ImageAt the tail end of last year I once again entered the Aberdeen University Special Collections Flash Fiction competition. Once again I didn’t win anything but hey-ho…

Anyway, since I haven’t posted anything for a while I thought I may as well share it here. The story was inspired by the picture.

Strictly Business

‘How was Bogota?’

They were standing in front of the model globe. Anderson could feel the slight chill of air-conditioning through his suit. Outside the muggy New York streets waited for him.

‘The arrangements were excellent as usual.’

‘And Señor Mendoza?’ Philips let the question hang in the cool air. He was close enough that Anderson caught a faint whiff of his cologne. He remembered the heat from the car bomb washing over him even from a safe distance. The plume of black smoke had stretched above the city streets like a crooked exclamation point confirming that Carlos Mendoza had ceased to exist.

‘Will no longer be a problem.’

‘And the authorities?’

‘Mendoza frequently criticised the drug lords so everyone assumes the Cartel did it.  So far the press hasn’t made the connection to his campaign against foreign investment.’

‘Excellent,’ Philips turned to the younger man. ‘I believe there was some collateral damage?’

Anderson nodded.

‘Senor Mendoza’s wife and his daughter were also in the car.’ Ana Maria Mendoza had been just six years old.  Her smiling, gap-toothed school picture had stared out at him from the front pages of the newspaper while he waited for his flight.

‘Unfortunate,’ Philips shrugged. ‘However, these things happen in our line of work.’ He smiled. ‘You’ve done well Jimmy. Your name is going to be heard by a lot of important people after this, you mark my words.’

‘It’s good to know that my work is appreciated.’

‘That’s the spirit Jimmy,’ Philips clapped him on the shoulder. ‘I have another assignment coming up if you’re interested.’

Anderson hesitated. He was exhausted after the Mendoza mission but perhaps keeping busy would be for the best under the circumstances.

‘What’s the job?’

‘Bit of a change from the last one,’ he rotated the globe. ‘How’s your Russian?’

‘Pretty good. I have a slight southern accent but not enough to make me stand out.’

‘Perfect.’ He reached into his inside pocket and handed over a small black box. It looked just like a regular Smartphone.

‘You can download more information via this once you leave here.’

‘Any other special instructions?’

‘You’ll need to pay a quick visit to the Lab before you go.’

‘The Lab? What for?’

‘This job needs to be a little less …public shall we say, than your last one. The political situation is more delicate. We need this to look like natural causes. From what I gather the eggheads downstairs have concocted something using polonium to do the trick.’

‘Polonium?’

‘It’s a radioactive isotope. The effects won’t be immediate but they should be fatal in the long run. You’ll be completely safe of course.’

‘I see. Well, I’d best be get down there and make a start.’ He made as if to leave.

‘Jimmy?’ Philips called after him. Anderson turned back.

‘Mendoza’s family – I trust you aren’t being troubled by any pangs of conscience.’

He thought again of the photographs and shook his head. Conscience was a luxury.

‘Strictly business, Mr Philips.’

A wee slice of flash fiction…Image

The Outer Limits

 The press of bodies moves with its own secret rhythm as music blares into the warm summer air from a dozen different sources. Pounding drumbeats and throbbing bass notes blend with ringing bells and peals of laughter to create a joyous cacophony.

The air is thick with odours too – sticky toffee apples, hot buttery popcorn, the sweet smell of spun sugar slowly fluffing into puffs of candy floss drifting through the night. Lights semaphore secret messages in gold, green and yellow flashes.

There are people everywhere, forming in knots along the strip of stalls lining the promenade. Children tug on their parent’s arms, pointing at the rides and making pleading faces. Hands dig deep into pockets searching for silver.

I stand in the middle of all this chaos and confusion, staring at the painted faces on the side of one of the rides. A thick-set, unshaven man with a worn leather pouch full of change jangling around his waist looks at me with mild disinterest. A smouldering cigarette is pinched between two yellowed fingers.

‘You just going to stand there gawping all night or do you want to go on?’

‘I’m trying to make up my mind. What is it exactly?’

The man drops his cigarette to the pavement and grinds it out with one scuffed work boot. He points to the sign above the entrance which promises “family fun for everyone!” It looks like a giant mouth ready to swallow the unwary.

I look at the pictures again – giant cartoon grotesques with bulging eyes stare back at me, daring me to join them in their day-glow purgatory.

I decide that I’d rather try and win a goldfish.

Once upon a time there was no Bill. In his place was Billy, a young lad who sometimes entertained the fantasy of being a writer one day.

In 1989, young Billy was sitting one of those English exams where they give you a booklet full of prompts and tell you to write something about one of them. He spied a newspaper headline which proclaimed, “Man to be freeze-dried” and the wheels in his mind started turning helped along by his regular intake of sci-fi stories from the local library.

Billy’s teacher read the story and insisted he put it into the school magazine. This was very nice of her and Billy was very chuffed as it was the first story he ever had published. Sadly, Billy’s copy of the story was lost in the great clear-out under the bed of ’95 and the story was thought to be lost forever.

Untill now…

Thanks to the wonderful world of Facebook and old school chum told me he had visited the old school recently as it is scheduled to be demolished soon. On his visit he found an old pile of school magazines which had been collected together for vistors to browse. Knowing that I still entertain notions of being a writer he sent me a picture of the long lost story and suggested I ask the school if I could get a copy.

I took his advice yesteday an envelope arrived containing the words written by little Billy when he was only 14 and a nice letter from the Deputy Head Teacher.

So here it is: The Man To Be Freeze Dried. Presented in all it’s badly punctuated glory. Some readers out there may think that not much has changed …apart from being a bit clearer where commas, colons and semi-colons go now!

Now, if only I could get someone to track down my long lost Christmas massacre story…

Well it’s been a busy old time since Christmas meaning there have been very few opportunities to get any writing done of late.  Thankfully the tide seems to have turned a bit and last week I was finally able to get some new writing done on a story a started a while back.

Since Christmas I’ve also entered another 10K run just up the road in Inverurie so I’m also busy training for that at the moment. The last time I entered a race I also got the inspiration for a story so maybe I’ll get some more writing off the back of this one.

As some of you might recall, I was scheduled to appear on SHMU.FM’s Literature show at the end of last year but had to cancel at the last minute. Yesterday I was finally able to put in an appearance and read three of my stories: “Once Upon a Crime”, “The Last Mile” and “The Rabbit” as well as answer questions about what makes me tick as a writer. For the moment at least, you can listen to the show HERE.

ebook chart2Well friends and neighbours, Christmas Night of the Living Dead has finished it’s launch period. After five days I have been astonished to see how well it did considering it was mostly written as a fun thing to share with friends and seperate from my “proper” writing.

The story came out on Tuesday. I duly posted links on my facebook wall and in the Kindle forums letting everyone know that there was a free Christmas story going a begging. I sat back expecting a bit of a rush as my friends and family dutifully downloaded it and then a dribble of downloads from curious passer’s by…

As Tuesday turned into Wendesday it was clear something different was happening. Every time I checked the sales reports more copies had gone. I’d put my other e-books on promotion as well and a few of those were shifting as well but the new story was flying! I checked in and found that I’d made it up to number 30 in the top 100 free e-books on Amazon.com in the Humour and Horror categories and was ranked at number 474 overall out of all the free ebooks! B y today I was number 14 – one place above the kindle edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein! In total 1167 copies of the story were downloaded.

Of course, now the free promotion has ended the downloads have come to a complete halt, but out there in the digitial domain there are now over 1000 potential readers for the next thing I publish. From little acorns…