Friday Fictioneers – Preserved

Copyright - Sean Fallon

If you’d like to submit your own 100 word FF story or look at the others, click here to go to the blog of Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Credit for the photo goes to Sean Fallon.

They stashed the mannequin in my bed, leaving its shiny brow protruding from underneath the covers. They thought it would frighten me, but that night I laid in a comfortable silence whilst feeling the weight on the other side of the mattress. If you were like the mannequin, you’d be here right now.  Wouldn’t things be better if you stayed where you were put? If you didn’t occasionally say such troubling things to me?

I checked the freezer the next morning, just to make sure. Your face is so cold and perfect. The neighbourhood rumours are wrong. I saved you.

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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 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.

The Killer Question – Part Three

Read the previous letter here.

Dear Mr Empwood,

Let me assure you that nobody intends to treat you as anything less than human. We have strict, ethical codes and practices which we must adhere to at all times. I am not seeking some kind of power trip and I am not trying to judge you as a person, Mr Empwood. I am trying to understand you, human being to human being.

If your aim is to give the public your side of the story, there are journalists lining up to hear your views. I’m a psychologist, and the wrong person to share your story with the world. If, on the other hand, you are interested in being part of a project that will shape future policy with regards to criminal rehabilitation, your participation will help us immensely.

I’m not going to play games with you and I’m not sure what you want me to tell you.

Would you like to know more about myself and my qualifications?

Yours sincerely,

Emma Atkinson

The Killer Question – Part One

It’s finally September, which means I’ll be back at university in a few weeks time. I’m actually (as sad as it sounds,) really excited about going back. I think it’s going to be a good year. I do have time for one more project before I get busy with coursework and lectures and revision. I’m doing a collaboration with Inkwell Knight, which will consist of a series of letters between a psychologist and a man convicted of several violent murders.

We should be posting every five days, but we’re keeping everything quite flexible as we’re both quite busy.

We both hope you enjoy the project.

Dear Mr Empwood,

I am currently a post-graduate student at the University of Exeter, and undertaking a research project on the topic of criminal rehabilitation, specifically on how perpetrators of violent crime recall their actions. I have discussed this project with my supervisors, your prison supervisors, and with the UK’s board of ethics, who have agreed this project can be pursued with your consent.

You were chosen for this study based on your crimes and your admission of guilt in court not because of anything that occurred after you were imprisoned. The project will involve me asking you for written accounts of the crimes you committed, and also asking you to fill out various surveys both before and after writing these accounts. It will also involve me asking questions related to your treatment and activities within HM Prison Wakefield. This will be supervised by prison employees.

You are not in any way obliged to take part in this study, and your decision will not affect your treatment at HM Prison Wakefield. You may discontinue your participation in the study at any time. All of this information, along with my contact details, is listed on the consent form, which is attached.

Your participation would really help me, not that I expect you’re capable of much empathy after what you did, but then

I think you owe it to society

What was it about me that made you do what you did?

Yours sincerely,

Emma Atkinson.

Alastair’s Photo Fiction – Cold Hands

Image

Copyright – Alastair Forbes

This flash fiction was written in response to a prompt from Alastair’s Photo Fiction blog.

All that’s left of them are bones buried under the battlefield. Those, and the sibilant whispers that echo through the corridors of my home. I washed the blade so carefully, sluicing off the evidence of combat until no sticky, scarlet drops tarnished the steel. I see my face reflected in its surface, and I know that something still contaminates this sword. Something that will not be washed, polished or buffered away. Perhaps the blood penetrated below the surface, and that is from where it speaks.

“You could be us,” they hiss. “You looked into our eyes as you killed us and we saw that you knew. You knew that the sword in our belly could as easily have pierced yours. That Death would have collected you as swiftly, would have opened His arms as wide, and would have swallowed your life as easily as He swallowed ours. From His land we watched you revel in your victory. One day, you will feel our cold hand on your shoulder and you will know that we are equals…”

Too Gruesome? Books/TV shows affecting your work.

I find my writing to be influenced by the books I read. I don’t believe it affects me as much as it used to. Within my novels, I like the think my writing styles and voice are fairly consistent throughout whatever story I’m writing.

Within NaNoWriMo, it can be difficult to write quickly while maintaining quality. The point is that you’re supposed to switch off that inner editor and try and write pretty much what comes into your head. This has increased the degree to which the styles of the books I read come through in my own work.

For example, I recently finished American Gods. While I can’t possibly write as well as Neil Gaiman, I feel that I can feel it’s influence in a particular scene that I wrote. Here’s an extract:

 

“What a lovely surprise!” Keats almost jumped out of her skin. A slender man appeared from nowhere. He had sandy coloured hair, a wide smile and he looked to be no older than 25. He clapped his hands and chairs appeared. “Sit down! I rarely have visitors, but when I do, I like to treat them well.” Keats did not sit down, but Kanber did. She began to remember how pleasant this man had been to her last time she’d visited. Keats looked at the stranger with suspicion.

  “Who are you exactly?” she asked.

  “That, unfortunately, is a secret. I can’t tell you.” He answered her question with the politest of smiles. Keats snorted.

  “Are you aware that living in this place is illegal? How long have you been staying here?”

  “I’ve been here for so long that I’ve forgotten exactly when I arrived. But I remember the circumstances. It was a very sad day indeed. Would you like some tea?”

  “No thank you. Care to elaborate on those circumstances? What are you doing here?”

  “I’d like some tea.” Kanber butted in.

  “I wait.” He got up to make the tea, using magic alone to provide the hot water. “And before you ask why, it’s another secret.”

  “No surprises there.” Keats muttered. Kanber graciously accepted her tea and the man lowered himself down onto a chair opposite her.

  “This tea is really delicious.” Kanber noted.

  “Thanks. Secret recipe.” he replied.  Keats rolled her eyes.

Also, watching Hannibal seems to have taken its toll on my writing style too. I’m a little worried this might be too gruesome for YA Fantasy:

Minutes later, they were looking down at a bloody, butchered corpse on the floor of the prison corridor. It was the unlikeliest of mother-daughter bonding activities. Kanber’s eyes were fixed on the heap of broken flesh. Aside from a couple of fragmented tattoos, it would have been impossible to tell that this foul mess was what used to be Vett. Kanber started to feel a bit nauseous, but not enough to stop looking. Blood and bits of organ tissue slid down the prison bars. It looked as if someone crushed him against the bars until most of him had fallen out of the other side.

I’m interested to hear how other people prevent books/TV influencing their writing.