A guest post for the birthday of Shakespeare ~ Ophelia dejected and wretched

For the month of April, fellow author, Thea Atkinson is streaking through 30 blogs and flashing us a piece of fiction. I generously offered her a space today so she could expose a piece. Her book “Anomaly” was the first e-book I bought for my Kindle and I hope to review it here soon. My blog will be back to normal tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy and follow the links at the end to see who she flashed yesterday and who she will flash tomorrow. Feel free to leave a comment to let me know if you enjoyed the streak, and you are welcome to tweet it or share it on Facebook. You can also follow the chain through twitter with the hashtag #blogstreak

I asked her to write something with a Shakespearean theme of some sort as today is both Shakespeare’s birthday and his death day and this is what she came up with. Enjoy!

Ophelia Deject and Wretched

By Thea Atkinson

http://theaatkinson.wordpress.com

I’m only mad North Northwest; it’s just that I haven’t felt the wind change direction for a while.

Been alone out here six years now. Gert stayed with me for a while, kept me company, but that didn’t work out so well. Got myself a sweet little spot close to the docks, a jumble of gargantuan granite stones that touch each other in all the right places, forming a cozy Ophelia-sized hollow to keep me out of the elements and my stuff dry.

I keep my Motel Granite good and secret, even from Gert and the other gals under the bridge. I feel bad about that, but really, it can’t be helped. Last time I let someone in, she stole everything but the wind-chapped roses on my cheeks: everything I owned in this sour world, my picture of Hamish-long-gone. Even my one hand-crocheted slipper got purloined, so you never can trust a soul out here. You know what’s best for you, you settle on a wide step at the Post Office like I am now, and make with the rolling eyes. Herds of people enter and exit, so it’s as good a place as any to ply my trade.

Sometimes pity sits in someone’s palm in the form of a quarter; more often than not it wants more of a show before it deigns to make an appearance. I’m alright with that. Theater was my favorite subject in college — it was my major, after all. Shakespeare, my specialty.

I add a glassy stare to the rolling eyes bit, pretend to pass out flowers to would-be clientele.

“Rosemary for remembrance,” I say to a bulldog wearing a business suit. With his tight-assed walk, I can tell he needs something to help him remember he has a human soul.

“Just a quarter, sir.” I tug at his gabardine trouser leg and he flicks a Yoric-eyed glance over my modest skirt and trash-bin jacket. He finally throws a quarter into my jug.

“Thank you, kind sir,” I sneak a dejected look into my jar: only three coins and two bills — one of them a Monopoly denomination.

These last few years have been tough, believe me. After I fed Gert from my own stash of dumpster doughnuts and let her wear my slipper over the one foot of hers with a black toe from frostbite, she still stole from me. I thought I’d lose my mind to rage. Didn’t though. Found some reserve deep within and scouted out a new place. My little granite motel has walls of stone, a floor of earth, and a minute skylight that shows me the twinkling of apartment lights if I lay the right way. I can’t let anyone in any more, no matter how lonely I am.

Thinking about my granite motel and its potential for impregnable warmth, I feel sorry for the gals under the bridge. Doesn’t matter how sheltered that spot is, Jack Frost has a way of slipping his poison into that fluid amber they drink down there to keep him at bay. Soon they slip into another state. Soon after that they’re rotting in that state and the only one who sheds a tear over them is the coroner, and his eyes only seep from the stink of their unwashed bodies.

“What a noble mind is here overthrown,” I shout at everyone. They’ve got a nerve pretending but for the grace of God they’d not be sitting here. A right fine nerve. “But for the grace of God,” I whisper to the next woman as she hurries past, and she drops a bill in as if to assuage her guilt.

Ah, the grace of God. Would that we all show a little kindness down here so we may reap the same when we’ve gone. A gal never knows when she’ll be dependent on the kindness of strangers.

I take a look at the bustling crowds, the taxis weaving in and out, jockeying for quicker routes to their destinations, and for some reason I think of Gert. I know she doesn’t have a sweet little spot like the granite motel, or a lucrative place of business. She has no trade to ply. All she has is a black toe covered by a hand-crocheted slipper, and a picture of my man loved and gone.

I imagine she’s making her way to the bridge right now, hoping to find a sheltered crevice to keep her out of the elements for the night. I worry she might decide to swoon under Jack Frost’s embrace.

Methinks the wind may be changing.

-30-

April 22 Leah Petersen

http://www.leahpetersen.com/

April 23 Vivienne Tuffnell

https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/

April 24–Tania Tirraoro http://notasadvertised.blogspot.com/

Regards from,

Thea Atkinson
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Red Eyes~ a story for Hallow E’en

 

Red Eyes( a story for Hallow E’en)

I’ve never been one to scare easily but when I saw those red eyes staring hard at me, their intensity dimmed by the reed blind that was partially pulled down over the glass door, I froze. I was catapulted into a state of instantaneous terror I’d never known before. They say when you are about to die, you life flashes before your eyes; well, at sixteen there wasn’t a lot to flash and like one of those flicker comics, it was over in micro seconds.

But I was still alive and those eyes were watching me, their unwavering scrutiny of me showed no sign of movement. I leaped from the sofa where I’d been snuggled down with Middlemarch and my Latin homework and turned the key in the lock. The glass door led into the old fashioned sun lounge built onto this sizeable Victorian house and with the door actually locked I felt a tiny bit safer but my heart continued to pound. Upstairs my two charges slept the peace of the innocent and I remembered that as babysitter I was responsible for their safety.

Having bought myself a little time, I considered my options. I could run down the hall and phone my dad, who lived the other end of the street and hope he got here before whatever was in the sun lounge broke through the glass and tore me to shreds. You see, I had an idea of what was out there and I didn’t like it at all.

The road I grew up in was very much the ‘in’ place to build a house in Victorian times, and the road is packed with large houses, some in their own grounds. Much of the extra land has been sold off and more houses built so the progression from the 1860s when the first houses were built to the 1990s when the most recent were added shows a range of architecture. The Ways’ house where I worked two or three times a week was one of the very first and during the excavations for foundations at that end of the street the workmen had unearthed a pagan Saxon cemetery, complete with funerary urns. According to newspaper reports at the time, urns were smashed and destroyed before the authorities could call in an expert. That was where I now stood, quivering with fear. The spirit of some angry Saxon was waiting out there, ready to crash through the glass door and annihilate me. If that wasn’t scary enough, the kids upstairs would be next. If I took my eyes off those eyes, I wouldn’t know where he was. And then somehow that would be worse than knowing.

I somehow managed to control my breathing and decided that if I was going to go, I had to try and exorcise the evil out there first. So praying under my breath I unlocked the door and stepped into the darkness of the sun lounge and waited. The room retained a little of the heat from the summer sun and it was filled with the green pungency of tomato plants.

Nothing happened. The eyes were gone. I walked round, my knees knocking with fear and saw nothing. I crept back into the living room and as I turned to shut the door behind me, I almost jumped out of my skin.

The eyes were back, shining and evil.

I twisted and lurched back into the sun lounge and waited for my doom to fall, crouching on the floor, face to face with……

…………………. two cherry tomatoes, glowing crimson in the light from the street lamp beyond the garden.

Ever since then Occam’s Razor has been my closest weapon in the fight with the world of the supernatural…..closely followed by my sense of humour.

The Moth’s Kiss- a short story

 

The Moth’s Kiss

 

You never noticed me. Your kind seldom do; I’m almost invisible, faded to a uniform shade of grey of soul and of face. But I noticed you, sitting there with a net book open, writing, in the corner of that café. Lost to the surrounding bustle, you looked completely absorbed in your task, a tiny frown of concentration making a line between your eyebrows. That’ll become permanent, you know, if you don’t get rid of that little habit.

I digress.

I don’t know why it was you and not someone else who caught my attention that day. There are plenty of beautiful people around, flitting like bright butterflies from stall to stall and in and out of the shops as though they were nectar-rich flowers. But you had no interest in that. Perhaps that was why I noticed you: your stillness amid the frantic consumer frenzy. It was like catching the fragrance of a real living rose in a concrete jungle.

So I watched. You let your coffee go cold while you typed, and then drank it in one draught and looked puzzled by the fact that it was cold. I liked that. You lost all sense of time and space while you were concentrating and for me, that’s immensely promising. You could say it’s essential for my needs.

After I decided that you were the one, it was easy to take a quick peep over your shoulder and read your email address. Other information was just as easy to steal. You are really quite naïve, you know. You should really remember to log out. It makes it too easy for someone like me to get in and read your emails. I guess you don’t think anyone would be interested and you’d be very wrong indeed; you don’t know the stir you cause among my kind. Be glad it’s me and not someone else.

The first night I watched you sleeping it felt like a huge step, a massive victory, but it paled and became commonplace. Night after night, watching and never being able to do more than that. I became almost bored. A slight movement and I became alert again, excited, and a tiny bit scared that I might be discovered. It’s silly as there’s no way you might guess. I said I’m pretty much invisible; I didn’t exaggerate. You sleep deeply and by the time you wake, I’m long gone and I leave no trace. At least, no trace you can find without very special training.

But the other night it was different. What happened that day? Rejection? Heart break? You didn’t mention it in any email; maybe it hurt too much whatever it was. You went to bed and tossed and turned for hours, and then when you finally fell asleep, you wept. I saw. Tears glistening in the finger of light that slips through where the curtains don’t meet, one after another, slipping silently out of tightly shut eyes. I heard you sob and it made me tense but you were crying in your sleep.

I read once about a moth that draws all its fluid and nutrient needs by stealing the tears of sleepers. I don’t know if this is a myth or a true creature but it appealed to me. Your tears were delicious; I could almost taste their salt. I wanted to lean over your sleeping face and slowly kiss them away and enjoy your pain.

But a web-cam has its limits and there’s no way I can touch you.

Yet.

Writer’s Block- a short story

 

Writer’s Block

The blank page was as empty as a bank account the day before pay-day, and as depressingly familiar. Like a signpost pointing an accusing finger, the page indicated another day of failure, of emptiness and despair. Oh, words had been briefly typed upon this mocking sheet, and then erased before they had time to settle there. If this had been an old-fashioned typewriter, then a forest of paper would have been in the bin by now, and with crumpled islands of discarded starts surrounding the target. That was one small mercy of the computer revolution, no waste paper any more. Instead, the untitled page opened day after day, with all words wiped from it. Surely there was a Greek myth somewhere of someone who toiled all day writing words that faded from the page as night fell. If there was, he couldn’t remember how it ended

Well, the words didn’t fade: he deleted them, despising himself and those ill-chosen words that just sat on the page like awkward teenagers, jostling each other and looking out of place and untidy and defiant. It was the defiance that got him angry and made him hit delete over and over again.

I used to be so good at this, he thought, miserably, closing the file and shutting the computer down. A glass of wine to chase down the blues, and he’d call it a night, again, sleeping fitfully and being pursued by words that fled when he turned and tried to see their shapes. Tomorrow, just to be that little bit more hopeful, was another day and it held all sorts of joys, not least of which was an appointment with a hypnotist. He sighed, drank the wine too fast to enjoy it and went to bed.

I want you to visualise your block,” said the hypnotist.

Trying to oblige, he did so.

What form does it take?”

It’s like the Berlin Wall, but a hundred or so feet high,” he said.

Visualise a door.”

He did so. It was a very handsome door too, with brass fittings and a massive bolt and lock.

It’s locked,” he said.

There was a tiny sigh from the hypnotist, and through the filters of his downcast eyelashes, he saw her glance at her watch. She’s bored with me already, he thought, and sighed himself.

Look in your pockets, you’ll find the key,” she said and he could hear the boredom and irritation.

In his mind’s eye, he pulled out a massive bunch of keys, and after rifling through them, he said,

Nope, it’s not there.”

You must try harder,” she said and he snapped open his eyes, and glared at her.

Do you not think I’m already trying as hard as I can,” he snapped.

I think you’re deliberately sabotaging yourself because you don’t really want to get through this block,” she said. “Don’t bother to make another appointment until you make your mind up to really embrace this.”

Well, that was a waste of time and money, he thought as he drove home to the empty screen awaiting him. Now I know my block is a hundred feet high and crosses a whole country, and I don’t appear to have the key. Really helpful. Not.

Before he opened that taunting file again, he checked through his emails and found one from an old friend.

I’ve sent something for your little problem; should be with you tomorrow,” she’d written.

The block had become so much a part of his life that he often felt he ought to introduce his friends to it at parties. The block had lasted longer now than many relationships and like a failing marriage that has ceased to even invite interest, let alone the kind of slightly voyeuristic attention it did at the start of the downward slope, it had become a subject to avoid among his friends. They were bored with it and with him; a writer who can’t write any more ceases to have a place in the world unless he reinvents himself, perhaps as an editor or a critic. For him that would be when mercy killing might be in order.

His friends scarcely ever mentioned his block, as though it were an embarrassing disorder the discussion of which might somehow infect them, so it intrigued him what she might be sending. At the start of it, people had been full of helpful suggestions and ideas, all of which he’d tried, with a steadily decreasing amount of enthusiasm. He wasn’t sure what else might be possible; hypnosis had been his last idea.

The following afternoon, the parcel carrier van pulled up outside his house and offloaded a large and heavy box. Signing for it, he barely managed to get it inside and dumped it on the kitchen table with a resounding thud. Taped up and mysterious, it sat there, inviting him to open it. He stared at it, wine glass in hand unable to make a start on it. Somehow the prospect of another disappointment was almost too much to bear. By the second glass of wine, curiosity was getting the better of him and he began ripping away the tape and slashing at the cardboard with the vegetable knife in a frantic effort to get it open.

Peeling the flaps back, now ragged from his frenzy, he peered inside. He blinked. Amid the polystyrene chips, there sat a large rough hewn block of wood, which was tied up with a bright red satin ribbon.

What the f-?” he said, biting back the obscenity.

He emptied the box, tipping the chips out on the floor and feeling through every corner of the box. Nothing. Not even a note, nothing.

The bitch…” he breathed, awed that someone he thought he knew so well could surprise him like this with such a vicious piece of mockery. He’d really not have thought her capable of such extraordinary nastiness.

Anger boiled over, and he hefted the block in his arms and marched outside into the fading light of the garden. The wood shed was mostly full, with the arrival of a new load for the coming winter and he at first intended to just chuck the block in there but as he flung open the door, something caught the light and glinted. The big axe he used to split logs was embedded in his chopping block and the polished head gleamed with oil.

I’ll show you what I think of your block,” he said, and seized the axe, tugging it from the block and as his long-repressed fury took control of his hands and his heart and he placed his gift on the block and began to attack it with the axe.

Halfway, he stopped and sharpened the axe very carefully. It was only the coming of darkness that halted his focussed efforts. By then the block had been reduced to splinters suitable for kindling only.

Sweating and breathless he threw all the pieces he could find into the log basket and carried them back into the house. Well, tonight seemed to be getting colder; time to light the fire for the first time this autumn, then. The hearth needed sweeping before he could lay the fire, and by the time the flames had begun to warm the room, he felt only a sense of emptiness again. He’d lost a friend today, truly, because he’d obviously never really known her at all.

Sat cross-legged on the hearth rug, he gazed at the fire and felt tears streaming down his face, distorting his vision and making the flames seem softer somehow, reminding him of his grandmother’s house when he was small. She’d make him crumpets by toasting them on the fire and slathering them with butter from their own cows. He remembered her with some surprise; she’d been gone more than twenty years and he’d scarcely given her a thought in all that time. Strange, really, when she’d been the one who’d enthralled him with tales of her own childhood and of things her grandmother told her. He probably owed his whole love of stories to her.

Watching the dancing flames, he saw images in them, pictures of things long ago and far away and rather marvellous and magical, and he found himself reaching for his laptop and beginning to type, filling that blank sheet with words that danced like the flames and made patterns of surpassing wonder.

And he didn’t delete a single word.

Dungeons and Dragons

 

http://shafali.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/announcement-blog-carnival-bloggers-writers-story-in-caricature-storytelling-festival-contest/

This story is my entry for Shafali’s wonderful blog carnival. Enjoy!

 

Dungeons and Dragons

Like most things decided upon while half-cut, it had seemed like such a good idea. Gatecrashing his stepmother(to be)’s Hen party along with his mates really had seemed such a clever thing to do.

Adjusting the thin fabric under his bottom, he sighed and wished he’d not had that last pint. The chain around his ankle allowed him some movement but really he couldn’t get far enough away to have a pee without the risk of it leaking back to where he’d settled near the bars. The stone beneath him was, well stone cold and he could remember his grandma had always said that sitting on cold rocks would give him piles. However, if haemorrhoids were the worst and most lasting humiliation to come from this horrible night then he would count himself a lucky man.

He cringed to remember some of the things he’d yelled at the coterie of “mature ladies” who had been in the Hen group.

I’ve seen better looking drag queens,” he’d jeered and failed utterly to register the sudden drop in temperature in the snug. “I reckon Boris Johnson would make a better woman than most of you.”

His stepmother(to be) had simply ignored him but had made a small gesture at Brenda, one of her friends, who, in his opinion, was the ugliest example of womanhood he’d ever seen and all of a sudden, he was seized by two of them. To his utter surprise he found they both had hands of steel and he was suddenly powerless.

Well then,” said Brenda, “let’s see how well you scrub up then!”

He was lifted off his feet and in a frighteningly short time,they had transported him to Brenda’s house and he was stripped naked and was subjected to the severe torture of having pretty much every inch of skin waxed. His throat still hurt from yelling. Tied by tights to a chair, he was systematically made up and had his hair curled and fiddled with until he gave up protesting. The gang of dragons(as he now thought of them) just carried on regardless and finally, dressed him in a long pink evening gown, complete with matching pumps. The weird thing was that the pumps, supplied by Brenda, fitted his size 11s very well. But Brenda was a tall woman.

Now, what shall we do with him, ladies?”

His heart froze and they picked him up and bundled him into a taxi, wrapped in a big blanket and covered his head. When they took it off, he realised he was in a dark place and that they were placing a shackle around his ankle.

Blinking in horror around him, he saw he was in a cage, and beyond it, only darkness.

Enough’s enough ladies!” he pleaded. “You canna leave me here. It’s my Dad’s wedding tomorrow morning. I have to be there. Let me out, go on. I won’t say anything.”

But his pleas were unanswered and the laughing voices fade away leaving him in cold, silent darkness. That was hours ago now and he was desperate for a pee. He closed his eyes, hoping to drift off and lose himself in sleep. His dreams were haunted by visions of huge women with hands like navvie’s and Adam’s apples you could cut cheese with….

Laughter woke him.

My God, how did you get there?”

A security guard stood there and he could see now beyond his cage to the world beyond. Tableaux of unimaginable horrors surrounded him and he gazed stupidly at the guard.

Where am I?”

London Dungeon, lad. This is someone’s idea of a joke, no? Let’s get you out of there.”

What time is it?” he demanded.

Half past eight. We open at nine. You were lucky I had a look round before we let the public in,” said the guard.

It took a while to get him out of his chains and into some decent clothes. In the private toilets the staff used, he scrubbed at his face to try and get the make-up off but just made it smear worse than ever.

Pan stick,” said the woman guard, when he came through in despair. “Heavy duty foundation used by people with very bad skin. Trannies use it.”

I’m not a tranny,” he said. “Can anyone lend me a tenner? I have to get to my Dad’s wedding before it’s too late.”

The taxi ride seemed to take forever through the Saturday manic traffic and he knew it was too late. He reached the reception determined to find his Dad and set him straight but as he walked in the door, he knew the world would never, ever look the same again.

Sat at high table, resplendent with smiles were his father and his new stepmother. The groom wore a beautiful gown of pink silk, with matching roses and the bride wore a tuxedo in magenta with a rose-pink tie.

Oh you made it then, son,” his father said, pushing at his wreath of roses. “I wondered what had happened to you.”

Swallowing, he came to the table and solemnly, like all good Englishmen, shook hands with his father. He nodded to the bride who raised her eyebrows in query.

You’ve got eyes like piss-holes in the snow, son,” his father said. “Whatever did you get up to last night?”

I drank too much,” he said, eyes still following his stepmother. “Slept in too late. Sorry. But I’m here now.”

Aye, that’s the main thing, you’re here,” said his stepmother. “I guess you’ve learned a valuable lesson, eh?”

Oh yes,” he said, with feeling.

edit: these are the other wonderful entries; go check them out!

The Uninvited Guest

  The Uninvited Guest 

I felt him come in; through the noise and colour and lights of the party, I felt him come into the room and stand quietly to one side, not mingling,  just waiting and watching. We have such a deep connection he didn’t need to tell me he was there; I knew. Maybe there was a change in the air, maybe I smelled him, his scent distinct as the ozone smell before a storm breaks. Whatever it was, I knew he’d arrived and I felt a brief flare of rage that he should just turn up here, uninvited and unwanted, when I was trying to enjoy my party.

The heat of the room was pleasant still and I was passing from guest to guest, making conversation and laughing, but all the time I could feel his eyes follow me round the room. He wouldn’t do or say anything yet; from experience I knew he could be trusted to behave for a while longer. He might even be decent company for some guests but if that were the case, as I shut the door on the last few to leave, there’d be hell to pay for ignoring him all evening. I had to act.

I sidled up to him; he’s an expert sidler so he appreciated that, and grinned at me as I took his elbow and guided him into the kitchen. With my foot wedged against the door, to stop anyone else coming in, I looked at him sternly and felt furious that he just laughed.

“What are you doing here?” I demanded. “I didn’t invite you.”

“You never do,” he said, his mouth turned down in a quirky mock frown. “You never do.”

“Well, what do you expect? You’re a right royal pain when you’re with me. You make my friends hate me,” I said.

“No,” he said and I saw that the joking was over. “They don’t hate you. Honestly. They don’t even know about me, most of them. Or care. I know I make you different when I’m with you, but is that such a bad thing?”

“Yes,” I said.

Someone rattled at the door.

“Just a minute,” I called.

“Look,” I said. “You can stay, all right, but please don’t upset anyone.”

“Deal,” he said and held out a hand.

Reluctantly I took it and he squeezed it.

“We do need to talk,” he said gently and I could see he meant it.

“Later, when everyone’s gone,” I said.

“You always say that,” he said.

“Maybe this time I mean it,” I said.

He kept his word and behaved like a perfect gentleman. I’m not sure anyone really noticed him among the guests; he certainly didn’t stand out as anything out of the ordinary. Nonetheless, I was glad when I shut the door behind my last guest and knew there was nothing more he could do to spoil my party.

I was collecting glasses and he came up behind me, making me jump and drop glasses. I scrabbled to retrieve them and set them down on a coffee table.

“We need to talk,” he said again.

“Then talk,” I said. “I have all night now. What do you need to tell me?”