Tag Archives: short fiction

Not Alan Garner (1)

31 Mar

Fucken hungry.  He could murder a cold one too, a dozen, but he knows he could drink a sea and  it wouldn’t fill him with what he needs.

He’s just taking a breather.  No one could deny he’s been digging away down here in the dark.  Working hard.  Its only when he looks up that he realises there’s a kid down here.

Thinking about it, he supposes there are dead kids. Has to be.  Plenty of them. Not much use though, are they, your dead kid.  Not in a mine, he thinks, forgetting how old he was when he started this caper, like he’s forgotten everything, except how to dig. And that he’s dead. He knows that.

Its not a smoko, cos he doesn’t have any smokes.  Can’t, not down a mine.  More a breather.  Not that he’s sure he’s really breathing.  Dead, and he still wants a smoke.  Some habits die hard.  And its not as though he’s just dead.  When he realised he was here, when he woke up working, he didn’ t have any legs left, that’s how dead he was.

The kid’s not on a track, not on rails. Neither is he, now that his legs have grown back, but you know what I mean. He’s not official like. The kid’s not working. He’s on a lark, just wandering about.  Gets on his wick.

The kid sees him. He’s got a lamp stuck on his head, like he’s a miner. He’s a bludger, more like. Shit scared now, not wandering about so aimlessly now. So he should be, bludger.  He wouldn’t bludge down here.  Who knows what they’d do?  If they can bring you back to life, what other shit can they do?  He’s never liked bludgers and he’s never liked wankers.  Remembers that.  Bludgers, wankers, thieves.  Blinks.  A feeling rises, and he remembers it before he can name it.  Shame.  That’s it.  Thieves.  He’s been eating some of the rocks he’s been digging.  Just some little ones.  Surely no one will miss them.  Fucken hungry.

Smell the kid’s fear. Didn’t know he could do that. Bet that’s new.  Scent condenses on his tongue, and saliva flows. He changes inside. Its like feelings he gave up on a long time ago. Longings.

So fucken hungry he could eat his own arse.

But he doesn’t have to.

He’d laugh if he had a voice.   Oh yes.  The kid’s face turns weird, he’s running.  Why?  He realised that he had been walking, without knowing it.  Just a passenger being carried along by legs and hunger.  I see.  The kid’s running away from me.  The kid fumbles in his back pack, loses a bit of the distance between them, pulls out a bit of tinfoil.  That knife won’t help, kid. You gonna murder me?  I’m already dead.

He hops down from the track, into the rubble of what they’ve been digging. Coal. Utility pipes. Dirt. Small trees pulled down through the earth by their roots. Form and complexity. Information and structure. Bits of it lying around down there.

Watcha got in that bag kid? A monster gun? Shambling over, stretching stiff joints. Something wriggling about in there.

Whatever it is, the kid brings the knife down into the centre of it, and it doesn’t like it.  Its jumping around.  The kid sticks the knife into its guts, and it spurts.

O!  The smell. He still can’t remember his name, but flavours flood back, and the drool pours out over his chin.  He can recall crumbed lambs brains and cream and mushrooms and wine – the bitter of the first beer after work on a summer’s day – burning his fingers snatching at hot chips with vinegar, the sun already down and steam pouring from their mouths as they broke battered fish into bits – onion as he licked at his wife’s fingers – stolen honey – other, private tastes…

The thing whatever it was was in his face and he sucked it empty, breathed it down, a wonderful throat-full of blood or motor oil or whatever it was inside, bloody beautiful, and chewing down on the carcass, swallowing it into him, wiping his mouth with his arm then licking the arm clean, the misery in his stomach abated for a moment, letting out a moan like he’s breaking.

The creaking of an ancient unoiled engine returning to life, his voice returned. “Thanks kid.” Clouds were lifting and he stepped out of a haze. “I’m George?” he groaned with the intonation of an unsure teenage girl.  “Yes, I’m George. What the fuck are you doing down here?”

“Looking for someone.”

“Are they dead?”

“Hope not.”

“What’s your name then?”

“Joe.  Joe Chip.”

***

(Such was life in Katingal.  Riding bikes, swimming in canals, wandering the zombie ridden caverns.  Kids weren’t wrapped in cotton wool in those days.  Ahh, the bliss before Trevor ruined everything…)

Not Lionel Shriver

17 Mar

The school camp was held in another universe.  The cabin was small but the  huge moon pouring through the window swelled it with liquid light.  I could not sleep with the drilling of mosquitoes.  I could not sleep this far from home.  I had to lie in the tedium, desperate for the hours to pass.  With no reference, I could not tell how much time had passed.

The night before, the only one still awake in a room of snoring boys, I had kneeled in my bed looking out the window, hanging out of my sleeping bag, a towel draped round my shoulders in an attempt to further block the mosquitoes.  It had seemed like a good idea at the time.  I prayed for sleep.  I thought of my family.  I said to myself that this too would pass.

In  the morning, it started.  “What were you doing at the window?” I could not think of an answer quickly enough, so Kevin answered for me.  “Tossing off, I bet.” Ha ha. Ha ha. Ha haaahaaa.  I ignored it, went off somewhere else in my brain while I spooned at the weetbix made with hot water.  Mum made mine with hot milk at home.  And honey.  And sometimes chopped banana.  To me, this was like pouring orange juice on cornflakes for a lactose intolerant kid – it might do, but who would want it?  “What were you doing brushing your teeth?”  “What were you doing wearing a hat?”  “What were you doing riding a bike?”  “Why did the chicken cross the road?” . Kevin’s answer would always be “having a wank” or “pullin’ his pud”, and the donkey chorus would erupt.  Wheat shreds braying through teeth and braces.  The repartee of boys.  He wasn’t even in our cabin.

I had thought the silence meant they all slept.  It just meant that the fear of Mr Palmer, lying in the corner, was more powerful than I realised.  They were all watching, all of the time.

It was unbearable.  I ached with the tiredness.  I wanted to scream, but I did not want to go through the rest of my school years known as the screamer.  The loony who broke down at camp.  Let someone else scream first.  Of course they were not as sensitive as me.

The idea came to me, and I was calmed.  of course.  That would solve my problems.  It was not inevitable.  I could test the universe.  If I fell asleep, I would not do this thing.  I could not do it immediately, it would need to wait until the depth of night, to be sure the others were sleeping.  if I nodded off, then it would not come to pass.  Good.  if the idea came from God, then I would know whether He wanted me to do it or not by whether He granted me sleep or not.  Fair enough.

I counted sheep.  They started off as white, strong merinos.  As I got into the high hundreds, they were leaner, scrawnier, meaner looking.  Their faces were more canine.  Sometimes the dingoes didn’t just kill sheep, I figured.  I was nearly asleep, but the nocturnal sounds of wombats and womb bats kept bringing my consciousness back to the surface.

Finally, when the sheep were all mangy curs and jackals, snapping at each other and refusing to leap the gate, I stopped counting and realised I was standing up.  I did know that with the room flooded, I could float through it.  I drifted to the corner where the games equipment had been tossed.  I had seen it before going to bed.  A loose cricket stump, slipped from the kit, lying there.  The cricket pitch was tough here, grassless with the endless drought, and the spikes of the stumps were all sheathed in metal, the easier to knock them into the earth.

I picked it up and let the current carry me.  It was no surprise that I found myself next to Trevor’s bed.  Even then, I knew him for what he was.  I had no doubt of his evil.  I stood there a long time.  I did not doubt.  I was not wavering.  I just wanted to be in the moment, and be fully aware of what was happening.  From an early age, I did not want to simply stumble through life, to be a mindless sleep walker.

I had waited long enough.  I raised the stump with two hands above me (thinking, if I could see this, I would look like a pyjama-ed Druid), gripped it hard, and thrust down.  The metal tip pierced, and I leaned in, pushing down, forcing it with all of the weight of my body.

The stump made a shucking sound as it entered Trevor’s chest, and I felt the resistance of bone and flesh.  I kept pushing, and would swear I felt the wiggle as it pushed between ribs, the final scrape against his spine.

I felt nothing.  I stood back and looked.  Clear in the moonlight, the stump was buried in his chest.  Nothing momentous.  No blood fountain, no demon scream, no flash burn to ash.  Not for Trevor the instant dissolution of the centuries delayed death of the vampire.

After a few minutes, I returned to my bed.  I had no thought for consequences.  I felt annoyed that really, nothing had happened.  It was only after I had laid there a long time that I realised that I had staked one of my school mates, and that this was no small thing.  I could not have done it.  I had dreamed it.  It could not be real.

I had to look.  As I raised my head, Trevor snored and rolled in his bed.  There was a drawn out vacuum suck as gravity slowly dragged the wood from meat, and I looked about in horror as I was sure everyone would hear it, as I was certain all eyes would turn to the noise.  It ended, and I rested relieved, until I heard the crack as the stump crashed to the wooden floor.

No one reacted.  No one heard.  They were all fast asleep.

I got out of bed, not floating this time, more grounded.  I knew the solution.  Shoes in hand, I snuck past Palmer.

The sun rises early in summer here, and dawn was starting.  I would have to be quick.  Yes, the axe was sticking out of the wood pile.  It was not much effort for me to pull it out of the log, and I was on my way.  You have to pick the appropriate weapon when fighting monsters.  Trevor was something foul, but he was no vampire.  A stake through the heart was not going to deal with him.  I would have to put a lot more thought into it.  But I was pretty sure an axe through the head would fix Kevin.

His cabin was across the path from mine.  I began to run, when I heard the yell.

“CHIP! What the fuck do you think you are doing?”

Old Palmer was awake.  I wonder whatever happened to him.

“Nothing sir.”

“Then put down that axe and get back to fucking bed!”

“Yes sir.”

Good times.  Remember those days in the old school yard?  (Sorry, I might have that line a little wrong, I’m not a Mormon.)

I was much wearier that morning when I sat down to breakfast, bowl of slop in front of me.  Then it appeared, not much, but to me at that stage, it was bliss.  Slipped straight in front of me.  Crispy bacon on toast, a dab of scrambled eggs, a spoonful of baked beans.  I looked up.  It was Trevor, feeding me from his personal supply, sharing the bounty that was magically served to him each morning.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Joe” I replied, finding it hard to meet his eye.

“Joe.”  He stared hard.  “I hadn’t noticed you before.  Joe, you and me.  We’re going places.”

And so it began.