Saturday, 23 January 2016

The Music Box of Manhattan

Just like last week, Chuck has us looking at another 10 titles. I chose the above one as it looked plain weird to me. 


Dad found it at a garage sale and thought I’d like it for my collection. It was very old, had lost its key to unlock it and badly needed a polish. I needed to take it into the city to get it open by my usual locksmith who helped me with these things.
“Thanks, Dad, I appreciate this. But it’s so old.” I took it from him carefully, “Did they say where they got it?”
“No.” he sighed, “Just that it came from Manhattan.”

A few days later, I was in the city at the locksmith who usually helped me with these things. He picked up the box carefully frowning, “Girl, this thing is older than any you’ve brought to me.”
“I know. Dad told me it was from Manhattan.”
His eyes lit up, “Where?” he put it on the counter and pulled out a book from a shelf behind him, flipped through the pages and then found a picture of it on one page, “Here you go.” He pointed at it, turning the book towards me, “The Music Box of Manhattan. It’ll start playing when you’re in Manhattan, opening up a tear in time.”
I read the blurb about this box and cast a wary look at it, wondering exactly what I had gotten myself into with it, “Okay, it’s locked for a good reason.”
He nodded, “Yeah. And you better take it back to the garage sale place your Dad bought it from.”
“Good idea. I don’t want my money back, I just don’t want this.” I looked at the ornately-carved box, now not wanting to touch it, but knowing I had to.
“Hey, so long you don’t open it, you’ll be fine.” He smiled, “Here, I’ll put it into a bag for you and you won’t have to handle it too much.” He pulled out one of his paper bags and slotted it in carefully and passed it across the counter to me on its bottom, “There you go.”
“Thanks, Chris.” I took up the handles after photographing the page with my phone.

The drive didn’t take long; as the house where Dad got the music box was on the way home. I pulled up outside the place, and looked at with a broken heart: it had been sold just the other day and the place looked vacant, “Dammit.” I got out of the car anyway and walked up to the place to see if anyone was there – the estate agent, new people looking at where they’d put their furniture… a homeless person hoping to spend the night. But there wasn’t anyone and the place was locked up tight, so I walked back to the car and leaned against the door not knowing what to do.
“Hey there.” A voice said to my left. I looked up to find a neighbour, “Yeah, they moved out pretty darned quick after the garage sale.” The man had hedge pruners in his hand, “But I found out where they went.” He dug out of his pocket a piece of paper and handed it to me, smiling, “I had to return something I bought too.”
I looked at the address: it was in Manhattan. I looked up at him, “But this is impossible, I have a music box from Manhattan, why would they get rid of it if they’re moving there?”
He shrugged, “You better get yourself there and find out.”
I got back into my car and started to drive. As I jumped onto the highway, the box began to play. It didn’t play ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ like some music boxes do, or a waltz, it played a 1920’s rag-time song. It was mesmerising; so much so that by the time I parked the car outside the antiquities store named ‘As Time Goes By’ the sun has well and truly set and the box was playing loudly in the seat next to me – hardly muffled by the bag it was in. I picked it up as I got out, paid the meter and then approached the store. As I walked to the front door, the damned box stopped playing in mid-string of something.
A man who looked older than time looked up from his just-as-old book, “Well, hello there, how can I help you?”
I put the bag on the counter, “My Dad bought this at a garage sale the other day and it’s locked. But on the way here it started playing.”
He smiled as he pulled it out of the bag. But what he pulled out wasn’t old and dusty and had a key in its lock. This music box was brand new! Stepping back, I pulled out my phone and read the page I had photographed; it didn’t say anything about what would happen if it turned out the box could renew itself.
“What’s that?” the man asked.
“A phone.” I stupidly answered, then realised as I looked over at his telephone that it was a rotary phone – one I had never seen in my parents’ house before – and I quickly pocketed my mobile, “What year is this?”
“Does it really matter?” he smiled touching the box, “You brought the music box of Manhattan home to its rightful owner.”
“How? I didn’t do anything but come here.” Wherever here is. “And how do I get home?”
“Home?” he smirked, “You must know Chris, the locksmith.”
“Yeah, how did you know that?”
“Well, he knows me very well. He drove to your town and never came back, and so this has me wondering exactly where is the tear…”
“In time… you drove through it; just like he did.”
“You never answered my question.”
“That’s because you don’t want to know. You are stuck here until another music box shows up, just like this one.”
“Well, who are you?”
“I’m Chris’ father, and this is 1956.”
“I’m from 2016.”
“Well, don’t we have a lot to talk about?” he patted the music box and it started to play again. Panic welled in my gut as I turned to the door, opened it to find it had begun to rain. I looked at my Ford to find I had parked a 1950’s Pontiac. Why hadn’t I noticed how old the car was? How could I not notice the people who had dodged around me were dressed so differently? A cop walked slowly up to me, perusing my jeans, sneakers and Nirvana t-shirt, stopped and asked me a question. Before I could answer, the door of the antiques store opened and the old man pulled me inside, “You really are from that time.”
“What happened to my car?”
“Well, it changes when it gets through the tear… but you don’t notice it until you get outside here.” He sighed, “I have to contact Chris and let him know. But you both can’t be here… you have to be there and he here.” He pulled out another music box – one that was far older than any other on the shelves, one he hid from customers – and opened it after turning the key on the bottom. It played a lovely little tune.

The music box on the top shelf began to play behind Chris. He turned from his late night work and looked up at it as it plinked and played in the semi-darkness of the room.

Monday, 18 January 2016

The Day the Music Died

I write poetry as well as flash fiction and horror. Yesterday, I was reading a tribute to him and half-listening to a tribute on the radio, when I found I just had to write about David Bowie. You'll recognise some of his greatest lyrics below... as this poem wouldn't have been about him if I didn't add them in.

Put on your red shoes,
and dance the blues...
Under the serious moonlight
While the starman
      we all grew up with - 
Our souls connected with - 
    Like we were family - 
                of some kind...
Is making the stars ...
          ... look very different today,
as he joins the greats 
   and becomes a member 
                    of that band up there,
leaving us with a part of our colour spectrum

                less bright

Leaving us gutted,
       that he's no longer

His voice is silent.
    His Swan Song Album
             breaking our hearts.

Yes, Bowie is gone from this Earth, 
     but he will live on 
        in my generation.
We were lucky enough to live here
            at the same time
                 he did. 

Saturday, 16 January 2016

To Dance Beyond The Hand

The door is locked.

I think.

I’m sure it is.

This basement smells horrible, and I hope the sound of this typewriter doesn’t attract attention from the outside.
You see, I’m a writer – and we’re banned from creating new worlds because … well… I’m not quite sure why, but we are.

I think it scares them…

No, not our audiences… it scares the other ones, the ones who can’t control our thoughts and our…

…thought I heard a noise outside. It was just a rat in the corner. I gave it something to kill it, so it doesn’t freak me out at another time.

I’m not sure when this happened – the banning of all creative writers – but it’s looking very much like ‘Fahrenheit 451’ out there; but instead of book burnings, they’re ‘stablising’ writers. In my honest opinion, it’s because we can think up worlds, create situations, people, cultures and everything that fills in all the gaps and work on them until they’re so convincing that the public will follow our created worlds until we finish them up… and then we go out and do it all again.

And we do it for money.

However, it’s because in the real world, the capitalistic pigs who trail us along know we can see between the gaps of their biggest mistakes and yet, with writers, we fill in those gaps and make the story we’ve written – the fiction – better than the life everyone lives.

So, people prefer to read and live in books, than follow the news and politics.  This is better for us artists – right? Wrong. To shut us up, they have made us the bad guys and put out a bounty on us all – even the famous ones.
Yes, your favourite writers are being locked away with their hands kept from the typewriter, being kept from writing anything… they can’t even keep a journal in case that journal turns into a book they’re secretly writing in longhand. How pathetic is that? I think…

I’m in another location.

I only had two days in the basement of the local high school. I heard some noise upstairs and had to stop writing so they’d go away.

It’s been three days since you last read my writing.

I’m in the back rooms of a regional art gallery. I’m not sure how long I’ll be here. So, I’ll make sure I can tell you as much as I can about me as possible.

I’m not famous, I’m not rich. I just love to write.  I love to create worlds out of nothing on the blank page and enjoy the ups and downs of the creative process. It’s just how I work – and have always worked.

When I did have a house, I had an office filled with books, a computer and all the writing gear I ever wanted and wished for. It was great to be a creative and enjoy the process… I even had a Writers’ Group to attend. This helped me connect with other writers – we thought alike – and we enjoyed each other’s company.

But when one vanished, and the cop who was with us, warned us of what the government had in mind for us, we immediately closed down the group and stopped emailing each other.

Our worlds became very small.

They found me…

I had to move again…


I’ve had to hide the typewriter and am now hand-writing this in a notebook… I hate this because I hardly ever hand-write anything anymore, and the process is so slow.

But at least it’s quiet.

I can’t do any writing at night… and I’m living on the street.

Oh shit…

“Where is your typewriter?”
“I’m not telling you… my Grandpa gave it to me… it’s not going hurt you.” Tears well in my eyes.
“Somebody else might use it.”
“Not if they don’t know how… it’s a particular type… it’s very old.”
The suits look at each other before one sits across from me, while the other moves to the door. The one across from me sighs, “You’ve left it in a museum?”
I didn’t say anything.
“The basement we nearly caught you in?”
He bashes the table with a fist, “Where!”
“That must have hurt your hand… it’s all tingly now, isn’t it?”
He stands so quickly, the chair he sat on topples over, “We’re getting nowhere with her.”
“Of course not… she’s a writer… they’re the best people at keeping their own secrets.” The other says still standing at the door, “But if we threaten…”
I smile, “Threaten? Is that all you have in you?”
The first suit lunges towards me, raises his fist, growling, “You little…” then his partner grabs him, pulling him back, “She provoked me.”
“No she didn’t. Sure she’s got a smart mouth, but she didn’t touch you.” He whispers, “She’s a writer… they work with their minds.”
“You are staying here until you tell me where your typewriter is.” He shoves his partner off him, “This place will get to you.”
I look around the room with the two-way mirror, a table, four chair and one door, “A room? You’re leaving me in a room? I’ve got my mind to keep me company, and you think you can make me go nuts on toast by leaving me in a room by myself? This is seven-year-old time-out crap.”

They leave the room.

They close the door.

I look around for a few minutes wondering what I was going to do next.

There is no way out.

But I knew where my typewriter was…

Sitting down at the table, I clear a space in front of me and concentrate as I put my hands out where they’d come in contact with the keys.

Closing my eyes, I visualise my Lettera32 in front of me on the table.

It didn’t take much to bring it from the hiding place I had put this wonderful machine.

Within minutes, I feel the wobbly, plastic keys under my fingertips and smell the ink on the tape – there’s nothing like a typewriter like this!

Smiling, I begin to type.

Thwack! Thwack-thwackity-thwack!
Oh! Yes, the words play out onto the paper in front of me! They are the dance beyond my hands – my fingers – they are the extension of my brain, of my imagination.

I hear the lock in the door.

Removing my hands from the keys, the typewriter vanishes.

I look up.  The two suits stand there.

I know they had been watching me through the two-way mirror.
“You’re more dangerous than first expected.” Says the first one.
“So, you’re gonna kill me?”
“No.” the second one shakes his head, “You could probably change something about how this would work out if we tried.” He gestures to the table, “Has your typewriter always been on the table?”
I grin: “My typewriter is wherever I am. Nobody can take it away from me. It’s part of the dance of my fingers – and even if they’re not there, my mind can control its every move.”

The sun on my face has never felt so good.
They’re going to leave me alone, but I’m not allowed anywhere near the city.
So, I’ve traveled to a place where I can be alone… with my typewriter, plenty of paper and my thoughts and worlds… so the dance beyond my hands and fingers can continue in relative peace.

But then, I can go anywhere with the typewriter… so I still travel.

Friday, 8 January 2016


Happy New Year! Yes, it's a new year, a great time for great flash fictions! This the first of many that Chuck has us indulging in! He got us to pick one from 9 off a selection from flickr and I chose one which had me in a spin - a time-lapse photograph of stars from a rocky outcropping overlooking water at dawn or sunset... when I saw that, the words just came.


It was time.

New Years Eve was the date.

Dawn was the time.

We had to make sure we didn’t drink any booze, take anything weird or do anything stupid to watch this prophecy come to pass on the rocky shores off Scotland.

It happened every year and most people who went to witness it sometimes didn’t come back from it. But this was a special time for us three; as we were going through it for the first time in three years.

You see, we got stuck in a time where there was no electricity, no technology and where the castles that we were learning about in school had only just been finished.

Yes, we landed in the Dark Ages.

And me being a redhead didn’t help me. So many people thought I was either prostitute, a vampire or a witch; and so from the very start, I was running for my life. As for my friends? Well, it didn’t help that one of them was my girlfriend and she and I couldn’t be seen together in public.
However, we did hide out in a village not far from the vortex, where the people there helped us. They dressed us, fed us and kept us together, as they had seen this happen before and had forbad their own from venturing forth to that rocky outcropping on the turn of the new year.
However, we were treasured, as we could all read and write, so that was something good. Two of us could cook, and Matty found that hunting was a fun past-time he never knew he’d enjoy.

Now, wisps of snow fell from the sky as ice hardened in puddles in the rock pools. It had been a harsh Winter and quite a few elders had passed away in the village; leaving it smaller than it had been last Summer Solstice. And some of the younger babies hadn’t survived the Winter Solstice either; and being the only Pagan Priestess amongst the people, the job was given to me to perform the funerals for the dead… there were so many of them that had died from diseases that were curable in the modern world. After each funeral, I’d go back to my hut and cry, wishing I could go home.

Then, the Romans arrived.

They took my Mina… my sweetheart… but not for long!

Something happened.

Something strange… something unexpected.

My witchcraft which was so harmless in the modern day actually meant something here. When I pointed my staff, electricity sparked and spat from the end of it, blazing across the darkness of the night of when they arrived, freaking out the horses and killing a massive guard.
Mina’s shackles were unlocked with a mere thought from me and she came running back to my side as I turned to those filthy, horrid men, muttering, “You leave now.”
They didn’t have to be told twice as what they had witnessed couldn’t be explained to anyone – not the King, not their Commander, not anyone – and so they clumsily mounted their horses and left the tiny village, leaving my Mina with us.
Matty approached me as my woman stared at me, whispering, “How did you do that?”
I shrugged, “I don’t know…” I gazed over at Mina with absolute love in my heart, “When the thought of losing you crossed my mind, I felt anger – pure rage – engulf me.”
The village elder walked across to my hut where I stood, “You are great, and yet you have not given us your name.”
“Selma.” I said, “It’s a stupid name.”
“No, it is not.” He smiled in the dark, “Your powers have protected our village and your kin. You are all members of our village now, but we know you must return to where you belong soon.”

So much has gone on since that night…

A war…

A plague…

Two fires…

Three invasions…

Seven funerals…

Twelve births… with seven deaths…

All this in three years; and it was time for us to leave. Our leader knew it was time as we had been talking about going home for a long time now. I missed so much of home. Mina wanted to start a life with me and Matty wanted to go back home and finish his uni studies.

As the dawn’s light filtered each star from the sky one by one, the chill in the air became less. But we knew it had begun as the stars that were left spun in a spiral, making us feel sick, making us feel light-headed, making us drop to the rocks one by one, filtering us out – just like the stars from the night sky.

“Selma, wake up.” Mina’s voice sounded muffled as the sun’s warmth touched my skin.
“Hey, are we home?” I asked.
“Yeah, I think so.” Matty’s voice said helping me to sit up.
We looked around the rocky shore and found the township of police looking at us. An ambulance had shown up, along with police, our parents and the media was being held back. We allowed them to take us to the hospital for tests – to clear us of any diseases that we might have picked up – before we went home.

That night, we all gathered together at my parents’ home for dinner and I looked around the living room at photos on the mantle and on the walls were really old. Looking over my parents, I noticed my Mum had more grey in her hair than she really should (but then, she might have it because I was missing). It wasn’t until I looked in the pantry when I noticed that there were more pills there than three years previous and I heard my brother come into the kitchen.
“Hey, Selma.” He said grabbing a glass from the collection on the drainer, “Mum and Dad aren’t young anymore; and you vanished for so long.” He shook his head, “You, Mina and Matty were gone for a decade.” He saw the shock on my face, and smiled, “How long did you think you were gone for?”
“Three years.”

The smile fell off my brother’s face.