Labno & Carter – Episode 4

HOUSE OF HORRORS

Rather than suffer Dan’s bear with a sore head routine, and because it was on the way, I detoured back home. I knew he’d have at least two sets of threads to choose from, so I left him to gear up and went ahead to Sahara’s property.

When I arrived, the narrow street was eerily quiet. On alert, I climbed from the car to survey the area, catching the twitch of curtains to my left. That wasn’t the attention I was worried about, though. Some of the creatures we now share space with can go full-on invisible man. Well, not in the sense of shades and bandages, and the phenomenon isn’t gender-specific, but they can cloak themselves from view. I digress.

When I was satisfied there were no immediate threats, I continued towards my destination. I pride myself on my instincts, but I have to admit, it helps to have cool tech. The RDU has some of the best toys, too. If there had been a presence in my immediate vicinity, my watch would have lit up like a neon sign. The thing is pretty handy, but it’s not infallible. Had it been a god hiding their presence, I would have gotten zilch from the device, and I’d like to say gods have better things to do than follow me around but Eris would probably take pleasure in tormenting me.

Not that I needed a reminder, the tattoo on my wrist was a near constant itch and the closer I got to my deadline, the greater the sting. Just another of Eris’s little amusements.

All thoughts of the tournament vanished when I reached Sahara’s driveway and spotted DC Glynn. Her riotous mane was tamed into a complicated knot, which immediately gave me hair envy, but that wasn’t what I honed in on. No, that would be the steaming cup of java in her hand.

I moved so fast towards the good stuff, the young constable blinked in surprise. “How did you-“

I raised a hand as I took a sip, savouring the first hit. Then, allowing the caffeine to work its way through my system, I met the detective’s gaze. “The very fact you’re my welcoming committee, and you came bearing gifts was a pretty good giveaway.”

She frowned at that, clearly not following my logic, but not disagreeing with my assessment either.

With a grin, I stepped past her and moved into the house.

I didn’t need to be told where to go. I followed the buzz of sound. I’d also inspected the site more than once.

Finding the room – or what was left of it, since Sahara had taken a hammer to her side fo the wall, I didn’t know which unnerved me more; the detritus left over from whatever had been housed in the cavity between, or the pale sickly pallor of the officers attempting to remove the evidence.

“Thanks for the coffee,” I said, honing in on Rahim, who looked surprisingly relaxed considering his wings took up most of the space.

He didn’t question how I knew. We’ve worked together enough to establish our own kind of rhythm. One of his first instincts would have been to protect DC Glynn from the horrors being uncovered, so giving her an important task – and supplying me with caffeine could be described as a vital one – meant she would be spared some of the burden.

“You’re welcome. I spared the team from-“

“Okay, I get the point. I’m a grouch. I’m also working towards hangry, so if you add frazzled to the mix, you’ve pretty much saved the day.”

One of Rahim’s brows shot up, arching above his shades in a comical fashion. “Coffee is not food.” He threw a bar in my direction, so fast I almost fumbled with it, worse, I almost dropped my cup.

Tearing into the wrapper with my teeth, I took a huge bite and washed it down with another hit of caffeine. “Much better,” I said, grinning.

That done, I turned to the techs working on the wall. “Show me what we’re dealing with.” My voice was sober, but not unkind. This kind of processing was new to the job description and they both looked green around the gills.

Working seamlessly, and clearly, they were a familiar team, they set up the imaging unit. It probably has a fancy name I’ve never bothered to learn, but this too is an impressive piece of kit. Basically, it records every detail of a crime scene and projects a series of holographic images to examine.

They knew exactly what I was asking because less than a minute later I was looking at the wall as it had been discovered. The majority of the plasterboard was still intact, but the gruesome image was still enough to turn my stomach.

Stepping forward I focused on the closest cocoon. The person inside, or the image captured of them, certainly appeared human. The man was naked, his frame positioned upright, arms by his side and bent at the elbow with his palms outstretched and touching the membrane as though trying to push his way out.

But it was his eyes that added the macabre factor. They were wide open and held a sheen so close to death it sent a shiver running through my entire body.

If that wasn’t bad enough, an officer stationed next door shoved his head through the gap in the wall, effectively pushing through the hologram right where the man’s stomach was, like a scene from Alien.

“DI Labno, you need to see this,” his head swivelled, making my stomach roll. “Where’s-“

“Right here,” Dan said, striding into the room.

In a smooth motion, he took my cup, handed it to one of the techs and replaced it with an industrial-sized travel mug before I had the chance to protest.

“Great,” the officer said, trying to hide his smirk. “We found something.”

Taking a large gulp from my new mug – more to fortify myself than anything else – I moved forward and prepared to step through the opening. “You heard the man,” I said to Dan. “Let’s go.”

Rahim’s chuckle and my partner’s ‘you’re welcome’ followed close behind me as I stepped inside the house of horrors.

Labno & Carter – Episode 3

BEAR WITH A SORE HEAD!

If I hadn’t wanted to follow his lead and explode out of my skin, I might have stopped to admire the sight. Instead, I closed my eyes and prayed for patience. When I popped my lids again, feeling no calmer, I was presented with Dan’s very large, very angry bear form.

In the beginning, having a changeling for a partner might have phased me. Now with all the interagency working, I’m actually grateful for the extra muscle, so to speak.

I’m happy to have Dan at my back, whatever form he takes; as a human, he looks like he’s capable of pulling a twenty-tonne wagon, and as a bear, he could probably flip it with a twitch of his muzzle. 

He was certainly angry enough, his protests, somewhere between a hoof and a growl made his thoughts clear, though his uncontrolled transformation was plain enough – talk about an emotional response.

“Quit complaining and head out. I’ll meet you on-site,” I told him, meeting his deep brown eyes, a shade or two darker than his human form. 

In response, the foul-tempered oaf tapped the door with his snout so it slammed shut hard enough to shake the car. To be fair, he didn’t put any kind of strength behind it, otherwise, he’d have flipped the Audi, no matter how many modifications I’d fitted.

Perhaps it was childish, but as I shoved the car back into drive, I threw him a one-finger salute and hit the accelerator. The noise he made, which carried over the sound of the roaring engine, sounded suspiciously like a chuckle.

“I take it Danny-boy just went full-on grizzly?”

My gaze shot to the navigation screen, my annoyance overriding my surprise Gibson was still connected.

“You wouldn’t say that to his face because he’d probably eat you for breakfast and I’d pass him a toothpick and a serviette.”

Aside from the fact changeling bears are much larger than their mortal counterparts, the only similarities between Dan’s animal half and a grizzly are the claws, and the slight silver sheen to his coat. Like his hair, Dan’s fur in animal form is a gleaming black.  

“Aw, don’t be like that!” Gibson said, doing a valiant job of holding back his laughter.

“Make it up to me and fill me in on what I missed.” Navigating the long drive which took me off the property, I glanced briefly in the rearview mirror. Dan was nowhere to be seen, but that didn’t bother me. My traps wouldn’t do him serious harm.

“Long story short? I was on duty when Miller called so I went out to see what the fuss was about. Lucky for me I had Drake with me so when he saw what Miller had unearthed he hit up the RDU.” He visibly shuddered. I was concentrating on the road and I still caught it. “I’ve seen some things since the world turned to hell but those bodies, that’s some sick shit. They were in pods inside the wall cavity between Miller’s house and next door.”

“Are we talking dead bodies?” I asked, trying to picture the scene and wondering what had possessed Sahara to take an axe to the dividing wall.

“I almost wish they were. But, no, they’re very much alive. From what we can tell, they’re human, and in some sort of suspended animation. Drake almost crapped himself when he saw them. He’s the one who ordered a protection detail for Miller. I only had time to call in a report to Dan and then we were being whisked away.”

“How did they find you so soon?” I asked, easing my way through the electric gate which was programmed to register the car on approach. It closed the second I cleared the sensor.

Dan’s jeep was parked in the lay-by to the left. As I drove past it, I had a vague recollection of disconnecting the buzzer on the front gate. Not that it discouraged him. He’d scaled the gate and bypassed my security measures. It wasn’t the first time. 

“I have no clue. I swear, Kate, nobody could have predicted any of this. I mean, we all thought Miller was bored or lonely, or something at first, reporting unusual aromas as she did. Even when you and Dan looked into it, we thought you were just humouring her. But this. This is some crazy assed shit. I mean, we hit a wall of nothing, that’s how they got us. The car just stopped as though we’d collided with an invisible barrier. I’m surprised we didn’t implode on impact or something. As it is, we were flipped in the air like a Tonka toy and when we came to a stop to check we were still in one piece, Miller was gone. How the hell is that even possible, I-”

“Take a breath, Gibson, and reel it in,” I said because I could hear the delirium in his voice. He was in shock.

Hitting a button on the navigation console, the map appeared. “I’ll be there in fifteen minutes. Hang tight, okay?”

“Okay, Kit-Kat.”

Given what he’d just been through, I let that go, though the nickname grated along my already frayed nerve endings.

Definitely going to let Dan eat him.

I actually made it to him in ten, my headlights illuminating the wreck still blocking most of the road. 

A response unit had beaten me to the punch. They were in the process of redirecting traffic, not that there was much of it. People still tended to avoid travelling at night, you never knew what lurked in the shadows.

As I parked, I spotted Dan standing beside Gibson and Drake. It didn’t surprise me he’d beaten me to the scene. I was more shocked his animal half had conceded to letting his human take the helm again.

Approaching the small group, I schooled my features so I didn’t set his bear off. Dressed in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt which barely contained his broad chest, he stood out like a, well, a bear in a china shop. Not quite the right idiom, but you get the drift.

It should have been a natural sight. I’ve been around plenty of changelings – unforms are optional when there’s a need to change your threads on the fly. It’s the reason clothes shacks are now a thing, pop-up stores providing an array of attire to protect modesty. But, clearly, provisions were running low.

“Don’t say a word,” he said, by way of a greeting. That’s the trouble with partners, they always know what you’re thinking. I really need to work on my game face. “Those were my favourite jeans. It sucks I have to replace them.”

Clothes burn up during a shift which, admittedly, has to suck. “You bought it for ruining my evening. I need coffee before I can even attempt civilised.” My gaze swept the others. “Do we have any leads?”

“What? Since we spoke ten minutes ago?” Gibson asked, shock gone to be replaced by his usual winning personality.

Apparently, my emotional leakage was showing its ugly head because Drake read my face and stepped in.

“How much do you know about Club Fractured?” he asked, snagging my attention.

“Enough.” In the beginning, the demons who invaded our world, known to most as the Fractured, had established a series of clubs. These weren’t clubs in the traditional sense. Basically, they were training grounds for the sick and twisted. A sort of incentive programme where soldiers of the cause could feast, experiment, and torture to their heart’s content. Some joker had termed them Club Fractured, but from what I understood, these had mostly been disbanded.

“The Fractured learned from their mistakes, so instead of advertising their depravity-”

“Sir, we need to check your vitals,” a medic said, looking directly at Gibson. That was another new addition. Each station has its own medical team. They are highly trained and hold enough authority that Gibson followed without any resistance. He’d probably been dodging the medic for a while.

“So…depravity,” I prompted, reclaiming Drake’s attention.

His smile didn’t reach his eyes. “Yes, members are finding new ways to hide their activities.”

“So, what you’re saying is, they’re still conducting experiments but now they’re being more sneaky about it.” At Drake’s nod, I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. “Is that what’s happening next door to Sahara?”

“Yes, and we’re talking someone powerful enough to swoop in and take Miss Miller without leaving any trace of themselves behind. To find her, we have to find them, and we have to hope we’re not too late.”

“Are the bodies secured?” Dan asked.

Drake nodded again, though he looked grim. “Yes, their removal is likely what tripped the alarm. We found several triggers in the house, as well as evidence they are running the operation remotely. They knew the instant we moved in and targeted Miller to learn what she knows.”

“Then we go to the source and work from there,” I said, turning to Dan. “We need to get to the house.”

Dan inclined his head, then turned to Drake. “Keep us updated on progress at your end, and make sure you get checked out too.”

As we turned to head back to the Audi, I glanced at my partner, trying to gauge whether it was safe enough to poke the bear. The instant I met his gaze I caught the vulnerability so kept my mouth zipped. That was something else about partners, you knew when to push it, and when to give each other a break.

Labno and Carter – Episode 2

PHANTOM GAMES

Bending to snatch up the feather, I felt the subtle shift of air and knew who I would find before I rose.

“Your timing sucks!” I muttered.

Rahim shrugged, drawing attention to his wings. The feather didn’t belong to him. Rahim’s primaries were the colour of autumn leaves. Pretty close to the shade of my own locks, so I make a point never to stand too close.

Great, now I’m making redhead jokes!

The feather was a baton of sorts. It was my turn to enter the gauntlet.

“How long?” I asked, squinting up at him. Rahim was wearing his signature wraparound shades. He wore them day or night, and he didn’t apologise for it. Not that anyone would challenge him. Warrior angles were highly skilled in combat; they were natural-born soldiers, created to protect the heavens. They were also the only angels with wings.

“Twenty-four hours,” he said, the deep timbre of his voice holding a hint of amusement like he knew I was running on empty with no break on the horizon.

“Shit!”

“Your timing sucks, my man,” Dan pretty much repeated my own words as he stepped out, pulling the door closed.

“You need your own material,” Rahim said, the humour now pulling at his mouth in his version of a smile. “None of us have time for Eris’s games, but here we are.”

Ignoring the jibe, Dan passed me a travel mug. I knew better than to hope he’d filled it with the remnants of my glass. He simply knew I needed to fuel up on the way across town. A little shake confirmed the mug was empty. For now.

When I felt the burn in my other hand, the one holding the feather, I looked down. The stark white was already beginning to fade as the thing morphed into an inky substance that ran down across my palm to my wrist. It settled like a brand into my skin, the feather now a temporary tattoo to remind me of my obligation.

“I hate that part.” Talk about an understatement. The first time Eris’s baton of choice had burned itself into my wrist I’d scrubbed off a layer of skin trying to free myself of the mark. But that’s what happens when you cut a deal with a god who enjoys wreaking havoc. 

I mean, everyone knows you should never make a pact with the devil, but in my experience, gods are the ones you need to steer clear of. To stop a killer, I’d agreed to participate in seven tournaments within the Phantom Games.

On the plus side, I managed to bag myself some cool gadgets, most of which I’ve used on security. People have a tendency to underestimate me, and my bullshit meter is fine-tuned.

“I take it since you’re passing the baton, you won your latest round?” When his brows winged up above the shades, I had my answer. Rahim probably cursed the day he’d joined my team. The delights of interagency working. Had he lost the tournament, he’d owe Eris a marker. Not exactly the deadliest of consequences, unless you accounted for the fact you owed a favour to a god.

“If you’d been in the crowd, you would have witnessed my victory.” There was arrogance in his tone, definitely, but there was also disappointment. We had an informal agreement to attend each other’s games, and I had let him down.

“I’m sorry, Sunny-G, but we’re juggling some pretty big cases right now. I’ll be at the next one, I promise. I’ll even bring pom-poms.”

Rahim looked perplexed, even with shades covering his eyes I knew they would be swimming in confusion.

“She’s saying she’ll be there to cheer you on.” Dan said, losing patience. “And as much as I’d like to stand around celebrating your victory, the clock is ticking and we have somewhere to be.”

“I know. I’ve been assigned to clean up crew, given what was discovered!”

I turned to glare at Dan. “You said she found bodies!”

“Now look what you’ve done, you’ve ruined the surprise!” Dan said to Rahim, who just grinned as he spread his large, beautiful wings, the orange tone shimmering like a flame as he rose into the air. Then Dan turned to me with a cajoling look “I never said what kind of bodies, and I knew you’d want in on the action.”

“Don’t take too long,” Rahim said. “Or I might just steal all the fun. I deserve it after the last five hours.”

In response I turned my back and felt the powerful draft caused by his retreat, the laugh carried close on its heels.

“Change of plans,” I told Dan, slapping my palm on the biometric pad so I could duck inside for the keys. “We’re talking my car.” 

Dan looked towards the lean-to attached to the house and groaned.

My car was like everything else on the property, it had been fitted with security features and didn’t much resemble its original shape. It was an Audi – on steroids.

I didn’t pause for discussion when I stepped back outside. I simply pinned him with a glare. “Start talking.”

“Admit it, if I’d told you the RDU were invited to the party you wouldn’t have been so quick to jump in and it’s our case.”

The Realm Defense Network or RDU were brought in at the beginning of the war, now they were a specialist team.

“It is our case and they’re duty-bound to keep us informed, but you might have let me have a little shut-eye first.”

“No time for that, we have twenty-four hours!”

“Oh, we have twenty-four hours. I didn’t realise you were taking part in the tournament with me.”

I missed his comeback, no doubt a good one, when I climbed into the driver’s seat and contemplated setting off one of my booby traps. Then I watched Dan trying to squeeze his large frame into my passenger seat and decided it was punishment enough.

While I waited, I looked out across the land and tried to find the calm it usually instilled in me. The place had been a steal, a two-storey bungalow sitting squarely in the middle of three acres. People tended to stick to cities, especially after the war, but the small village of Friendly suited me just fine, and I’ve created some pretty inventive ways to keep out the vermin.

A call came through a second after I started the engine so the navigation console lit up to display Gibson, another member of the team, and he didn’t look happy. 

“We’ve lost Mrs Miller,” he said, without preamble.

“How the hell can you lose her?” Dan growled beside me, so pissed the energy in the car turned dangerous.

“We were escorting her to a safe house, and we were ambushed.” As he spoke, his camera panned out so we could see the wreckage behind him. He was lucky to be alive.

“Send me you current location,” I said, shoving the car into drive before turning to Dan. “Do you think you might have missed a few things out. like what the fuck is going on?”

“Stop the car,” Dan ordered, still growling.

I knew what that meant. My partner was done with being confined inside a box, and because I could literally feel his energy pushing against me, I hit the brake.

“Can this day get any worse?” I said, stupidly tempting fate, and watched Dan explode from the car.

__________

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Mel

Labno and Carter – Episode 1

The idea for this series formed as I was dining with my fellow students on a supervision course I started earlier in the year. One student, Kate, mentioned her childhood dream of working for the police force and I could picture her character instantly. Of course, detective Kate Labno is in my world, and things are a little different here! Enjoy episode 1!

NO REST FOR THE WICKED!

After taking a moment to admire the deep red liquid filling my glass, I quit messing around and took a swig. Okay, so I took a few, but I had plenty, it was more fishbowl than wine glass. 

The buzz it gave me drowned out the annoying sound of my phone, which was currently dancing across the kitchen counter since I’d clearly switched it to vibrate instead of silent. 

“Kate?” 

I ignored that too, and the knock preceding it. It took all my energy, depleted though it was after a twenty-four hour shift, but I succeeded in finding my zone. If I’d had a goddamn second to myself, I would have added a do not disturb sign to the door, though it could be argued if someone made it through all the deterrents they deserved my attention. 

“I know you’re in there. Let me in, Kate, it’s important.” 

Taking another swig, my swallows the starting count of finding my calm, I walked towards the front door. It didn’t help. By the time I reached it I was seeing red, and it had nothing to do with wine. 

“Do you know the last time I had any sleep?” I snapped by way of greeting. “Sunday. Do you know what day it is today? Wednesday. I deserve a break, Danny, so unless-” 

“Cool it, Labno and take a deep breath. Aren’t you supposed to know how to meditate or something,” my partner, Dan Carter muttered, pushing into the house without waiting for an invitation. “And pour me one of those,” he said, indicating the glass. “I deserve it after navigating the minefield to your door.” 

I couldn’t stop the smirk at the thought of Dan trying to figure out where the new booby traps were. I hadn’t planted a literal minefield, but the path to my door was dangerous to certain trespassers. The kind who’d stepped right out of a nightmare and declared war. 

“I’m not the one who needs to share. Tell me why you’re here.” I said this on the move, still amused I’d put my partner through his paces. He was right. He deserved a little fortification for the return trip. A small glass, at least. 

“It’s about the Miller case, and you may want to sit down.” 

More like lie in a cool, dark room. 

To give myself time to prepare for whatever crap my partner wanted to fill my brain with, I poured him a glass of wine. 

It’s not that I dislike my job, becoming a detective was a childhood dream, but the landscape looks a hell of a lot different since the world turned to hell, or more accurately, hell tried to take over the world. 

I remember watching horror movies as a kid, comforted, even though my fear, that the monsters on the screen were merely a figment of somebody’s imagination. Bringing those monsters to life was a matter of effects and creative genius. They weren’t real. They didn’t live next door, hiding out until it was time to show their true face. 

Yet now I work within a police force with a culture so diverse it includes officers, not only from different species but different worlds. 

Handing the glass to Dan, I shrugged my shoulders and squared my stance, like a boxer waiting to kick ass. “Hit me with it!” 

He didn’t delay. “Mrs. Miller took matters into her own hands and she found more than she bargained for.” 

An image of Sahara Miller popped into my brain, a tall willowy woman with white hair she wore long and loose. The moment I saw her I knew she was important. Just a glance, that’s all it had taken. On the heels of interest came irritation. This time it was aimed at the baffoon, also known as my co-worker Lundy. I saw clearly he had missed the significance of Sahara’s presence. He was interviewing her, but he wasn’t taking the report seriously. 

It took a second to work it out. Lundy was too focused on the surface. Perhaps it began with her appearance; the long black dress, the stark fascinator with black lace that covered part of her left eye and made her appear like a woman in mourning. It could have been the velvet glove she had clutched in her hand like a transitional object. Whatever had triggered his unconscious bias, it meant he missed the important stuff. The details that really mattered. 

I hadn’t missed it. I’d followed my gut and taken Sahara Miller’s story seriously. Luckily, Dan had too. We had opened a case, investigated her concerns about her neighbour’s activities, and were in the process of getting a search warrant.  

Of course, the system has changed a great deal. It tends to do that after war, and even though the bad guys lost – thanks to some pretty hefty players on our side – the judiciary system took a hit. Obviously, Sahara was tired of waiting. 

“Please tell me we won’t be visiting the morgue.” If Sahara’s neighbour was as rotten as she suspected, the danger was real. 

“Don’t underestimate her. She might be a gargoyle and genetically opposed to violence but she can protect herself,” Dan said, swirling the wine in his glass. “Besides, she didn’t confront her neighbours, she knocked a giant hole in her bedroom wall and she didn’t find cannabis.” 

This time, the image of a gargoyle, sitting atop a gothic-looking structure with short stubby wings and a spliff hanging from thin, grey lips popped into my brain. Okay, fine, so now my unconscious bias was showing, but I’d had a day. 

The jibe about cannabis was directed at me. Sahara’s concerns began with a suspicious aroma which began in her hallway and ended in the bedroom. All the hot spots had one thing in common, they were part of the adjoining wall. It permeated the air, such a distinct odour I’d mistaken it for weed.  

“She found bodies.” 

I turned back in at those words, my feet moving before my mouth engaged. I reached for the glass Dan was tipping towards his mouth and snatched it from his hand. “You can drive. Let’s hit the road.” 

He scowled. “What happened to needing a break?” 

“I’ll catch some sleep on the way,” I said, grabbing my jacket and keys. 

Dan tried to hide his knowing smile. He wasn’t fooling anybody. He’d planned this, and it meant only one thing – he was destined to set off at least one of my traps on the way to his car.  

This cheered me up so much, I was grinning as I opened the door. The smile died on my lips when I spotted the white feather on my doorstep. “Goddamn it!” 

I knew I should have ignored the door. So close. I’d been so close.  

Wishing I’d filled a travel mug with the remainder of the wine, I stepped forward and prepared to face the music.

_______________________

Special thanks to Theresa and Rosanna for the objects I was able to incorporate.

Until next time

Mel  

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).

Buried

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.

Mel

A Life Less Ordinary (Part 2): Day 30 – A Story A Day

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This is the final day of the Story A Day Challenge for September. Thanks for all your patience – there have been a lot of stories this month! I’ll leave you with part two of the story I began yesterday. A story from two different perspectives – that of father and son. I hope you enjoy.

A Life Less Ordinary – Part Two

Monty Fielding watched his son’s small frame pound against the glass of his bedroom window. For a moment he feared his boy would come exploding through the pane. Cursing, he rushed back into the house and took the stairs two at a time. He knew Michael couldn’t appreciate that Doug Jefferson was probably responding to an emergency at the hospital. During an episode, what he needed was routine and discipline. They were the only things Michael could accept.

With a heavy heart, Monty pushed into his son’s room. He was the only person who could reach Michael now. It wouldn’t be easy, but he had to try. When he caught sight of Michael, he froze in his tracks. He was rocking to and fro on the small window seat; Abigail beside him, wringing her hands in despair.

“It should be green, it should be green, it should be green.” Michael repeated the words like a chant, the words echoing around the room like a stuck record.

“Look at me Michael,” Monty said, crouching beside him.

The authority in his voice seemed to do the trick, because Michael met his eyes. Briefly. “Mrs Jacobs?” was all he said.

Monty frowned, wondering how to respond. There was concern in Michael’s voice, but there was something more. An eerie kind of knowing. He stood to peer out onto the street, and was surprised to see the green VW beetle still parked in the drive. Sandra Jacobs ran her own business, and she hadn’t missed a day of work in over three years.

Everyone’s entitled to a sick day.

The thought gave him pause. Sandra was a tough old bird, long past retiring age, but she had a strength of will; a stubbornness which meant nothing could keep her down. Michael was right about that. She was always the first to leave, and she would have called him if something was wrong.

Monty squinted, a tingle running down his spine when he saw that her curtains were still closed. Sandra had caught a bout of pneumonia the year before, and still made sure her curtains and door were open so the neighbours were free to call in.

“I need to go check on something,” he said to Abigail, turning from the window.

“Monty, what is it?”

“Sandra’s car is still in the drive. It might be nothing, but…”

Abigail nodded, and then sat beside their son. She didn’t touch him, not yet. But Monty knew the worst was over. They had been lucky this time.

As he crossed the small street, Monty hated the ominous feeling that settled in the pit of his stomach. It made him shiver and, irrational or not, he couldn’t shake it. He knocked brusquely when he reached the house, and jiggled the doorknob. It was locked.

He tried calling through the letterbox, but got no response. Feeling foolish now, Monty walked around the side of the house. He let out a relieved breath when he discovered the curtains in the dining room had been drawn back. That was until he saw Sandra through the patio window and his blood froze in his veins.

She was laying on the floor, the phone next to her outstretched hand, and her face obscured by her silvery mane of hair. He didn’t stop to think then, he whirled and grabbed the first thing to hand – a garden chair. Monty swung it at the glass, jolting as the glass exploded.

Stepping through the debris, he walked directly to Sandra and bent to feel for a pulse. His breath came out in a rush when he detected the faint rhythm. “Hang on, Sandy,” he whispered as he grabbed the phone and dialled.

A few minutes later he gently moved her into the recovery position, and sat on the floor, his hand in hers, waiting for the ambulance to arrive. As he did, he began to talk. He told her about his morning, about rising early and upsetting his family’s routine. About the odd feeling he couldn’t shake, even though he’d told his son everything was going to be okay. Monty told her about Michael, and how he had been able to communicate his fear for Sandra in just a few words. And only then did it hit him how calm Michael had been as he left the house. How he had found a way out of the nightmare all on his own.

When the ambulance arrived, he allowed the paramedics to take over. They reassured Monty that Sandra’s pulse was steady and strong. What they didn’t communicate, not in so many words, was that he had gotten to her just in time.

He waited until they had loaded her into the ambulance, and then walked back across the street toward home. It surprised him when he saw Michael staring out into the street. Their eyes met briefly through the glass, and his son’s gaze was sure and strong. For the first time in a long time, Monty was grateful that their lives were a little less ordinary than most.


Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

A Life Less Ordinary (Part 1): Day 29 – A Story A Day

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As there are only two days left in the Story A Day Challenge for September, I decided to finish on a two part story – told from two different perspectives. A father and son. I hope you enjoy.

A Life Less Ordinary – Part One

The day started ordinarily enough. The house was silent and solid in its job of protecting the sleeping occupants. Right on cue, the alarm clock broke through the tranquillity of the household with the subtlety of a sledge hammer. The DJ’s dulcet tones echoed through the upstairs living quarters and masked the sound of the coffee percolator set on timer to welcome the sleeping figures back into the land of the living.

As if given permission, the birds, who were housed within the conservatory, began their morning call. The central heating system came to life, echoing through the walls and bringing warmth into the tiny structure. All was as it should be.

The next few minutes passed with the same precision they had every morning. Monty slammed the palm of his hand on top of the alarm, managing as usual to hit the snooze button.

“Time to get up,” came the muffled voice of his wife. They were the same words she uttered every morning. She said them, whilst knowing that her husband would not stir until he no longer had an excuse to stay under the covers. It equated to twenty minutes, and a heavy reliance on the snooze facility.

In the bedroom adjacent to theirs lay their son, Michael. His eyes were fixed on the ceiling. Routine was his ally. He could count the seconds, and knew with absolute certainty that his father would poke his head around the door in exactly nineteen minutes. He would smile and mutter a, ‘Good morning, son,’ to which he would reply, ‘Good morning, father,’ – all without taking his eyes from the roof. In twenty-two minutes his father would make it back upstairs, after fetching his mother her morning cup of coffee. Michael could see it playing out in his head like a moving picture.

By the time he was up and in his position by the window, his father would be groomed and ready for work. Michael would count his steps down the stairs, across the hall and towards the door, before his father would call out.

“See you tonight, Abigail. Have a good day, Michael, I’ll miss you.”

Their response was somewhat varied, but by that time Michael would be busily watching the street. He would see his father sat in his car. A bright blue Toyota Corolla, thumbing the engine and waiting for his cue.

It was all about order, and maintaining that order. To deviate would upset the fine balance of the universe, or at least that’s how Michael saw it. First it would be Mrs Jacobs at number 10, then Dr Jefferson and, just before his father, came Dorothy Stokes. On an ordinary day, in a life less ordinary than most, this is what happened.

Michael bolted upright in bed when he heard footsteps in the hall; he looked at the clock in horror. Only twelve minutes had passed since his father’s alarm had sounded. He shouldn’t be up yet, shouldn’t be on his way to Michael’s room with all those minutes to spare.

Pulling the cover over his head, Michael put a barrier between himself and his father. When the door opened he mouthed the words, even though he was terrified to hear them.

“Good morning, son,” his father said sleepily.

Michael could not bring himself to reply; his lips moved in their usual greeting, but he did not voice the words.

“Michael?”

There was a long silence, whilst his father tried to figure out what to do next. “Don’t worry, Michael, I know I’m early this morning, but everything will be okay.”

When Michael didn’t answer he closed the door again on a sigh.

For the next twenty minutes, Michael didn’t move from his position under the duvet. He needed that time to collect his thoughts, and to calm his beating heart. Something had gone horribly wrong. He could usually sense such things in the air, but today had seemed like such a good day when he opened his eyes.

It took a great deal of effort to move to his seat at the window, but he needed to do it. He needed to see this part through; this would re-set the balance and calm his jittering nerves.

He looked down at his father, sitting patiently in the car, and regretted the fact he couldn’t articulate his fear. But then he saw Dr Jefferson’s car moving out of the drive and his heart froze. It had to be Mrs Jacobs who left the cul de sac first. The order was simple; green, red, yellow and blue. That was the way it had been for over twelve months.

Michael couldn’t control the emotions wracking his body; he was lost in an attack he knew would rob all coherent thoughts from his mind.


Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

Wizards & Warriors Part 2: Day 28 – A Story A Day

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This is part two of the story I wrote in response to the Writer’s Digest prompt (see below). It’s part of the Story A Day Challenge.

You’re playing a video game called Wizards & Warriors when, suddenly, lighten strikes the house, scaring you and causing you to black out. When you wake up, you’re trapped inside the game. The only items you have is a sword, a backpack and a note attached to your shirt that reads, “Beat me and I’ll send you home.”


I was saved from a major freak out when Ally stepped from behind a tree, looking like Zena, the fricking, Warrior Princess. I mean, come on. This was my scary dream. It didn’t matter that she was totally working the outfit and, okay, she did look amazing, but I was meant to be the one in control.

“How come you get to be the cool warrior chick in this little scenario?”

Ally dipped her head, raising her brows and giving me a glare that said, ‘really?’ And, fine, she had a point.

Then her eyes dropped to my hands. “Cool,” she said, striding over on long, long legs. “That’s just the kind of accessory my outfit needs.”

I glanced down at the sword, hugging it my chest like she wanted to take away my child. “Not a chance. I found it, and I’m calling the three second rule.”

She snorted. “The three second rule doesn’t count. It only counts when someone steals your seat.”

“It counts.”

Ally clearly read in my expression that I would fight her for the damn thing and, wisely, she backed off. “Fine. Whatever. Let me have the backpack.” She snapped her fingers. “It pays to be prepared and we don’t know what’s coming.”

“Get a grip, Ally. This is just my subconscious reminding me to stop wasting time on a stupid game.”

At my words a crack of lighting lit the sky.

“Seriously?” I said, glancing up.

“Ah oh. I think that might be-”

A roar cut through the rest of her words, shaking the ground with its strength and ferocity. When it came into view, the creature took my breath away. I might have been scared and, judging from the squeak from Ally, she was on board with that, but I was mesmerised by the sheer beauty of it. Really, it had to be forty feet, and I didn’t want to think about the wing span. It was way cooler than the dragon I’d seen Ally battle from the comfort of her living room.

“RUN!” Ally screamed and hightailed it into the trees.

My eyes were still skyward, my legs frozen in place. Even when the thing turned towards me, fire shooting from its magnificent jaws in a blinding display of power, I didn’t move. Instead of dodging out of the way, I held up the sword and deflected the fiery missile as though I was Shera herself. Energy shot through me. It travelled down to my toes, shot back up and lit the sky.

“Holy shit!” Ally said, beside me again. “Did you see that?” She looked from me to the sky and back again. “That was fricking awesome!”

I grinned in response, feeling immensely pleased with myself. It was a familiar feeling. It usually followed a scuffle with one or all of my siblings. I have five brothers, all of whom like their fights to get physical, and not with a games console. I’d learned to outmanoeuvre like a pro.

“Come on,” I said, shrugging out of the back pack and handing it over. “Let’s go and have some fun.”


Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

Wizards & Warriors Part 1: Day 27 – A Story A Day

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I’m using another Writer’s Digest prompt today for the Story A Day Challenge. I had so much fun with the prompt, the story will be in two parts.

You’re playing a video game called Wizards & Warriors when, suddenly, lighten strikes the house, scaring you and causing you to black out. When you wake up, you’re trapped inside the game. The only items you have is a sword, a backpack and a note attached to your shirt that reads, “Beat me and I’ll send you home.”


“You know, this borders on humiliating. I’m talking, find a new best friend level of humiliation and shame. You suck at this.”

Okay, so that was a little harsh.

But that’s Ally for you. She’s the undefeated champion of Wizards and Warriors. Me, not so much. It isn’t for want of trying. Ally’s been trying to clue me in to the world of video games since we were five years old. Her patience is wearing thin.

“Get a grip. It’s just a game.”

Ally gasped. Totally over the top, like I’d offended her fine sensibilities. Wait, no, she doesn’t have any fine sensibilities. She’s about as subtle as a rock.

I was about to respond when the lights went out. Ally made a choking sound, and I had visions of someone springing up from behind the sofa and wrapping their fingers around her throat. And, okay, I was annoyed about her comment, but she was my best friend, so I didn’t exactly relish the idea of someone choking the life out of her.

“Thank the gods for small mercies.” I muttered this, actually relieved I didn’t have to play the stupid game anymore. On the heel of that nasty thought I felt static run up my arms, followed by an almighty bang and then it was totally lights out.

I awoke to blue skies and a rather splendid looking forest. Not my first choice, but I figured I must be in heaven and was kind of relieved my ass wasn’t sat on burning coals. It took me a second to process, and then I’ll admit I panicked. I wasn’t ready to die, and whoever heard of being struck down for having blasphemous thoughts about a video game?

Of course that’s when I realised the pretty green forest was the exact replica of the one I’d been staring at all evening, which meant I was either in hell after all, or God had a really sick sense of humour.

It took me another few seconds to consider the facts, and then I decided I’d probably been knocked out by Ally’s evil death stare, a look she’s perfected over the years. She uses it when she’s pissed off with me – which is a lot. Deciding I liked that idea more than the alternatives, I settled in to enjoy the trip.

Standing, I felt twin straps pull tight across my shoulders and recognised the backpack all adventurers wear in Wizards and Warriors. It actually made me feel better, because you don’t get a backpack until Level 6 and I’ve never made it beyond Level 1.

I continued to look around, familiarising myself with my surroundings and caught the glint of steel.

“Now that’s what I’m talking about.” I snatched up the sword, a little surprised by how heavy the thing was, but too excited to care because I’d only ever seen Ally wielding such a kick-ass weapon. This dream world wasn’t so bad, especially since I was apparently cool here and got to play with all the best toys.

On that thought I began to test my skills with the blade, gripping the handle with both hands and swinging it with barely concealed glee. When my arm brushed against something stiff at the bottom of my top, I looked down to discover a note. Curious I pulled it loose and read aloud.

“Beat me and I’ll send you home.”

Oh crap!


Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

Best Laid Plans: Day 26 – A Story A Day

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Today, I decided to use a prompt from Writers Digest for the Story A Day challenge. Here it is:

Your are going on a blind date for Valentine’s Day. In case the date is a dud, you have your best friend on standby. Your friend is to call you at 9:30 on the dot. If the date is going well, you answer and use the phrase “I already took care of that.” If it’s not, you answer and claim your friend has an emergency. The date is going well and your friend calls at 9:30 as planned—only problem is, the friend calls with a real emergency. What is it and what do you do?


“Keep it together. You’ve got this.”

The words had little effect on the nerves dancing in my belly, but a quick glance at my reflection and I had it under control. I’d spent the afternoon in the best salon in town, where I had been primped and polished to within an inch of my life. The results were astonishing. I looked like I used to look; before life had dragged me through the shit heap and I’d left my confidence behind with my ex.

This was my first date in twelve months, and considering it was a blind date, my anxiety levels were through the roof. I knew only that his name was Darren, and he would be carrying a yellow rose – his idea, not mine.

Of course I had an escape route planned. If the date went south, all I had to do was declare an emergency when my friend called at 9pm, and hightail it out of there. The nerves fluttered again when I thought about Chris; a good friend, but somewhat of a flake. No, that wasn’t fair. He’d been my rock during the past year, but he’d never been on time for anything in his life; starting, as his mother enjoys pointing out, with his entry into the world.

Brushing thoughts of Chris aside, I left the restroom and searched the elegant restaurant. In truth I’d been killing time because, unlike my friend, I’m habitually early.

I spotted the tall, smartly dressed stranger immediately, and nerves shot up into my throat when I saw the rose. This was it. It was show time.

“April. How lovely to see you again,” he said, and his face lit with genuine pleasure.

I’m not going to lie, for a split second words failed me. My mind threw an absolute blank. That was until he smiled and I sucked in a breath. I’d recognise that smile anywhere.

“Darren Johnson.” The words sounded like an accusation.

In response he hit me with a grin. I remembered that too. My blind date wasn’t a stranger at all. He was the boy I lost my heart to when I was twelve; the boy who had moved to another country just before graduation and killed my dreams. Well, okay, that was a little dramatic, but I liked him a lot. And I mean wedding bells, four children and a mortgage kind of feeling.

“I had a huge crush on you in high school,” he was saying, and my eyes grew wide.

Oblivious to my thoughts, he touched a hand to my elbow and guided me towards our table. All the while he complimented me on my dress, and I smiled and nodded like a crazy person.

Thankfully, I got my act together and we fell into easy conversation over our meal. I felt so relaxed I actually jumped in surprise when my phone rang. For a moment I considered ignoring it, but then I remembered I’d been expecting the call and snatched it up with an apologetic smile.

“How’s it going, babe?” Chris said in my ear.

I blinked, unsure of how to respond. After a few seconds of silence, I gave him the code we’d agreed on. In fairness I was completely distracted by the knowing twinkle in Darren’s eyes. “I already took care of that.”

“Really?”

This time I frowned. Chris had gone off script. He was supposed to hang up, be pleased, something. “Okay, great,” I said, smiling lamely. “I’ll talk to you soon.”

“You sound weird.”

I put my hand over the phone, feeling anger and embarrassment vying for first place. “Will you excuse me for a minute?” When I got a nod from Darren, his eyes creased in amusement, I stood up and walked back toward the restroom. “Chris, what’s going on?”

“That’s what I want to know. You sound like you’re having fun.” I didn’t miss the petulance in his tone.

“Isn’t that the point? You’re supposed to be happy.” I glanced over my shoulder, and when I caught sight of Darren I forgot I was angry with Chris. “You’ll never guess who my date is.” At his silence I pressed on. “Darren Johnson.” The silence went on so long I thought I’d been disconnected. “Chris?”

“There’s been an emergency and I need you,” he blurted.

“That’s very funny. Stop raining on my parade and let me get back to my date.”

“April. I don’t want you to…I mean…I need you to come home.”

Completely losing my patience, and aware I had an audience, I dashed around the corner away from prying eyes. “Chris, what the hell has gotten into you?”

This time the silence grated along my nerves, and I was about to disconnect when he spoke. “April, I…I love you.”

“I love you too, you goof.”

“No. I mean, I love you.”

The phone dropped to the floor with a resounding thwack.


Thanks for stopping by.

Mel