Friday Fictioneers – Debts Paid

Photo supplied by Douglas M MacIlroy

Happy Friday Fictioneers day, AKA Wednesday! Hope you are all surviving lockdown, If you want to submit your own 100 word story based on the photograph, or see others, just follow this link

“A little something to wet your beak on.”

Crack.

“Glad to see you survived your meeting with Sparrowhawk,” said Tawny Owl, placing Finch’s drink on the bar. “He doesn’t forgive debtors easily.”

Finch didn’t reply, memories of last night circulating like a jerky film reel.

Crack.

“I have the perfect job for a little birdie like you,” Sparrowhawk had said. “A message to deliver.”

At the described tree, Finch heaved to dislodge and topple the stranger’s nest. Only then did he hear.

Crack.

Glimpses of broken shell, scattered.

Minutes later, Finch trembled under Sparrowhawk’s gaze, “Message delivered.”

Sunday Photo Fiction – The Professor Vs The Unenlightened

Copyright – Al Forbes

Another entry for Sunday Photo Fiction!

Professor Adams is a small man, but it’s clear he’s used to being looked up to in the metaphorical sense. From his rude demands for us to get out of his office to the way he insults us, everything about him smacks of an ostentatious intellectual who hasn’t quite realised that his knowledge doesn’t make him a saint.

“Don’t you dare touch those. You can’t possibly comprehend their worth,” he sneers as my friends begin to pick up artefacts from the shelves.

I smirk.

“Why don’t you enlighten us, professor?” I walk around the desk, and place my left hand firmly on the shoulder pad of his thoroughly outdated jacket. Maybe his suit is an antique too. “How much are they worth?” I ask softly in his ear, inducing a sweaty sheen on his forehead. He jumps as the cold blade of my knife comes into contact with his neck.

TBAM – Chapter Two: B

See the rest of the novel here.

Two hours later and Keats’ energy had faded. She stared at the door, willing it to open so that she could finally take Rappel Calizo down, give him to the police, then go to bed. Opposite the apartment’s entrance was a stained table, barely large enough for two people to dine at. Keats sat on it, ready to spring into action when the moment came. She was idly playing with a ball of azura in her left hand, feeling its warmth and connection to the magic in her own blood.

Azura was a kind of concentrated magic that could be summoned by most magicians. It was slightly more solid than light and had very few uses other than as a weapon. Skilled magicians could control how concentrated and physical the azura was, but nobody could make it as strong as Keats’ family did. Your common, garden-variety magician could hope to stun somebody with it. Keats had used azura to kill more times than she cared to remember.

Of course, killing was not the objective today. Sonya, possibly the most formidable Queen Litia had ever had, was breathing down everyone’s necks as they tried to pin members of the Desert Freedom group. Minister Trewick was only the second politician to have been targeted. The first victim, Katheu Matri, had been decapitated using magic. Her blood had been used to paint the red sun on the Desert Freedom flag. Before this incident, a large proportion of Litia’s government had been strongly opposed to lifting restrictions on the deserts to the East. Those voices suddenly became quieter.

If Keats did not deliver this man to an interrogation room, Sonya would most definitely not be pleased. In fact, she might even get angry. Few things ever caused Sonya to openly display anger in a form other than a very unnerving glare, but her true wrath was something most people would be wise to miss. It was nothing to worry about, Keats thought. Taking this amateur down would be child’s play.

When Keats finally heard a key being placed in the door’s lock, she narrowed her eyes and charged some azura. Rappel’s face came into view and Keats leapt off the table with the intention of grabbing and restraining him. His unexpectedly fast reflexes caught her off guard, and she found herself barrelling into the door as he dodged past her, with the azura leaving a scorch mark on the flaking paint. Keats spun around and saw that Rappel now had a dagger in his hand, probably one that he kept on his person. She snorted and charged at him again, this time with more focus on aim. There was a short tussle before Keats managed to thrust a ball of azura into the side of his head. Rappel crumpled.

Keats felt a sharp pain just below her right shoulder. The bastard had managed to inflict a deep wound while she’d been focussed on bringing him down. When she looked at Rappel’s body on the floor, she knew that something was wrong. Keats kneeled and checked his pulse.

“Fuck.”

He was dead. Sonya was going to be so pissed.

Friday Fictioneers – Behind Door No. 1

copyright - Kent Bonham

Copyright – Kent Bonham

Time for another round of Friday Fictioneers! If you want to read more FF stories or submit your own, click here.

Jack tasted dust and fear in the night air as he slowly ran his tongue across his lips. He took his time walking down the stairs, knowing she could hear his boots hit the cobbles, imagining the nausea she’d feel in her throat and the way her gut would clench with every footstep. Jack paused outside a green door, waited five seconds, and then smashed the lock through with a single kick. The crunch of splintering wood mingled with a wail of desperation.

She was pressed against the wall, backed into a corner, defenceless.

Just the way he liked them.

Friday Fictioneers – Everything Is Breakable.

dismantled keyboard

This photograph belongs to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, and if you wish to take part in Friday Fictioneers, head to her blog. Just a warning, my contribution is quite dark this week.

Andrew felt his girlfriend’s hand tightly grip his own as they followed their guide past groups of eclectic objects. She claimed they should spend more time together, but perhaps she’d hoped for something more romantic.

“This is a keyboard they found in his apartment,” the guide began. “He liked to take things apart.”

After seeing broken clocks, torn books and smashed ornaments, they were taken to an eerily dark room. The walls were saturated with bloody images of unrecognizable humans.

The guide gestured to a photograph.

“This was his first victim.” The guide paused. “He liked to take things apart.”

The Killer Question – Part Thirteen

For the first post, click here.

He hasn’t aged well, but his apparent frailty only serves to make him more frightening. If you had sat me in this bleak interview room in front of some hulk-like man, it would have been less intimidating than being surveyed by this particular brand of piercing leer. I try to push the words “Unnatural” and “Evil” out of my head. Beneath the wrinkled skin is a mind that would take pleasure in my destruction, whether physical or emotional. Maybe he prefers the latter, and that’s why he saved me.

“You look less like a librarian than I thought you would, especially after the moth line. Tell me, is that how you deal with men normally? Keep the expectations low?”

I ignore his bait, as I ignored the sorry-looking flower head. I had questions lined up, but I’ve already decided to pull out of the study as soon as I’m home. I’ll make up any excuse, or maybe even tell my supervisors the truth. I’m in trouble already. I may as well say what I want to say.

“I don’t think I’m special.” The words fall from my mouth, but my lips are so numb I don’t feel them. They’re so quiet I can barely hear them. His eyebrows draw together. “You keep saying that I want to know why I’m so special. I don’t. Whatever reasons you had for saving me, they would have applied to any child who was in my position. I’m not different.” I speak more loudly, but in a flat tone.

He smiles and there’s a moment when our eyes connect that I think I know he’s going to break me. Whether it’s through looks, or words, or physical violence, it doesn’t matter. I know that when I leave the room, he’ll have left his mark, something that will never go away.

The Killer Question – Part Eleven

See the first letter here.

I have to pull over shortly before I reach the prison. My hands leave sweat marks on the wheel. I rub them on the rough fabric of the seats and try to keep my breathing even. I can’t decide if I’m glad the road is quiet or not. On the one hand, it means I don’t have to worry about curious passers-by. On the other, the silence means the only thing I can hear is the ringing in my ears. The worst thing of all is the way the fear makes my gut clench.

What am I afraid of? Him? A little, I guess, but security at the prison is tighter than it’s ever been, and the interview will be closely monitored. Am I scared of what he’ll say? He’s just a damaged man, what he says doesn’t matter, especially not now. Those letters, what was I thinking? They’ve invalidated everything I’ve worked for. Even if my supervisors don’t find out, how can I hold my head high while knowing this research is useless? This interview is a sham. I’m only here because my main supervisor thought it would be a good idea. I was too nervous to think of an excuse.

My mother was so proud when I told her I was going to become a PhD student. “We’re going to have a Dr Atkinson in the family!” She was ecstatic. I stayed over at her home last night. She knew something wasn’t right, but I told her I was just tired after the long drive from Exeter. I couldn’t rest in that place, I never can. It’s so different from our old house, but I’m still scared that if you peel back the wallpaper, you’ll find the same dirty kitchen, the same stains on the walls, and then you’ll hear the shouts, the crashes, and the screams…

My father was never a pleasant man, and the arrest was not surprising. Despite the violence we had endured, my mother made sure we visited regularly. She couldn’t just cut loose like I very much wanted her to. I have to lay my head against the steering wheel as I recall that last visit. They called it the worst prison riot in history. There was a well-publicized enquiry. Gross negligence and failure from the prison staff, ill-thought out policies and procedures were to blame. Heads rolled and the media vultures feasted on the carcasses for weeks.

All I remember were the sirens, enough to make a young, foolish girl so hysterical she runs into the arms of trouble.

I start the car. These memories will be painted over.

The Killer Question – Part Nine

The first letter can be found here.

Dear Mr Empwood,

I have no response to your last letter.

However, it would greatly aid the progress of this study if we had a face to face interview.

Either the study can continue as previously described, or you can take part in a face to face interview instead of completing two of the surveys.

How would you like to proceed?

Yours,

Ms E. Atkinson.

The Killer Question – Part Seven

See the original post here.

Dear Mr Empwood

I am glad to hear that you are willing to take part in the study. The surveys and instructions have been mailed to your prison supervisors. I know that the formalities can be tedious, but they are necessary. The corruptibility of “good” people is exactly what I study, Mr Empwood. There are a lot of factors which influence a person to commit crime. Deindividuation, genetics, their parental models (or lack thereof), do you think any of those factors apply to you? Or do you think that some people, including yourself, are simply “villains”?

I refuse to believe the latter is true in any case. Until we stop categorizing people as good or bad and start appreciating how complex the human mind really is, we will never truly understand why some people commit violent crimes and others do not. More importantly, we can never hope to rehabilitate criminals successfully until we understand exactly what motivates such behaviour.

Your supervisors inform me that you are a model prisoner. I know that the prison has a rewards system in place, is that what motivates you? You have your theories about me, I have my theories about you.

You say Sid’s survival was merely down to luck, but you let him slip through your fingers. You knew where he lived and could have found him again before he found you. Your prison supervisors claim they’ve never had trouble from you since that riot. You prevented me from being harmed by another prisoner.

Are you “repenting”?

Yours sincerely,

Emma Atkinson.

P.S. I drink neither Pepsi or Coke. Just the smell of cola drinks makes me nauseous.

The Killer Question – Part Five

See the first letter here.

Dear Mr Empwood,

I gained both my degree and my master’s in Psychology at the University of Exeter, under the tutelage of the very skilled and able professors who work there.  My interest in Psychology, especially surrounding violent crime, developed during my teenage years. Unless I am mistaken, you met my father while he was incarcerated. It was after his death that my desire to understand the motives behind his crimes began.

You may already know that the Stanford Prison experiment was the very study which highlighted the need for certain ethical guidelines to be compulsory, and its aftermath produced the foundation for the rules we follow today. Let me reiterate, you may withdraw from the study at any time you wish. You do not need to give a reason and your decision will not affect your treatment. Your concerns are taken seriously.

I cannot say I have a “favourite” victim of yours. However, your behaviour after murdering Hayleigh Jones was unusual and inconsistent with your other crimes. Your other victims were simply left in their beds. After strangling Hayleigh, you dressed her in her wedding gown and left her outside the church she was due to be married in three days later.

Was this simply to gain attention? If so, you certainly succeeded. It was the murder which sparked the media frenzy which did not end until well after your capture and imprisonment.

Yours sincerely,

Emma Atkinson

P.S. I’ve always preferred moths to butterflies. They’re much less ostentatious.