The Perfect Cover #writephoto

Written in response to Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt. Thanks for the inspiration, Sue – I hope you’re having a good time on your travels 🙂


Joanna crawled up the embankment, leaving a trail of red in her wake. She looked back, tracking the path she had taken; the trail like a flag to the raging bull on her tail. He was as relentless as the animal, too, and she imagined she could hear his snorting breath.

Her gaze shifted back to the ruins in front of her, her beacon of hope. If she could just find cover, she had a chance.

Pressing her body lower to the ground, she clamped her teeth together as shots exploded around her. She was a sitting duck out there, and she only had herself to blame. Joanna knew he couldn’t see her, knew he was aiming for the stark colour that leaked behind her.

She had to fight the urge to give in to her fear and stay put. Sure, it would make him sweat, but the longer she remained in place the less likely she was to succeed. Already her muscles screamed in protest. He never tired of the game, and though adrenalin had carried her this far, it was about to crash in a big way.

Taking a deep breath, she inched forward, her eyes narrowing in on the foliage covering the ruins like a protective coat of armour. Perhaps they would extend the courtesy to her. After all, the creeping plants that flared into a wide skirt at the foot of the stone were the perfect for hiding place.

It’s now or never.

Ignoring the soft pfft-pfft sounds that hit the grass around her, Joanna crawled as quickly as she could to the top. None of the shots hit her, and she felt a surge of triumph. The assault course her brother forced her to complete had finally paid off.

She didn’t get to her feet, didn’t allow herself to make a mistake now. Instead, she scrambled forward, through the entrance to the ruins, until she had ample cover. Only then, did she ease her body into a crouch, crab walking – her eyes on the empty windows – until she reached the small pack hidden in the debris. Snatching it up, Joanna let out a whoop of triumph, even as she was digging inside for her treasure.

The sound of footsteps outside didn’t deter her. She whipped the flag out of the pack and waved it in the air.

“Well played, Jo-Jo. Well played,” her brother said, panting.

She turned to the doorway, eyeing his readied paintball gun and gave him a winning smile. “Thanks, bro.” Her gaze dropped to her own gun, which was still leaking paint. She had doctored it, of course; taunting him. Luckily, she didn’t get a drop on her clothing.

“Do you think the others packed in by now?” he asked, gazing out across the meadow.

Joanna snorted. “Of course. They’ll be back at camp.” Their friends always let them go their own way, knowing how competitive they became whenever they played the game – any game.

When he turned back, he was grinning too. “Then let’s join them.”

Grabbing the water from her pack so she could clean the evidence of their game, she walked to him. “With any luck, they’ve already started dinner.”

The sound of her brother’s laughter tickled her ear as he hooked an arm around her shoulder and led her out.


Thanks for stopping by.



Buried: Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes #4

Friday Fiction with Ronovan WritesThis week, Ronovan challenged us to write a piece of flash fiction (maximum 500 words).


The first thing I noticed was the smell. I’m not sure what that says about me, considering my senses were on full alert, and when I say that, I mean I was completely freaking out. Perhaps it was the total absence of light. I had no choice but to absorb the sounds, the smells, the feel of being trapped in the dark.

When I recovered from the god-awful smell; a putrid, downright beastly aroma that might have erupted from the depths of the underworld, it registered I could barely move. Of course, then I was reminded of the fact I was in a coffin, and the air froze in my lungs. Pure, unadulterated panic.

Something slithered across my hand, and my breath came out on a whoosh. It wasn’t relief, it was more like, ‘oh my god, somebody please tell me that’s not a snake.’ And of course, it had to be. I’d stupidly made it clear I had a phobia of all things reptilian.

It took effort, but I didn’t scream. I let the thing slither a path up and around my arm and over my stomach. All the while I concentrated on the sound of voices in my head; the wise, calming voices of my friends. A few minutes later I was home free. There was a draft of air to my left, followed by a burst of natural light, and the snake was gone.

After that, my coffin mates were relatively easy to endure. I didn’t even mind the bugs, not even when they got up close and personal; crawling over every inch of my body and making me squirm in the confines of my box.

“Oh my god, guys. They’re in my pants,” I semi-screamed. I was trying not to open my mouth.

I heard deep laughter through my earpiece. “Where have we heard that before?”

“It’s the honest to god truth. They’re frisky little buggers.”

More laughter and then, thankfully, Johnny said. “Okay, times up. Let’s get her out.”

Strangely, the urge to move was stronger than ever. I had to tamp down on my fevered desire to shove up my hands and burst through the modified glass box. I didn’t do that. This was my punishment and I had no choice but to take it, especially since the show was my brainchild.

Not an original concept, more like pranking 2.0. Let’s put it this way – my forfeit could have been a hell of a lot worse. Luckily, a certain show had just finished airing, thus influencing my friends’ decision. I’m sure you can guess the show, but I’ll give you a hint; it involves celebrities and a jungle.

I’d endured my ten minutes, which felt pretty good. Still, I all but jumped out when the crew lifted the lid and, I’m not embarrassed to say, I bent to kiss the ground.

“Enjoy your freedom, Curly,” Johnny said, bending to brush a few cockroaches from my collar. “Because that was part one.”

“Oh shit.”

Hopefully, you found that fun – even if there was a groan or two! My daughter is obsessed with I’m a Celebrity and, since I enjoy spending time with her, we sit down at the end of our day and watch the goings on in the jungle. We’re also both a fan of Impractical Jokers, even though the show makes us cringe, we’re glued to the screen – go figure! It was Grace’s idea to write something jungle related, so I went with it.

Thanks for stopping by.


Changing World: Day 24 – A Story A Day


A Story A Day – Prompt (24/9/15): Three Micro Stories. Flick through the gallery and pick the first three pictures that catch your attention. Now, write a short, 50-100 word story for each. No more than 100 words each.

I used the prompt today, and wrote a short piece for each photograph I chose. But I broke the rules, because I’m way behind schedule and almost didn’t make it today. I went over the word count, and continued a theme (which I’m sure is not the point to this exercise). But, still – there are words 🙂


Day 26

Today was a good day, a jewel to be treasured in this quagmire of crap.

It’s strange, but when you’ve faced Armageddon, looked that bitch in the eye and come out the other side, somehow you can still appreciate the little things. And it has to be said, it’s all about the little things. How many times are we told to stop and smell the roses? – It still applies when there are no longer any roses to smell. Even if that shit was never meant to be taken literally.

So, here I am watching a group of kids I somehow found myself responsible for, clamouring over a slide as though this were just an ordinary day. And I’ll give it to them, the ordinary. I’ll give it to them as often as possible.

foxDay 40

We saw a fox today, an honest to god fox. Just strolling down the road, as easy as you please. It had this crazy-assed look on its face, as though it were none too pleased by what it saw. Sure, we’re looking a little rough around the edges, barely recognisable – but that shit was funny! Denny drew a picture, Carlos sang a song, and Duncan threatened to eat the poor little bugger. That’s what hunger does to you, I guess. But it raised our spirits some. I’m not sure what we’ll find next, but whatever it is, we’ll face it. Just like we’ve faced everything else. And, sure, the world is an unfamiliar place, but we can still laugh about it. We can even sing.


Day 53

Today we stumbled upon a town almost untouched by the troubles. It scares the hell out of me. Not because it resembles a ghost town, but because it’s frozen. Unreal somehow. A step out of reality. The others decided we should stay a while. I’m not down with that. Not even a little bit. We found food, and a shit ton of supplies we’ll never be able to carry. We also got ourselves clean. But, I’m anxious. I got a bad feeling as soon as I saw the bike in the playground; shiny and new and parked as though someone would be back to collect it any minute. I just don’t trust this place, and the sooner we leave the better.

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Awakening #BlogBattle Writing Challenge

Organised by Rachael Ritchey -
Organised by Rachael Ritchey –

#BlogBattle is a weekly writing challenge organised by Rachael Ritchey. You can find more information about it here. It’s a fun battle, and a supportive group – a great place to hang out! The theme this week is ‘ORCHID’

I feel the need to add a note to this story, mainly because I have no idea where I’m going with it! But that’s the fun in Rachael’s challenges – the freedom of going with the flow. You’ll be glad to know it doesn’t end on a cliff hanger, as such, but it will probably continue. So, although it feels strangely like a game of Balderdash, I hope you enjoy!

Charles stumbled along the overgrown path, his eyes burning with unshed tears. The final part of his journey was always the hardest, and this time was no different. He kept his head down and his weight forward, using the momentum to keep his legs moving. They were numb, all but useless, and still he pushed on.

His head came up the moment the trees began to thin. He was close now. He could see the well; a glint from stones he had placed there himself.

At the thought of what lay ahead, Charles felt his hand spasm. He almost crushed the token in his sweaty palm; the most precious of gifts. He didn’t look down, his fear was too great. The responsibility of his task weighed heavily in his heart. It was his turn now. His turn to honour his family in a tradition which spanned thousands of years. Too many to count.

For centuries his people had remained dormant, their power hidden beneath the earth; waiting for their next rebirth. Charles had no idea how long they were required, but a war was coming, so they could sleep no longer. He was their protector, like his father before him, and soon he would be reunited with his ancestors.

Eventually he would pass the mantle to his own children, and in doing so he would sleep. It was not their destiny to remain among the living. They had not roamed freely in this realm since the dawning of time. They existed in another place, and revealed themselves only when there was no other choice.

Charles fell to his knees beside the well, his fisted hand hovering above the opening. For one brief moment his hand remained locked in place, and then, slowly, it opened. He watched in awe as the seed pod slid from his palm, the unearthly glow illuminating the land even as it travelled down the well.

The earth began to shake, the vibration rattling Charles’ bones. But he wasn’t afraid. He was ready for it. Acting quickly now, he withdrew a dagger and scored a line across his palm. His hand curled around the wound and squeezed tight, the small droplets of blood falling into the light and sealing the ritual.

He fell backwards, scrambling to safety when the ground began to break apart. Charles thought he could hear the rumbling from every corner of the earth; he could certainly map out the connections in his mind. The underground system was vast, a system which began with a million seeds.

Charles tried to imagine that first gift, the power it contained. The plant was not meant to survive in this realm and yet, because it did, his people were granted the blessing of travelling through the ages.

It was impossible, though he knew there were thousands of species which descended from the Loamirar. Even bereft of power, the seeds produced spectacular results. One day he would glimpse the beauty of the Loamirar, and he would rejoice in the sight. Until then he would look upon the orchid, and remember where he came from.

Not that he needed a reminder. His people were emerging, and the beauty of it made his eyes overflow. They were tears of joy, of gratitude. He was witnessing an awakening.

Thanks for stopping by.


Dear Jinny (Day 16) A Story A Day


It’s another break from Missing today. Time got away from me, so I decided on a piece of flash fiction following the prompt for today, which is as follows.

StoryADay September 2015 – Prompt: The Widower (They had been married sixty years. She always did the cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning around the house. He has just returned home after the funeral and finds himself alone to figure it all out for himself.)

Dear Jinny

The house is as empty as my heart without you. It’s cold right now, but I don’t have the energy to work the thermostat. I’m keeping the place tidy, or that is, our home is pretty much as you left it. Not a thing out of place; nothing touched by my hand or yours.

The fridge is full of offerings from our well-meaning neighbours. I do regret that it’s going to waste, mainly because I know how you feel about that sort of thing. But worry not, my dear, sweet Jinny. It won’t be long now. I haven’t spent more than three days without you in over sixty years. This two weeks has been the longest stretch. Though, truth be told, I’ve had my memories to keep me company. I see you every time I close my eyes, and that’s pretty much all I’ve been doing for the last day or so.

The ache that began in my soul is bone deep now. But this pain I’m feeling, it’s nothing compared to the thought of living without you.

Forgive me, sweetheart. I know you’re probably angry with me right now. I can hear you, the echo of your gentle warnings; to get up from this chair; to eat; to drink; to function. Deep down you know I can’t.

It’s a good thing I’m still in my Sunday best, the suit you like to call my dating threads. I wore it when I said goodbye, and I’ll be wearing it when you come for me, my love.

Hurry. It’s cold here without you.


Thanks for stopping by.


Closing the Distance #BlogBattle Writing Challenge

Organised by Rachael Ritchey -
Organised by Rachael Ritchey –

#BlogBattle is a weekly writing challenge organised by Rachael Ritchey. You can find more information about it here. It’s a fun battle, and a supportive group – a great place to hang out! The theme this week is ‘DISTANCE’

Just a quick note before I begin. For those who’ve been following along with my story a day, I’m taking a break from Missing, but the story will return tomorrow.

Barry looked down into Phoebe’s face and felt a wave of longing. It was sweet agony to see her again, even if it was merely a dream. He knew it to be a dream because the lucidity of it was unmistakable. He also knew because had had been sharing secret conversations with her for months.

For a man with an eidetic memory, he needed an outlet and, for Barry, that outlet was to dream. He didn’t understand it, and he no longer questioned it. His mind replayed and stored an endless stream of information so, when he slept, he was able to process and analyse his reaction to the day’s events. It was a coping strategy, the reason he could start afresh in the morning without being weighed down by the past.

Phoebe started appearing in his dreams the day she left. Now their conversations were a habit, a part of his conscience with which he could interact.

With a jolt of recognition, Barry felt the change to his psyche which signalled the onset of a different dream. He waited for Phoebe’s face to disappear, for the scene to change. Something he could never control. But the scene didn’t change, not completely.

He stared into Phoebe’s eyes and saw the shadow of pain and fear at the same moment his hands settled around her throat. Her face wavered when his mind balked at the concept of hurting her. Except he wasn’t the one hurting her. He was someone else now, and if his history was any indication, this was a premonition.

“No!” Barry threw himself from the dream, unable to watch as the thick, meaty hands of her attacker began to squeeze. In the vision, he had been the attacker, and the idea of it sent him into a blind panic.

He barely gave himself a minute to control the frantic beating of his heart before he was reaching for the phone and dialling. The long distance ring tone grated along frayed nerves.

Pick up. Pick up.

She normally answered on the fourth of fifth ring. He counted them in his head; his anxiety growing with each separate sound; seven, eight, nine.


Everything stilled inside him when he heard her voice. It took a moment to find his. “Yeah, it’s me.” He could understand her confusion, now that he was thinking clearly. In his panic he hadn’t considered the time, in fact, he hadn’t thought about the distance at all.

“What is it? Has something happened?”

“No, nothing happened. Can’t I get the urge to ring you without there being a national emergency?”

“Not when you sound like a cat on a hot tin roof.” There was a beat or two of silence. “And your urges don’t usually strike at three in the morning.”

“Who’s to say which urges strike at this hour?”

She laughed, a husky sound that belonged in the bedroom. “I walked right into that one. I’ve missed you, Irish.”

I missed you too.

“Yeah, it’s been a while.”

“Almost twelve months.”

“Um hm.”

The chuckle made him smile. “Come on, you know you want to say it.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“And I have the patience of a saint. Just do it…ball park figure.”

He snorted at that, relaxing into the game. “Forty-three weeks, fifteen hours, nine minutes and…twenty-two seconds.”

Phoebe chuckled. “Ah, but I’m in a different time zone-”

“Do you really want me to talk about time and relativity?”

“Honey, I could listen to that voice all day long, but I’m between jobs so you’re going to have to cut to the chase.” It disarmed him.

“I had a dream.”

“You’ll have to be more specific.” She lowered her voice. “Was I in this dream?”

Her face flashed into his mind, her bulging, startled eyes. “You could say that.”

“Then tell me.”

He did, though his throat wanted to swallow the words. When he was through, he had to ride the long and agonising silence that followed.

“I’m fine, Barry. I get why you called, but I’m okay.” More silence, silence he knew he was supposed to fill. “Listen to me. I’ll be home in two weeks and you can see for yourself.”

“You don’t understand, Phoebe. I have the image in my head, and it felt like me. For a second it felt like me.” He blew out a breath. “I know they weren’t my hands, but-”

“You think it’s a future event, and that someone wants to hurt me.” Her voice held no judgement.

“I don’t know. I joined the scene a little late and I jumped straight back out again.”

“Okay, how about this. I promise I’ll be careful and stay away from men with suspicious looking hands.”

“It’s not funny.”

“No, it’s not, and I’m sorry it freaked you out. I know you, Irish and once you’ve analysed things you’ll figure it out.”

Barry nodded, though she couldn’t see him. “You’re right. I just needed to hear your voice, that’s all.”

“Then I’ll call when I get home and we’ll figure it out together. Get some sleep. I’m fine, I promise.”

He relaxed. “I’ll talk to you soon, Red.”

That made her laugh, as he’d known it would. He could hear the indecision in her voice. She wouldn’t go until he told her it was okay.

“You bet.”

Barry stared at the ceiling when she disconnected, concentrating on the constellation above his head. It was another coping strategy, a distraction. He wasn’t ready to go back into the dream. Not yet.

Only three-hundred and thirty six hours to go. Give or take.

He smiled as he threw back the covers and jumped out of bed. It was time to find another distraction, because he certainly didn’t want to sleep.

Thanks for stopping by.


Missing – Part 7 (Day 8) A Story A Day – #BlogBattle Writing Challenge

Organised by Rachael Ritchey -
Organised by Rachael Ritchey –

#BlogBattle is a weekly writing challenge organised by Rachael Ritchey. You can find more information about it here. It’s a fun battle, and a supportive group – a great place to hang out! The theme this week is ‘HEAD’.

As some of you may know, I’m taking part in the ‘A Story A Day September’ challenge. My blog battle entry will serve as my story for today. The prompt for the challenge is related to conflict and tension. To my blog battle buddies, this is a continuation of an ongoing story. It can, however, stand alone. I followed the theme of this weeks battle.

Recap: Justin Chambers, part of the team at Morgan & Fairchild, is approached by a friend who needs a favour. Justin accepts the missing person case, and agrees to look into it in his own time. Elsewhere in the story, a girl named Holly wakes up without any memory of the night before. She soon discovers she has been kidnapped and is being held in an abandoned airfield.

Andrew slipped out of the shadows and approached his contact. Gary Jones was a weasel of a man, but he was also predictable and would do just about anything for a fast buck. Tonight he had information Andrew needed, information which might lead to his client’s missing daughter.

Gary startled when he saw Andrew; eyes large in a long, narrow face. “Shit, why do you have to do that, man?” He snorted. “You’re like a ninja or something.”

“Or something.” Andrew didn’t have the time or patience for chitchat. “What do you have for me?”

“Word is that the Pintus family are branching out. Seems there’s a need for organs and they’re in the retrieval business.”

Andrew’s expression didn’t change. He knew all about the family, he’d been gathering intel on them for months. “That better not be all you have.” He took a step forward. “You know how I feel about time wasters.”

A growl punctuated the words. It made Andrew smile. He looked down briefly, nodding to Blue. The move was almost imperceptible. Blue was a Utonagan, bred to resemble a wolf but deemed a failure due to his piercing blue eyes. Andrew had saved his life or, more accurately, they had saved each other.

“I hear they’re snatching street kids. Mainly near Chapel Market.” Gary glanced nervously at Blue. “That’s all I have right now. But I’ll put feelers out. They’re holding them in a central location, I just don’t know where. Yet.”

Andrew pulled an envelope from his inside pocket, and made a show of removing some of the notes. He handed the rest over. “If you get me a location I’ll triple your reward.”

“Reward.” Gary snorted. “Yeah, right.”

At the low growl from Blue, Gary stuffed the envelope in his jeans and darted off in the opposite direction. “I’ll be in touch,” he said, before disappearing into the night.

Andrew backtracked to his truck. “The weasel actually came through for us,” he said, glancing at Blue. The dog cocked his head as if to question the validity in his statement. “We have somewhere to focus our attention.”

Inside the dark blue BMW, Andrew touched base and reported in. He had another job to do tonight, but he had a little time. The temptation to visit JJ was strong. They were working out their differences, or so he’d been told. The thought made him grin. JJ hadn’t forgiven him for checking out the way he had. Nor had Ellen for that matter. They were his closest friends and he had shut them out. All the way out.

Andrew sighed and let his head fall back against the seat. He had always been a stubborn fool. His time within the Special Reconnaissance Regiment had been the hardest in his career, a career that almost ended in his death. Andrew had spent weeks in a coma, and longer still in recovery.

The first few months had been hell on earth. He had relived the mission over and over, focusing on the death of his friends and torturing himself because he had made it out alive. The doctors had referred him to a therapist, a man who wanted to get inside his head and analyse his feelings.

The problem was, Andrew didn’t want anyone else to see his failings. Including JJ and Ellen. He didn’t want to think, or feel, he just wanted to escape. It was the first time in his life Andrew had taken the coward’s way out.

He had travelled England, working out his tension with manual labour, and suffocating his ghosts with scotch – just to get him through the nights. After a while he began to heal, first physically, and then mentally. He hadn’t managed to let go of the guilt, but his head was clear of nightmares and Andrew had learned to forgive himself for surviving the attack.

The low whine from Blue dragged him back to the present. He sat up, and looked across at his companion. “What do you say we drive by Chapel Market and scope out the place?”

Blue answered with his usual enthusiasm, eyeing Andrew with what looked suspiciously like impatience.

“Okay, I hear you, buddy. We won’t find Holly sitting in the dark.”

Andrew started the truck, and felt energy course through his veins. He would find the girl. Losing wasn’t an option. Not this time.

Teamwork #BlogBattle Writing Challenge

Organised by Rachael Ritchey -
Organised by Rachael Ritchey –

#BlogBattle is a weekly writing challenge organised by Rachael Ritchey. You can find more information about it here. It’s a fun battle, and a supportive group – a great place to hang out! The theme this week is ‘LEGUMES’.

The temperature in the small room dropped to bearable as Darren Yates gave his presentation. It was a practice run, and Sean had heard a variation of the pitch a dozen times. He was tired of listening to his colleagues gripe at each other. All he wanted was a long, hot shower; a cool, tall beer, and a long, interrupted sleep. That’s what he thought about as Darren droned on about marketing and production. Sean hadn’t slept in thirty six hours. He was still wearing yesterday’s suit, and had breathed the same air as these bozos for long enough. All they needed was a name. A simple name, and he could get the hell out.

“So,” Darren said, reaching the end of his presentation. “It’s entertaining, commercially viable and, most importantly, it’s unique. We did it.” His smile was a touch on the manic side. “I think we have ourselves a hit.”

“Let’s not get carried away.” Gordon stroked the rough stubble on his chin.

Sean’s gaze followed the action; the grating sound seemed to punctuate his feelings exactly. His colleagues were getting on his last nerve.

“Do I have to remind you that you came up with the Beetroot Parade?” Gordon continued, hiding his smile behind his hand.

Darren’s colour turned a shade to rival the vegetable. “It was a good idea.” He slammed his hands down on the desk. “I’m so tired of your sanctimonious bullshit. The beetroot is a titan, and the concept was solid. You wouldn’t know how to appeal to kids if I bought you a red suit and gave you a set of instructions.”

“Have you both finished?” Sean asked. “We were given forty eight hours and our time is almost up. All we have to do is come up with a name.”

Gordon narrowed his eyes, pointing a finger at Darren. “If you say anything related to pod people, so help me god, I’ll-”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Darren waved the comment away. “It needs to be something simple, something catchy. What about….Legumes?”

Silence descended on the room, a blessed relief from all the griping. Then Gordon began to laugh, the sound so genuine Sean could only blink in surprise. He waited for the other shoe to drop, for Darren to jump over the table and shove the pitch down Gordon’s throat. But in never happened. In fact, Darren started laughing too, and pretty soon they were all howling like lunatics.

“It’s perfect,” Gordon said, rising to clap Darren on the shoulder. “This will be the best damn series we ever wrote. I mean it fits. The whole leguminous thing, it’s genius. If you think about the-”

“All right. Save your enthusiasm for the execs.” Sean smoothed down his jacket. “Let’s go pitch the hell out of this show.”

They walked out of the office together, Darren already rabbiting about a tagline. All Sean heard was evolutionary crop and his brain tuned out again. There would be time to celebrate when they sold their crazy plot.

“Best team ever,” Gordon said, shooting a thumbs up to the receptionist.

Until we have to write the damn thing, Sean thought, but he smiled and followed his friends.

I’m not sure where I was going with this! Legumes as the name for a TV show, even if some crazy alien/horror plot doesn’t exactly strike me as a hit (though writers can pitch just about anything!) Lucy had a much better idea for the name – you can find her story here. It’s hilarious!

Thanks for stopping by.


Hope #BlogBattle Writing Challenge

Organised by Rachael Ritchey –

#BlogBattle is a weekly writing challenge organised by Rachael Ritchey. You can find more information about it here. It’s a fun battle, and a supportive group – a great place to hang out! The theme this week is ‘OASIS’.

“Please. Stop this.” My words were barely coherent; my throat raw from my protests, from screaming so long and loud I’d bruised my vocal cords.

I didn’t expect an answer; knew the cool liquid mixing with my bloodstream would soon become an inferno which burnt my skin. My eyes were closed, but I knew what I would find when I opened them. A cold, sterile room. My prison.

“I’m here.”

But you’re not.

I raised my lids, staring into Sam’s familiar face. Instead of hope, I felt pain; the kind which bruised my heart. She was a mirage and, like a watering hole in my own barren landscape, Sam became my oasis. The one who sustained me during my torture, the one just beyond my reach.

My eyes filled with tears, and Sam’s features wavered. I saw a pair of cold, expressionless green eyes staring back at me.

“If you tell us what we want to know, all this goes away. You’ll be free.” The words were without emotion; the voice as cold as the eyes.

Laughter broke free, the sound eerie in the small room. My sanity had fractured long ago, left as broken as my body. Still, they could not win. The secrets they wanted were hidden behind an impenetrable wall inside my mind.

My captors had tried everything. There were so many drugs in my system it was a wonder I still lived, though I hoped for death. It wasn’t the pain I sought to escape. I was prepared for that. It was the hope. The hallucinations were far more dangerous than their devices of torture. I didn’t know what was real anymore.

Even now I could hear the sounds of battle; gunfire echoing through the room. I started to laugh again; the walls of my prison vibrating with the violence in the air. What new reality had my mind conjured this time?

My tormentor was screaming at me, but I couldn’t make out his words over the din.

“Just kill me already,” I said, blinking until the green eyes faded and the deep brown of Sam’s eyes came back into view.

I no longer cared she was an illusion. It hurt to look at her, and yet, even a phantom was better than being completely alone.

“It’s okay, we’re going to get you out of here,” she said. It’s what she always said.

I smiled, humouring us both. “I’m ready.”

This was not my first rescue, though the details varied in each case. Sam would start by unhooking me from the table. Sometimes she had to support my weight, other times my body was strong enough to make it across the room on my own. We would open the door to the white, sterile room and escape for a time.

“We need to hurry.”

That was new. Sam was usually confident, so sure of her movements. This time she fumbled with my wrist restraints, her eyes darting to the door.

“Dex!” She screamed the name, her breathing ragged.

“Hey, it’s okay. Everything will be okay,” I tried to reassure her, but she didn’t respond.

Dexter hurried to the table, a new addition to my hallucinations, but a welcome one. Dex was a good man; solid in a fight. This was going to be fun.

“I need your help,” Sam said. “You’ll need to carry Bailey out of here.”

“Wait, I can-”

Dex looked straight at me, his fingers prodding at my neck. “Shit, Sam, I can barely feel a pulse.”

“What?” My mind balked at that. Why weren’t they listening to me? What kind of crazy hallucination was this? I couldn’t even be a part of it.

A scream tore from my throat when Dexter lifted me off the table and threw me over his shoulder. I tried to squirm in his strong grip, but I was too weak – my body refused to cooperate.

“Everything’s going to be okay, Bailey,” Sam said from somewhere behind me, a second before Dexter moved.

I groaned in response. This illusion was no fun at all. Maybe that’s what happened when you lost all hope.

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What’s in a name? #BlogBattle Writing Challenge

#BlogBattle is a weekly writing challenge organised by Rachael Ritchey. You can find more information about it here. It’s a fun battle, and a supportive group – a great place to hang out! The theme this week is ‘EYE’.

I’m working on the third novel in my Morgan and Fairchild series. It is taking longer than it should to get back into the right headspace, so writing a short story using one of the characters really helped. Here is my contribution to the challenge. I hope you enjoy.

Andrew Butcher was stuck between a rock and a hard place. The hard being his buddy, Dom; the guy was one tough son of a bitch. He was also out cold and, judging by the head wound, would be for a while.

Andrew squinted into the dark, listening to the sounds of pursuit. He didn’t bother trying to radio for help, his team wouldn’t get to them in time; they were on their own. He glanced at the blood, which still trickled down Dom’s face; despite his efforts to stanch the flow. There was a nasty cut, running from Dom’s left eyebrow to the centre of his nose, dangerously close to his left eye.

Removing his helmet, Andrew slipped off the bandanna. In a few swift, decisive movements he secured it tightly around Dom’s head. The material covered his left eye completely, but it did the job.

That done, he angled his body beneath Dom’s and, gritting his teeth, Andrew stood. His muscles protested, a complaint Andrew ignored; though he did curse his friend to hell and back. He should have known their intel was too good to be true. Extractions were always the worst assignments, there were just too many variables. Now Andrew’s team was scattered, and his only choice was to try and make it to safety with a dead weight on his back.

The thought filled him with a sense of unease. If he didn’t get Dom out safely, it was on him. But at least they didn’t have to rely on blind luck. They had an exit strategy, one which helped Andrew to circumvent the enemy. His instincts didn’t let him down either, even with the heavy load.

After almost a mile with Dom on his back, Andrew finally began to relax; or his legs were feeling particularly free and loose. He paused to catch his breath. The darkness slipped around them like an old friend. Andrew was comfortable in the shadows. He used them now to lower Dom to the dry, cracked earth. It was either that or drop him on his head; Dom was thrashing like a fish on a hook.

“Jesus, Butch. I feel like I was hit by a truck,” Dom muttered.

“Try carrying one on your back.”

Dom snorted, pulling at the bandanna. “Is this your idea of a joke?”

Despite their situation, Andrew laughed. Dom’s nickname within the team was Cyclops, so he understood the reference. “Forgive me for wanting to keep the brains inside your skull.”

Dom grinned, waiting just long enough for the customary, ‘What brains?’ which they voiced at the same time.

Of course the moment was ruined by the arrival of their enemy.

“How you feeling, Dom?” Andrew asked, assessing the threat; only two of the men were armed.

“Like I could go another few rounds with that truck.” He didn’t pause for effect. Dom knew Andrew had his back, and would cover him. He engaged with the enemy before they even raised a weapon.

The man was a whirlwind and, even with the injury, he fought with a brutal kind of grace. His sharp focus, size and strength had earned him the name Cyclops in the field. Watching him in action, Andrew knew the only way he’d been able to carry him so far was a result of the adrenalin coursing through his system. Pure and simple. Dom wasn’t a truck, he was a tank, and he was pissed.

He made it look so easy, Andrew almost took a load off. Still, a part of him waited for the other shoe to drop – or Dom – one or the other. The big guy was swaying a little by the end. Not that they had anything to worry about now. Andrew could feel his team, moving silently towards them in the dark.

“Maybe you should carry me for a while,” Andrew said, when Dom turned in his direction.

Dom’s gaze dropped to the dark red stain on Andrew’s shoulder. “You’ve been hit.”

Andrew rolled his eyes. “Tell me something I don’t know. The bullet’s the least of my problems, I think you dislocated my shoulder.”

“More like acted as a tourniquet.” They laughed again, as Dom swung an arm around Andrew’s shoulders. “Let’s get the hell out of here, Sarg. This heat is giving me a headache.”

Andrew groaned. Not that it was the worst joke he heard on the way back to base. Cyclops was also king of the one liners.


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