Tag: Short Story

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Expanding Order

Once we have the nuns we can decide

The Plutonian Council shifted and shuffled nervously. It was the first time the council had met with the High Reverence herself, Amnarnun of Makemake, and her Sisters of the Dissolved Order.

The Order, clouded in mystery, as much if not more so than as anything else on the small crimson world, had decided decades ago to branch out more, and create greater ties with the other communities of the thousands of worlds that exist within the ‘Barrierlands’  (or Kuiper belt as it is known on Earth) and eventually try to reach out to the residents of Earth.

Pluto’s great Council had met delegates before from Makemake, but none as high profile and awesomely revered as the Frocked One.

She stood at the central lectern, hands gently clasped in front and head slightly bowed. plutoCen Kr’Dorir, dwarfed beside her, wasn’t sure if she was looking toward him, down upon him, or in prayer.

“Nun Child” she said, with all the grace one would imagine one with her stature to have.

“Ah, my humblest of apologies, Oh heavenly mistress…” grovelled plutoCen Kr’Dorir, “I’d forgotten about your ability of telepatheticness.”

The Plutonian Council coughed nervously, one member at the back audibly groaning.

“Eh?” The Frocked One looked momentarily confused, then blended effortlessly back into her calm demeanour. “No, plutoCen, I was asking for Nun Child to approach. Here she is now.”

Nun Child, Amnarnun’s niece, was in every way as serene as her aunt. She wore the Makemakean blue frock of life, which contrasted to Amnarnun’s black frock for everything. They both gently rustled as they moved, but apart from this gentle sound they moved otherwise silently and with ease, almost as if they were gliding across the floor.

plutoCen Kr’Dorir shook Nun Child’s hand, and said, as pleasantly as he could manage “A pleasure to meet you, as well as your mother.”

The Council breathed in audibly, with some physically cringing. plutoCen Kr’Dorir noticed and quickly attempted to correct his latest gaffe “and our mother, and everyone’s mother of the Barrierlands, the High Reverence herself.” He thought he’d pulled it off, and realised he still had a hold of Nun Child’s hand. Firmly. With a smile, he swiftly let go, and let out an extremely loud ‘harrrumph’ as he pretended to clear his throat. Nun Child looked at him with crystal clear blue eyes, and gently spoke.

“We today bring you gifts, friends and allies of Pluto. Gifts made from the imagined tears from the blessed angels; the ethereal strings from the harmonic harps; and the dreams and hopes of our people that we would like to share with you.

“We also come with an invitation for you to join our Serene Order, dissolved as it is, yet expanding into the vast Solar System.

“We bring a calming influence to fill your void of chaos and hypertension, and hope you will accept our heartfelt offer.”

“One moment please, your ladyness…” plutoCen Kr’Dorir marched over to the plutoCen Deputy panel, where the three High Leaders sat in whispered conference.

The Council looked on uneasily.

Amnarnun and Nun Child looked towards each other, waiting patiently for the reply.

They didn’t need to wait too long. plutoCen Kr’Dorir returned to the lectern, and said “It’s like this, your references. We aren’t really a serene race. We’re more of a rough sort, not quite barbaric but not very politically correct. Rough around the edges if you like. We don’t have many ‘orders’ or anything like that here on Pluto, but we are always open to change. All we can say now is once we have the nuns we can decide whether to join your order. We’ll be in touch. Keep your pathetic lines open. Telepathetic lines. Keep them open. And we’ll let you know.”

Amnarnun and Nun Child both graciously accepted plutoCen Kr’Dorir’s hand once more, graciously bowed, and graciously made their effortless way out of the Council Chamber.

Amnarnun gently tapped Nun Child’s arm as they reached the door. Sometimes you can not reason with barbarians, she thought. But we’ve planted the seed.

Agreed, Aunt. Nun Child replied.

A slight smile crept across both of their faces as the cold iron doors slammed shut behind them.


This post has been written in response to a flash fiction challenge by Diane Henders.

Some of the characters in this otherworldly tale first appeared in this post.

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Mead and Mortals

Lightning flashed and made her look up. The doors to the inn, a mere second later, swung inwards simultaneously and the room was instantly filled with a strong-odoured wind.

“By the gods!” the woman muttered, but stayed where she was, propped.

Zeus walked into the inn, followed by his consort Hera.

“Wench!” He bellowed, “A tankard of your finest mead!”

The woman stayed where she was,  elbows on the bar with her chin resting upon her ample and severely uplifted bosom.

“Zeus!” Hera admonished. “You must not speak like that, in such a derogatory way, towards women. How dare you. Apologise. Now!” She glared at Zeus with such strength he felt a hole beginning to bore into his head.

“It’s…” The woman tried to speak, but Zeus held aloft his hand and interrupted her.

“Woman!” He bellowed once again, toward Hera this time. “How dare YOU! Do you not know to whom you speak? I am Zeus, knower of everything!” His voice echoed around the room. Hera sheepishly looked away for a second.

“I’m…” The woman tried to speak again, but Hera stopped her this time.

“Patience, child. I have a matter with this ‘gentleman’ which must be settled first. He thinks he’s the ruler of the gods! The fool”.

“…” The woman tried to speak for a third time, and both stopped her by holding aloft their hands.

“I AM the ruler of the gods, Hera. And the waves. And the fire. And the nymphs. AND the wenches.” Zeus looked at the woman at the bar, who was propped but agog.

“ZEUS! Remember your place. You are upon the Earth now, and it is these mortals who think they rule the domain. You must respect that, and their ways, whilst you are here. Now, I shall get the drinks.”

Hera looked over at the woman who was literally on the bar. She noticed the woman hadn’t changed position since they’d walked in, which was a strange thing for a mortal to do in the presence of any god. Zeus tried to speak, but Hera simply held up her hand and stopped him. “Are you alright, child?” Hera asked with compassion. “Tell me, what is your name.”

“It’s Wenshetta. Wench for short.”

Hera glanced over to Zeus who was silently whistling into the air. He said nothing.

“Ah. Erm, your stance, child. Are you hurt?”

“No,” Wench replied, “but the mead cupboard toppled over behind the bar and has me trapped here. I’ve been waiting all day for someone to walk in. I’m bursting for the loo, and all this mead everywhere isn’t helping.”

“So you have NO mead?” Zeus boomed.

“ZEUS!” Hera was livid.

It didn’t take them long to help Wench out of her predicament and as a thank you, after a lengthy wait whilst Wench saw to her natural needs, they all sat at the inn’s only table by the roaring log fire, with a tankard of the inn’s finest mead each.

“Nectar to the gods!” Zeus beamed, once finished.

“And no charge” Wench said. “as a thank you”

“CHARGE!!!” Zeus returned to booming once again.

“ZEUS!” Hera now boomed. She looked towards Wench. “Thank you child, we shall now depart for we have a long journey ahead. Or one of us does, should the other not make it.” She glared at Zeus once again.

Wench watched them walk out of the door.

“She was going to charge us. ME! Ruler of the gods. Does she know not to whom she served?”

“Zeus!”

The doors closed behind them, and they were gone.

“By the gods!” Wench muttered, once again. “Some people!”

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Meanwhile, in the queue…

“Hiya!”

“Oh, Hi!”

“I’m glad I’ve bumped into ya – did you hear about what happened to me the other day?”

“No… what?”

“In here! Her with the blue hair that’s normally on the end till – “

“Yeah?”

“She only accused me of trying to short pay her.”

“She never!”

“She did. Her from the butcher’s was behind me in the queue and saw the whole thing. I was mortified.”

“I bet you were. What happened?”

“The queue went right around the store. There was only her with the blue hair on. I don’t think she knows how to call for assistance.”

“Oh, I know. She’s done that to me – had me waiting ages to get served.”

“I bought some bread, and a packet of those small batteries – you know for that clock – oh, and some chewing gum, and it came to nine fifty two.”

“Nine fifty two? Mind you, them batteries aren’t cheap…”

“I gave her a fiver, and five ones.”

“She doesn’t like change, her with the blue hair.Though she’d give it you back in pennies if she could.”

“She held the change in one hand, and stood there wafting the fiver around with the other. And then she gave me that look.”

“That look?”

“You know, that look – as if she were saying get on with it.”

“She does that a lot.”

“And then she asked me, in that loud voice of hers, for another four fifty two.”

“She never.”

“She did. So I said to her ‘I’ve given you a tenner.’”

“And what did she do then?”

“She gave me that other look.”

“Oh, not the other one. Her from the hairdressers told me about that one.”

“So I said to her ‘don’t you look at me like that’.”

“I bet you were giving her one of your looks.”

“What looks?”

“Oh, you know. Remember him in Green Street?”

“Oh yes! I was! So she turned around and said to me that I’d better get my glasses checked.”

“She never did! In front of everyone?”

“In front of everyone. So I said to her, in my loudest voice, that it was she who needed her glasses checking.”

“Why did you say that?”

“I don’t know. I was livid.”

“Did her from the butcher’s say anything?”

“No. She was as mortified as I was. Her with the blue hair held up my fiver, and said – she may have said it over the tannoy – this is a fiver not a tenner.”

“Oh no.”

“So I said to her that yes, I know it is a fiver, and the five ones she is clasping in her other hand makes the amount I have handed over ten pounds.”

“What did she do then?”

“She keyed in the till, and handed me my change. She never said another word.”

“She’s like that – won’t admit she’s wrong.”

“I don’t believe it – they’ve opened up another till, and it’s her with the blue hair.”

“Go on – you can go in front. I want more than you and this till’s nearly ready.”

“OK, will do. I’ll see you later at bingo.”

“You too. Make sure you pay her correctly this time! Ha!”

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The Superhero Diaries 4.1: Withdrawal Times Two

The Elite Force of Britain: a group of superheroes who joined together to solve one town’s problems, and decided to stick together for the greater good. One of the disadvantages of being in a superhero group is that one team member’s arch nemesis becomes everyone else on the team’s arch nemesis also. That is simply a cross to bear, unfortunately. One thing that isn’t as common knowledge is that not all supervillains choose superheroes for their arch nemeses. One such supervillain was highlighted in the Internal UK Bank International’s monthly staff newsletter.

And now onto other news.

Our branch in Mid in January had a rude start to the working week when not one but two robberies took place, in front of all staff and a queue of customers. The customers’ queue actually snaked out through the door, in what was probably our busiest day of the period so far. We were so busy in fact; security had to jump on the overflow counters and process transactions, which is probably why both incidents happened. Here’s a breakdown of the morning’s events:

09:55 Cashier Number Four’s counter had to be closed due to the glass security panel suddenly melting. Luckily, the customer’s transaction had been processed, and the customer had left without noticing this incident.

10:01 Cashier Number Two’s counter closed due to the same reason.

10:09 Cashier Number Eight followed suit.

10:12 Cashier Number Six was handed a note from ‘Even Steven’ demanding £25,000.00 in used twenties.

10:15 Cashier Number Six calmly passed over a withdrawal slip to the robber so as not to alarm the nearby queuing customers. She also activated the silent alarm, which triggered the automatic door locking mechanism.

10:20 Cashier Number Six had supervisor authorisation to carry out the transaction, using the specially marked notes kept on site for such an instance.

10:22 Cashiers One, Three, Five, Seven, Nine and Ten discreetly evacuated, and security infiltrated the queuing customers as other customers, as is standard protocol.

10:25 Funds handed over to Even Steven, who stuffed them into a cloth sack in a black back pack.

10:30 Even Steven calmly walked away from the counter and came face to face with two members of security.

10:35 Security found themselves trapped in the floor as Even Steven had used his ‘evening powers’ to alter the molecular structure of the floor so they sank into it, and then altered the structure back again, trapping them.

10:40 Customers starting to become unsettled; hostess staff offered drinks to diffuse the mood.

10:40 Even Steven flung across the transaction concourse, smashing through ATM 5, which dispensed all of its five pound notes. The audit afterwards revealed this to be £8,000.00.

10:45 A woman gathers all of the fivers and stuffs them into the back pack CCTV revealed her take from Even Steven before sending him across the room.

10:45 Security secure Even Steven, now unconscious, but fail to stop the woman

10:50 Security notice the glass in the automatic doors has also been melted.

10:59 External CCTV shows the woman making her getaway in a white boxer van. A close up later revealed the woman to be Simba Katiya, International Bank Thief.

We haven’t established exactly who Simba was working for, or why she should choose to steal from our Mid branch on exactly the same day that another bank thief was in attendance. Apparently, these investigations are continuing with the EFB. At least one robber was captured, and no staff or customers were harmed. We were able to get the floor off our security members within two hours, although we lost £33,000.00 due to the marked money being stored in a different safety box that day. But, all procedures were followed, so excellent work on the whole to our Mid team.

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The boy who talked to photographs

It was 1972. Ben Sandalwood was three years old, with an extremely vivid imagination. He’d wake up screaming at 3.33 every morning due to the monster under his bed, or the lady in the doorway, or the smiling man by the chest of drawers. Hazel, Ben’s mother, always went to comfort him, and gently rocked him back to sleep. She pointed out the only thing under the bed was a box; the lady in the doorway was a reflection from the streetlight just outside the window; and the smiling man was simply a cord from the small lamp on top of the drawers.

Once he was sound asleep, she herself could get back into bed, where her husband Malcolm was also soundly sleeping.

“Typical…”, she often tutted, but didn’t blame her husband as he worked very hard in the corner shop that they both owned, from very early in the morning until sometimes gone eleven at night.

It was 8.30 when Hazel opened her eyes again. It was still dark, December usually was, although the sky outside was beginning to glow a pale pink. “Red sky in the morning”, she thought as she made her way to the bathroom to get ready for the busy day ahead of playing with building blocks and singing nursery rhymes. Not that she’d change a thing. Since Ben had come along, she had felt complete within herself, and loved giving him as much attention as she could.

She made breakfast for herself and Ben, whom she’d left playing in the living room. She noticed things had gone very quiet, usually a sign that Ben was doing something he shouldn’t really be doing.

She crept into the living room, and to her surprise Ben was sitting upright in an armchair, surrounded by old photographs, smiling. And whispering.

“Ben” she said, to no response from the toddler at all. “Benjamin!” She said, a little sterner than she’d liked, but it got his attention.

“Mummy…” Ben held out his hands to her, one of which had  hold of an old sepia photograph. “Ganny Lo.” He said.

Puzzled, Hazel walked over to Ben, took the photo from him and looked at it. She felt a chill travel down her spine. “Breakfast time for you, little man,” she said, and carried him to the breakfast table, not mentioning anything to him about what he’d just said.

They spent the rest of the day busying themselves with building blocks, and sticky blocks, and fun songs and lots of laughter. One of Ben’s favourite cartoons opened the afternoon programming schedule, so Hazel left him watching in awe the cat chase the mouse all around the black and white TV screen, while she prepared tea.

The box of photos that Ben had rummaged through was now on top of the sideboard, and Hazel decided she’d have a look through it herself. She put the kettle on the stove to boil, sat herself down at the breakfast table, and took the first photo out of the box; the one Ben had showed her earlier. She decided to take a few of the photos out of the box, and try telling Ben who they were. After tea, of course.

She settled Ben in her lap, and instead of reading him a story, she wanted to tell him the story of the people in the photos.

The first one was the ‘Ganny Lo’ photo.

“Ben,” Hazel asked gently, “Do you know who this is?” She turned the photo around to show Ben, making a gentle ‘oooh’ noise as she did, and pulling a surprised face.

“Ganny Lo!” Ben replied with a huge grin on his face. “Ganny Lo!” He laughed with excitement.

Hazel showed him a second photo, another old sepia one, this time featuring a couple. Again with the ‘oooh’, she asked Ben if he knew these.

“No.”

A third photo, a man this time; another ‘oooh’; another “No.”

The fourth photo, a stern looking group photo, with a young woman wearing a white dress standing in the centre, a man wearing a long coat and a flat cap beside her, three children in front of her and what looked like an elderly couple behind. Ben laughed again. “Ganny Lo!” he shouted. “Unky Hallol!” Hazel was about to show him another photo, when they heard the front door close in the hallway. Ben shouted “Gaddy!” and he’d lost all interest in the photos.

Hazel read Ben his usual bedtime story, tucked him in and wished him good night, kissing him gently on the forehead. She left him giggling to himself, and went downstairs to sit with Malcolm.

“Malc, have you been telling Ben about these photos?” she asked, trying hard to think of a time when he would have been able to do so.

“Nope – not me. I haven’t seen them myself. Where are they from? And who are they of, for that matter?”

Hazel explained to Malcolm that the photos had been kept in a tattered old shoebox up in the loft for years, and she found the box recently as she was looking for the Christmas decorations. She decided she would find a better box for them, and left them on the sideboard, well out of Ben’s reach. How he’d managed to get hold of them was anyone’s guess. But that wasn’t the only mystery.

The lady in some of the photos was Hazel’s Grandmother’s Mother, who was known as Granny Rose to the family. Granny Rose had passed away in 1950, when Hazel was eight years old, and as far as she knew nobody had mentioned her around Ben. Rose’s brother Harold was known as Uncle Harold, and he passed away in 1936.

“Maybe you’ve mentioned them to him,” Malcolm suggested, noticing Hazel’s strange puzzled expression.

“Only tonight…” she said. “He pointed them out to me this morning.”

“Perhaps the people in the photos told him,” Malcolm laughed, thinking his imagination was now more vivid than that of his three-year-old son’s.

“How else could he know?” Hazel pondered. “He was whispering to the photos when I saw him with them earlier…”

They both looked at each other and laughed nervously. “He seems happy enough with them,” Hazel eventually said, although still puzzled.

In the days that passed, Ben mentioned Ganny Lo sparingly, and eventually stopped completely.

In 2016, Ben took his own three year old son, Adam, to visit his Nana Hazel. Hazel scooped him up and, as usual, smothered him with hugs and kisses. She’d created a collage of old family photos and framed it, placing it on the wall above the mantle. Adam pointed to one particular photo, and laughed with such joy that Ben was taken aback slightly.

“What’s gotten into you, little fella?” He asked tickling Adam under his chin.

“Ganny Lo!” Adam shouted quite animated, and then began to whisper inaudible words.

Hazel smiled and looked at Ben. “It appears Granny Rose has become this family’s guardian angel. Sit down, Ben, and let me tell you about another three year old who met her many years ago…”