Sunday, 29 September 2013

‘Twas The Fight Before Christmas

This is one of my stories for Tales by the Tree - A Christmas Flash Fiction Anthology

 ‘Twas The Fight Before Christmas by Nick Johns
E-Book - Yes

This story is dedicated to my beautiful wife, Diane. 

I was in trouble. Again.
“Fighting all the time! What is it with him and the twins? I never wanted a reserve anyway. I got along fine for years with my regular crew. What am I supposed to do with him?” his voice boomed.
“You’ve got to take him.” his wife said.
 “If he comes with me, I’m rewarding his hooligan behaviour.”
“... and if you don’t, you’ll never get the job done. Face it, you can’t do this shorthanded, it would be a year’s work down the drain.”
“... oh I’ll manage. Don will be fit. He’s a bit bruised and battered, but I’ll just adjust the list. That way there would be less calls to make.”
“Don’t you dare touch that list! It’s taken me over a month to get it to the stage it’s at now. And Don may be OK, but his brother will be out of action for at least a week. The delivery schedules don’t write themselves, you know, they are a finely balanced mechanism. I sometimes think you don’t properly appreciate the work that I do. It’s all very well for you, getting all the credit, not to mention all the drinks and mince pies, while I slave away here in the background...hey, where are you going?”
“I’m going to tell him to get ready. He’s coming with me.”


So I was on the team.
The others pretended to ignore me – when he was watching anyway. He’d put me in the front of course. That way I had to do the most work. No daydreaming at the back and just pulling, I had to navigate. The new sat-nav software was useless. Upgrade? I don’t think so. It never gave you enough warning.
‘At the next chimney... turn sharp left, then stop on the white roof.’
They’re all white, genius, it’s Lapland.
And every time I stopped suddenly, the others took the chance to run into me. Those horns are sharp, I’m telling you. My ass was like a pincushion by the time we reached Liverpool.
Anyway, the Boss was doing the drop when I heard voices.
“Right lads, the NORAD tracker says he’s arrived. ‘ere we go, just like we planned.”
“But Spike, what about the kids?”
“Never mind about that.”
“But Spike, ‘e’s a right big bloke...”
“He’s an old man. Do you want to be in this gang or not? Just do it!”
“But Spike, ‘e moves proper fast...”
“That’s what the net’s for, stupid! He gets tangled up, we grab the sack and leg it. Shhh ‘ere we go. Got ‘im!”
I looked down into the street and saw the Boss, flailing about, caught up, bellowing like a beached Walrus. They hit him on the head with a stick and he went quiet. The three lads then started stuffing presents back into the sack he’d dropped.
Behind me the others were in an uproar.
“What shall we do now?” Snickered Cupid.
“I could run for help” said Dasher
“Zis is all your fault. If you hadn’t landed here ve vouldn’t be in zis mess...” Donner, of course, still sore about the number I’d done on him and Blitzen.
I’d had just about enough of their whining. I bit through the traces and leapt off the roof.
I landed square on top of the first guy, He lay stunned in a big heap in the dirty snow.
I spun around and kicked out at the next guy. Caught him right in the gut. He doubled over and lay there, gasping and retching.
The third guy had a knife.
I backed up and looked at him. Eyes like a ferret and a stupid kiss curl haircut. This must be Spike.
“Hi Spike. My name’s Rudy.” I said.
He just stopped, like he’d been turned to stone.
“A talking Reindeer bothers you? That’s not even the start of your problems, Pal. I’m a fourteen point Buck and weigh just shy of four hundred pounds. My feet are superbly adapted for fighting in the snow. This red nose, you see, it ain’t jam. I fight... a lot.”
Spike shivered and I didn’t think it was from the cold. He backed up slowly.
I lowered my head slightly, the streetlights caught the glistening frost on my antlers.
“... and you’ve got what? One knife? You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”
I always wanted to say that line.
I put my head back and gave a full throated bellow. The windows rattled. Spike turned and ran.
The Old Man leaned on my neck as I helped him back to the sled.
“Next year, Boss, how about I come along anyway? Looks like you could use the protection.”

791 words

This story appears in 'Tales by the Tree' an anthology of flash fiction - 75 stories from over 40 authors
It is available to purchase at Amazon in print or for Kindle (these are Amazon Uk links but it is available at .com

Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Devil's Alternative


The Devil’s Alternative

The shooting’s stopped.
I told him. He wouldn’t listen.
If the army couldn’t stop them, how would he, or our walls around the house?
They’ll be crossing the bridge about now.
“OK kids, time to come in now.”
Only three shells left in this old pistol.
“Quiet! We’re going to meet Daddy.”
Lord forgive me.

55 words

This story was written for Lisa McCourt-Hollar's 55 Word Challenge #75 
It received an Honourable Mention in the judging.
" Chilling story and gave me the heebie-jeebies."

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Gazing into the Abyss

She waited, trembling, for them to call his name. Or hers.
The sweat stained Mayor picked a folded slip, passed it to David to read out.
“David Osborne.”
He crushed it. Dropped it. It rolled to a stop against her foot.
He strode to the hatch, his body no longer warming the space next to her. She felt the impossibly small drop in temperature. But the hairs on her arm bristled for a different reason. 
“Come on, Em. Don’t be like this. It’s what we’ve worked for all this time.”
“What you’ve worked for, David.”
He yawned, popping his ears. Equalising the pressure of the descent, she knew, but she couldn’t let the chance pass.
“Sorry, am I boring you? At least you can listen now you are in the same room as me.”
“Em, I’m not...”
“...Not what? Not tired from spending all night out... again? Not wishing it wasn’t me here with you?”
His eyes flashed, cold and dangerous like the darkening water surrounding them.
“That’s not fair and you know it! There were a million details to settle recently. Who was going to sort them out – you?”
“...and why not? We started this project together. I know every inch of the design, even if it’s your brainchild. ‘You’re not just a pretty face are you?’ You used to say that when I surprised you knowing about the schematics Well, it seems that just a pretty face was all you were really interested in – once I got your funding lined up. We are – were – a team, David.”
“There’s no ‘I’ in team, Emma.”
“Is that the best you’ve got...?”
“... but there is a ‘me’, isn’t there? If you twist it. The way you twist everything.”
He took a step towards me then stopped. He drew a deep ragged breath. He exhaled as if more air came out than went in. His shoulders sagged, deflated, defeated.
“Whatever. I’m going to glad-hand the VIPs. You have the conn.”
The hatch closed, leaving me alone and still fuming. That was quicker than I expected. He gave in too easily now. You can’t fight properly unless you get in close, and we got so close we swore we’d never be apart.
Who was he close to now, I wondered. I wiped my eyes with my coverall sleeve, making a note to check the humidity later.
My hand hovered over the button. Was I really ready for this?
Hell yes! I slammed the button and held on. We lurched, our descent speed increasing rapidly.
I flicked the tannoy. “Emergency buoyancy loss! Brace for impact! Brace for impact!”
We hit bottom hard.
The VIPs had bickered, but it was obvious. David or I had to man the escape pod.
Two names in the helmet. Let fate decide.
 The sub rocked as the pod launched with a whoosh.
She had almost emptied the air tanks in it. No chance of making the surface.
She retrieved the crumpled slip. Unravelled it.
‘Emma Osborne’

500 words

This story was written for Alissa Leonard’s FinishThat Thought Flash Fiction Challenge #11

The story was judged the WINNER of the Judge's Challenge Category of the contest.
Judge Rebekah Postupak said:-
Judge's Challenge: @NickJohns999. While I'm not sure why the POV switched from 3rd to 1st person midway, the abyss of deep water is pivotal to this story's central crisis and also serves as a stark metaphor of David & Emma's lethally destructive relationship. In the tradition of Stephen King, "Abyss" is utterly tragic and utterly terrifying; and it is utterly inseparable from its watery setting. It's a powerful and full-bodied use of the challenge, deserving of the challenge title.

Monday, 16 September 2013

The Edge of Oblivion

I burst into his office.
“Governor, where the hell is my partner?”
His voice reached me first, thin and oily like a stench preceding a corpse.
“Have you lost him?” his tone mock solicitous.
“He was coming here.”
“I have to account for warders and inmates, not stray policemen.”
He lounged against the fireplace, rolling a coin across his wiry fingers like a conjurer.
“We know your tally is off.”
“How many?”
“Three prison officers, two inmates.”
“So we go over your accounts – downtown, with me as auditor.” 
He straightened as I approached, fingers not missing a beat.
“Know why they disappeared?”
“Save it. Hands out in front”
His fist swept towards me.
The coin glinted as, edge honed like a shank, it caressed my throat.
Eyes like a starving herring gull looked down at me.
“Three warders questioned me. Two inmates challenged me. Two cops did both.”

150 words

This story was written for Jeff Hollar's Monday Mixer #30

Things:          1) shank         2) vagary          3) demijohn
Verbs:           1) glint            2) entreat          3) elucidate
Adjectives:   1) louche        2) draconian      3) solicitous