Category Archives: Flash Fiction

Depression, Poetry, and Guilt

All my good intentions fell apart after my last blog post, and I was MIA for a couple of weeks. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s just…. Life.

I’ve mentioned before that I have Bipolar II and a general anxiety disorder. Both are only minor in the overall scheme of things. In that I can manage them with lifestyle options such as exercise, food choices, meditation/prayer, and avoiding high-anxiety situations. However, “managing” isn’t the same as “curing”, and over the last couple of weeks I’ve found myself on a down — which is to say, I’ve been depressed.

Living with depression is something I’m accustomed to. Since I was eight years old I’ve been through three or four periods of depression every year. Then I’d “magically” snap out of it, and everything would be fine. (I was only diagnosed with Bipolar II a couple of years ago, and suddenly my whole life made sense.) So I know how to cope. I know the warning signs to look for, so I know when I’m not coping, and when to seek help. I know how to minimise the worst of it through exercise and food. I know to treat myself gently, and not try to “push through it” — which includes not pushing myself to write when I don’t have the energy. I know how to cope.

But once my anxiety disorder kicks in, it’s a whole other kettle of crazy.

Over the last few weeks, my life has felt like it’s spiralling out of control. Circumstances outside of my control have left me in a situation that has been thoroughly dependent on friends for my everyday necessities. I don’t want to get into the details here, but trust me when I say that I am eternally grateful to have friends willing to sacrifice their own time and plans to help me in my hour of need. But gratitude only gets you so far, and on Thursday night I found myself having a major panic attack — the first in eleven months.

And around and around in my head went the thoughts.

Other people have it much worse… You have no reason to feel like this… You’re just being silly… Stop being so melodramatic… Somewhere in Africa, children are dying.

And so I grabbed a pen and paper, and I poured my pain and anxiety and guilt on to the paper. This is what I wrote.

The Guilt of Africa

 

Anxiety strikes like a copperhead snake
My vision is blurry, my hands start to shake
Too many weights pressing down on my mind
The burdens are boundless, I’m not doing fine

My problems are first world, my life is a mess
My heart won’t stop racing, I’m tight ‘cross the chest
My children are calling, I want them to stop
I need to curl up in the dark now and sob

My thoughts are a spiralling circle of pain
Why can’t I be normal? My head feels insane
My breathing’s too fast, my head is too light
I’ve lost all my hearing and most of my sight

And somewhere in Africa, children are dying
Putin is marching and oceans are rising
And my well-fed children have pain in their eyes
While their mother just cries and cries and cries

Is this all I am? A heartbeat? A tear?
A mess of emotional, overwhelmed fear?
My fingers are tingling, my toes have gone numb
I’m not even worthy to wear the name ‘Mum’

It’s dark now and cold and I’m sitting so still
If I move, then I’m worried that I’ll break the spell
Of peace, just a little, of paper and pen
And words spilling out like the Duke of York’s men

I have vodka and cigarettes, stars and the moon,
Two children who love me, friends and a spoon,
And a tub full of yoghurt in the door of the fridge
I wish I could eat, but my stomach is sick

And somewhere in Africa, children are dying
ISIS is killing, Ebola is rising
And here I am safe in a home of my own
Strung out, defenseless, completely alone

 

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Filed under Opinion, Poems

Flash Fiction: Sparkle Wish

Yes, you read that right. After popular demand, I’ve written some flash fiction and would love to share it with you.

This story came about based on a writing prompt provided by a friend in a small writing group I belong to. We each had to pretend we only had 15 minutes to live,  set a timer for 15 minutes and write the story that had to be written. The inspiration for the story was to be the following quote:

We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

When I started writing, I had no idea what my story would be about. I just relaxed and let the words flow through me; writing the story that had to be written.

I was very pleased with the final result. A quick spit polish later, it was ready for human consumption. My friend Tonia Marie Harris asked if she could share it on her blog, and I happily agreed. So please, click on over there, have a read of Sparkle Wish, and leave me a comment letting me know what you think of my first foray into Flash Fiction in almost a year.

Here’s a little teaser for you.

Once upon a time, in a forest far, far away, there lived a fairy named Sparkle.

Sparkle was tall and willowy, with shiny hair and sharp eyes, and cute little nubs of wings peeking over her shoulders — a remnant of bygone days when fairies could fly. She lived in a cozy little treehouse, and dined on forest fruit and dewdrop wine. She had everything a fairy could want.

Except one thing.

What Sparkle did not have, was courage. …read more…

Picture by Scared-Princess, shared under CC licence.

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No Escape: A Poem

She waits.
In the silence of her room
And the silence of her mind
She waits for that which comes.

Like nightfall.
Inevitable, irrevocable
Insidiously innate
It creeps over her.

A curse.
It slides through her mind
It steals over her flesh
Destroying all it finds.

The end.
With unrepenting doom
It sinuously slithers
Closer – ever closer.

I yearn.
To take away this baneful curse
To save her from its pain
And see her free from harm.

Helpless.
Powerless to change her world,
Powerless to stand in the way,
Of all that she fears.

We wait.
There is no defence,
There is no escape,
From time.

Hourglass

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Filed under Poems, Random Stuff

Resistance is Futile: A Poem about Writing

“You don’t have to write,” I whispered to me.
“There’s dishes to wash and stuff on TV,
Books to be read, chores to be done,
You could even, perhaps, go out and have fun.”

“You don’t have to write,” I said with a smile.
“Just lay your head down and rest for a while.
The clock keeps on ticking, the day’s getting late,
Too late to be writing, too late to create.”

“You don’t have to write,” I said once again.
“There’s always tomorrow. Why don’t you write then?”
“I’m going to write,” me said with a smile.
“I’ll write every day, if just for a while.”

“The writing of words is ingrained in my blood.
Too long without writing, my soul turns to mud.
I’m going to write. Now get out of my way.”
“But wait!” I shrieked. “Must you start it today?”

“Tomorrow’s a good day for getting things started!
If you start it tomorrow, we’ll both be clear-hearted!”
But me interrupted, “I know you’re afraid.
You’re afraid, for a start, that we’ll never get paid.”

“You’re afraid that our writing will suck really bad.
You’re afraid that our story is complex and sad.
You’re afraid that our hero is secretly lame.
And there’s millions of others exactly the same.”

“You’re afraid that our plot is one clichéd mess.
You’re afraid that the romance is tragic at best.
You’re afraid that they’ll laugh when they read what we wrote.
Afraid that we’ll finish. Afraid that we won’t.”

“You’re afraid of what’s next when the novel’s complete.
You’re afraid to be published. Afraid to compete.
You’re afraid of which publishing pathway to choose.
Afraid that you’re secretly destined to lose.”

“You’re afraid of so much. I hear you. I do.
But I’m going to write. And that much is true.”
“Yes, but not now!” I screamed. “Not just yet!”
“There’s something important you must not forget!”

“Enough!” me yelled. “Now you leave me be.
Your procrastinating is not for me.
Your lame excuses are just a sham.
Resistance is futile. I’m writing. Scram.”

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Flash Fiction: Solstice Magic

We’re getting into the Christmas season and all the crazy madness that entails. Since I haven’t had a chance to write or post any flash fiction lately, I thought I’d revisit this heartwarming story of Christmas magic.

This was originally written and posted last year, and is one of my favourites. I hope you enjoy it.

Solstice Magic

The kid was sucking on a cancer stick when he walked into the office. I stared at him for a bit, the way you do, and he stared right back at me. He couldn’t have been a day over nine.

“Those things’ll stunt your growth,” I said by way of greeting.

He gave me the bird. Then he sat himself up on the recliner. “I’m here to hire you.”

“Right,” I said. I opened the top drawer and dug around for a cigarette. I wouldn’t normally smoke in front of a kid, but he started it. “You’re the Winter boy, aren’t you?”

“My name is Colin,” he said. “Charles Winter is my father.”

“And is he paying for this… whatever it is? You lose a toy or something? Your dog run away from home?”

I’d been glared at by grown men who had nothing on this kid. He didn’t speak for a full minute. I lit my cigarette and puffed on it a few times while I waited.

Finally, he opened the bag he’d been carrying – plain white, just like the rest of his outfit – and took out a small bottle. “I can pay,” he said. “This doesn’t involve my father.” He stood up to reach the desk, and slid the bottle toward me.

“You’re paying me in bad booze?” I asked, amused.

“It’s good booze.” He dropped the butt of his cigarette in the ashtray on my desk, then climbed back on to the recliner. “And there’s this.”

He reached into his bag again and pulled out a handful of black fabric. I watched him unfold and spread it out until it took on a familiar shape.

“A hat?”

He nodded. “A silk hat.”

I raised my cig to my mouth and inhaled deeply while I considered the boy in white with the black hat in his lap. “And what do you want me to do for this…” I paused to glance at the label on the bottle. “…fine scotch whiskey and that tattered silk hat?”

“I want you to dig up a body.”

“What?”

“I want you to dig up a body,” Colin repeated. Calmly.

A host of questions sprang to mind. After a moment’s pause I went with a simple, “Why?”

“Do you read?” he asked.

“Do you?” I countered.

He reached into his bag a third time, and this time drew out a faded square of paper. A newspaper clipping. Without a word, he climbed down and placed it on the desk. Then he returned to his seat while I picked it up and scanned it.

Under the headline was a photo of children standing in a snow-covered field. “I remember this,” I said. “It was a couple of years ago. A group of rich kids said their snowman came to life and danced away.” I glanced at the boy. “You one of them?”

He nodded. “Yes. It really happened. The hat brought him to life.”

“The hat?”

“The hat.”

“That hat?”

He nodded, and lifted the black silk hat up for me to see. “This hat.”

I didn’t say anything, just finished my smoke.

“There’s magic in it,” he said. “It brought the snowman to life. It can bring other things to life. It can bring the dead back to life.”

“Right,” I said. “So you want me to dig up a body for you to experiment on. Is that it?” The kid was starting to give me the creeps.

“No,” said Colin. “I’ve already done the experiments.”

I licked my lips. “What do you mean?”

“The hat can bring things to life, but not all the time. It only works on the Winter Solstice.” He stared at me for a long moment. Waiting.  “Tonight,” he added.

“And you know this because…”

“I experimented,” he said again. I must not have looked convinced, because he kept talking. “There are a lot of dogs on my father’s property.” He smiled. “There used to be. I had to find out when the magic would work, so I killed one and tried the hat each day. When the body started to smell, I killed another one and started again. Last year, on the Winter Solstice, it brought the dog back to life.” He paused a moment, then looked me in the eyes and said, “I need the body tonight.”

He needed a body. I needed a drink.

I grabbed the bottle he’d put on the desk and said, “And in return, you’ll give me a bottle of whiskey?”

He shook his head. “No. You can have the booze anyway. If you help me, you get the hat. After I’m finished with it.”

“Won’t you need it?” I asked.

He shook his head. “No. Not after tonight.”

I opened the bottle and tipped a measure into my mouth. Colin was right. It was good stuff. “Whose body?”

“My mother’s,” he said.

And just like that, it all came back to me. Two and a half years ago, the police were called to a disturbance at the Winter house. By the time they got there, Mrs Winter was dead. There’d been suspicions of foul play, but it was eventually ruled an accident. Mr Winter was too rich to be a murder suspect.

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll help you.”

And I did. I dug up his mother, and he put the hat on her head just as the town clock struck midnight.

That was a year ago. There’s no need to ask if it worked.

If it hadn’t, he wouldn’t have given me the hat. And you’d still be a corpse.

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My Name: A Brief Burst of Poetry

It’s been a week since I last blogged. I haven’t been away visiting far-flung shores, or doing anything exciting. Mostly, I’ve been recovering from being sick and throwing myself a week-long pity party. I finally decided to simply write about how I was feeling. That’s what writers do, right? We write?

So here it is. I hope someone out there can relate. 

My Name

They call my name all day long
But it’s not my name they’re calling
It’s another name I answer to
Inherited like jewellery
From the woman who once owned it
And wore it like a badge

And all my friends are writing books
And singing songs
And making art
And planning shows
And writing words
And following their hearts

While I’m just sitting here and crying
Struggling to find the time
To sit and write a stupid rhyme
Explaining how I’m feeling

And when I stop and look at me
I’m not the girl I want to see
I’m not the girl I thought I’d be
When I was young and getting older

I don’t know who this person is
This person in the mirror
With meals to cook and bills to pay
Cooking and cleaning every day
And there’s never any minutes left
For me

Just me
My dreams and goals and plans and thoughts and feelings and emotions

But I don’t hate it when I hate it
Even when I hate it
I love my kids
I love my life
I love my husband and being a wife

I just don’t love
This me
This lonely empty quiet me
Who doesn’t live but smiles and smiles
Just to show she’s happy

And every time I clap my hands
Another fairy dies

And there’s never enough money
So my dreams all stay unspoken
And when we buy four chocolate bars
Mine’s the one that’s broken

But it’s not all bad
I love my life
I love my kids and being a wife
I love my husband
He loves me
He loves to see me feeling happy

He feels happy when I’m happy
And sad when I am sad
Because everything I do is special
And that should make me glad

But it doesn’t
I wish he’d stop
It’s too much fucking pressure

And I know my dreams aren’t really dead
They’re sleeping underground
Like flowers in the winter
And old men in the rain
But what if when the sun comes out
They can’t get up again?

What if everything I’ve dreamed and hoped
Is gone
And won’t come back
And when I die they bury me
In a tomb
And mark it
Mum

After writing this, I happened across a great post by Liz Michalski titled Run Your Own Race. It helped.

A lot.

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Filed under Life With Kids, Poems, Writing

Flash Fiction: Crime of Passion

The Flash Fiction Challenge over at TerribleMinds this week was to write a Five Ingredient Story. Mr Wendig provided a list of ten possible ingredients, and we had to choose five to include in our 1000 word story. The list of ingredients are below. I’ve highlighted the ones I chose in pink.

  • A mysterious rabbit
  • An unborn child
  • A missing corpse
  • A broken music box
  • An ancient curse
  • A half-burned notebook
  • A sudden storm
  • An indestructible tree
  • A venomous creature
  • An impossible doorway

This story started out going in one direction, and then veered sharply in another. I hope you enjoy it. As always, I’d love to know what you think.

A Crime of Passion

A man wearing a suit approached the desk where Selena was waiting impatiently. “Ms Scott?”

“Yeah?”

He slid into the seat opposite her. He was cute, in a Seth Green kind of way. Not at all her type. “I’m sorry to have kept you waiting,” he said.

“You’re sorry?”

“Yes, Ms Scott. I’m sorry. We just had to—“

“I don’t care what you had to do. You’re the cop here, not me.” She grabbed the backpack at her feet. “Can I go?”

“No, Ms Scott. I’m Detective Craig McCutchins. I need to ask you a few questions.”

“I’ve already answered a few questions,” Selena snapped. “I answered a few questions when your boys picked me up on the street and I answered a few more questions when I got here.”

“Yes,” Detective McCutchins said. “I know. But I’m sure you understand how serious this is. You were found in an alley with a dead body.”

“No I wasn’t.”

“It says here…”

“Show me the body,” Selena interrupted.

“Pardon?”

“If I was found with a dead body, where is it?”

“Well, there appears to be some confusion—“

“Really?”

“Ms Scott—“

“Selena.”

“Selena, then.  I’d just like to clarify some of the information I’ve got in this report. It says here that you were found in the alley with…” he paused to look through his notes. “The body of a deceased woman, a notebook, a music box, and a scorpion.”

Selena didn’t respond.

“Two officers heard raised voices and approached. They saw what looked like a murder scene. You threatened them and then set everything on fire. Is that correct?”

Selena snorted.

“Selena, this is serious. Surely you want to tell your side of the story. As it stands, we can charge you with arson, assault, trespassing, and murder.”

“No you can’t.”

“Excuse me?”

“You can’t charge me with anything. If you could, you would have already done it. You’re just hoping I’ll confess to something if you keep me here long enough. Well, fuck you.”

“Selena—“

“For a start, you can’t charge me with arson because nothing’s burnt. Right?”

“There is some confusion regarding—“

“And you can’t charge me with assault, because no one’s hurt.”

“Actually, you threatened the police officers. That’s a felony.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“Prove it.”

“Pardon?”

Selena leaned back in her chair, a smug smile on her face. “Prove it. Prove I threatened them.”

The Detective peered at his papers again. “It says—“

“—What? That I threatened to put a curse on them?”

“—that you threatened to…” He stopped. “Oh.”

“Yeah.” Selena grinned. “Let’s see you talk about that in a court of law.”

“Regardless, you set the area on fire. That put them at serious risk of injury.”

“Nothing’s burned.”

McCutchins reached across the desk and opened the archive box he’d brought with him. He plucked out a plastic baggy and tossed it on the desk. “There’s this,” he said.

Selena peered down at a half-burned notebook inside a plastic bag. “What about it?”

The Detective’s brow furrowed. “It’s burned.”

Selena shrugged and leaned back. “So? I burn a lot of candles at home. The book caught fire a few days ago.”

“And you just carried it around with you?”

“Yeah.  Is that a problem?”

McCutchins licked his lips. “And this?” He pulled out another plastic bag, this one containing a broken music box.

Selena peered at it. “What about it?”

“How did it get broken?”

Selena shrugged again. “I don’t know. It belonged to my grandmother. She didn’t tell me before she died.”

The Detective sighed and pulled out the third and last bag from the case box. “Then perhaps you could explain why this scorpion is burnt to a crisp?”

“No.”

“Excuse me?”

“No, I can’t explain why that scorpion is burnt to a crisp. Why would I know anything about burned scorpion?” She rolled her eyes. “Fuck.”

“So you’re saying this isn’t yours?”

“No, it’s not mine. It’s an insect.”

“Nevertheless—“ Detective McCutchins began.

“Look, you can’t charge me for arson, because there’s no proof of a fire. You can’t charge me with assault unless you want to tell a judge that your cop friend was scared of me saying I’d put a curse on him. You can’t charge me with trespassing, because I was on a public street. And you can’t charge me with murder,” She paused to give him a triumphant smile, “because there’s no body.”

“No. Er… yes. Ms Scott, you’re not doing much to help your situation. If you’d just cooperate—“

“Cooperate? With what? A witch-hunt? You’ve got nothing. I don’t even know why I’m still here. Are you going to charge me with something?”

McCutchins looked at his notes again, at the account of a fire that burned blue, a vanishing corpse, and a woman screaming that she’d curse any man who stepped through her circle. He sighed. “No.”

Selena smirked and picked up her backpack. “Goodnight, Detective.” And with that, she walked out into the night.

Outside the station, the street looked empty.  And then  a tall, blonde woman stepped out of the darkness.

“Diana,” Selena said, embracing the other woman. “Did you have any trouble getting rid of the body?”

Diana rested a hand on Selena’s belly. “None. How are you feeling? Are you okay?”

Selena smiled and put her own hand on top of Diana’s. “I’m fine.”

“Did it work?”

Selena nodded. “I think so, but I guess we’ll know for sure in a few weeks. The ritual was pretty simple. A body for the flesh and blood, music for the soul, writings for knowledge, venom for strength.”

The two of them finished together, “And fire to create a life.”

Diana wrapped an arm around Selena’s waist and drew her close as the two women started down the street. “Pity about the cops getting involved.”

“Yeah,” Selena says. “But it still beats getting pregnant the old-fashioned way.”

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