TBAM – Chapter Two: C

See the rest of the novel here.

In Helena, Litia’s capital city, there was a morgue reserved for those whose deaths were unusual. Ordinary murder victims did not qualify. Police workers who had their suspicions consulted Dr. Kine, who was the sole person to work in this section of the police department. He was paid very well for this job, mainly because there were not many people who were capable of doing what he did while being willing to complete so much paperwork.

It takes a magician to recognize a magical death, and Dr. Kine had been very persuasive when negotiating his salary. Trained as a healer, he’d hated hospital work from the moment he began, and considered dropping out on numerous occasions. Graduating with passable exam results had been a struggle, but now he had no regrets.

There was only one part of this job he considered unsavoury.

When Keats teleported into the morgue, corpse in tow, Dr. Kine didn’t even look up from the notes on his desk.

“So, which poor soul inspired your wrath today?”

“I missed your sense of humour, this was just an excuse.” Keats replied, deadpan.

He finally glanced at her, only to convey his expression of non-amusement. He noticed that she was bleeding from a wound on her upper arm. He could help her, but he didn’t quite feel like doing so. Besides, she didn’t look especially bothered by it.

“Sonya promised me that I would be seeing less of you from now on. Have you any idea how difficult it is to put the bodies you bring here through the system? Especially when you never fill out the paperwork?”

“Hey, it’s not my fault there isn’t a box you can check which says ‘Got what they deserved.’”

“And remind me why this guy deserved to be killed? Actually, don’t. Write it down on the correct forms instead.”

“Sorry, no can do. I need to find Sonya and inform her about what’s happened,” Keats lied. What she really needed was some rest before Sonya found her. Keats teleported out of the morgue, leaving Rappel’s body on the floor behind her.

Dr. Kine regarded the corpse from behind his desk with exasperation before he continued with his notes. It could wait there a few more minutes while he finished this report.

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.

Sunday Photo Fiction – A Conversation with the Ocean

Fog lingering around Dover Western (Cruise) Docks. [Image has been adjusted so it can be seen properly]

Photo by Al Forbes, who runs the Sunday Photo Fiction blog. Check out the other submissions and instructions for entering your own story here.

How many men have you swallowed up? How many times have you pushed yourself inside their lungs and separated them from the oxygen they so desperately need?

You consumed the body I threw to you last night, when you were considerably less placid than you are now. A single image flickers on my inner eye: Her dress billowing in the wind, legs flailing, wild auburn hair concealing the face I thought I loved. You were the one who dragged her down, your tumultuous surface a match to my own rage. I roared with the wind, damning her to your cold bed, where her beauty could rot and she’d have no choice but to be faithful.

I stand on the deck, calmly facing the fog that covers you like a blanket. I can’t see exactly what’s ahead, but I’m not concerned. After all, it wasn’t me that killed her. It was you.

The Last Coffee

The warm aroma of coffee beans surrounds me like a hug. An eclectic mix of people are in the same queue as I am, but all are slumped and silent, craving the bitter caffeine hit that will take them through to lunchtime. Every time the door opens, cold air invades the shop and the girl in front of me shivers. She rubs her arms and looks wistfully at the pastries and muffins on display. My mouth waters when I look at the range of sticky, buttery, flaking goods behind the glass, and I know it must have the same effect on her. They’re hard to resist, and after looking at the prices, one suspects that the shop owners know exactly how tempting their wares are.

As we approach the till, the odour of cinnamon and vanilla grows stronger, and I examine the oozing bottles of syrup next to the barista. The woman who takes my order doesn’t smile, but I get the impression that she’s trying to. Half past eight in the morning and she’s already so tired the muscles in her face won’t slide a millimetre upwards. I’ll probably feel the same way in a few hours.

When I finally obtain my drink, I raise the cup and bathe my lips in the steam, flirting with the dangerously hot liquid. I get a taste of caramel syrup and milky froth for my trouble. The condensation freezes on my face as I step outside, my limbs involuntarily contracting before they adjust to the winter temperatures. Before my fingers go completely numb, I run them down the left side of my body until I reach the handle of the knife.

I savour my coffee. It might be the last one I have.

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.

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.