Saturday, 27 January 2018

Life and Death On Holidays

Chuck wasn't going to do something this week - but then I checked and found a Flash Fiction email in my inbox. He asked for a travel woe story... so I did one which scared the crap out of me! It happened during a stop-over in Hong Kong in 1997 to the UK. This is exactly how it happened... and it was a few years after I had studied secretarial law and scored a job at an insurance company. To this day, guns freak me out.

“Take it off! Take it off! Take it off!” the customs officer pulled and yanked at my medical bracelet on my arm, screaming at me, as though I had something to hide.
And I screamed back in pain, “Hey! It’s attached you know!” But she kept screaming that same phrase, not listening, not caring if she bruised me, broke the skin or broke my arm... she just wanted that bracelet. In the end, I shouted: “Hey! Lady! Get off me!” I shoved her and she let me go, her hand on her gun, ready to do something – anything – to me. I just stood there, took a breath and said quietly, “It’s a medical bracelet and it’s got a monkey grip; that’s why it didn’t come off.”

Her face was blank for a moment before she signalled for me to walk past four other guys who were silently scared and looking at the floor, past a table on my right with four piles of papers, and pushed me onto a box. A wand had materialised out of nowhere into her hand and she ran it over my body, up between my legs – shoving it painfully hard into my groin – and then over my boots and making me stand on one foot then the other to go over my feet. She went up my legs again and pushed it between my thighs again, pushing harder this time, glaring at me; trying to shove it through the crotch of my jeans.

“You having fun there? ‘Cos that fuckin’ hurts.” I snapped.
She yanked the wand away and looked to the other customs officer at the other end of the room, who was going through my backpack. He was throwing my belongings onto the counter without any carefulness, when he came across my medication of Tegretol. 
This drug is for Epilepsy; a medical condition I have and I don’t go anywhere without my prescriptions or my medicine.
Immediately these two were yelling and screaming in Chinese that I was something illegal, something I’d never be in my life, something they didn’t bother to translate until the very last second when she shoved me towards an unlabeled door and ordered me inside to strip down. 

They were accusing me of being a drug mule!

“What!” I turned, “I have Epilepsy. That’s my medication, and if you don’t believe me, I have letters to say so.” I pulled on the collar of my t-shirt to pull out my money belt (which held my boarding pass, passport and the letters I’d need to get me through customs from all my doctors).
“Hands where I can see!” she screamed.
I looked up to find a gun pointed me.
I froze; staring, “I want to see consulate representative, now.”
The rest of the world fell away for a few slow moments while I felt as though I filled my pants; and she ignored my request.
I thought I had stopped breathing for a moment, until I found myself taking a breath, “What are you doing?”
“Hands where I can see!” her hands shook. She’d never shot a gun before let alone pointed one.
“Is the safety on that thing?” I asked. 

I know, I know, stupid to ask, but really, I wanted to know if I was going to get my brains splattered against the wall behind me by a nervous customs officer who didn’t know what they were doing.

She twitched, the gun moved: “What!”
The four guys looked like they were going to crap themselves on my behalf and the rest of the passengers through the window (yes they could all see what was going on) started to turn their children away and turn their backs.
They didn’t want to see this – and no, I didn’t want them to see this either.
“Listen, can you please put that down, you’re making everyone nervous, not just yourself.” Tears blurred my vision as I tried to think what to do, and realised she wasn’t being realistic about this, “You think I’m a drug mule; I’m not.”
“You have Tegretol! It’s date rape drug. You are criminal!”
“I take it to control my Epilepsy.” I said, “If you let me... oh for shit’s sake.” I looked at the other customs officer, “Look in the front pocket of my backpack and you’ll find a letter. Read it out aloud.”
He searched the backpack and found the letter and read it out aloud, and began to smile, “Dr. Appleton! We know him. He fly here all the time.”
I let a sigh of relief: “Good... he’s my doctor.” Walking up to the desk with the female customs officer shadowing me, I smiled, “Can I have my stuff back?”
“Yes. We keep your contraband.”
“But the letter...”
He nodded, “It is contraband.” He shoved my bag with all my belongings over to me and looked towards the next person, “Welcome to Hong Kong Airport...”
I turned to the other four guys, “What are they here for?”
The female customs officer turned, looking at them, “They are English. They go home.”
“Guys!” I called out to them, “Where are you from?”
They all hesitate before answering one by one:
I looked at her, “They’re Australians.”
“They redheads... they English.”
“Lady, you’re a racist.” I packed my bag again to find a tin of loose leaf tea was missing, “Where’s my tea?”
The man at the desk turned, “It’s marijuana. Illegal.”
“It’s Aussie Loose Leaf tea, properly packaged and sealed. Give it back!” I ordered. The female customs officer fingered her gun again, “Oh jeez... okay, look the bottom of the tin and you’ll find an international phone number. Call it.”
The man did as the female customs officer stepped closer to me, ready to arrest me, shoot me, or ... whatever she was going to do... she was one nervous Nelly. 
When the guy was talking on the phone, it was obvious, he had never tried calling the numbers on the tins of things he had confiscated before.
I put my hand out for the phone, “Here, I’ll talk to him.” The phone was handed to me and I chatted to the shop owner of Australia House across the satellite, who thought it was the dumbest thing he’d ever heard that customs took a tin of tea off me without even testing it! But he took a piece out of them nonetheless before hanging up on them and I got my tea back – but not my Tegretol.
My friends who had gone before me in line (fortunately I hadn’t flown to Hong Kong alone) had packed a plastic bag in their onboard luggage and bagged up my stuff in it and stuffed what we could into my back pack.

The four stranded Australian guys got their papers back and were permitted into the country. And they asked me what they could do to thank me.
“First of all, we make a formal complaint about those two morons.” I said, “They’re a danger to the Hong Kong security system here. I nearly got killed all because I was going to pull out my money belt.”
We found the main desk and filled out the necessary forms, signed them and handed them in. This took half an hour to do. The head of security called in the two from that gate and fired them immediately; and asked them where my medication was. They handed him a box they kept confiscated items.
Pulling out my medication, the older man handed it back to me, signed it out, and gave me grim smile, “Such a pity not that many people do what you have done.”
“What’s that?”
“You stood up for your principles. You knew you were in the right, and even when your life was threatened, you stood your ground. It must have terrified you.”
“It did. But I knew I was right. But why didn't they get my consulate representative?”
He turned and glared at them, "She asked for a lawyer?"

Saturday, 20 January 2018

The Party Is Over...

Last week, we got to pick the song lyric. This week, Chuck got to pick it. This week it's: Sza's 'Drew Barrymore'... 'Why is it so hard to accept the party is over?'.


I sat at my desk wondering why it had to happen now; just when I was happy, just when things were looking good – just when...

Another line started blinking on my phone.

“Crap.” I muttered looking at my feed on the monitor in front of me as my secretary walked in with two new files in her hands, “When did the shit really hit the fan?”
“About an hour ago.” She shrugged, “I’m wondering who talked.”
“Nobody talked.” I stood, turning from her, regarding the burning sunset, waiting for full night, “I’ll find out who did this and everything will settle down.”
Her cool hand touched my wrist, my hand, “Just be careful, Arnold.”
Squeezing her hand, I nodded, “Keep yourself safe, and you know where the weaponry is.”
She smiled, “Of course. I am over a century old. I remember how to fight.”
I grabbed my gear and walked toward the door, put my hand on it, and turned, “If everything goes to shit...”
“I know, blow the place and run if I can.”

The morgue was a blood bath as I walked through to find all the doors were open and everyone was dead.
“Arnold, have you heard?” Rickson walked out from his office.
I looked over at his concerned face, “Yeah, rogues.”
Shouldering his pack, he sniffed the air, “No, they’re not.”
“Oh jeez... Van Helsing is back.”
“Yeah.” He whispered.
“Okay, let’s go.”
We left the place the mess it was to find that murderer and destroy him once and for all.

As we walked through the streets, we could feel the tension in the air as well as see it. The place looked like a war zone with cars and trucks all over the place, people dead and dying everywhere as Van Helsing’s people had mistaken Emo’s and Goths for vampires and killed them; not realising they were just going through a phase.
The view of this disgusted us as we tried to save these people through every Human way we could – but we found they had lost too much blood before we arrived.
Rickson knelt by his fourth patient, “Dammit, he’s gone too far.”
I looked over at him, “Well, after that Jekyll and Hyde dude, he’s just covering his bases I guess. But this place looks like a war zone. There’s something else going on.”
Wiping his hands off on his jeans, Rickson tried to keep himself from showing too much emotion, “Look, I don’t attack Humans because it’ll annoy the authorities; and besides, I like L.A. But Arnold, this – this is dreadful.”
Nodding I knew what we had to do next, “This is a witch hunt. Come on.” I walked away and he followed me, knowing where we were going.

Lewis was a vampire who never went out. He lived in the basement of an old building in the poorer area of the city; never drawing attention to himself... and so when he heard about what had happened, he opened up the rest of the undercover area of the building to accommodate for the rest of us.

Rickson and I were the last to arrive.

He opened the door and pulled us in, closing it behind us, “About time you two arrived! Where have you been!”
“Looking around what’s happened around the place. Since this started happening, I haven’t been outside.” I said, “But then the destruction started happening in the street of my building and I left. My secretary may be dead for all I know.”
“Arnold.” Her familiar voice said across the room and she emerged from between two people. The sheer sight of her brought bright red tears to my eyes, “It’s so good you got out.” Holding her close, I realised how much I really did love her; and yet I’ve never known her name.
“I used the freight elevator.”
“Okay... now we’ve felt our feelings, it’s time to find that Hunter and his army and kill them all dead.” Lewis said, “Last time, he came for a Jekyll and Hyde type dude; and that was okay. This time, he’s destroying our town and exposing us to the Humans.”
“But he’s not only destroying us, he’s destroying anyone who looks like us as well – and that’s just being bloodthirsty.” Rickson said.
Lewis’ face turned stone for a moment, “Right. We need a battle plan. Who’s been through a few wars here?” about six hands went up, “Okay you lot, let’s get started.”

Sunlight isn’t good for vampires. We don’t burst into flames, it just makes us feel like crap. But we had to wait until dawn to find the Hunters who were making our secret public... and you know? It didn’t take long to find Van Helsing.
Like any leader, he thought he was indestructible.
He had the old-fashioned ways of working through a city; and he thought he had won. But being a rogue agent, he hadn’t thought his actions through – not thoroughly.
As we emerged from the lower doors of the basement, Lewis, Rickson and I noticed something before anyone else: Van Helsing was being arrested by the army and FED’s. I put a hand up to stop everyone else from storming the streets as did Lewis and we were obeyed; and the doors were closed.
Lewis and Rickson looked to me to talk to the authorities, seeing I knew some of the police and worked with the media a little; and knew what to say, and spotted a cop I knew approaching us, “Arnold, what are you doing here?”
“I was investigating a few brutal crimes in this area and came across this dude.” I signalled towards Van Helsing with my head who started screaming.
“He’s a vampire! He drinks blood! He’s a killer, I’m telling you, he must die!” his German accent echoed off the surrounding buildings as he was shoved into the back of a wagon.
The cop turned back to me, “Well?”
“He’s nuts.” I smiled.
“Yeah... I guess.” He turned and walked off.

The area was cleared by the army and the city of L.A was cleared and cleaned up by the government within a few months; making it appear as though nothing had ever occurred. But all the vampires around our town knew Van Helsing had been here again – and not to help us, but to destroy us.
I visited him in the Psychiatric Facility he had been sent to every month, to see how he was doing. You see, he’d been around for a couple of hundred years because he had been infected with Count Dracula’s blood by accident.
This caused him to go a little mad and he did need some blood, but not much, because he wasn’t in fact sired by Dracula. So, I’d visit him for a chat.
But he wasn’t getting any better.
“I know what you are.” He said one day, “You are the walking undead.”
“Well, if I am the walking undead, that makes you the same thing I am.” I smiled through the thick glass partition.
“No... um...I am mostly Human.”
“Oh... mostly Human... but yet you have Dracula’s blood coursing through your veins?” I speculated.
“Oh shut up.”
“What pisses you off, Van Helsing is that you weren’t fully turned; and I was. Centuries have passed and you haven’t even noticed that the party is over. We live in secret; and you burst that open.” Sitting back, I shook my head, “Shame on you.”
“It was no secret!”
“In L.A it was. Nobody knew about us; not until you came charging in.” I stood, bashing on the door for the guard, “Why is it so hard to accept the party is over?”
The orderlies pulled him out of his chair, and he grinned madly, spitting at the glass: “Maybe to you... but I’ll get out. And your end is nigh!”
As the door on his side of the partition slammed shut, and mine opened, a shudder ran through me. I wondered if he was right. Was my species on the brink with his army out there waiting for his signal?

I’d never know.   

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Don't You...

Chuck has us writing about song lyrics.  I love Simple Minds 'Don't you forget about me'. They weren't going to record it until they were asked to do it for the movie 'The Breakfast Club'... so I have delved into that movie as well - just for the fun of it - but 20 years later. 


It was raining when John’s service started.

We put up our umbrellas and I just didn’t know what to do as Dad put his arm around me and I ... well, I fell apart.
I never told my parents where my diamond ear-ring disappeared to; never told them I had given it to him that Saturday afternoon as the sun went down and Dad waited in the BMW for me to finish talking him after that detention which ... yeah, that one which changed my life.
When I met John Bender, he was just an asshole I never liked from day one of Shermer High School. Our school isn’t there anymore – I don’t know what is – but it’s not there anymore. John and I never lost contact; actually all five of use kept in contact after that day, we stayed friends in one way or another.
I remember when John and I began to date, he had broken off all the other relationships he had going with the other girls around the school. Even though we had talked during that time in the massive library, about how he had so many girlfriends and I had so much make-up and neither of us liked ‘throwing anything out’... in truth, we were just teenagers not knowing what we wanted. But in truth, we kinda admired each other and were scared of each other; and what would happen if the Prom Queen and the Rebel hit it off.

And we did.

And nobody expected us to last as long as we did.

Dad changed John’s life the moment they met. My Dad could see the pain he was in and offered him a job right out of high school and took him under his wing. I’m so proud my Dad did that, instead of pushing my John away and pulling us apart. Mom didn’t see John that way. She saw some long-haired freak who was trying to take her baby girl away; but Dad tried to talk to Mom without success.

While all of this was going on, John and I became closer over a year or so and he asked me to marry him.

I loved him so much.

Dad gave his blessing.

Mom didn’t.

His family were assholes about it all.

John turned his back on them.

So, we eloped to keep the peace.

John worked alongside my Dad for a few years while I studied at college – this was the plan for us; and we understood that we had to work hard for what we wanted in our life.

We never went out.

We drove Dad’s old BMW.

I learned to cook every meal (and burned my first few).
And we found starting at the bottom of the food chain a part of how my Mom and Dad experienced life.

Then, it happened for us.

John got a promotion, just as I graduated from college with a business degree and was offered a job at Dad’s company. Three great things which brought us great joy and two of them brought us money as well. And Dad was there to advise us about putting the money away for a ‘rainy day’. And we followed what Dad said to do: superannuation, saving for a house, buying only what we needed.

Then, one of John’s friends got out of prison.
I arrived home one day to find my husband sitting at the kitchen table with two people I’d never seen before standing around him, “Who are you?”
John looked up and I knew immediately that his past had caught up with him as tears filled his eyes, “Honey...”
“Honey. You’re Honey?” one of the very well-built men walked to me, “Is that your name?”
“No. I’m his wife.” I said, “John, what’s going on here?”
“We went to high school with John-boy... and just got out last week.” The one standing near me said, “Wanted to find him and say hi... but found out he’s all suited up and works for your Daddy-dearest.”
“It’s not like his family was doing him any favours.”
He raised a hand high.
I flinched as John screamed from his seat, “No! Leave Claire alone!”
“Claire... the Prom Queen?” he lowered his hand slowly.
I didn’t know what to say, “What do you want?”
The one standing over John grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, dragging him towards me, “We wanna catch up with John-boy... so say your goodnights and farewells for now.”
“I’ll be back.” He touched my cheek gently, leaned down and... the kiss he gave me felt as though he wasn’t coming home. It had such longing, such love and – and he pulled away – his cheeks were wet, “Don’t you forget about me.”
The two dragged John out the door and into the night.

I called the police.

John never came back home – well, not alive.

The rain became heavier as his casket was lowered into the ground and Dad held me tight against his chest, letting me cry.
Alison, Andrew and Brian had shown up at the service, to stand by my side. We all knew John well; and how much he had changed. As the hole was filled in and the turf was placed over the top, I looked at the headstone: John Edward Bender, 16th, May 1968 – 23rd, February, 1996, Don’t You Forget About Me.

And believe me I won’t – I can’t. 

Not with John’s child on the way. 

Saturday, 6 January 2018


Chuck's back! Flash Fiction Friday's back! Yep, we're gonna have some serious fun! The prompt? Well the danger of undeserved power... and well, I couldn't wait to get into this one.


Jarrad looked at his arms, noticing that all the hair on them had been burned off; his nails were black and had fallen off and a good part of his head was missing a lot of his hair.
“Oh... my fucking god... my hair.” He whispered turning to look in the mirror.
“Jarrad!” His mother’s voice drifted up from downstairs, “Are you hungry, hon? Thought you’d like a sandwich.”
He moved slowly to the doorway to his room, “Yeah, I’ll have one thanks – with everything.”
“See, I told you, he’s gonna be fine.” His father’s voice reassured her softly.
He tapped his index finger and thumb of his right hand together and a light humming sounded from the air between them.
No, nothing was ever going to be fine about him ever again.
He had to get back into playing for the team again – back out onto the field again – to get his form back. Jarrod looked around his room at his huge shelf of trophies and ribbons which he had been getting from his sporting achievements. Now... with this new thing he had – this new ability – he could do anything he wanted.

The following week at school, he felt as though everyone was staring at him. The girls who had been fawning over him only weeks before, were watching him as though he was going to explode.
They stared at his hands – his nails – as they were still a little charred and growing back. Jarrod needed to wear bandages around his fingers to protect the nail beds. His hair was never going to be the lovely, chestnut curls the girls loved to touch again. There was always going to be that jagged scar that marred its way from the crown of his head, down his neck and under his shirt, leaving a spider web of burns under his skin – destroying nerves endings he was constantly trying to work back into order.
Looking over at the cheerleaders, he saw them all turn away – all but one: Sherry. She was his girl. She walked over as a few of them told her to leave him alone, grabbed at her and she shoved them away, “Hey stranger.”
He looked down at her, “Am I still your honey?”
“Of course.” She reached up and touched his cheek gently as tears pricked her eyes, “I just don’t know what’s gonna hurt you and what won’t.”
He leaned against his locker, closing the door, “Sherry, honey, everything hurts. And I’ve lost most of the sight out of my left eye.”
“What happened out there?”
“Well you saw it.” He shouldered his school port as the bell rang and he winced, “Damn, did that bell get louder.”
“No... oh your hearing is more sensitive?”
He took her hand gently, then let go, “I’ve found out something about me which has freaked me out.”
“I’ve got a free period if you want to talk.”
He looked at her, not knowing if she was ... “Why didn’t you visit me in hospital?”
“I tried. They wouldn’t let me near you.” Sherry pulled out of her bag an envelope which looked worn, as though it had been carried everywhere with her, “I wanted to bring this to you, but...” she shrugged.
They stood in the empty hall as he opened the envelope, and pulled out the card, read it and smiled, “I love you too.” He looked around, “I do want to talk to you, so let’s go for a soda.” He hesitated in touching her again, and let her in front of him as they walked out of the building.

The following weekend was the play-offs.

Jarrod was on the bench for the first time in his life.
The coach didn’t want him out on the field too soon – well not so soon out of hospital.
But Jarrod was ready... he wanted in on that game.
He held his helmet by the facemask, swinging the helmet into his right hand – slap-slap – impatiently. Jarrod wanted in on this game so badly, he didn’t want to wait any longer.
Picking out one of the guys on the team who had been fumbling since the first quarter, he watched him. He slapped his helmet hard with his right hand – and the fumbling guy tripped and fell, losing the ball to the other team.

The coach had no idea what was going on.

The crowd was on their feet.

Sherry turned from the cheer squad and looked at him as she watched him stomp his foot, staring at the weak player. She watched his right hand slap his helmet again as a thunder clap split the air and the fumbling player went down in a heap on the field.
Both teams surrounded the fallen player as Jarrod simply sat there looking onto the ground; knowing he’d be called up. The medics were called out there with a stretcher and they pulled the guy from the grounds, to a waiting ambulance.
Sherry glared at Jarrod who smiled as the coach patted him on the shoulder, “Get out there, boy! Your turn, show us what you have!”
He shoved his helmet on, pushed his mouth guard in and clipped up as he jogged out onto the field; and the game continued on. Jarrod was going to rule this game over everyone who got in his way.

Sherry waited until all of the guys had left the locker room before walking in and seeing her man with a towel around his waist – seeing his scars spidering all over his body.
He half-turned, “What do you want, Sherry?”
“I saw you cause that thunderclap. You told me about your ability.” She said, “I remember when it happened to you.”
He pulled his towel off and stood there fully nude in front of her. There wasn’t anything he had she hadn’t already seen, “So? Whatcha gonna do? If you tell, who’s gonna believe you?”
“That’s just the thing.” She turned toward the door, “How do you think you got struck by lightning in the first place?”
Jarrod frowned, “I was...”
“We were at a fair ground, during the peak time.” She grinned, “I knew you cheated on me last year; and ... well... I never thought you’d turn the ability against me or the kids here at school.”
“But, Sherry...”
She stood at the door, “Did it ever go through your mind that I was trying to kill you?”