giant hoard, a pulsating mass of wings and beaks. She had never seen so many gathered all together. No wonder Horace was spooked.
He was still hiding behind his newspaper, mumbling. Something about, “Big Brother. Big Brother is watching us.”
A movement caught the edge of her eye and she looked quickly to the window.
Among the birds, sitting casually on the telephone lines, was a rake-thin man, dressed head-to-toe in black. He winked at her and tapped the side of his nose conspiratorially.
The ravens surrounded him like a feathered blanket, and in a flurry of movement he disappeared into the dark.
Grasping – by Dion Winton-Polak
Wormwood was the name he gave in respectable company. Reggie or Freddie when the drinks were flowing. (Impossible to say without a smile.) Charles had a rich tone but dourness was implicit. He saved it for less avuncular occasions: meetings with politicians, bishops and so forth. At such times he prefixed himself with honorifics to smooth the way.
He was given a true name at birth, of course, but over time he’d taken so many he ceased thinking of them as having any connexion with his actual identity. They were parts to play on his path to power, nothing more. What inspired his ambition he could not rightly say, but he felt it flickering within him from an early age. He would be God when he grew up.
What this meant seemed to alter as the years marched past, but his determination never shifted. The five-year-old Heracles in cotton pyjamas became the ten-year-old air ace, soaring wing-armed over Europe; became the fifteen-year-old Hollywood heart-throb, surrounded by adoring imaginary women; became the twenty-year-old Lucifer, bent on bringing Heaven down – for if you cannot actually be God, you might at least depose Him.
His parents did not know what to make of him and, by and large, they let him follow his dreams. It seemed easier than facing his sudden, sullen ferocity.
And then, at twenty-five years of age, he discovered the levers of the world hidden behind thick velvet curtains and mahogany panelling. The Gentleman’s Club, wherein lay true Power. Here he learned what hands to shake and whose to avoid, how to speak without meaning and mean without speaking, and – most importantly – how to lie with utter conviction.
His sponsor was the greatest charlatan of his age, a man whose mendacity was so seminal it inspired an entire generation to glorious, bloody self-destruction. At first it was a game, glorious and intoxicating: who could move the biggest lever? Manipulation became art. Later it became their mission: to shape the world as they saw fit. The old spy passed eventually, unmasked, imprisoned, and executed.
Who can say why he took young Wormwood under his wing? Perhaps he descried a kindred spirit. Perhaps, in the end, he merely wanted his talents to be appreciated.
Wormwood is still playing his games, light as a spider on the web.
God has no worshippers, but he does not mind.
The world is entirely his.
That’s it for now. I’ll be back in a fortnight with another challenge for you.
Enjoy your weekend x