Flashes of inspiration #3 – Entries and voting

Morning all, the time is up and we have a new stash of flashes to read! The magic words to use this time were Huckster, Pilot, and Decoy. The word limit was 300. As ever, I’m posting them up anonymously and you’ll have one week to vote. I’ll reveal the names of the authors and announce the winner on Thursday 14th February. I should add that I’ve failed to join in again this week. Apologies. I’ve been knee-deep in editing. I’ll be rolling up my sleeves and writing again next time.

Read and enjoy.

Decoy – by Andrew Calvert

“What’s one of them John?”

“A huckster? It’s a salesman, a wideboy. You know, all mouth and trousers.”

“Aw, right. And that’s why you’ve given me these fresh togs. Can I keep them after I’ve finished? They are well smart.”

“Yeah, course you can Gary.”

“Gerry, name’s Gerry.”

“Sorry. Gerry. I’m not good with names. Runs in the family, get it off my Uncle Wotsit. So you get the general idea, yeah? You go up to the door all confident, show ‘em your ID card and then sell them some stuff out of your bag. But I need time, yeah? So even if they are not biting, you gotta keep at ’em. OK?”

“OK.”

“Good. Cos this all hangs on you Gerry, you’re the decoy. While you’re talking at the front door I’m in through the back and taking what I can. The longer you keep ’em talking, the more chance I have of hitting the jackpot and making us a load of cash. Yeah?”

“Yeah, sure thing John.”

“Good lad Gerry”

“Can’t believe I’ve landed this, means I don’t have to sleep out tonight. Shit man, three nights is enough. Didn’t think…”

“C’mon Gerry, time to go. You got the bag?”

“Right Gerry? It’s the big house on the left with the metal gates and path that winds up to the house. Yeah? Give me three minutes to get round the back then set off yeah? Remember, you’re a wide boy, make ’em buy something.”

“It’s me. He’ll be at the front door in four minutes………..I’ve told you, he won’t be missed, fresh in town…………we just need a stiff for the coffin. They ain’t gonna look for drugs inside a stiff…………..Let me know when you’re done, I’ll get the pilot to start the pre-flights.”

 

Ghost Written Apocalypse – by Robin Bell

Who knew the end of the world would feel like a snake scrawling through your skull?

He signed in using his allocated username – “huckster”. What was all that about? Admitting that they knew the work he was doing was dodgy but didn’t care. At least it paid an astronomical amount considering how easy the work was. All he had to do was maintain the social identity of a certain allocated celebrity online. He had parameters to stay within and lots of character information to go off to keep it realistic, but mostly he got free rein to be creative with it.

Apart from every 5th update which was sent to him to upload at specific times and had to be carried out to the letter. Sometimes the 5th updates were random and strange, but he didn’t question it. Not for the money they were paying. They seemed like tests to ensure that he was paying attention. Maybe there was a hidden meaning. Over time they began to really bug him as he cultivated the world of this celebrity. Ghost-writing his online social media life was a breeze but these 5th updates were ruining his narrative that he kept creating. It was making his celebrity look a little crazy. And making him feel crazy, like a snake slithering through his skull.

He looked back through all these specific tweets and it made his head lurch. Something felt wrong, like he was under a spell, like it was a decoy luring him somewhere, like he wasn’t the pilot of his own life. Something was terribly wrong.

Who knew the end of the world would feel like a snake scrawling through your skull?

 

Boiler – by Penny Jones (WINNER)

It was cold, the only heat came from the tank that the lady sat next to, bundled under a blanket.

“The water’s evaporated.”

“It’s a vivarium.” She huddled closer. “The boiler’s through there.”

He nodded. He knew where the boiler was, he’d snuck in earlier, waiting until the light went on behind the frosted glass of the bathroom window. People were so trusting; they never locked the door when they were at home. It’d only taken a moment to turn off the pilot light.

He’d always been a huckster, started young, going door-to-door selling boiler warranties. The money was good and it fitted with the plumbing course he was taking at college, though he never finished the course. There was no need. He earned enough from the boiler gig, and anytime he needed a top up there was usually something lying around in his customer’s houses that they wouldn’t miss. But this was easier, no stealing, no police, and he made more money. Once he’d decided on his target, he’d post a flyer through their door, then a few days later sneak in and switch off their pilot light. Nine times out of ten they’d phone, and he’d come round, faff at the boiler for a bit, before relighting it and charging them a couple of hundred quid.

“We’re done! I managed to use some of the original parts to keep cost down. I just need you to sign here.” He thrust the clipboard at the shrouded figure on the chair. The blanket crumpled. Beneath, the delicate filigree of the decoy’s skin disintegrated as the door slammed closed behind him. The naked woman stepped forward.

“I do hope that’sss fixed, it’sss important that the temperature isss ssstable. Heat and food are the two mossst important thingsss following a moult.”

 

Snake – by M.D. Kerr (RUNNER-UP)

Hollow-eyed, they say, for grief. It’s just cliché, until

you feel your sockets hollow. Rounded bony caves

harbour a strange gaze. You look

from the shadowlands and the slipping scales

of a yellow-green snake (both colours: not charteuse)

slide through the cavity where you used to keep your thoughts.

It’s strange, how thoughts can turn into a snake.

We get so much wrong about snakes. They’re not

slimy: they rasp like snagged linen, before they moult,

slide like new dry tupperware, freshly shed. They don’t

attack unless they’re scared – but like my brother said,

who knows what scares a snake? They don’t love.

They’re reptiles. A little boy used to keep one in his bed,

thought it loved him. Thought they cuddled. Snakes

don’t even love their children. Only warmth, and food,

and warmth that could be food. His parents found him dead.

Or rather – found no child, just a snake. Well fed.

Hope’s not a thing with feathers. It’s a yellow-green snake,

a huckster shuffling cups with every coil –

did I say how strong they were? Even the slightest,

a grass snake, no thicker than a pencil

twisting in your palm, is all sinewed muscle.

No wonder that boy couldn’t escape

his boa constrictor. The clue is in the name.

The coils glint like oil, tiny rainbows in the cracks

of every hexagon: a decoy like those sharp, regardful

eyes. The tongue that flits so sympathetically

is tasting air. Find the lady! Guess the card!

In it to win it! Until even the pilot-light that flickered

behind your eyes is going out

and the snake is wrapping

closer, whispering its name –

for warmth, you think, until

you’re hollow-eyed.

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