#ShortStory: Firelight

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

It’s Friday!

So … Here’s a short story for you.

Firelight

The dead leaves danced in the icy wind. The old Nun stumbled. Her left arm tingled. The shock of what she’d seen quickened her heartbeat and shattered everything she’d believed in. The crumpled and tarnished silver cross fell from her hand and landed in a pile of brown leaves. The light from the windows of the pub beckoned her. There she would be warm and safe. It wouldn’t be able to follow her inside. The Firelight would keep it at bay. She hoped.

The Nun and Dragon, the village pub, was just a few steps away. Sister Mary Margaret had never set foot inside it or any other pub. Pubs were not the sort of places that good Christian women frequented, especially not Nuns or women in their eighties. The irony that the pub was called The Nun and Dragon did not escape her. She knew the village Vicar, Father Peter, often crossed its threshold and threw back a few pints with some of the parishioners. She hoped that tonight was one of the nights he could be found building bridges between the church and the villagers. Sister Mary Margaret needed him to tell her that she wasn’t cursed, that everything they’d been taught to believe hadn’t all been a lie, that her faith wasn’t just a foolish superstition.

She was panting from exhaustion when she reached the door. It took all her strength to push it open. Warm air enveloped her as she fell to her arthritic knees. She heard a collective gasp coming from the shocked patrons. She must have looked quite the fright on her knees, with her habit half falling off. She didn’t even want to think about what her face looked like. Getting up off her knees without the aid of a bench or a pew was difficult, to say the least. She shouldn’t have left her walking stick at the convent. Father Peter and Gregory, the bartender, were the first to reach her and help her to her feet.

Gregory set one of his more comfortable chairs in front of the fire and brought her a pint of his homebrew. It seemed to be the only beverage they served in the establishment. She’d never been a beer drinker; she was more of a red wine person. She’d always felt that if wine was good enough for Jesus, then it was good enough for her, but she had to admit the Nun and Dragon’s homebrew was soothing on her palate and went down easily enough. It tasted of honey and cinnamon and something else, something she couldn’t quite identify. She smacked her lips together in satisfaction and sighed. Her heart rate slowed down as the beer and the fire did their work. Life returned to her limbs and the tingling sensation in her left arm ebbed away.

“What happened to you?” Father Peter asked as he pulled a chair closer to her.

“Oh Father,” she said. “It was just so frightening.”

The memory of her encounter caused her heart rate to jump once more. Her hands shook and tears threatened at the corners of her eyes and her breath caught in her lungs. Taking another glug of beer with shaky hands, she tried to compose herself.

“Are you alright,” Father Peter asked.

She could only manage a shake of her head and then the dam wall of her emotions burst. Tears flooded down her cheeks. Father Peter handed her his blue and white checked hanky. He always had one in his pocket. During confessions the hanky was often used to stem the tide of tears.

“When you’re ready,” Father Peter said. “Take your time. There’s no hurry.”

The fire cast a warm, protective glow around them. She felt safe. The fear she’d felt for the last few hours started to fall away. Her clenched jaw relaxed. She knew she could tell Father Peter the story without worry. He wouldn’t judge her. Taking a deep breath, she prepared herself for the tale. Once she started talking she couldn’t stop. It burst out of her.

“I was walking home from Ashley Morgan’s home. She’s been very ill. I took her some soup and a few groceries. I think her husband’s been having a rough time keeping up with things. So I thought if I took them some food, it would be at least one night where the poor man wouldn’t have to try and cook. The little ones were very grateful that they didn’t have to have a microwave meal again.”

“That was very kind of you,” Father Peter said. “Very Christian”.

“Thank you! Anyway … I left just after five. It was already getting dark. I’ve never been afraid of walking in the dark, but tonight … I don’t know why, but the moment I left the Morgan’s I felt like I was being watched. I’ve never felt my hair prickle at the back of my neck. I’ve heard other people talk about it, but I’ve never actually felt it, until tonight.” She took a deep breath and breathed out slowly. The beer made her head feel a little fuzzy and also a little nauseous. The room started to spin slowly. Father Peter covered her hand with his big flat hand which would have suited a labourer better than a priest. The room stopped spinning. She drank some more beer and her stomach stopped churning.

“Where was I?” She asked Father Peter, a look of confusion haunted her eyes.

“You felt that you were being watched …” Father Peter’s voice was anxious.

“Oh yes … The Morgan’s live on the outskirts of the Village, as you know, and there’s a short cut through the forest to get to the convent. I’ve walked that footpath on many an occasion over the years. When I was a young girl I’d imagine I was Red Riding Hood walking along that path. Silly, I know. I never imagined that, like her, I’d meet an evil creature along the way.” She shivered. Father Peter patted her hand.

“It’s alright. You’re safe now,” he said.

A gust of wind smacked against the windows, making them shudder in their antique wooden frames. Another sip of beer and she was ready to continue with her story.

“I didn’t hear him approach. He was so quiet. I walked right past him. It was only when he called to me that I noticed him leaning against a tree. It was one of the old oak trees. The protected ones … Anyway … He just stood there leering at me with his jaundiced, yellow eyes. And then he smiled. Oh God preserve me. That smile. I’ll never forget it.” Her hands shook as she took another sip. “His teeth were pointy. They looked like they’d all been filed into razor sharp points. His smile, well, it was more of an evil grin, made me believe that he would tear me limb from limb and he would just keep on smiling.” Another sip. “But the strange thing was the way he was dressed. His clothes were immaculate, but his suit looked to date back to the seventeen hundreds. He even wore those ridiculous white stockings that men wore in those days. My heart raced at the sight of him, much like it is now. I’ve never been the sort of woman who was easily frightened, but I was afraid, more afraid than I’ve ever been in my life. And then he spoke. His voice sent shivers down my spine.” Mary Margaret paused to take another sip but her glass was empty. She gestured to Gregory that she needed a refill.

“What did he say?” Father Peter leaned forward in his seat.

“I can’t repeat it. It’s too vulgar,” She said looking around to see where Gregory was with her beer.

“Please tell me,” Father Peter said. “What did he say?”

“He said that he’d always wanted to … I can’t say the word he used … that he’d always wanted to fornicate with a Nun.” Her cheeks turned scarlet. “That he wanted a holy … a holy … fu … fu … fuck,” she choked the word out and instantly clamped a hand over her mouth, shocked that she’d uttered it. The word felt dirty on her tongue. Thankfully Gregory brought her another glass of beer and she could wash the word away. The beer travelled down to her toes and made them feel warm and fuzzy. Stretching out in her seat, she placed her feet closer to the fire and wiggled her toes inside her shoes. The fire warmed the tip of her cold nose, turning it pink. A contented sigh escaped her mouth.

“Sister Mary Margaret.” Father Peter’s indignant voice reminded her that she’d just said that word. “I’m shocked and appalled.”

“I’m so sorry Father, but you did ask me what he said and that was the word he used,” she said, taking another sip of the delicious brew.

“I did, didn’t I? My apologies. What happened next?” Father Peter asked.

“I froze. I couldn’t believe my eyes or my ears. I was shocked. No one has ever said something so disgusting to me before and coupled with his horrendous appearance I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to run, but my legs haven’t been equipped for speed for quite some time now. And then he was right in front of me. I didn’t even see him move. His breath reeked of blood and sulphur. The most abhorrent stench that’s ever wafted up my nostrils. He smelt worse than mother superiors rude noises after bean soup. I brandished my crucifix as though it were King George’s sword. He simply laughed in my face. His spittle smacked my left eye. It stung like the devil, which is probably what he was. Can you see if my eye is still red?” She blinked her left eye a couple times.

“It looks a little red, but I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

“I hope you’re right. It really is rather scratchy.” She sniffed, and rubbed her eye.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine. What happened next?”

“He yanked the crucifix from around my neck and dangled it in front of my nose. And then he had the audacity to tell me that my God has no power here. Dropping the cross in the palm of his large claw like hand, he crumpled my crucifix as though it were made of tinfoil. My mother gave me that crucifix the day I took my vows.” A tear trickled down her cheek as she remembered her mother fastening the chain around her neck on that special day. Using the hanky she dabbed her eyes and then had another sip of beer. “Then as though that wasn’t bad enough, he breathes on it and set’s it on fire! I couldn’t believe it. After he blew the fire out he handed it back to me as though it were the most normal thing in the world. I tell you, if I’d had my umbrella or my walking stick with me, I’d have bludgeoned him over the head with it. I was so angry. Humph.” She stomped her foot.

“I’m so sorry,” Father Peter said and patted her hand. “It must have been a terrible ordeal.”

“That wasn’t the end of it,” Sister Mary Margaret said. “He slowly walked around me, circling me with his stench. He trailed his hot fingers along my back. His hands were so hot; I thought he would scorch me dress and that my skin would blister. Grabbing my hair, he yanked my head back and thrust his forked tongue into my mouth. His tongue slithered down my throat. I gagged on it and his foul breath almost made me faint. And then he just disappeared. His laughter and his stench hung in the air after he’d left. His laughter followed me all the way here. I’m sure he’s still out there waiting, lulling me into a false sense of security. I know he’s out there waiting for me. He wants to do bad things to me.”

The old wooden doors to the pub flew open and Sister Mary Margaret’s devil waltzed in.

“Hello Greg,” he greeted the barman. “How about a pint of that magic ale of yours for a weary traveller?”

Gregory stared; slack jawed, at the new comer. The beer glass tap tapped against the metal arm of the beer tap as he poured the drink. A hush fell over the busy pub, and twenty pairs of eyes watched as Sister Mary Margaret’s devil picked up his glass and sauntered over to the fire, where Sister Mary Margaret sat in shocked silence.

“Oh that does feel good,” He said as he stood with his back to the fire and warmed his backside.  “’Ello Ducks. Fancy another kiss?” The devil winked and Sister Mary Margaret fainted.

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This story was originally published in Tales of The Nun and Dragon

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#ShortStory: Trapped

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

It’s Friday!!

Here’s a short story for you…

Trapped

Hey you! Yes, I’m talking to you. Don’t pretend you don’t see me. There is no way you could possibly miss a woman locked in a box in the middle of a field. You’re not completely blind are you? Please don’t just walk away. I need your help. Come a little closer. I won’t hurt you. Can’t you see I’m trapped in here?

Okay, I can see from your expression that you think this is some sort of hoax. There are no hidden cameras. No one’s going to jump out from behind a bush and scream “surprise”. Have a look around; it’s just you and me. Yes, I feel it too. It feels like we’re being watched, but I’m sure it’s nothing. Please just get me out of this thing. Sorry! I shouldn’t have yelled at you. I’m a little frustrated. Being locked in a box for a night and all day will do that to a girl. They’ve all gone. Packed up and left in the middle of the night like something was chasing them. Hopefully whatever was chasing them isn’t here. Don’t worry. I’m sure it’s not.

Those freaks from Dark’s Carnival left in such a hurry they left this field scarred by their caravan wheels. It’ll take the earth a while to recover from their destruction. And that god awful smell, in case you’re wondering, is elephant and horse shit. It’ll be dark soon and if I don’t get out of here before then something terrible is going to happen to me. Don’t pull that face. This is no joke. I’m being serious. Look, I’m still not sure how it happened or why she did this to me. I didn’t insult her, or at least I don’t think I did. Did I? Okay, so I might have told her that her tarot reading was the biggest load of crap. And maybe I did freak out a little, but if she’d told you the things she told me, you would also have freaked out. Anybody would. I’m not some homicidal demon stuck in human form. The woman is clearly off her rocker. Tarot readings are supposed to be fun. They’re not supposed to be all gloom and doom, are they? I’d never had one before. Have you?

Anyway, Madam Zinzi and the rest of her tribe of unwashed carnie folk left me here, stuck in this bloody box stage magicians use to saw people in half, with only my head, hands, and feet sticking out. They wrapped that chain around the top and the bottom and the padlocks are out of reach. They also didn’t leave me a key to unlock them. I don’t suppose you have any tools in your car? I’m not an escape artist for fuck’s sake. It doesn’t matter how hard I bang around in here, I can’t get out. And now thanks to the constant rain my head is also soaking wet. I just know I’m going to get a cold. Those bastards told me I had until sundown then he would come for me. You’re not him, are you? It’s not an unreasonable question. You are a he, aren’t you? And it’s almost sundown, and you’re here in this field. So it’s not completely beyond the realms of possibility that you’re him. So … are you him? No. You sure? Okay. I believe you.

Sorry. I’m rambling. I’ve gotten a little ahead of myself and forgotten my manners. Let me take a breath and a virtual step back so I can tell you the story as calmly as possible. I’m Josephine. If you take a step over this way, I can shake your hand. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I don’t suppose you can move your umbrella to cover my head as well as yours. I’d really appreciate it. Thanks.

So … This mess started last night when my friends decided that a trip to Dark’s Carnival would be a good laugh. Boy were they wrong. It certainly started off as a fun night out. Who doesn’t enjoy candy floss, toffee apples, and carousels? I know I certainly do. We even met a few attractive guys from town who bought us a couple drinks at the beer tent. Some of the men from the carnival were also rather cute, although there were a few freaks as well. The elephant man scared the crap out of me. Don’t get me started on what some of the women looked like. If I had a face like some of them I don’t think I’d have a mirror anywhere in my house. Were you here last night? Did you see what the bearded lady looked like? Talk about being hit by the ugly stick. Sorry! I’m digressing. I tend to do that when I’m freaking out.

It was shaping up to be such a promising night. Jeff, I think his name was Jeff, asked me if I’d have dinner with him next week. I even gave him my number. I don’t normally do that but it’s been such a long time since I went on a proper date. I was actually feeling a little giddy. I haven’t felt like that since I was a teenager. Jeff took me up on the Ferris wheel. I hadn’t done that in years. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that I’m afraid of heights, but I think he guessed that I was scared and held my hand the whole time. We kissed right at the top and, for a few moments, I forgot all about my fears. For that moment in time I was just a girl enjoying her first kiss with a boy. It was all so very romantic.

The hall of mirrors was a little creepy. A sign of things to come. I always thought that those mirrors were only supposed to make your body look a bit funny, but this one was different. Jeff said it was just trick lighting, but I’m not so sure. I kept seeing a shadowy figure just at the edge of the reflection, but when I turned around to see if anybody was behind me, there was nothing there. When I turned back to look at the mirror, my reflection was different. My eyes seemed to change. It was slight, almost imperceptible. My eyes went from brown to red then back to brown. I would probably have thought it was a pretty cool trick if it hadn’t been for that shadow giving me the creeps.

I was already feeling a little on edge when Jodi came up with that hare-brained scheme. Stupid bloody woman. She decided that we all had to go have our fortunes read. Madam Zinzi was at the edge of their encampment. The bright red caravan stood out of the dark like a beacon in the night. Mist from the river swirled around our feet, giving the whole place an otherworldly feel. Although she may also have had one of those fog machines they use in night clubs. I wouldn’t put it past that bitch. We all took turns to have our fortunes told. Jodi went first and came out in tears. Apparently Madam Zinzi had seen death in Jodi’s near future. I mean, everybody dies at some point or another. Nobody gets out alive. Why death was such a shock to her system was beyond me. But then the rest of the gang had similar experiences. Which was a little strange, I grant you. They all came running out one by one, with these horrified expressions then they all gawked at me as though I’d killed their dogs. From the looks they gave me, one could have sworn that I was pointing a gun at them and threatening to pull the trigger then and there. It was completely nuts.

Madame Zinzi’s voice came from inside her blood red camper, calling my name. I must admit the sound of her voice gave me a shiver up my spine. One of my so-called friends must have told her my name. There’s no other explanation for it, is there? She couldn’t have known it by herself. She couldn’t have plucked it out of the ether, could she?

My heart was thumping up a storm as I walked up those steps to her caravan. Candles were burning all over the place. A real fire hazard if you ask me. She sat in the corner behind a small makeshift camping table which looked like it would buckle under the weight of her ample breasts. They had to be a double D at the very least. After I recovered from my cleavage envy and got my heart to stop racing I managed to observe more. A crystal ball rested on the counter. I was mesmerized by the smoke churning inside. The smoke formed into a huge eye and as I watched, I felt as though I was being pulled towards it. The eye was staring at me, into me, and examining my soul. Judging by what happened next, I think my soul came up wanting.

The candle flames flickered in the breeze, but I couldn’t figure out where the air was coming from, the door and windows were all closed. Madame Zinzi’s eyes went pitch black. My throat tightened and my palms got sweaty. The hair on my nape stood on end. I’ve always heard that expression but never actually experienced it until last night, and I hope never to experience it again. My heart still hasn’t recovered. My ears itched and felt blocked. You know how your ears get blocked up when the cabin pressure changes in an aeroplane? Like that. I didn’t think things could get stranger, but I was wrong.

Madame Zinzi shuffled her deck of cards and grinned at me. Her teeth were skew and yellowing from smoking too many cigarettes. A cigarette smouldered in a dirty ashtray that was already filled with butts. The smoke mingled with that from the candles, the small space filled up with smoke quickly and I struggled to breathe. I’ve never suffered from claustrophobia, but last night I did. I wanted to run. I needed to get out of that tiny, smoke-filled caravan, but the door was locked. I know I didn’t lock it when I went in. I know I didn’t. No matter how hard I tried, the damn door wouldn’t open. I even tried kicking it, but it wouldn’t budge.

‘Calm yourself.’ Her voice was sharp and heavily accented. She sounded Russian. I couldn’t help but do as she commanded. I was transfixed. I had to obey her. ‘Come. Sit.’ The cards flew through her fingers as she shuffled. The Tower, Death, and The Hanged Man landed on the table in front of me.

‘A sacrifice is required.’

‘What is that supposed to mean?’ I asked. I thought it was a perfectly acceptable question, but she didn’t seem to think so. She just ignored me

‘He is coming.’ She sounded like one of those cryptic oracles foretelling death and destruction.

‘Who is coming?’ I asked. Once again she ignored me. It took me a while, but I eventually realised that she was channelling something. Madame Zinzi had left the building. Okay the caravan. Same thing. You know what I mean. There was something else inside that camper, and I don’t think it was human.

‘He comes on the wind calling for Josephine. All will die who stand in his way. He searches for his mate, his other half trapped inside the human. She must be given to him. Death will follow swiftly unless he is reunited with his love.’

The next thing I knew I was in this box and everybody was gone. My friends abandoned me. I can’t believe they left me here to die. How could they believe that fortune teller? Don’t look at me like that. Not you too? It’s ridiculous. I’m not some demoness trapped in human form. I told you the crazy bitch was off her rocker. I’m not some great evils long lost love. I know that crap is all romantic in the movies, but when you’re the one shoved in the box waiting to be sacrificed, it’s not so romantic. Trust me.

What are you looking at? Do you see something?

Shit! The sun is setting. I have to get out of here. Please. Help me. What was that? Did you hear that?

No. Please don’t leave me here alone. Come on. Be a man. Where’s a hero when you need one. I’m sorry I didn’t mean that. Please come back. Fuck! Please don’t leave me here. I’ll do anything. Oh! Come on. This is so not fair. And now I’m talking to myself. Great. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, it goes pitch black. Oh my god! What the hell is that thing? No!

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This story was originally published in Noir Carnival

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#ShortStory: The Trial

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Since it’s Friday I thought I’d share another short story with you. I hope you enjoy it.

The Trial

The Judge presiding over my case sat on his oversized and overstuffed throne. He was one of the three men who decided over life and death in our city. Judge Farris had a reputation for being a hard case. He’d put more people to death during the culling than all of the other judges put together. He would be the one who would decide if I was a useful member of society or not. If he decided I wasn’t, that would be it. I’d lose my head. The thought of the executioners axe coming down on my scrawny little neck made me want to run to the bathroom again. I hadn’t stopped needing to pee since my number had been drawn.

In every town, in every part of the world, identity numbers had been thrown into wooden boxes and one by one our numbers were drawn to decide if we would live or die, depending on how useful we were. Prisoners were executed first, and prisons stood as empty, reminders of the past. Then the over sixty-fives were crossed off the list, their assets seized by the state and their organs recycled. Those with IQ’s under 110 were also immediately crossed off the list and deemed as unfit breeding stock. The culling had begun two years ago, and the executioner was very busy.

I’d been one of the lucky ones who’d had those extra two years of life. It had taken the courts longer than anticipated to get through all the numbers. They’d only managed to execute about two thousand people in our city over the last two years through the court system, not including the prisoners and over sixty-fives. Two years of daily executions can be deadening on the spirit, but I’d had the time to meet my nephew, see a few more sunsets, and enjoy the feel of the sun on my skin, which so many others could no longer do. It’s amazing how the small things that count when your number could be up at any moment.

The world population had reached the nine billion mark. Famine and water shortages raged.  Governments all over the world came to the conclusion that there was only one solution. The courts were tasked with deciding on which members of society were the most productive, whose life had the most value. My mother had been one of the first to go. She had been over sixty-five. My sister was a teacher, with an IQ of 130 and therefore useful. My brother, a farmer, was also found useful in a world where there wasn’t enough food and too many lawyers and accountants. The old university degrees, once so sought after, were no longer as important as they once were — now it was genetics and intelligence that mattered. If university graduates didn’t have an added skill, or were not the best at what they did, or were not classified as good breeding stock, they were crossed off the list; even being prematurely bald was a reason for being culled. No ordinary citizen was safe.

My heart felt as though it was trying to escape from my chest. I understood its desire for escape. The thought of running away had crossed my mind more than once, but there was nowhere to run. At this rate, I’d die of a heart attack long before the trial was over, saving the judge the trouble of deciding my fate. My trial wouldn’t take long. I’d have a day at the most to convince them that I was worthy to continue breathing. I was allowed to plead my case because I had good genes and a relatively high IQ, but the question was: was I useful? Was a writer needed in this new society? Was a freethinking author someone they wanted to keep in the new world order? I didn’t hold out much hope. I wasn’t a bestselling author or famous; the rich and famous were pretty much exempt for their ‘social’ contributions.

The courthouse had been built in 1802, two hundred and fifty years ago, and had survived two world wars and an attempted bombing two years ago by terrorists protesting the culling — they’d only succeeded in blowing themselves up, four more people the courts didn’t have to worry about. The wooden panelling on the walls of the courtroom was a dark mahogany and made the room feel solemn and yet strangely warm.  It felt right that my fate would be decided in a room as old and as grand as this one.

“Marin Brown,” the Bailiff called. I heard my name through a wall of nervous fuzz in my ears.

I walked down the stairs and stood in the wooden box, where the Bailiff told me to stand, my legs wobbling under me. I wasn’t sure how I’d manage to stand throughout the ordeal. Judge Farris sat on my right, looking down his nose at me. His white wig looked like it dated back to when the court had first been built; it probably itched like hell. His eyes were dark and cold. He probably only had another five years to go before he too was culled. The thought gave me some comfort, but not much. My bladder wanted to go, but I would have to hold it till the end, there would be no recess.

The Judge banged his gavel a few times, calling the court to order. The wood hitting wood reverberated through my brain and made the hair on my arms stand up. I spotted my brother and   sister sitting in the front row. They would speak on my behalf during the proceedings. It was up to them and the few people who had read my work to convince the judge that my life should be spared. There would be no lawyer to defend me; the few left were too expensive for a poor writer. I would have to argue my own case, fight for my own survival.

The judge looked over the rim of his glasses and stared down at me from his judgemental height. His beaked nose reminded me of a Dickensian character. I couldn’t decide if he looked more like Martin Chuzzlewit or Fagin.

“Stand up properly young lady,” Judge Farris said. His voice was hard. “This court has been called to order, and you will stand to attention throughout the proceedings. If you sit at any time I will make my ruling immediately, and it will not be favourable. Do you understand?”

“Yes sir,” I choked. My tongue was too thick for my mouth. My brother’s neighbours, who were often spectators at trials and had seen Judge Farris in action, had told me that the Judge felt that standing to attention was a point of respect, and failure to do so was to demonstrate contempt. He’d once made a pregnant woman stand for several hours before declaring that she had to have an abortion. It had been her third child, and unless she was prepared to have one of her other children culled, she would have to get rid of her latest addition. He had also declared that if she didn’t start practising safe sex, she, too, would be culled.

“Would those who are here to speak for this woman stand?” Judge Farris instructed. My sister, brother, a few fellow writers, and a couple people I didn’t know, stood. Together, they didn’t even fill up half of the front row. There had been a public announcement letting people know about my trial, the usual notification that went out for all trials, asking anybody who knew me to show up and speak on my behalf. Notifications, however, were only sent out the day before the trials.

“Your testimony must be completely accurate. If you are found to commit perjury, your status will be called into question and you will find yourself in the dock. Is that clear?” The judge instructed.

The witnesses for my defence nodded in unison. My stomach fell a few notches. Nobody would lie for me or exaggerate my usefulness — I wasn’t worth dying for.

“You,” the judge pointed at my brother, his short, cropped blond hair, calloused hands, and deep tan screamed that he spent many hours working the land, “step forward.” Jason took a few tentative steps closer. “Come closer,” the judge commanded. “Stand where I can see you properly.” Judge Farris leaned forward in his seat. “Who is this woman to you?” The judge asked.

“She’s my sister, Your Honour,” Jason replied.

“Besides being your sister, is there a reason she should be allowed to continue to exist in our midst?”

“Y… Yes your honour,” Jason stammered. “She’s a very talented writer, she helps my wife with our child, and she cooks really well, and she pays us rent when she can.”

“Did you get permission to have this child?” The judge asked with a furrowed brow.

“Y… Yes your honour.” Jason’s face turned white. The implication in the judge’s question was obvious. If he didn’t have permission, his son’s life would be forfeit.

“And your sister stays with you?” Judge Farris raised his eyebrow.

“Yes your honour. She used to stay with our mother and looked after her, but when Mom was culled, my sister moved in with me and my wife. We needed help with our baby because our nanny was culled.”

“Why was your nanny culled?”

“She was classified as being poor breeding stock, but as you can see my sister is from very good breeding stock.”

“Is she?” The judge looked over at me. I felt his eyes roving over every inch of me, judging me, looking for imperfections — they wouldn’t be hard to find. My slightly crooked teeth and pale blue eyes, indicative of eventual bad eyesight, were painfully obvious. Even though I didn’t need glasses, my eyesight was not perfect and the judge would most certainly use it against me. Then there was my broken nose too, which I’d broken when I was six while trying to prove that I could climb a tree just as well as Jason.

“You may be seated.” My brother was dismissed. His testimony hadn’t lasted as long as I thought it would. At this rate, my trial wouldn’t even last an hour. I had a feeling the judge had already made up his mind.

He then called up my sister, Iris, to testify. She looked every bit the teacher, but unlike me, her eyesight was perfect. She and Jason both had brown eyes, the same as our mother. I’d inherited our fathers blue eyes and poor eyesight. Her testimony was even shorter than my brother’s. He asked her only one question. “Does your sister make enough money from her writing to support herself or is she a burden on your brother and you?”

My sister looked like a doe caught in the headlights.

“She’s not a burden, Your Honour,” Iris finally managed to say. “She pays her own way.”

“Does she?” Judge Farris leaned further forward and eyed my sister over his glasses. Iris took a step backwards. Her lower lip shivered, usually a sign that she was about to cry.

“Dismissed,” the Judge said, and sounded bored. He leaned back in his chair and sighed. “Next,” he said without looking to see who would be speaking for me. I didn’t recognise the man who stepped forward. He wore an old tweed jacket and looked like a university professor.

“Have you read this woman’s work?” The Judge asked.

“Yes,” the stranger said.

“Did you enjoy it?”

“Yes.”

“Would you buy anything else she wrote?”

“I think so, yes,” the stranger said looking at me and smiling. I tried to smile in return, but my face didn’t co-operate.

“Dismissed.” The Judge then looked at the handful of people still standing. “Are the rest of you all here to give similar testimony?”

They all nodded in reply.

“So noted. I’ll stipulate for the record that the remaining witnesses all stated the exact same thing as the previous witness.” The Judge banged his gavel when audience members started to chatter amongst themselves at his decision. The stenographer typed out his stipulation. His decision recorded for posterity. “Looks like I’ll make my tee time after all.” The judge sounded pleased with himself.

“May I object to that ruling, Your Honour?” I asked, my voice just above a whisper.

“No you may not.” Judge Farris banged his gavel again. “I’m ready to deliver my verdict.”

“But I haven’t had a chance to defend myself,” I said, my voice rising above the sound of the gavel.

“I have made my decision and there’s nothing you can say that will change your fate. You are a burden on your family. You are not prolific enough or good enough to compete with other high calibre writers. There is not room in our society for yet another mediocre author. I therefore sentence you to death. You will be sent from here to your place of execution. There will be no reprieve.” The Judge banged his gavel.

My sister collapsed in a hysterical heap. My brother stared at me, his mouth open in shock.

“Bailiff, take her away.” I heard the Judge’s words as though from a distance. My skin tingled on my face and I desperately needed to go to the toilet, but I refused to embarrass myself. I promised myself that I would be culled with some dignity.

We’d all heard the stories of how some people carried on when they were led away, the hysteria. I would leave that to my sister. I squared my shoulders and allowed the bailiff to lead me out. There was a part of me that still clung to some small hope that the judge would change his mind, that he’d realised he’d made a mistake, but I knew those hopes were futile. The judge never changed his mind.

I would be dead before sunset.

There was a short queue waiting for the executioner in the holding cell. There were three trials everyday, of which two, at least, ended with a death sentence. It didn’t happen often that one of the judges allowed someone to carry on existing, especially Judge Farris.

Another woman waiting to be culled sat in a corner, sobbing. She had paint splatters on her clothes. From the way she was dressed, she looked to be an artist. I sat down next to a man who stared at a spot on the wall opposite us. There was nothing remarkable about him. He was dressed in a simple, cheap suit. His shoes were cracked and looked more plastic than leather. He rocked himself slowly. The shock of where he was and what was about to happen to him stamped on his face. I probably wore the same shocked look.

Two men in uniform came into the holding cell. They headed straight for the woman in the corner and dragged her out. I heard her scream as they took her down the passage towards the chopping block. Next would be the man sitting next to me. I would be the last of the day. The executioner would take a break between each of us; apparently chopping people’s heads off is hard work. Two hours later, they came for him. He went quietly. He hadn’t said a word while we waited and he was silent when they culled him.

They’ve come for me. I try to stand, but my legs betray me. One of them helps me to stand and I thank him. My mother taught me to be courteous. I thank them again for helping me to walk, with some dignity, to the execution chamber.

The chopping block is a huge piece of black granite with a hollowed out bit where I place my head. They tried to wash away some of the blood from the previous two victims, but they missed a few spots. The site of the blood makes the little bit of food I managed to get into my stomach before my trial travel back up my throat, I swallow it back down. I hate that I will die with the taste of bile on my tongue. It’s rather rude that they didn’t even give us a last meal.

The executioner stands with his axe resting on his shoulder. The blade looks sharp enough. I hope he’ll be able to do it with one blow. He looks strong enough. I kneel and place my head in the hollow. I’m grateful that they didn’t allow any family members to attend. It’s a private matter. It’s just between me, the executioner, and whatever god I believe in. Only problem is I’m not sure any god exists.

Well… I’m about to find out.

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This story originally appeared in AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers  in 2013.

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#ShortStory: The Reunion

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Since it’s Friday, I thought I’d share a short story with you. Hope you enjoy it.

The Reunion

The wind howled over the small lake causing white horses to form on the surface. Frank had inherited the old house from his grandmother and turned it into a boutique hotel. The old lady was probably spinning in her grave at the idea of the local riff-raff sleeping in her bed, but the house was the perfect setting for honeymooners or couples on romantic getaways. The only problem was that when the cold weather rolled in, his love-struck guests rolled out.

He’d sunk all of his inheritance from his grandmother and his parents into fixing the house up so that he could turn it into his dream – a five star boutique hotel. Unfortunately, the monthly expenses to keep it running exceeded the income from the hotel guests. His cooking wasn’t good enough to make the restaurant a draw card for the Johannesburg culinary types or for the less picky Pretoria bunch.

The Magaliesburg was known for its B & B’s and little hide-away restaurants. Most of them were close to the main access roads, but Frank’s place was hidden and only accessible by dirt roads. Someone kept stealing the signs he put up on the main road, so his guests kept getting lost on their way to him and then decided to stay at one of the places they could find more easily. In short, the competition was stiff and Frank was broke. But he kept hoping that with just the right marketing strategy those honeymooners would start streaming in, even if the weather was cold and the roads were crap.

As it was, his wife had just left him. Tracy hated the hospitality business and her feelings towards Frank were decidedly cold. He was now running the place on his own. The only help he had was Bettie, the maid he’d inherited with the house. She was eighty, and managed to make him feel like he was a naughty school boy who needed a smack every time he asked her to do something. He’d known Bettie his whole life. She’d practically raised him. It was Bettie who’d taught him to tie his shoelaces, not his mother. He’d learnt to speak Zulu before he’d learnt English. Bettie’s grandson, Mpho, had been like his brother. Mpho had died of AIDS several years ago, and Frank still missed him. They should have been running the hotel together. Bettie would have liked that, his grandmother and parents on the other hand may not have felt the same way.

As he went through the house, closing the windows to guard against the unseasonal storm that was heading his way, a small, bashed up old Mini Cooper bounced along the drive towards the hotel. A young couple, who made no effort to keep their hands off each other, fell out of it in a giggling heap. They’d obviously had a few drinks. How they made it down the dirt road without crashing or how they’d managed not to get pulled over by the Johannesburg Metro cops was a mystery to him. He made his way to the front entrance to greet them, like any good hotelier should. After all, hospitality was the name of the game.

He stepped outside the front door and noticed that the sky had turned that grey yellow colour that always seemed to precede a hailstorm. Winters in South Africa were supposed to be dry. Storms happened in summer, but lately the weather had been unpredictable and the storms were the worst he’d seen in twenty years. It looked like the latest one was going to be one for the record books. One of the wooden deck chairs that he’d forgotten to fold up and put in the storeroom rolled across the front lawn. The chair impersonated tumbleweed with remarkable aplomb. Its journey to the water was stopped by the canoe he’d pulled out of the water and turned over to resemble an elongated turtle. The house wasn’t really equipped to withstand a bad storm, but that wasn’t something he would put in the brochure. In anticipation, he’d stocked up on candles for the inevitable power failure. He needed a generator, but couldn’t afford one, so paraffin lamps and candles were the best he could do, and that combination probably wasn’t a good idea. He reminded himself that the house had been standing for a hundred years and would probably, with a little maintenance and some cash, be standing for a hundred more.

The couple clung to each other as they stumbled up the long gravel pathway towards the front door. A blast of wind tried to separate them, but only managed to make them crumble to the ground in a hysterical mass of laughter. A flash of lightning cracked the sky. The thunder clap was only a few seconds behind. The lightning strike was close by, only a few kilometres away and getting closer judging by the rumble. The man got back up on unsteady legs. He looked to be in his late teens, early twenties. He’d probably only been shaving for a year or two. The girl was even younger – fresh out of high school and still wet behind the ears. He didn’t envy either of them the hangover they were going to have in the morning, but he couldn’t help but envy their youth and the happiness they shared in their drunken stupor. Had he ever been that young and that in love? He couldn’t remember.

Something shimmered at the periphery of his vision. The hair at the back of his neck and on his arms bristled. He put it down to the electricity in the air created by the incoming storm, but a feeling in his gut made him look over his shoulder. In that instant he wished he could rewind those seconds and ignore his gut. Four men stood behind him. Their pale skin and blood shot eyes turned his stomach. Not to mention the assortment of knives, axe’s, and bloody machete’s they carried. Fear and confusion tore at his brain. He blinked hoping that they were simply a horrific mirage. When he opened his eyes the men were gone and he was still alive. He let go of the breath he’d been holding and thanked a god he’d never been sure he believed in, but saying a little prayer seemed appropriate. He chalked the ghostly vision up to his overactive imagination. There’d been a few grisly murders in the area over the last couple of years and no matter how much security he put up, sooner or later someone was bound to show up and try and take what was his.

The young man, who on closer inspection was little more than a boy, stood behind him holding up the girl. He had one of those ridiculous patches of beard on his chin and the girl had bleached her hair that silvery white blond that seemed to be the fashion with young girls. They both wore happy grins, which made him feel old. Frank wondered how they’d gotten up the pathway so quickly. Just a couple seconds prior, they’d been falling about laughing at their car. It should have taken them longer to make their way up the pathway. He’d only turned away for a split second, he was sure of it. He shrugged his confusion off and chalked that one up to being over tired.

Men’s laughter came from inside the parlour. Those men were inside his house. They hadn’t been a figment of his imagination. He tried to calm himself down. Panic would only get him killed. He’d last seen Bettie upstairs pretending to dust some of the bedroom furniture but he knew, from previous experience, that she’d probably dosed off on one of the beds. Bettie was a tough old bird who wouldn’t have let anybody, who wasn’t a paying guest, inside without a fight. He hoped that she was still asleep and blissfully unaware that they had unwanted guests. His other, newly arrived, guests looked at him expectantly.

“Hey bro,” the boy-man slurred. “Can we have a room? We just got married.”

“Look, now’s not a good time,” Frank said. He couldn’t let the kids inside. He needed them to get help. Although he wasn’t sure they were capable of doing much of anything in their condition.

“Sounds like there’s a party going on,” the boy ignored him and pushed past Frank, stumbling inside with his young bride hanging on his arm.

“Shit,” Frank swore under his breath. He didn’t want to die. He hadn’t changed his will yet. Tracy would inherit the house and that would really piss him off. She’d probably sell the place off for a fortune and spend it on her new toy-boy. He took a deep breath, pulled his shoulders back and tried to control his bowls as he stepped inside the house to face his deadly guests. Perhaps he was wrong about his visitors. Perhaps they were simply there to have a good time. Perhaps their idea of a good time didn’t include killing anybody. A man could hope.

The four men stood at the bar his great grandfather had built in the 1920’s. Their weapons had been carelessly discarded on the polished mahogany surface and they’d each poured themselves a generous glass of Johnny Walker Red.

“I can still remember how that little boy squealed just before I stabbed him again and again. He only stopped squealing after the fifth time I stuck him like a pig,” one of the men said, fingering a knife lying on the counter next to him. His hair looked like he’d put one of his fingers in an electrical socket and the bulge in his pants caused by his recollection was disturbing to say the least. Frank wanted to run away screaming, but he and his two young guests were transfixed.

“The boy probably sounded like you did when they fried your brain, Sparky. I always did enjoy a good electrocution, especially when a paedophile like you gets fried. They should never have gotten rid of the death penalty,” the man with a face like an exploded melon said. “If I’d been on death row I would have lived longer and had a better last meal.”

“I might have been fried, Pretty Boy, but at least I didn’t get a beat down like a bitch in the prison yard.”

“Fuck you! Those guys were a bunch of cowards and I took a few of them with me.”

“Who are you calling a coward? I gave you that face,” said the man with a missing eye.

“And I took your eye for your trouble. So I guess we’re even, One-Eyed Jack.”

“Not by a long shot. It took me a week to die from an infection thanks to your dirty finger nails. Do you know how crap it is to die in a prison hospital? My nurse was a horny inmate with a cock like a bull who thought it would be funny to rape me while I was in a coma. My arse still hurts. You and I will never be even.”

“Do we have to go through this every year? For twenty years I’ve been listening to you idiots moan about the same shit. Can’t we just kill a few people and enjoy our weekend without all the other crap?” Asked a man with rope burn marks around his neck and blood shot eyes. There was something familiar about him. Frank was sure he’d seen his face before. A memory scratched at the edge of his brain.

“Speaking of victims,” One-Eyed Jack said. “Slim pickings this year. You really picked a crap spot. I told you we should have gone to Knysna. There are tourists there all year round.”

“You can choose any spot you like when it’s your turn, but I had the pleasure of raping the slut who used to own this place upstairs in her bed. She was my first. I made her boyfriend watch before I slit his throat. She came to say goodbye at my execution with my kid on her hip. She smiled and made my son wave goodbye when they made me do the hangman’s jig. This house has a special place in my heart,” the man with the rope burn said as he looked around the room and nodded. “Good memories here.”

Frank’s grandmother had never spoken of what had happened to her when she was a girl, but he’d seen old newspaper clippings in the attic. That was why the man’s face was familiar. He’d seen his face in those old clippings and it was his father’s face. What had happened all those years ago was something nobody in the family ever talked about. No-one spoke about the fact that his grandmother never married or that his father had been born nine months after the rape. She’d kept her son when most women would have given him up for adoption. Sometimes he wondered if it wouldn’t have been better for his father if she’d done that, though. Knowing that he’d been the product of rape and the offspring of a notorious serial killer had haunted his father all his life.

“And here’s the fruit of my loins. He’s a disappointing sight, isn’t he?” The ghost of his serial killer grandfather said. “Must take after his mother’s side of the family. Doesn’t look a thing like me.”

“Lucky for him,” said One-Eyed Jack. “I thought this was supposed to be our reunion not a family one.”

“It’s not a family reunion, just some unfinished business.”

“What unfinished business?” Sparky asked.

“That’s between the kid and me,” his grandfather said as he put his empty whisky glass down and walked towards Frank with a panga in his hand. A bolt of lightning struck one of the trees outside the parlour window. The windows rattled from the blast. An orange glow emanated from the flames as they licked the dry tree branches. Frank hoped the rain would put out the blaze, he didn’t foresee any fire fighting in his immediate future. As his grandfather walked towards him his future looked short and bloody. The girl screamed as One-eyed Jack pulled her towards him. The boy tried to punch Sparky’s leering face, but his fist passed right through what should have been solid matter.

“Hey,” Pretty Boy said. “Where’s mine?”

“Up-stairs, asleep on the old slut’s bed,” Frank’s grandfather said. “She’s waiting just for you and she probably hasn’t seen any action in the last twenty years.”

Pretty Boy’s laughter as he ran up the stairs to find Bettie stirred Frank’s watery bowls.

“Just don’t piss yourself,” his grandfather said over the sound of Bettie’s and the girls screams. “Me and the boys get together every year and remember the good old days when we were alive and killing our way across this country. We have fun together, just like we used to,” he said as he put his arm around Frank’s shoulder. Frank got a whiff of old blood as his grandfather waved the panga around under his nose. “Your grandmother was a slut and I should have killed her the night I put my seed in her belly. I should have come back when I found out she was having my bastard, but the cops stopped me before I could. I let your father live because he, at least, was a man. That little wife of his knew what would happen if she didn’t respect him. He knew how to give her a good slap if she stepped out of line. But you, my boy, are a disappointment. Look at yourself. You’re a disgrace.”

Blood sprayed the curtains as One-Eyed Jack and Sparky sliced and diced the young couple. Bettie’s screams came to an abrupt end followed by the sound of Pretty Boy’s gurgled laughter. Frank watched as his grandfather brought the panga down on his neck. His own, short lived, screams were accompanied by the sound of the rain and thunder.

“Don’t worry, Son. That wife of yours won’t live here for long. The boys and I’ll pay here a visit next year on our way down to Knysna.” His grandfather stared down at him as his blood pumped out of his severed artery. He drifted off to the sound of laughter, glasses clinking, and rolling thunder.

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This story was originally published in Tales from The Lake Vol 1.

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Grandpa’s Ghost

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Today I have a short story for your reading pleasure. I originally wrote it for Dark Fiction Magazine’s Christmas Anthology, but they weren’t that impressed with it. Thankfully, Guy N Smith rather enjoyed it and decided to include it in his Christmas edition of Graveyard Rendezvous. It’ll be appearing alongside other great fiction written by the likes of Steven Savile.

So … here’s my Christmas story, Grandpa’s Ghost:

Christmas wasn’t a holiday we celebrated in my family. It was a day we tried to pretend didn’t exist. But it was a day that wouldn’t be ignored, no matter how hard we tried.

The twelfth day before Christmas was always marked by drums. A rather bad drumming solo performed by someone who should never be allowed near a drum set. The drumming would wake us up every year at five in the morning on the thirteenth of December and would be repeated every morning until Christmas day. It didn’t matter what day of the week or where any of us were, the drums would start at the same time and would carry on for an hour every morning. It would stop as abruptly as it had started and we would all carry on with our day, whether it was school or work, the day would carry on as normal. Well … as normal as could be under the circumstances. There wasn’t anything normal about my dead grandfather haunting our family for most of my adult life.

After the drumming other strange things would happen. It would first be little things that started to go wrong, an exploding toaster or lights going on in the middle of the night. The television would switch channels. Annoyingly, it would always change to a programme none of us wanted to watch, usually an old movie from the 1940’s or some documentary about the Second World War, something my Grandfather would have wanted to watch.

It all started on the first anniversary of my grandfather’s death or murder, depending on your viewpoint. Some of us believed that his death had been a little suspicious while others held to the safe assumption that it had been natural causes. The fact that the doctor’s were unable to determine the cause of his untimely demise was quietly swept under the carpet and in true family tradition – ignored. None of us wanted to believe that one of our own had given Grandpa something to speed his way into an early grave on Christmas, of all days. Even if they’d been justified in wanting him dead. We all had our reasons for wanting him six foot under and pushing up daisies.

And so, for the last twenty years, Christmas and the preceding twelve days were ignored.

It didn’t matter what the decaying bastard threw at us, we would simply clean up the mess or change the channel or leave the room and wait for whatever little temper tantrum he threw to be over.

But this year was different. Something had changed. The atmosphere was charged with a deep seeded anger. His attention seeking had always been a little irritating, but now it was downright violent and bloody. I think the old codger finally got tired of being ignored.

The first victim to bite the dust was my grandmother’s cat. Her furry corpse was displayed on Granny’s bed a couple hours after the first drum roll. The rest of our beloved pets were dispatched one by one. Everyday brought a new victim and fresh tears. Tears that were never shed for Grandpa were bursting the banks for the four legged members of our family. He hadn’t been a popular member of our rather dysfunctional unit when he was alive and even less so in death. His latest antics relegated him to the ranks of most loathed.

Christmas day slammed into us with yet another pet being buried. This time it was my niece’s pet budgie. Not much of a loss as far as I was concerned, but the poor girl was completely devastated. The rest of us were a little too punch drunk to cry or care anymore. We were all cried out, or so we thought. Grandpa’s final salvo was not the dead bird, but something a whole lot more shocking and something none of us would be able to ignore or forget.

His rotting corpse, which seemed to be a reasonably well preserved skeleton with a few odd bits of flesh dangling from the bones, sat at the head of the dining room table that my mother had laid for our usual family Christmas dinner. He reminded me of Jeff Dunham’s Achmed, the terrorist puppet. He even had those same plastic looking eyeballs.

Our deceased pets, had been dug up and put on display around the table. While we stood in shocked silence, he ripped the drumstick off the roasted turkey. I wasn’t sure how he planed to eat it without any teeth or lips, but I was sure he had some plan for the rest of us. Waving the turkey leg around, he bade us to take our places at the table. My grandmother took the seat at the opposite end. I’d always believed that Granny had been the one to do him in and my suspicions were finally confirmed by Grandpa when he glared at her through those plastic eyes and said, “I’ve given you twenty years to apologise for murdering me, but since you’ve never shown an ounce of contrition, I’ve decided that you’re coming with me.” With that he flung the carving knife, that had been placed next to the turkey, across the table. The knife found its target and plunged into Granny’s chest. Blood dribbled from between her lips as she breathed her last breath. Her ghost stood up and stepped out of her body, shedding it like a cocoon. Extending her middle finger at Grandpa, she left the room. Grandpa stood and followed her, mumbling: “Typical bloody woman.” We never saw hide or hair of either of them ever again. The rest of us enjoyed our Christmas dinner in peace for the first time in twenty years.

I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to let me know what you think.

Have a delightfully creepy Christmas!

Death of a Parrot – A short Story

This was the first short story I wrote. It’s not a horror, but it is dark and twisted:

I read somewhere that a sure way to kill a Parrot is to feed it Avocado Pear. I wondered if it would work on Pierre’s African Grey. I really hated that bird. All our problems started the day he bought it.

Before that day we were happy. Sure we had problems but all couples do. We even talked about getting married. After living together for a year we decided that we could make it work. We could have the white picket fence and the happily ever after, that young couples dream about having. Then he went and ruined it.

He called me up that morning and said he had a surprise for me. There I was, mistakenly thinking that it would be something in the line of jewellery. Something with a diamond. Something that would fit perfectly on my ring finger. It wasn’t an unreasonable hope. As I said, we’d discussed it.

But instead of a ring, I got a parrot. Let me just mention that I’m not an animal lover. My parents had tried to install affection for animals in me, but for some or other reason the love of animals just never took.

He didn’t bother to ask if I wanted a pet. If he had asked, the answer would definitely have been no. Which is probably why he didn’t.

If he wanted a pet so badly, why did he have to get a parrot? Why not a cute kitten or a puppy? You can’t take a parrot for a walk, it doesn’t curl up on your lap and there’s no way it can protect you from a burglar. So what’s the point?

All it does is squawk and leave a stinky mess at the bottom of its cage. Who do you think ends up cleaning the cage? Not Pierre, that’s for sure. Cleaning up after his bird would be too much like taking responsibility for his purchase. His excuse was that she was a present for me so therefore it was my job to clean up after it.

When we moved in together we had specific roles in our relationship, he was the responsible one and I was the flake. It worked well. Then he bought the parrot and our roles got all confused.

Having a parrot is as bad as having a fish. I should know. My parents insisted on buying me a fish as a pet. I never did manage to keep a fish alive for very long. It always ended badly. My father would give a brief speech about what a good fish “Goggles” was. I always named the doomed fish “Goggles”. That way I didn’ have to worry about remembering which name to use during my fathers ceremony.

I think they were hoping that buying me a fish would install a sense of responsibility in me as well as empathy for animals. They failed on all counts.

After the speech he would flush poor unfortunate Goggles down the toilet. We tried burying them for a short while, but my mother’s cat would dig the freshly buried fish up and eat it on mother’s clean white bedding. So my father decided that flushing was a lot safer for all concerned, especially the cat.

Pierre called the bloody parrot Polly. He thought it was amusing. I didn’t. And to add injury to insult he taught her how to say “Polly want a cracker!” That did it. She had to go. There were no ifs, ands or buts about it. I was getting rid of her. Polly was leaving the building.

The problem was how to get rid of her with out having to worry about Pierre’s reaction? I knew that with time he’d get over it. But that would take time and I didn’t want him to hate me because of a parrot. I still wanted to ride off into the sunset with him. Then there was the little problem of preventing him from getting another pet?

There were a few options open to me. I could open the cage and the stupid thing could fly away, never to be seen or heard from again. I could take her back to the pet shop where he bought her. Or I could wring her neck and roast her in the oven in a nice white wine sauce and feed her to him.

The last thought put a smile on my face.

But wringing her neck could cause a few problems. There was physical strength that needed to be factored into the equation. Did I have the strength to pull it off and then of course there’s the luck factor.

Knowing my luck, while I was trying to kill the damn thing she would get away from me and I’d end up chasing her around the house. Pierre would show up just in time to see me get my grubby little hands around her neck.

I’d have some explaining to do on that one. I never was very good with explanations. I always managed to get my tongue tied in all the wrong places. Anything I said came across as lame and even I’d end up not believing anything I had to say.

The other options also had a few holes in them such as if Polly flew away she could always fly back and Pierre could always walk into the pet shop and recognise Polly. Once again with both options there would be some explaining to do.

I eventually decided to try the avocado story and see if it really worked. I decided to tell Pierre that Polly flew away when I opened the cage to clean it. I wouldn’t have to worry about the creature deciding to fly back and Pierre wouldn’t be able to find her if he decided to take a walk to look for her. I happened to have a ripe avo sitting in my fruit bowl just waiting for me.

I walked into my white kitchen with the morning sun streaming through the windows. Polly squawked in her cage “Polly want a cracker”. That clenched the deal.

“You’re going down bitch.” I said as I looked at Polly through the bars of her cage.

The cage was perched on top of the kitchen counter, which also served as our dining room table. It was quite ironic if you think about it.

Why he insisted on putting it there only he knew. He could have kept it in his office with the rest of his junk.

We lived in a two bed roomed flat in an over priced complex. The flat didn’t have a dining room. The kitchen and lounge were open plan and the kitchen counter served as our dining room table as well as a room divider. Pierre used the second bedroom as an office.

I smiled as I cut the avo in half and removed the large pip in the middle. I then peeled off the hard skin, getting avo flesh all over my fingers in the process. I sliced it thinly. Licking my fingers, I fed it to Polly through the bars. She seemed to enjoy it. At least she enjoyed her last meal. I fed her a few pieces. The remaining slices I put some salt and pepper on and ate slowly, enjoying every victorious mouthful.

I wondered how long it would take her to die. I hoped it wouldn’t take too long. I couldn’t have Pierre arriving home in the middle of her death scene.

While I waited for Polly to fall off her perch, I decided to make a romantic dinner out of her. I wanted to surprise Pierre. A candle lit dinner for two. It would make him feel better after loosing Polly. A tender and juicy roast. I just had to decide what sauce was the best to cook her in. Should I make it tangy sweet and sour or an elegant white wine sauce? I decided that roast potato would go quite well with parrot. Then there was the question of which wine to serve with it. Was Parrot classified as game meat?

I had a look in the wine rack. We only had a bottle of Nederburgh Baronne. So that settled that. Red wine it was.

After a few hours of puttering around the house and waiting for the bloody bird to die, Polly fell off her perch with her legs stuck up in the air like they do in the cartoons. She finally croaked. It took her long enough. She obviously enjoyed making my life difficult. Her final act on this planet was to make sure that it would be a rush to get her cooked in time.

The odious job of plucking feathers and removing her innards began. I started plucking from the tail and moved up to her head. After plucking most of her feathers only the head still remained intact with feathers and all.

I got the cleaver out of the top draw and chopped her head off. As I chopped it off it went for a flight. It flew through the air with a small trail of blood following its flight. The head landed splat on the floor in the pile of feathers. A small glutinous puddle of blood caused some of the feathers to stick to her head.

The really disgusting part of the exercise was still to follow – gutting her. I put on my rubber gloves and shoved my right hand up Polly’s anus. I kept telling myself it was just like stuffing a chicken. It was just like a chicken. I repeated it to myself like a mantra. Only problem was that I normally bought chicken pieces. I’d never before roasted a whole chicken before. It was a novel experience.

I felt the guts gushing between my fingers. Bile rose in my throat. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I managed to get all the innards out and dumped them on the chopping board. I took some chopped up veggies out the fridge and stuffed them inside Polly’s empty stomach cavity. I then tied her feet together and put her in to the casserole dish with some chopped up potatoes and a dash of sherry along with Kan-Tong’s Honey, Sesame and Garlic sauce over it. I opted against the white wine sauce. It would have clashed with the red wine.

I put her in the oven at 120°C. A good slow cooking heat, which gave me time to get everything else ready. I wanted her meat to be soft and succulent.

While Polly cooked, I cleaned the house till it was spotless. Pierre hated a dirty house.

I then laid the dining room table, putting the new embroidered tablecloth on the table along with the Noritake dinner service, which I got from my mother. I also laid out the good silver. I only used the good silver for special occasions. I put all the candles I could find all over the lounge and on the table. It was a bit of a fire hazard. The smell from the oven filled the room as I surveyed my handy work. Both were pretty damn good.

After taking one more look around the area, I strolled into the kitchen and opened the oven. It smelt delicious. My mouth watered. I put my oven gloves on and took the casserole dish out. I removed the lid and checked to see how much longer she had to cook. Almost ready. I put Polly back in the oven without the lid so that she could brown. The skin had to be crispy.

Pierre would be home soon. That gave me just enough time to put on my little black number and make myself look irresistible. I threw a towel over Polly’s cage, poured myself a glass of wine and went into our bedroom to get ready. I put red lipstick on my lips and ran a brush through my hair.

I heard Pierre’s keys scrape against the door as he unlocked it.

“Babes I’m home,” he shouted from the entrance hall.

I stood against the bedroom doorpost with my glass of wine in my hand, trying to strike a seductive pose and waited for him to notice me. He walked out of the entrance hall and stopped dead in his tracks. I guess I had the required effect.

I pointed towards the dining room.

“I hope you’re hungry,” I said with a smile.

“I’m starved,” he said.

“Then be a good boy and have a seat while I get dinner.”

While he sat down, I retrieved Polly from the oven and returned to the table with a parrot casserole cooked to perfection. I put the dish on the table and poured Pierre a glass. He sniffed the air like a hunting dog on the scent of his prey. Strangely enough this habit of his never used to annoy me but it bothered the hell out of me that night.

“So what’s the special occasion?” he asked me.

“Oh nothing, I just thought I’d spoil you for a change” I replied.

I handed him the carving knife and asked him to carve the bird. I must say that I did a damn fine job, the meat started to fall off the bone.

“I didn’t know you could cook this well,” Pierre said while he carved his precious little Polly.

“You’d be surprised what I can do when I’ve got the right motivation,” I said and smiled at him.

Pierre tucked into the meal. I could have sworn he’d never seen food before. About half way through the meal he looked up at me for the first time since he started hoovering the food down his gullet.

“Where’s Polly? She’s awfully quite tonight?” He asked between mouthfuls.

“Don’t worry, she’s fine. She’s right where she belongs!”

The End

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