Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

Seconds, maybe minutes passed. His eyes, yellow flecks swirling in grey, deep pools stared at her, burning into her mind with ever increasing intensity. Unable to to look away, her gaze unblinking and focused, like an invisible beam drawing her closer to him. Images filled her mind, his thoughts flooding into her conscious. Bad thoughts, dark thoughts, some so depraved that she felt a sickness fill her throat and she longed to look away but they were inside her head, becoming part of her.

“I can’t…” she murmured, the sound of her voice sounded distant through the cacophony of voices enveloping her. “No more…”

With a sigh he closed his eyes and her body crumpled to the dusty, dry earth.

“Never ask again, this is proof that you are not and never will be ready to know me.” He stared down at her sobbing frame and he was shrouded in sorrow. She should have been the one and if not her, who…

Joanna did not know if it was a conscious decision to die.  Maybe it was the million things she had to do that day or the garbled message from her best friend about her recent conquest, but something had made her step off the pavement in front of the car.

The driver, a man in his late twenties sat motionless in the car, unhurt.  ‘It wasn’t my fault’ he would repeatedly tell the multitude of police officers that would flood to the scene in a matter of minutes, appearing from every road that made up the busy intersection filling the area with a cacophony of sirens and flashing lights…but his words wouldn’t be heard.  The driver had been speeding; that is what the middle aged detective, twice passed up for promotion, would write on the report.  His nicotine stained fingers would scrawl his signature at the bottom of the page, consigning the man to six years in prison.

The ambulance arrived remarkably quickly, despite the heavy build up of traffic that the accident had caused.   For what seemed like hours they hurried around her, massaging her chest in a hope that her heart would beat…but it never would again.  With a final look to each other they slowly withdrew leaving her lying still and alone on the cold grey tarmac.  Whilst the paramedic solemnly shook his head to the policeman who was standing nearby, the other gently covered her twisted body with an orange blanket.

Hunter ordered his second cup of coffee as he watched her being carried gently into the ambulance.  From the coffee shop across the street he had watched the whole scene unfold in front of him.  He knew the driver hadn’t been speeding, but he would never come forward as a witness.  Why should he, they were nothing to do with him.  He just continued with his coffee and tried to focus on the thing he had to do that day.

He inspected the mobile phone that lay squarely in front of him on the table, unlocking and locking it 3 times before placing it down in the same place.  No one had called.  He glanced at his watch, 2.13 pm.

She was late.   They had agreed to meet at 2pm.   He had arrived at 1.30, early as usual. He had ordered a coffee and, after a large debate with the waitress on the difference between them, he settled on an Americano as it seemed the closest to what he wanted.  He sat at the table near the window, a perfect vantage point from which to see her arriving.

But who was he looking for?  He had never seen her, didn’t even know what she looked like.  Would she look like him, a city drained has-been that had had the colour sucked out of him?  Or would she look like her mother a… well he couldn’t remember.  It had been 20 years since he had seen her and on that one night he had been flying on an unhealthy mix of narcotics and whisky.  She was just one in a long line of women he had been with, faceless beings that went as quickly as he came.  To him women were just a means to an end.

But now, at 45, he was alone.  No wife or children to share his life and a career no further on than it was when he was 20.  But the letter had said he was her father.  She had tracked him down and wanted to meet him.

2.23pm. The waitress placed another cup of brown murky liquid on the table next to him and smiled.  Millie (or Amelia as it read on her name tag) was a pretty girl of 17; her straightened brown hair fell across her face as she leant over him and her white blouse fell open slightly allowing Hunter a brief glance at the white lacy bra beneath.  She knew that he had looked…she had wanted him to look.  A brief moment of satisfaction gleaned from a half done up blouse made her feel sexy, an object of desire. She had not yet learnt the dangers of flirting but she would on that last, dark walk home after work as she took a short cut through a dimly lit lane.  However, for now she would continue to expose her skin with a misguided pride.  Adjusting her blouse slowly with a coy smile she turned away from the customer as he removed a hip flask from his pocket and poured the whisky into his coffee.

The coffee shop was very quiet, just one other man sat in the corner casually reading his newspaper, so her unnoticed arrival was all the more unusual.  The door swung open and in breezed the woman in her mid thirties with an exaggerated confidence.  The waitress noticed something pass by out of the corner of her eye but, as she scanned the room, she concluded that it must have been her imagination.  She quickly returned to writing her text arranging her after work rendezvous and sang along quietly to the radio.   Only Hunter acknowledged the woman as she strode purposefully towards him.

“Hunter” She stated in her severe and cold voice, towering above him in red stiletto heels.

“No, I’m sorry, you must be mistaken.” Hunter replied, picking up his mobile to once again check for messages.

“She’s not coming…something important has come up.” The woman continued, undeterred by his cold facade.

At that moment his mobile vibrated and the text message flashed across the screen.  Opening it he quickly scanned the brief message.  ‘Sorry, something important has come up.  Hope you can make it on Friday, Amber x’.

“Look sweetheart, like I said before, I’m not interested in anything you’ve got to say.  Now, fuck off and leave me alone”. Hunter took a big gulp of his coffee and turned away.

The woman smiled and ran her hand through her hair.  “You’re going to have to listen to me one day, you can’t keep running away from this.”

“I’ve managed so far.”

“It’ll keep happening, it’s your destiny Hunter.  I’ll be in touch.”

“Whatever”.

The woman exited as silently as she had arrived.  Hunter sat motionless staring at the table contemplating his next move.  Should he phone Amber or wait till she called him?  He reread the message…Friday, he had almost forgotten he had agreed to go to the funeral of her mother.  It had been when she had been going through her belongings that Amber had found the name Hunter Blake written on a tatty piece of paper tucked into the back of her jewelry case.  Maybe he shouldn’t go, leave that part of his life in the past and forget all about Amber. It’s not like he was looking for a daughter, his life didn’t need to change.  He sighed and took a swig straight from his hip flask.

Friday morning arrived with a grey melancholy and Hunter watched as the doleful mourners silently wept over the lowering casket.  All except one who was unmoved…it was Amber.  He had recognized her straight away.  Clutching her umbrella with both hands she observed the scene with an apathetic resolution. Not a flicker of emotion flashed across her youthful face as the priest uttered his final prayer and the weeps of the mourners rose in intensity.  But still her defocused eyes stared into the middle distance completely unperturbed by the burial of her mother.

The congregation dispersed quickly into awaiting cars leaving only Hunter and Amber alone next to the freshly dug mound.

“You made it then.”  She said, flashing a gentle smile that softened the severity of her features.

“How are you doing?”  Hunter asked awkwardly.

“I’m fine, couldn’t stand the cow.  Made my life hell and I couldn’t wait for her to die.”  Amber replied genuinely.

“That’s a bit harsh isn’t it?  She was your mother.”

“Only on paper.  You didn’t know her, what you got out of her was the one thing she was good at.  Anything else like compassion or love was a foreign language to her.  I never really saw her as a child, only occasionally emerging out of the bedroom wrapped in her threadbare silk dressing gown.  She used to call it community service…gave the married men what they needed and saved quite a few marriages if you believe the rumours. I think it was just bullshit to make her feel better…she was a whore, pure and simple.”  Amber noticed Hunter’s face recoil as she spoke with such contempt about her own mother.  “Oh don’t worry, I’m at peace with it, learnt to accept it a long time ago. I wore the disgrace around my neck for years, crying tears for men who assumed ‘like mother like daughter’ and dropped me as soon as they learnt the truth.  But I wasn’t like her and I sure as hell never will be.  Still, she’s gone now.”

“I’m sorry, if I’d have known…”  Hunter started.

“You’d have done what?”  Amber erupted with a deep, smoky laugh. “You’d have swept in with your white steed and rescued me from the nasty witch?  Don’t be ridiculous, I bet you thought twice about even coming to see me today.  I know you didn’t need a daughter but I just needed to know who my father was.  I don’t want anything from you, not even a Christmas card.  You can leave now and never have anything more to do with me.  I just had a hole in my past and I had to know before I died.”

“You’re dying?”  Hunter exclaimed and the image of the stiletto’d woman flashed across his mind.

“Well, we all are aren’t we?  Whether it’s a long time away or tomorrow we’re all heading in the same direction.  But no, I’m not dying by society’s definition of the word.  Look, do you want to grab a beer?”

“Don’t you need to go to the repast?”

“With all my aunts and cousins fighting to be mother hen they won’t even notice that I’m not there.  Come on, there’s a great little pub not far from here.”

The Gallows Inn was situated at the end of a tiny lane covered with over hanging trees shielding it from observers.  It was a dingy little place basked in perpetual darkness with an array of trinkets adorning every nook and crevice from floor to ceiling.  A large plank of rotting oak had become the centerpiece in the cramped bar with names carved deeply into the wood.  Hunter sat in the corner on a rickety table and watched as Amber returned with two glasses of a dark stout.

“I wasn’t sure what you wanted, I hope this is ok.”  She said placing the beer in front of him.

“That’s fine.  This is an interesting place.”  He said, his eyes wandering back to the decorated wood.

“Oh that, it’s meant to be a section of the witch’s gallows and the names are all the women who have been hung from them.  It’s where the pub got its name but I’m not sure.  Suppose it’s better than a random ship’s wheel though! I’m just going to nip out for a fag.  They used to be quite lax about the no smoking law because it’s so out of the way but since that girl was found just down the lane there have been a lot of police milling around.”

“What girl?”

“Amelia something or other.”  She replied absentmindedly as she expertly rolled the cigarette between her childlike fingers.  “She was a waitress, raped and murdered not far from here.  They haven’t found the culprit yet, there’s a nationwide manhunt in place looking for him.  I’m surprised you haven’t heard, the whole country’s talking about it.”

“I try not to listen to the news, if it’s important enough I’ll hear about it.”

She licked the paper, rolling it into a perfect tube and gently nipped off the excess tobacco, placing it back in to her well-worn tin.  “I’ll only be a minute.”  She smiled back at him as she left through the side door.

Hearing the gentle buzz of his mobile phone he pulled it from his jacket and answered it without looking at the number.  “Yes” he said sharply.

“It’s going to happen again Hunter.”  The female voice said gently. “You are going to do it again.”

“Leave me alone, you don’t know what you’re talking about.  She’s my daughter.”  Hunter said reaching for the end call button.

“That doesn’t matter to someone like you, it’s beyond your control.”

“Just fuck off!”  He shouted to the now silent phone.

“Are you ok?”  Amber said as she walked back into the bar.

“Just a cold caller.  I should have checked the number before I answered.  Feeling better?”  Hunter forced a smile through his worried eyes.

“Much!  I keep trying to quit but I like smoking too much!  Still, we’ve all got to die of something.”  She laughed.

Hunter tried to laugh with her but her nonchalant words had hit him more than she’ll ever know.  “I’ll probably have to get going soon, there’s someone I need to see.  Business, you know.”

“Of course, it was great meeting you.  It’s nice to know where I got this crooked nose!  Everyone used to tell me I looked nothing like my mom.  I wonder if I inherited anything else from you.”

“I hope not.”  Hunter replied coldly.

“Well…you’ve got my number if you want to meet up again.”

“Do you want a lift home, my car’s parked back at the cemetery.  The rain’s really coming down now and you’ll catch a chill.”

“Sure, that’ll be great.  See, maybe you would have done okay at this father thing after all.”

They drove in silence through the country lanes on their way back to town.  Hunter turned the radio on and rested his head back onto the seat as the heavy beat relaxed his body.  It had been a stressful day but it had gone well and he smiled to himself as he listened to the music.  He didn’t know what had made him swerve…a rabbit maybe or a cat…but it sent the car into an instant spin as the tires struggled to grip on the wet road.  Hunter fought to get it back under control but the more he tugged on the wheel the more it fishtailed around.  The offside wheel bounced off the curb catapulting the car across the road into the wall opposite, completely destroying the passenger side…that was the last thing he remembered.

He woke in the hospital. His side hurt from broken ribs but otherwise he was unhurt.  The loud beeping from the heart monitor made him sit up with a start.  In the bed opposite lay a twisted and broken Amber buried beneath a mass of wires and tubes.  Hunter rushed over to her and grasped her hand tightly.  “It wasn’t my fault,” he repeated over and over again as he watched her chest gently rise and fall.

“I told you but you wouldn’t believe me.”  Said a voice from behind.

“She’s not dead, she’s just in a coma.  She could wake up at any moment.”

“But you know she won’t, don’t you Hunter.”

Hunter turned to face the stiletto’d woman.  “But she was my daughter, my own flesh and blood.  How could I…I wanted her to live”?

“You don’t have that choice, it’s your destiny.  Some people are put on this earth to heal, to provide life for those in need and some are here to take that life away.  No one can change it…you can just learn to accept it.”

“But I can’t …I won’t.” As Hunter spat out the last words the alarm began to ring on the monitors and Amber gently drifted away.  Nurses flooded in through the door and frantically tried to bring her back, but it was futile, and Hunter watched as the colour began to drain from her youthful skin.  He knew then he had to leave…he had to stay away.  He slipped out of the hospital and disappeared into the cold, empty streets.

In a humid south American bar a few years later a man took a large swig of whisky, wiping his beard with the back of his hand and wincing as the alcohol reminded him he was still alive.  He placed the glass heavily back on to the bar in front of him.

“Same again.”  Hunter said quietly.

The barmaid picked up the glass and placed it under the optic.  “Haven’t seen you in here before, are you new to town?”

“No, I’m just passing through.”  Hunter preferred to keep his conversations short.  He’d met hundreds of barmaids like this one all across the world as he tried to outrun his curse.  Maybe it was working, he didn’t know…if he just kept moving he would never have to find out.

“Well, it’s nice to see a new face.  This place is getting really quiet lately with everyone moving to the city.  Enjoy you drink”.  Picking up a crate of dirty glasses she walked out into the backroom and disappeared from view.

“Hunter?”  A weary voice said.

“Sorry, I think you must be mistaken.”  Hunter replied.

“Hunter, I need your help.”  The man repeated.

Hunter turned to see a man obviously younger than his withered body portrayed.  His voice sounded breathy, like he had been running but there wasn’t a drop of perspiration on him.  “I can’t help you.”  He returned to his drink, turning his back once again on the man.

“I can’t take the pain any longer…every step is agony.”

“Go away, I’m not in that game anymore.”  Hunter clenched his teeth to stop his anger from spilling out if him.

“Please, I need to die.”

Hunter looked once again at the man.  His sunken cheeks and blackened eyes told of excruciating misery.  His life was over but his body was yet to catch up.

“Please” His voice petered out into a whisper until only air escaped from his cracked lips.

With his heart racing he placed his hand on the man’s neck and felt his body crumble beneath him.  Grabbing his jacket he walked out into the bright sunlight and disappeared once again in attempt to make sense of the hangman’s curse.