Remains. (sci fi flash fiction)

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They were almost in sight now. He craned his head to see, the translucent walls of the craft enabling perfect vision. He glimpsed something far ahead a dingy grey/brown splurge on the horizon contrasting with the intense greens with which he had always been surrounded.

He’d never totally believed it, couldn’t comprehend this side of his own humanity, but there it was before his eyes a vast wasteland of decaying iron and concrete. Here and there a feeble tree or bush strove to bring life to the empty mounds, shriveled and corrupted. No, the “trees here were of another nature, bare metal poles and girders, once the support frames of the towers that had been inhabited, what they had been taught was a “city”, a place innumerable humans dwelled encased in glass and concrete, brick and steel. It was beyond his young comprehension.

It was mandatory to make this trip before taking on an adult role in the community, to learn from the mistakes, to take paths of peace, to understand where greed and anger could lead, to be content with the simple life of forest and lake, grasslands and sea. They were safe now, but the lesson had been learned at great cost. It must always be remembered. Hence this trip and so many others as each generation came of age.

The pilot inclined his hand and the vehicle circled whirling back towards the welcoming green haze on the horizon. He of course had no need of the craft, could have been there in an instant. The vehicle was for them, the earthbound, forged of the immense power and light of the being before them. He had always been in awe of the angels.

Nice ‘n nasty.

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It was hard to stay “nice”. Sometimes it hurt.

Sarah, her twin had no such qualms, had risen to the top, stepping on whoever dared get in her way. Sometimes Jenny felt like a failure by comparison.

The day had been awful, an argument at home, a put down at the school, nothing was going right. What a birthday!

It slipped out at recess. Her year four pupils had been discussing star signs.

“When’s your birthday, Miss?” an eager voice chimed. Should she lie?

“March 12th.” She hoped they didn’t notice, but they did. Jace caught on right away.

“That’s today! Is it your birthday today?” She nodded. Her eyes moistened as the word caught on and “happy birthday” squeals and songs sped around the playground. it didn’t stop there… Grubby hand written cards appeared, candies wrapped in pages stolen from exercise books and a small bunch of ragged daisies and dandelions appeared on her desk. Best of all was the shy hug from Eisha, the girl that hardly ever spoke.

Back home nestled contentedly with a cup of tea she surveyed her  news feed, predictably full of her sister’s birthday posts, food, wine, luxury presents and false smiles. She grinned into her tea cup. She’d had something better.

“Putting your feet up love?” a voice whispered in her ear. “I managed to get off work early. I felt so bad about this morning. I forgot it was your birthday… thought we could go out, do something.”

“It’s OK, I had the best day ever!”

“Really? I’m so glad… Here … for you.” Embarrassed he thrust a bunch of daffodils into her hands. She knew they were only Tesco, he’d forgotten to take off the label, but to her they were perfect, as all her presents had been.

Shepherd. (Christmas flash fiction)

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“Get out of my way scum! Get these beasts off the road!”
He could have said he had as much right on the road as they did, but he held his tongue. He knew better. Instead, nodding in a servile manner, he attempted to clear a path for the merchant and his retinue. The sheep, as always, were not co-operative, milling in confused circles.
“Incompetent imbecile!” the merchant muttered striking him a passing blow with his riding stick as he forced his way through. He said nothing, what was there to say. He was a shepherd, lowest of the low. Shepherds had a bad reputation and it was not altogether unfounded, He, himself, was no innocent, well what else was he meant to do, a man had to eat…
Settling down for the night he pulled the sheepskin cloak around him. It was cold out on the hillside, but the sheep must be guarded. He’d be out here for days seeking winter pasture.
When young he’d dreamed of having his own sheep, but that dream was long passed, as were dreams of a family. No, he’d be out here with the sheep, alone, abandoned till the day he died.
The sheep were restless, perhaps there was a predator? Grabbing his staff he looked around. Nothing! There was an odd stillness, a light wind blew up and the night sky slowly became defused with light. Fascinated he watched. Suddenly a face loomed in the darkness, glowing with power and light.
Terrified he ran cowering among the sheep. God had sent an angel to judge him! Surely an angel of death!
“Don’t be afraid, I bring good news!” a voice like water rang out. Speechless and trembling he cringed, not daring to move. “Good news, to bring joy to all people.” It was somehow the way he emphasised “ALL” that took away the fear. “For you is born today, in David’s city, a saviour, Christ the Lord.” A saviour, for me? The words resounded in his heart “ FOR YOU!”
“This shall be a sign. You shall find the baby swaddled and lying in a manger.” At these last words the sky exploded with light. Hundreds of angelic beings glowed, lending their voices to a chorus of, “ Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace to men of good will.”
His heart burst with joy, joining the heavenly chorus, for he had understood. The saviour was not only for the rich and mighty, for the holy and righteous, but for him also, and he had been chosen, above the merchants, even above princes, to hear the glad tidings and gaze on the messiah.
Grasping his staff, he’d dropped in terror, he left the sheep (surely God would care for them) and strode off towards Bethlehem. He was not alone he noticed, others had seen also. He chuckled, like him they were shepherds, the lowest of the low.
(This story was inspired by learning the view we have of shepherds is very different to that held in the Middle East back then when they were considered little more than dishonest vagabonds. Which makes the choice of shepherds even more meaningful.)

Christmas reality.

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Face wet with tears, she hugged her knees towards her ripening belly, seeking to keep out the chill night air. Her heart ached. This was not how she’d imagined it. Why did no one believe her?

Her cousin had understood, rejoiced with her, but on returning home she’d faced utter rejection. Father wanted to turn her out of the house. Mother thought her mad, raving! They all thought it was him… that they’d…

She remembered his face, the pain inflicted by her seeming betrayal. At least he was prepared to send her away, wouldn’t enact the law as was his right. He’d considered it, she knew, but couldn’t face the thought. The law was explicit. She was not fit to live. He was not a vengeful man, for that she could be thankful, but he would never forgive her.

She recalled his anger at her stammered explanation.

“You expect me to believe that!” he’d yelled. “I’ll be the laughing stock of the village!  Even if I send you away they’ll guess.” What would she do, where would she go. No one would take her in her present state.

Red tinged the sky, a narrow band on the horizon greeting the day. A shape appeared midst the shadows, coming closer. Then suddenly he was there, arms open to encircle her.

“It’s alright Mary. I believe you. We’ll be married.”

“But they’ll all think it was you…”

“I know,” Joseph replied. “But I know who the child really is. It doesn’t matter what they say, God has given me a great honour.” Shyly hesitant he placed his hand on the small mound of her belly. “I’ll take care of you both, I promise.” He whispered.

Another kind of leper. (flash fiction)

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She stood out in the crowd, not so much for her beauty, apparent even under the plain headdress overshadowing her face, but for the way people moved away from her, even in such a crowd, distaining to touch her. The smear of red, still staining her lips from the previous application, gave the clue. She was a prostitute. He smiled, seeing the heart within.
She looked away, confused. He must not know, she told herself, but she knew he did. Embarrassed, her bold front crumbled, scorn she could handle, but not compassion.
His smile haunted her dreams that night. Could a man care for her, not just use her for her body? She’d had men mad for her, in love with her, but always secretly, behind closed doors, never an open smile like that one. There had been no sweeping look of the eyes, lingering on her bosom. It was not a look of lust…
Her hand trembled as she knocked at the door. It had been easy to find him, everyone was talking about him, but why must he come here of all places? As she’d expected, the door and was abruptly slammed in her face, but she wasn’t accepting that. Slamming her body into the attendant, she pushed her way in. He recoiled, not at her meagre force, but in horror that she’d touched him, sullied him. It was the same with all of them as she forced her way into the gathering…
There he sat amidst the throng of angry, staring faces. But his face was not angry, instead a look of welcome, even …empathy? He smiled again.
“Master don’t you know? This woman is a sinner!”
“I know.” Mary collapsed at the sanctuary of his feet. He didn’t pull away. Gushing tears washed over his feet and as she wiped them away with her hair he said…
“Your sins, and I know they are many, are forgiven because of the greatness of your love.” He smiled and light embraced Mary’s world.

strange bonding.

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He had to go – one last time, while he could still make the climb.

His companion was not the best, but everyone else “had commitments”. He’d met him in the park sleeping rough, a turbulent young fella Chase was, with hard, rebellious eyes.  He hadn’t understood but he’d been willing, for the pittance Jim was able to pay, (already sleeping rough, what had he to lose?) He was sullen, but, considerate of Jim’s aging frame, he carried the rucksack, appreciative of the new sleeping bag and use of bed and shower as they prepared.

The slope steepened, the going was harder. Jim had to stop frequently to catch his breath.

“Why are you doing this?” Chase asked. “If I were your age I’d be curled up in an armchair.”

“ You’ll see when we get there.” Chase thought the old duffer mad, but he’d been kind, besides he liked crazy folks, he was half crazy himself. He didn’t care. Help the old duffer up the mountain and maybe he could doss with him for a while after, till things turned sour…

The road lay far behind, the car a matchbox toy. Things were quiet up here. They sat and ate sandwiches feasting their eyes on the growing panorama.

“Wait till we get up.” Jim whispered, “It takes your breath away.” It was beautiful, Chase thought, but not worth this whole expedition – Jim must be in his seventies, maybe more! A cold thought hit. Suppose the old man was to peg out up here, would they hold him accountable? He’d have to leg it if something happened…

Nothing did happen. They camped under the stars, Chase gathering wood, Jim starting the fire. Chase watched the flames as the bacon and sausages sizzled on their sticks and the foil wrapped potatoes steamed. Jim knew what he was doing that’s for sure.

“You must have been a bit of an adventurer when you were young?” Chase ventured. He wasn’t much for conversation, but he was curious.

“You could say that,” Jim beamed. He went on to tell tales of his youth and how he’d found this place. Chase listened entranced. Despite himself he liked the old duffer.

“So why the mountain?”

“I was pretty wild back then. I could be myself up there. It puts everything in perspective, everything is small, seen from up there, only the important things are big – like the sky! … and you can see the horizon…”

They made the summit next afternoon. While not requiring much in the way of hard climbing it had been long and arduous, Jim was exhausted.

“Just help me on that big rock up there and I’ll rest a while.” Chase was concerned. Shedding the pack he picked Jim up in his arms. He was surprisingly light.

“You’re a good lad Chase,” Jim whispered. “Don’t let folks ever tell you otherwise.”

Together they sat above the world looking down on scattered clouds, distant hills, and swathes of pine forest. Chase gasped, awestruck, head turning to appreciate the 360 deg. horizon.

“I think I understand now,” he breathed.

“I thought you would. It’s not something you can explain, but I just had to feel it one more time before I go, kinda get me ready.” Chase looked alarmed. “Now don’t worry son, I’m not gonna peg out on you, still got a bit of strength left. I just need to rest a bit”

“Just as well, ‘cos I’m sure not gonna carry you all the way back,” Chase teased. Then he realised – yes, he would if it came to that, and bugger the consequences. He liked the old duffer – he liked the mountain too.

Pain. (Flash fiction.)

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Looking down at the wooden handle of the kitchen knife grasped in her fingers she took a deep breath. Ridged scars adorned her arm, raised reminders of past pain, agony that wouldn’t go away, that had become so unbearable that only more pain could drive it forth. This time would be different, this time would end all…

She felt the sting, numb yet sharp. Blood welled up, overflowed, spotting the bathroom linoleum, surging, spreading in an expanding pool. Detached she watched it grow as her mind weakened. Faces invaded her vision, the ones that hurt her, that didn’t return the love she craved. Someone was pounding on the door. It didn’t matter, they’d be too late. A whirl of darkness took her, comforting soft oblivion…

Oblivion didn’t last, light appeared. No! Not this! She wanted an end. She wanted it to stop. A form appeared in the glow, a face awash with tears. A homely face, like hers, yet filled with something overflowing. She could not look away. Then she knew – He loved her, loved her without conditions, loved her just as she was, and the love washed away the pain, washed away the scars. She gazed deep into the eyes. The tears were for her. Like a tidal wave, an awe inspiring rush of wind, his love washed through her, cleansing, healing, understanding. She was swept away in its current, waking to a hospital bed.

The banging on the door… one of the other boarders must have saved her. She recalled the blood welling across the lino. It must have reached the door… She’d failed in her attempt, but it didn’t matter, the scars didn’t matter, the pain had gone. She was loved!