Monday 21 September 2015

Monday Flash Fics: Journey's End

Journey’s End

They’d been going for over an hour and still Cory had no idea where they were headed. He knew why of course, but that didn’t help at all. Had James taken him to bring him to safety, or had he arrived at the end? Not knowing was killing him. He’d read somewhere that in the past they used to have these things called court cases in which people who had been accused of a crime were given the opportunity to defend themselves, prove their innocence, but he wasn’t sure whether or not he believed that. The concept was fantastic, of course, but no matter how hard he tried, Cory couldn’t imagine a world in which those decisions weren’t taken by the Ubers, and obeyed by the rest.

The Ubers had decided Cory needed to be discarded. They hadn’t divulged the manner in which his demise was supposed to be achieved and thus he’d no idea whether or not this trip was taking him to wherever he was going to be executed or something else. James hadn’t said a word since he’d pick Cory up from the cellar in which they’d kept him prisoner. He’d pointed with his hands to indicate directions but hadn’t spoken. Cory had known better than to speak without permission and thus he found himself guessing.

He still didn’t know how they’d discovered his secret. He’d played by the rules, obeyed all the orders and behaved like everybody else. He’d only felt the emotions, he’d never acted on them and had been so very careful to keep them secret. So how had they known?

Cory sighed as he stared at James’s back. His shoulders moved back and forwards as he moved the alternate sides of the pedal through the water, pushing the canoe forwards over the smooth, mirror-like, lake at a steady pace.

It had had to be James too. But then again, if they had indeed known, they had probably decided it made the punishment even harsher, fit the crime better. In a society where you were only allowed to love the person who fitted you according to a computer algorithm, Cory had had the misfortune of falling for a man who hadn’t been his designated fit. And it wasn’t as if there’d been anything wrong with Alan. Alan had been tall, blond, handsome and very kind. He’d also completely failed to make Cory’s heart stutter the way just the thought of James did.

Another hour passed before Cory saw land in the distance. Another sixty minutes of icy silence from James and growing fear for Cory. It wasn’t even that he was afraid of dying. He’d resigned himself to his fate. Truth be told, he didn’t want to live a life in which he’d be forced to deny and hide his feelings. Not knowing how he was going to meet his end was a different story. Imagining all the possible ways had his stomach tied into knots.

“We’re almost there”

After almost three hours of silence, James’ voice came as a shock.

“Almost where?” Cory whispered his question but the quiet lake carried his voice to the front of the canoe.

“The end of the journey.”

The journey, not your journey. Cory registered the difference and tried very hard not to give it a meaning.

“What happens next?”

“I’ve no idea,” James said without turning to look at Cory.

Cory watched as James landed the boot. After they both got out, the canoe drifted away.

“You too?” Cory asked.



585 words

If you want to read more, please visit the Monday Flash Fics Facebook group where more stories based on this image will be posted and you can also have a look at older pictures and stories if you haven’t done so in the past.

Thank you, Brigham Vaughn, for doing your usual good work as my proof reader. You’ve saved me from many an embarrassing mistake.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Scenes From the UK Meet

Taken from the UK Meet FB page

Anybody who follows me on Facebook will know that to say I was nervous about going to the UK Meet in Bristol would be a gross understatement. Social gatherings are not my strong suit and voluntarily putting myself in a situation where I’d have to interact with up to 150 people I didn’t know, without the assistance of my socially far better equipped husband, was rather terrifying. I had visions of me hiding in a dark corner while observing others from a safe, be it rather lonely, distance. I couldn't have been more wrong!

The UK meet in Bristol was a pure delight from start to finish, not in a small part thanks to my two travel companions, Skip and Pip. While I may have been an unknown to most participants before the event started, everybody knows Catherine Dair's Pride Bunnies and they were greeted with enthusiasm by anyone who spotted them as they made their rounds with me.

I arrived rather early on Friday morning but didn't have a lot of time to catch my breath after my flight at stupid o'clock since a small group of delegates decided to take a walking tour of Bristol and I was delighted to join them, of course taking my two cuddly friends with me. Bristol turned out to be a lovely town, be it very hilly. Since I'd neglected to bring proper walking shoes, those hills almost got the better of me.

Later that afternoon I was scheduled for registration desk duty and of course Skip and Pip joined me there too, much to the delight of those who signed up during my appointed half our. And that's when I decided I wouldn't allow my two furry friends to leave my side for the duration of the weekend. They were far better at breaking the ice than I could ever hope to be.

Friday evening quite a few of the delegates walked the short distance to the Queenshilling, a nightclub and gay bar where we were welcomed with bubbly and a wonderful buffet. Not much later, Skip and Pip encountered someone they hadn't expected to run into but they didn't appear to be phased by their encounter with royalty and the queen was only too delighted to pose with them.

We had a wonderful time in the club and we met quite a few more people we'd so far only known as names on Facebook but after our early start that morning Skip, Pip and I were only too happy to retreat to our room in the Marriott hotel and lose ourselves in the lap of luxury.

Saturday morning heralded the start of the Meet proper and after a glance at the schedule I had to concede that it would be impossible to enjoy every single item on offer. Choosing was difficult and at times heartbreaking but I didn't regret going to any of the programme items I attended and know from what others have said that those I had to miss were at least as entertaining. For the sake of brevity (feel free to snort here) I'll limit myself to describing the panels and events where I took pictures. I'm sure other pictures and possibly posts will become available from others. Another thing I'd like to add here is that we were constantly provided with tea, coffee, smoothies and an almost endless stream of delicious and very tempting food. To be honest, I'm not sure how I failed to take a picture of those treats.

After lunch on Saturday the bunnies and I attended the BDSM panel hosted by Daniel Kane and T.J. Masters. We were asked not to take pictures during that session and not to talk about it afterwards, so all I can say here is that I was thoroughly fascinated, learned a lot and was inspired to ask T.J. to use his bondage skills on Skip and Pip. If the two Pride Bunnies were popular before that session, they were an outright hit afterwards. 

That evening most of us sat down to a Gala Dinner, which was scrumptious as well as very entertaining. The evening's entertainment was opened by Sing Out Bristol, a choir that had us all mesmerized with their choice of songs and the
Photo courtesy of Charlie Cochraine

wonderful,mostly acapella, rendition of them. I still regret I didn't record their session but I did manage to find an earlier performance, in Dublin as coincidence would have it, on YouTube. The quality isn't great but the video still gives a pretty good idea of their talent.

Next in line was Cherry Poppin, a fabulous drag queen who entertained us with songs and comedy and had brought along a wonderful dancer.

Photo courtesy of T.J. Masters
And finally came the semi-clad butlers. To say they were received with enthusiasm would be the understatement of the event. I'm not sure the lads knew what to make of Skip and Pip when they were asked to pose with them. In fact, I'm fairly sure Cherry Poppin and her dancer were rather bemused by the bunnies as well, but all of them were good sports about it and held them while pictures were being snapped left, right and centre. For the curious there are a host of butler pictures to be found on Facebook. I've decided to show a picture of two of the butlers, the bunnies, and the man responsible for them being tied up.

For me the evening ended in the lounge where I had a fascinating conversation with Elizabeth North about the value of book promotions and the best ways to approach it. Earlier on Saturday she had made a fantastic key note speech during which she made me and many others cry happy least twice. She had also confiscated Skip and Pip because TJ retying them had been, in her words, too distracting. The picture on the left makes it clear that no hard feelings resulted from that action on either side.

Sunday started with a wonderful breakfast after which I introduced myself to Rebecca Scott and Sarah Smeaton from Pride Publishing who were utterly charming and most helpful when I asked a few questions regarding future projects.
Later that morning I went to a panel about 'unlocking your dark side'. I'm not sure how  much I learned about writing darker fiction but I have to admit I laughed my way through the whole session. Aleksandr Voinov and Lori Gallagher Witt should come with a health warning when they are together. I admire Hans Hirschi and Sarah Smeaton for keeping up with that double act.

After an hilarious as well as informative keynote speech by K.J. Charles and a planning session for next year's Meet the official part of the weekend's programme came to an end which meant it was time to start saying goodbye to those who were leaving on Sunday. One of my personal highlights during the weekend had been the opportunity to meet Kate Aaron and A.J. Rose. While I was sad to say goodbye to them after two, all too short days, it was hard not to be happy for them as they went on their way to their joined future.

While most people left on Sunday, quite a few of us stayed until Monday (or later). Having to say goodbye to Bristol and all the people I'd met was bitter sweet. I'd had a wonderful weekend which exceeded my expectations far beyond what I'd dared hope for. I had also made up my mind that come what may I would be attending the 2016 event. It wasn't easy saying goodbye though.

And with that I've almost reached the end of this very long post. All that remains is for me to say a few huge thank you's. The first of those is for Hanne Lie who offered to share her room in the Marriott hotel with me and helped me navigate the new to me Meet-waters.

I can't begin to explain how helpful Skip and Pip were and I can't thank Catherine Dair enough for not only creating them but also sending them all the way to me in Ireland. 

Finally and most importantly I want to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to Charlie Cochraine, Clare London, Elin Gregory, J.L Merrow and Liam Livings for having created a most wonderful event. While I have no doubt endless amounts of very hard work went into getting the Meet off the ground and running smoothly I have to say it all looked effortless to the casual observer. 

Photo courtesy of Temple Dragon 


Note: All pictures used above are mine, unless the caption states otherwise. I'm fairly certain I did not include anybody who did not want to be photographed but if you see yourself above and would prefer not to feature here, please let me know and I'll remove and/or replace the image. 


Monday 14 September 2015

Monday Flash Fics: Alive


I’ve been observing the phenomena from the start. I like to think I’d caught on to the fact things were changing on a fundamental level, long before most others did. It still took me a while to figure out what it all meant, but I’m convinced it gave me an edge. I saw it before anybody else, and because I did I may be able to survive.

It started small, with toys in our houses and shops. Think of a version of Toy Story in which the toys don’t feel the need to hide the fact they’re alive. To me it was obvious. I am careful about where I put my stuff; everything in its place and a place for everything. So when I woke up one morning to discover my collection of ceramic pigs had not only rearranged itself but also moved from the windowsill to the fireplace surround, I knew something was wrong. I would have accused Pete, my partner, of moving them, but he’d been away for the weekend. I put them back where they belonged - using a ruler to make sure they were once again separated equidistance from each other - and installed a camera.

The next morning I woke up to find them sitting on the coffee table. I checked the recorded images and thought I’d lost my mind when I saw them move of their own volition. I sat on the couch, facing the small table, with my laptop on my knees, watching the video over and over again when, out of the corner of my eye, I spied movement. Right in front of me two pigs changed position.  I’m not ashamed to say I freaked out and hid in our bedroom for the next twenty-four hours until Pete returned.

He found me there and laughed out loud when I told him what had happened. He changed his tune when I asked him to check where the pigs were now and discovered not only had they taken over the living room floor, they’d also been joined by his collection of cats. When I showed him the video images he agreed with me we were facing a situation although, unlike me, he didn’t freak out.

I researched what I’d seen and what I found shocked me to the core. The bible, Nostradamus and all others who made predictions about the end of the world had gotten it wrong according to this text. It clearly stated the end of the world would start with inanimate objects taking over from the living and breathing creatures.

There are no more live frogs or cats in our town and I suspect I won’t be able to find a breathing horse now that these horses have escaped from the carousel. Others are still unwilling to believe this is really happening. They’re convinced it’s a colossal joke being played on mankind. They don’t know that the text states that only those with eyes to see will survive.

It is only a matter of time. Sooner or later the mannequins in shops will grab their freedom. God help those who refuse to believe.

Monday 7 September 2015

Monday Flash Fics: Against the Wall

Against the Wall

“We’re nearly there.” Nervous excitement was clear in Jeff's voice.

“Almost where? What are we doing here? Where are you taking me?” Harold knew his impatience was obvious. He didn’t want to be here. He’d avoided this part of town ever since that dreadful day. He’d always assumed it was the same for Jeff, but clearly he’d been wrong.

“I know what you’re thinking, you know,” Jeff said.

Harold was frustrated. Not being able to see Jeff's face as he spoke because he was pushing Harold’s chair only added to the feeling of powerlessness.

“But it’s time.” Jeff’s voice was soft yet insistent. “You ... we can’t go on like this. It’s been two years and I’ll be damned if I allow you to wallow in your guilt any longer.”

Anger coursed through Harold’s veins. “That’s easy for you to say. You’re not the one who drove that night. You weren’t even there. It wasn’t you who killed her.”

“I know.” Jeff stopped walking. “Neither did you.”

Harold didn’t want to go any further. As soon as Jeff started pushing again and rounded the corner where he’d stopped, Harold would be face to face with the wall he still saw in his nightmares most nights.

Jeff squeezed Harold’s shoulders and must have bent forward because Harold could feel his breath against his ear as he continued talking.

“It’s time to forgive yourself. It was never your fault. There was no way you could have avoided that drunk idiot who drove you off the road and crashed you into the wall.”

“You don’t know that.” Harold growled the words. “Hell, even I don’t know that for sure because I can’t remember any details of that night.” Except for Ciara’s screams just before they collided with the wall; that was one memory he’d never lose.

That night Harold had lost everything. Their relationship had been unconventional but Jeff, Ciara and Harold had made it work. More than that, the three of them had been perfect together. With Ciara gone, Jeff and Harold had lost their way. They still lived together, they even still loved each other but their relationship had lost every trace of passion without their third.

“I know enough.” Jeff’s voice was still soft and gentle but Harold knew him well enough to realize he was close to losing his patience. “I know you were sober. I know you’d never do anything to put our Ciara in danger. I know you’d rather have died yourself than have her die on us.” Jeff’s deep intake of breath sounded like thunder in Harold’s ears. “I know more than Ciara died that night. We died too. And it’s time to start living again.”

Harold’s shoulders felt cold and empty without Jeff’s hands resting on them. When they rounded the corner Harold stopped breathing. The image was huge and vibrant, much larger than life, just as Ciara had been. He remembered the photo and the moment Jeff had taken it. Harold stared at the reproduction of Ciara and a much younger and still mobile version of himself, instantly recognising Jeff’s hand in the artwork. Only when the picture blurred in front of his eyes did he realize he was crying. Harold only slowly became aware of Jeff’s voice filtering through the riot of thoughts and feelings in his head.

“You know she’d kick our arses for giving up on life and each other the way we have. She’s been gone for two years. We’ve been existing rather than living for all that time. I need you back. I can’t go on like this.”

Harold didn’t resist when Jeff lifted him from his wheelchair and pushed him up against the wall.

“Here’s where we start living again. We’ll honour her memory by loving each other.”

When Jeff’s lips connected with Harold’s he surrendered. Jeff was right and for the first time since the accident Harold’s heart and body reacted as he dared to believe the rest of his life might hold more than just pain and regret.


672 words

I’m delighted I managed to get a story out this week since I didn’t have anything last week and chances are I won’t have a flash next week either. I’ll be spending a long weekend in Bristol for the UK LGBT Fiction Meet and probably won’t have time to think about a story, never mind write one.

If you go to the Monday Flash Fics Facebook page you’ll find other stories based on this same picture.