Dec 2013

"The City" - MWBB #41

The City

Patrick loved his city, he could amble round it for hours finding new things to like about it - new buildings, fragments of old architecture, fascinating people, great stories, histories - real and imaginary. It was alive and welcoming, vibrant and comforting - it was home.

          But now there was something wrong with the city, it wasn’t his any more. It bore down on him with imposing weight, making him feel claustrophobic, choking him. He now walked around the streets he’d known so well feeling lost and alone, even afraid. Its people were looking at him, thinking about him, talking about him, threatening him. So he walked quickly trying to escape its deadly grasp.

          He found himself in a cafe, holding a mug of coffee until it had gone cold. Not drinking a drop. He was facing the window, but not watching as life carried on out there in some remote fashion. Every now and again he’d see a face turn to him and look at him with pity or with anger, his soul laid bare.

          Life seemed to be continuing for others at an incomprehensible speed, while time for him stuttered to a halt. His heart was heavy, he could feel it pumping erratically and so slowly it was painful. A headache was spreading down his neck and into his arms and torso. If he waited in the cafe any longer it would reach his feet he was sure.

          ‘You want another?’

          Patrick nodded as the waitress prized away the mug from his hands, trying not to spill any.

          It seemed almost instantaneously that the next mug was in his grasp and he felt obliged to sip some.

          ‘Thanks,’ he said to the waitress, but she was already back behind the counter somewhere.

          The coffee - or the none conversation - seemed to wake him and he looked around the cafe. He remembered coming here with her several times. They’d sheltered from the weather - or the herds of shoppers - as comfortable lovers.

          He shook his head and punched himself in the chest hard. A man on the table nearby held up his newspaper higher - a paper thin wall to stop accidental eye contact with the weirdo.

          Patrick punched himself again. The action and the bit of pain was rousing him from his torpor. He was feeling better already, however temporary. The cafe had been their cafe, the city theirs too - for so long. He realised that’s what was wrong, it hadn’t been
his city at all.

          The split had been amicable enough. Neither had anyone else to go to, or so he thought, he missed her painfully but the decision, however hard, he knew would prove to be right.

          The city was bearing down on him - and was probably doing the same to her - it was upset by the shift in its foundations. The city would get used to it and, eventually, so would Patrick.

          The waitress came over again, ‘Glad to see you drank that one, do you want another?’

          Patrick smiled for the first time that day.


(505 words)
MWBB #41 from the song 'In a Lonely Place' by The Smithereens

"Patricia" - Flash Friday Fiction


Stephen smiled with content as he sat beneath the cloudless sky above his valley. In the dark of remoteness he felt its pulse of life.

He sensed he was coming out of his body - like a film zooming out whilst he shrank to a vanishing point beneath the emptiness flecked with dots of bright matter. Stars and galaxies in a speckled dance of life and death played out above him on a enveloping black sheet.

He reached out and touched Patricia, his old trusty telescope; an ornament now, he hadn’t used it for years, as his eyes then body failed him.

The myriad images he’d seen through Patricia splashed through his mind like a slideshow; the rings of Saturn, Jupiter and its moons, Luna itself, countless galaxies and nebulae. He’d spent months scanning nebulae, hoping to see the birth of a star - never succeeding, always expectant.

That night at his peaceful passing somewhere a star was born in glorious fury.


Flash Friday Fiction (weekly 140-160 word challenge)

(160 words)

HM - Contented

Following my Honourable Mention for the 'Race the Date' I received another HM this time for my 'Flash Friday Fiction' "Coffee Stop" - I'm on a HM roll. Just need to step up from the HMs a little to get some winners! Next year hey!

Just posted another story up for this weeks Flash Friday Fiction and now noticed I used 'contented' in the first sentence of "Coffee Stop", and have in the new one 'Patricia' too.

Contented!? If only.


"Coffee Stop" - Flash Friday Fiction


Coffee Stop

A contented smile spread across Jennifer’s face, the steaming coffee was gorgeous and the mug doubled as a hand warmer. Outside the cafe the world appeared a white wonderland glistening in the wintry sunshine. On the edge of the frozen lake, beyond the road, a lopsided snowman seemed to be looking at her.

She was half way home for Christmas and it was the same stop every year, it was as traditional as the tree and crackers. She swore the snowman was always there, but she only ever went home at Christmas, a sense of duty.

‘Do you want a fill up love?’

‘What?’ Jennifer looked up at the waitress, ‘No, thanks. Better be off shortly.’

‘Long way home? In these conditions everywhere is a long way.’

Jennifer laughed. Perhaps she should go home more often, maybe when the road was safer, the journey shorter and it wasn’t duty. She could check then if the snowman was still here too.

Flash Friday Fiction
(160 words) Word: Duty Pic: Snowman on lake

Nice HM - Race the Date

Was nice to get an HM - that's an Honourable Mention to you and me - for my story 'Cycle of Proof' on Monday. Indeed very nice!

Now hope to have time to write a MWBB for this week.

Alum Bike

"Cycle of Proof" - Race the Date

Cycle of Proof

The battered plastic table had witnessed much vociferous debate over the last week, but right now there were three men stood around it theatrically scratching their heads. Minutes passing as each tried to avoid speaking; eighty years of experience and they were stumped.

          Professor Chandler, the most eminent of the archaeologists - lately all over the television and peering out from the world’s book shop windows - couldn’t help but think of how he’d report this.

          ‘As archaeologists we can only ever conjecture when we find items without context,’ he stopped.

          Professors Zhang and Lillywhite looked at him hopeful he would just plough on, rescue them from this hole. He didn’t.

          ‘Is that it?’ asked Lillywhite.

          The pause hadn’t helped ‘
Indiana’ out as he had hoped. ‘Well, we have so much context here. It’s all dated, these are without doubt Early Bronze Age roundhouses. This was found beneath our latest dated strata - 2000BC.’

          They knew all this.

          ‘And...?’ Zhang asked a little snappily.

          ‘Well, it’s just a fantastic find isn’t it? Changes everything. I mean
everything!’ Indiana was beginning to see possibilities - TV series and books - he was more photogenic than the others and was already in the box seat.

          ‘We can’t report this! I mean look at it,’ Lillywhite held up part of a frame, ‘Aluminium metal wasn’t produced until the 19th Century and we’re going to say some Stone Age...’

          ‘Bronze Age,’ Zhang interjected.

          ‘Same difference,’ Lillywhite pulled a face, ‘some Bronze Age savages produced this 4000 years before the industrialised world could?’

          Chandler shrugged, ‘The evidence speaks for itself. Just facts.’

          ‘Look, we know that the smelting procedures are complex and all that, and that there’s 4000 years without any other bloody evidence of aluminium metal, but for heaven’s sake man, it’s obviously a bicycle!’

(300 words) @zevonesque

Cara Michael's Race the Date #7 'Aluminium'

iaho-1Alum Bike


Whisky Shortlistings

I was made up earlier today to find that a very short story I did for Jura Whisky's 'Winning Words' competition was short listed. There will be 30 stories in the short list and the overall winner will win a trip to the island of Jura in the glorious Inner Hebrides. I've never been there but did some geology mapping on the neighbouring island of Islay during my time as a geology undergraduate at Leicester University.

If you read the story you will find that there is actually more than a grain of truth to the story (I did happen upon an adder on Islay and it scared me muchly!).

As part of the competition they produce a piece of art to go with the story, which is a really lovely touch. Going to have to see if I can get hold of a copy - even digitally - as it's pretty neat. If you click on that picture below it will take you through to the story.

Link to Jura Winning Words Story

I also found I was in the top 25 (okay there were only 56 entrants) of
Flash Friday Fiction. Still I was happy about that as I just trotted the story out on Friday morning before going to work at the Black-E Beer Festival.

"Two Hearts" - Trifecta 107


This week's challenge was the word:

MELT (transitive verb)

1:  to reduce from a solid to a liquid state usually by heat
2:  to cause to disappear or disperse
3 :  to make tender or gentle :  soften

- See more at:

Two Hearts

It was a daily fight, a test of nerve - of might.

Our hearts both battle worn, compacted and hardened;

protected from hurt.

Primary defence:


It was a daily fight, to beat the fear, to soften.

But the fear of winning…

          the fear

                    of losing.

It was a daily fight;

          our hardened hearts.


It is a daily fight. No more.

Two hearts softened. Tender.


(66 words)

NaNoWriMoLite - Look Back

My End of NaNoWriMo Review

I didn't enter NaNoWriMo this year but tasked myself to do half as much i.e. 25,000 words. I fared pretty poorly really, as I didn't focus on it and push myself to do it - perhaps partly because I hadn't really thought about doing it in the weeks coming up to November. Mainly though I carried on doing my flash fiction, which took time and focus away from larger pieces.

That said I ended up writing just over 12,500 words in the month - on short stories, flash fiction and some on the larger project - and that is probably more than I've done before in a single month.

Since then I have found that I can quite easily write over 2200 words on a single project if I sit there and focus myself on it (I did that on Friday). Get on with it. Without distractions - and without making distractions. I know I could do 50,000 words in a month. For now I need to concentrate on just a couple of projects and get those words down on paper - or at least into my computer's memory.

So, will I go in for NaNoWriMo next year? I'll see how my writing progresses in terms of aims and methods - as much as style. Probably not.


"The Smooth Valley" - Race the Date

The Smooth Valley
John has been met by silence, his words just left to hang there. No-one will tell him what’s in the valley. It’s shown on the map as almost blank a little topography, but the aerial photographs show an isolated valley with mysterious buildings and great mounds of earth. John decides he needs to go and see it for himself.

          The car is packed - along with John there’s the driver, a man from the state owned company, a man from a ministry and two men who never speak and who haven’t been introduced. Outside the car there’s nothing for John to see - to judge where they are, or how fast they’re getting there. The cassette machine is broken, so the only sounds are the heating fans and of the snow sloughing into the windows. It’s -40C outside and there’s an almost complete white out. The blue sky above shows John that this is old snow - dry snow that has lain for months - the steppe winds are whipping the drifts in a reworked snowstorm as the sun shines just metres above.

          There is no topography today, it appears like icing on a cake. The valley - the men in the car - protected by the season.

(206 words) for Race the Date #5