//Flash fiction : THE UNINVITED GUEST

I don’t exactly know how I got to be looking out of the window in the middle of the night but I was. Something had woken me up, a bad dream, a nightmare I think, I don’t remember what it was about. The light was off in the flat but there was a glow coming in from the street lamps outside. I peered through a tiny gap between the curtains that I held open with my two fingers. 

Across the street, in the umbrella glow of one of the street lamps a man in a suit was standing there staring up at me. He wore an old style hat that wrapped his face in shadow so I couldn’t see what he looked like. I watched him for a while until I got real thirsty so I went and got a drink of water from the kitchen, by the time I’d gotten back to looking out of the window the man in the suit was gone. I checked up and down the street but couldn’t see anyone. 

I took a sip of the water but drank it to fast, it went down the wrong hole and I coughed, choking on the water in my lungs. After a while the feeling went away and I sat in the recliner and rested my head against the back. 

I couldn’t sleep so I turned on the television, I wasn’t watching any channel in particular. I kept flicking between channels creating a juxtaposition of imagery made up of snippets of advertisements and fragments of late night movies and documentaries and shows. 

I stayed up until I couldn’t hold my eye lids open any longer. Keeping them open was to much of a struggle so I remember giving in and switching off the television and making my way to the bedroom. The bedroom was dark, no lights from outside illuminated anything in there. 

I switched on the light and to my horror the man in the suit was sitting at the end of my bed, his back turned towards me, his hands resting on his knees. I couldn’t move, my hand was still hovering beside the light switch, every nerve in my body had frozen. The man turned his head slightly but I still couldn’t see his face from the shadow cast by the rim of his hat. The turn of his head was an acknowledgement of my presence.The man’s cracked lips parted, revealing crooked yellow teeth…

[Not sure where to go with this, I just liked creating the creepiness and unease of the situation ]

 

//Flash fiction :DEEP, DEEP DOWN.

Gerald’s tie gently floated in front of his face with the movement of the current, he mistook it for a fish. The light of his torch carved a jittery path through the dark and murky waters as he juggled to keep hold of the torch which he held outstretched in one hand, his briefcase and a shovel in the other.
With every step he kicked up clouds of sand. A solitary eel ribboned close by, for a second he mistook it for his tie.
He moved quickly, otherwise the crabs would soon be drawn to him, as they always were.
He’d been walking for hours. All of this is of course was purely metaphorical.
He desperately needed to bury the secret as deep as he could. He decided that where he came to be standing at that moment seemed to be as good a place as any.
He rested his briefcase down beside him and positioned the torch so that he and his close surroundings were illuminated.
He stabbed the shovel into the sea floor, creating a small cloud of sand. He pressed his foot on the blade of the shovel and leaned his whole weight forward onto it, making it disappear beneath.
The spider crabs had moved closer since he had started digging. He could see their long, thin, pale legs moving slowly through the dark towards him from the corner of his eye. His glasses had slipped to the tip of his nose, he pushed them back to his brow with his finger and continued digging. Soon, a cloud of disturbed sand enveloped him.
Low, deep, bass tones and high pitched squeaks that had travelled from far away and possibly from near the surface vibrated through the waters as he dug deeper and deeper.
When Gerald had stopped digging and the sand had begun to settle, he found himself standing just over knee level in a hole he had dug at the bottom of his subconscious. He opened his briefcase with two muffled clicks.
He took out the little wooden box that was bound up with electrical tape. He carefully placed the box into the hole. The crabs had swarmed around him now in a frenzy, more eels had arrived too and were fluttering above him like hungry ties.
Gerald hurried to pile sand atop the box in the hole, creating another cloud that engulfed him. Once the box had been buried and was out of sight he grabbed up his briefcase, the torch and the shovel, pointing the torch in the direction he had came, he started his long walk home. He passed the rusted shipwrecks of half forgotten memories and sunken shopping trolleys that symbolised who knows what, all the while being followed by a convoy of curious cretaceans. His secret was safe.

//Short story : ALL THE RIGHT MARKS, IN ALL THE RIGHT PLACES



Tonight, the artist is in his studio alone. He sits slouched in his chair, elbow resting uncomfortably on the arm, the upholstery worn to the bone, his fist pressing into his cheek.

He stares up at the row of large charcoal drawings he’s pinned to the wall. He studies them, scrutinising every thick, energetic, arching line, every frenetic scribble, every pressing scrawl. He’s looking for something, but he doesn’t know what it is, doesn’t even know if he’d recognise it if he saw it. But he knows there’s a chance it’s there, hidden, waiting for him to find.

He grips tight on the charcoal stick in his hand, black dust crumbles onto his trousers.

Rubbing his other sweaty hand on his trouser leg, leaving five smudgy black lines down his thigh, he shifts in his seat. He’s not seeing it, not in these pictures. None of them remotely show a trace of it, the thing he’s spent years of his life trying to capture.

The shows, the galleries, the buyers, all of them were just a means to an end. He hasn’t had a show in almost a year.

It’s been like trying to remember the details of a dream after waking. It’s elusive and ethereal. He doesn’t want to manipulate the memory with his interpretation, he just wants to channel it through his body, to let his muscles remember the vision.

But today he could have sworn he felt closer to it. He was sure he’d glimpsed it, but then again that’s how he feels most days.


He knows the thing he’s striving for is universal. When he sees it, it’ll change everything, paradigms will shift from it. When it reveals itself to him he will unlock the secrets of the universe. It won’t be quantifiable , you won’t be able to measure it in numbers, it’ll be a truth that surpasses mathematics, that only some special part of us, separate from
the brain and body, but part us all the same, maybe the soul, but he doesn’t want to put a name to it, only that part will understand it.

Turning, he picks up his packet of cigarettes from the long table littered with sheets of drawings and broken
charcoal sticks. He places a cigarette between his lips, pads himself down, where did he put his lighter? He rifles through the pile of drawings on the table, looks around the studio but all he sees is half finished canvases leant against the walls, easels with works in progress, he realises all of this, all of what he sees, this is his legacy. This work, it’ll survive a lot longer than he will. He thinks it’s funny how people spend more time and money preserving art, inanimate objects, than they do trying to preserve their own lives.

There it is, his Zippo lighter, tucked precariously on the little brown ledge of the easel of painting No.803.

He needs to come up with better names for his artwork, that’s what his dealer keeps telling him. His dealer says this is why he’s having trouble selling them, he needs to be more poetic. His dealer doesn’t understand he doesn’t see his paintings as works of art in their own right. They are experiments. Attempts at striving for that perfect piece. Once he achieves that, he will name it, or try to name it, he can’t promise anything, it may not be up to him.

He lights his cigarette, inhaling and watching the end glow and burn towards him.

The painting he’s been working on for the past week is a commission, for some businessman, up town, some stooge with a corner office. His dealer at the gallery begged him to take it. He’s willing to pay a lot of money she said, it’ll keep him going until things pick up.

He paces up and down, from one end of his studio to the other.

The Artist, he hates the business side of things, he thinks how shallow it is. He thinks about the businessman. He thinks about his painting hanging in his corner office. He thinks how it’ll just end up as some conversation piece.

Hey, look at this painting I bought, see how rich and cultured I am, aren’t you impressed?

That stooge will never get it, he’ll never understand what he’s really trying to do. Maybe no one ever will. He can
barely understand it himself, it’s why he does it, to try to understand, to find it and just marvel at it.

Moving to the large window at the back of his studio, he rests his elbows on the windowsill and blows a cloud of smoke out into the night, listening to the peeling of tires on the wet tarmac from the street below. The city beeps and barks at him, sirens fade out into the distance. He imagines those stooges in their suits scrambling around in their skyscrapers like termites.

He’s so close to it, closer than he has ever been.

Looking above the concrete mounds to the stars above. The sky is infiltrated with an orange aura, spoiling the vast blackness. If only he could replicate that hue. That mysterious black of the night, the deep black of space.
Yes. That is what he must do. That black might be the key that will unlock reality, at least that’s what he hopes.

Flicking what is left of his cigarette and watching it briefly as it cascades through the air in a fiery streak. He
hurries to a collection of large, blank canvases leant against the wall. He grabs one, lifting it easily off the ground, it should be as heavy as it looks but it is not. He positions it attentively onto an empty easel, the void of whiteness towering over him. He collects up his paints and begins squeezing them out onto his palette.

Scooping up a lump of Hansa yellow light with his palette knife, he spreads it into Napthol Red, then he slaps in a splodge of Ultramarine blue blending them together. No. Its not right. He counters with a slab of Phthalo Blue, and adds Alizarin Crimson and Cadmium Yellow Deep. He thins out his mixture with some spirits. He whirls the palette knife through the viscous pigments until a bottomless, dark void appears on his palette. Perfect. He flicks through the collection of brushes poking from the empty jam jar on the drawing table next to him. He plucks a large, flat hog hair out. He loads up his brush and with a sharp flick of his arm he tears a black line across the canvas. Taking a step back and tipping his head to one side he calculates his next strike. He lunges forward, whipping the brush up in a semi circular motion leaving a glistening trail of dark oblivion in its wake.

He is so caught up in the movements, the moment, that he loses track of time.

He doesn’t know how long he’s been at it. He steps back from the towering canvas. By now covered in thick, criss-crossing black lines that curl and twine around one another. His hands and legs are trembling, he feels the sweat beading on his temple, this is it, he knows he needs to make the final mark, but how, and where?

He notices a tiny area up there in the top corner.

Dragging his ladder, still gripping the loaded brush in his other hand, he positions it in front of the painting. He
climbs the first three rungs, reaches his brush up, hovering it over the vacant area. The sweat now stinging his eyes, he closes them. With A blind twitch of his wrist he makes contact with the canvas. He stays there, not willing to open his eyes, not willing to move.

A deep reverberation rumbles throughout the studio, shaking his easels and rattling the wooden frames of pre-stretched canvases. He opens his eyes, gripping the ladder to save himself from falling. He doesn’t quite believe what he’s seeing. The black, painted marks are moving, squirming and uncoiling before him. The artist steps down from his ladder.

Sparks of thin electrical webbing shimmer and crackle across the canvas.

His lighter spasms on the table next to him, besides the fluttering stack of papers. The black brush strokes bleed onto the floor and snake their way towards him. He steps backwards until he presses himself against the cold glass of the window. The painting has become a dark, writhing portal of leathery tentacles reaching into this world from some nightmare world beyond.

Looking down, eyes wide at the black tendrils reaching now for his paint speckled boots.

//Flash fiction : MACHO

His voice is raised a little more, he says, “Ten more reps bro! You’re killing it!”. The instructor’s crotch is right near my head, I can almost see up his shorts.

I do the ten reps. The instructor, he says, “Bro, I think you can beast this, gimme one more set”. He’s leaning over me and his tiny gold chain with a cross on it dangles above my face.

After I’m done with the set the instructor helps me put the barbell back, his hand strokes against mine. I sit up and dab the sweat on my face with my towel. I catch people looking over in our direction, when they see me seeing them, they look away. 

“Man, you’re a machine”, he says. Yeah, a machine, but I know he really means a “Freak“. The instructors arms aren’t as big as mine but he has better definition on his forearms, he has beautiful ravines between his muscles. When I stand up the instructor is a whole head shorter than me.

“Chicks must be throwing themselves at you”, he says, looking up at me. Yeah they throw themselves at me. Truth is, most women when they get up close, they’re a little intimidated by my size. Most women, they’re attracted to the idea of me. In the animal kingdom most females are attracted to the strongest males, it’s about survival, nothing more.

I tell him I think I’m done for today, that I’m gonna head for the showers. He says, “Yeah of course bro…”, he looks around to make sure everyone is watching us. Which they are, which they always do. I’m the guy that everyone wants to be, big, broad and bulging.

“…see you next week bro”, he grabs my hand and pulls me in for a slap on the back, like we actually are bros except he can’t reach his arm all the way round me so he just slaps my shoulder a few times, he presses his body against mine making my shirt stick to my sweaty body.     

Whilst I’m walking away he shoots me with his finger and makes a clicking sound, I don’t get it. Is it supposed to mean something?

I shower and get changed.

I’m walking across the car park carrying my gym bag when a trio of housewives, cougars in yoga pants pass me.

“Hiiiii…”, they all sing in unison, waving, carrying their mats under their other arm, puffing out their chests and doing that thing they do; meticulously placing one foot in front of the other so their butts swing from side to side like some kind of mating ritual designed to get my attention.

In the animal kingdom it’s mostly males who do most of the pageantry to attract a mate. I saw a documentary about birds in the rainforest, them jumping around and flashing their feathers, saying look at me, look at me.

I nod and curl my lips, forcing a smile.

I get to my pick-up and chuck the bag on the passenger seat. 

My body aches. I just sit there soaking in the soreness. I can see the instructor through the window of the gym. He’s helping to stretch out one of the cougars, pressing his body against hers. The others just stand around watching, waiting for their turn.

It trickles down my cheek, over my lip and I taste the salt. I start taking short, rapid breaths, the salty water and snot starts pouring out of my face. Why am I so weak?

I start wailing, like really moaning. I’m happy I paid the extra for the tinted windows. I wipe my arm under my nose and there’s a long shiny snail trail from my wrist to my elbow. Seeing it glisten I think to myself; I need to work on my forearms. I’m gritting my teeth so much I’m afraid I might break them.

I don’t know after how long but I start to calm down. I reach for the box of tissues in the glove box and dry my eyes. I take a look in the rear-view and my eyes are all red and puffy. The instructor is standing in some Yoga pose and the cougars are copying him as best they can.

“I love you”, I say softly.

On the way home I buy a box of donuts, glazed ones, the ones with all the coloured sprinkles on top. It’s ok, I’ll work it off tomorrow at the gym I tell myself.