Angry & Broken – Short fiction inspired by Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press

sundaypicturepresspicture

Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press is back with a flourish of new images to entice your creative senses to take a trip to Imaginationland.

For too long the interweb has had been left to flounder the binary seas without  this welcoming beacon to guide fellow writers to distant shores where the bounty of fictional glory awaits. Only this time Indigo is hailing all vessels of creativity to clamber aboard and show their spirit.

That’s as much nautical stuff as I can muster.

In short, Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press is an invite to test your creativity (yes, I am using that word a lot here, apologies) with a new challenge each Sunday. You can head over to her blog for more information. Write, sculpt, paint, chisel, knit and…er do other things, based around the weekly challenge.

Pick an image and create. If you’re writing then try to keep your word count between 50 and 1,500 words, though as Indigo says, rules are there to be broken. Once you’ve completed your piece simply share it on your blog or other interesting nook somewhere on the internet super-highway, and put a link to it on the SPP blog post so others can take a gander.

This weeks theme is Angry and Broken. There are a variety of images to inspire you.

I for one am very glad SPP is back because it’s a damn good prompt to get me back into the swing of blogging once a week. Recently I’ve been somewhat absent on my pages, preferring to keep my head in the clouds writing my novel, but it does one good to stretch the legs with a challenge now and then.

And so, dear blog reader, I shall endeavour to moor my writing ship at Imaginationland’s port and see where this adventure takes me.

This short piece is written entirely by the seat of my pants, with very little editing.

Angry & Broken.

self-portrait_by_Nicolas_Bruno

 

Jacob Tandy’s body stiffened to a near diamond-like state and the world around him wound down.

The rainbow chorus of exuberant crowds blurred into ethereal grey slush. Where festive sounds of carnival music once danced in his ears, all that now remained was little more than static, muted and distant.

Beneath that noise there was something else.

Something close.

Not whispering exactly, more of an echo of a whisper.

Tinny and soft like a subtle background beat in a dance track.

Only this sound didn’t make his fingers drum.

It hurt his ears.

And it frightened him more than the world slipping from slow-motion to full stop.

That was the first time Jacob had ever thought to try his gift in a public place, and until then he wasn’t convinced it would work at all.

divider 1

In the summer of his tenth birthday, Jacob had been playing hide-and-seek with his younger sister, Felicity. Jacob knew all the best hiding places and it often took a long time for her to find him. Hidden in the cupboard under the stairs, entangled amongst brooms, buckets and smelly shoes, Jacob overheard Granny T’s thin rasping voice in the kitchen.

She was trying to explain to his sceptical mum that Jacob was most certainly a Glimmer, no doubt about it. She’d seen the signs. Jacob had the gift and she could either accept and nurture it or spend her life in silent fear of the danger her son may one day pose to others, if his gift went unsupervised.

Raised voices drew Felicity from her hunt in the back garden to the kitchen.

When she asked if either of them had seen Jacob, Granny T had tipped Felicity a slow wink and whispered that Jacob was hiding in the cupboard.

Although the cupboard door was shut, Jacob knew Granny T had winked. He knew she had leaned down beside Felicity and whispered right into her ear. And he knew Granny T had kept a tight hand on her knitting as she did this. He didn’t know how he knew these things. He just did, in the same way he knew where his hands were.

He never questioned this ability as he assumed it was something everyone did. And for a moment he didn’t ponder what Glimmer meant either. Adults often talked about things kids didn’t know or care about. Like politics and economic climates. Ten year-old Jacob thought it must be very boring to be an adult, even when they could do fun stuff like drive fast and buy cool things like Playstation’s and holidays in hot countries.

Felicity was both delighted and annoyed to find Jacob because she insisted she’d already looked in the cupboard twice.

“I promise you, Fee, I never moved. Not once.”

Felicity, hands on hips, head cocked on one side, scowled at him. “Did too, Jakey. You always say that. You’re a bit fat liar.”

“This time you hide. Somewhere really good. I’ll count to…”

Felicity grinned. “A million.”

“That would take weeks. How about a hundred?”

Felicity considered this. “Two hundred.”

“Okay. Two hundred. But you better be hiding really good.”

“You’ll never find me.”

Jacob folded his arms. “One, two, three…”

“No looking. Not fair if you look.”

Even though Jacob covered his eyes he knew Felicity had gone out the back door and hovered next to the barbecue. He knew she’d turned around and looked at her mum, put a finger against her lips, and then tip-toed down the garden path to the very end of the garden where there were lots of weeds and stinging nettles.

Jacob almost turned around to call out to Felicity, concerned she would be stung or get a splinter from the pile of fire wood stacked against the shed. With his hands over his eyes he knew Granny T was watching him. He knew she was shaking her head at him.

No Jake. That’s not fair. Let her hide. She’ll be okay.

It was Granny T’s voice, but it hadn’t come from her mouth.

It washed through his head like the soft rush of bubbles and foam made by the smallest waves on the beach.

Jacob stopped counting and focussed on the word Glimmer.

For longer than two hundred counts he stood in the kitchen with his hands over his eyes, watching Granny T knit, watching his mum wash the dishes, and watching Felicity at the far end of the garden chuckling with her hands over her mouth.

He was perplexed at how Granny T had whispered to him without using her mouth.

Did that have something to do with Glimmer? What did that mean? Was it a different way of talking? Or hearing? Maybe it was something people got as they grew up, like hair under the arms or wrinkles.

Jacob wrinkled his nose. He didn’t want wrinkles. Granny T had more wrinkles than the clothes he left on his bedroom floor. But then he didn’t see the point in having hair under his arms either.

Sensing movement, Jacob snatched his hands away.

Granny T hovered in front of him. She looked funny, the same as when he paused a DVD in the middle of an action scene and the characters seemed to have two or three edges, like there were more than one and they were overlapping each other. And when she moved, lowering her knitting and looking over her small spectacles, Jacob was sure she had become a ghost.

Through her he could see his mum stutter – stopping and starting as she placed dishes on the drainer. It reminded of when the TV reception went all weird during a thunderstorm.

Glancing at the window Jacob expected to see dark clouds.

Grey sunlight beamed across the kitchen table.

It wasn’t just there. He saw it enter the kitchen and spread out, coating every surface, bouncing and swooshing and washing away the colour, leaving the world tinted grey.

The splashy sound of cutlery hitting water in the sink and the tinkle of plates had been switched off.

A buzz like a distorted whisper chased the light around the room.

The sound looked thin and watery. Jacob sensed the sound wanted to be more, as if it was hungry and needed to eat something to become a loud bass boom.

When he looked again, his mum had frozen in place, right arm extended over the drainer. A soapy plate had slipped from her grasp. Jacob tracked where it should go. He expected a crash, the crack of plates stacked on top of one another. He knew his mum would swear.

But she didn’t. The plate lingered barely an inch from her hand in mid-air.

Best not hang around, Jake. Felicity is waiting.

Jacob stared at Granny T. “Mum…”

Don’t let them see you, Jake. Never linger too long here.

“The plate…why isn’t it moving?”

Granny T glanced over her shoulder. Jacob watched with his mouth open as Granny T shimmered out of sight. A flickering shadow trailed across the kitchen and she reappeared next to his mum. She took the plate out of the air and gently placed it on the drainer. Half a second later she was stood in front of him again.

No harm done. Off you pop now before they see you.

“Who? Mum?”

The Reek. They don’t like people who Glimmer.

Jacob stared at Granny T. “Who? What’s Glimmer? How did you move so-”

Questions for another day. Shake yourself free and find your sister.

“Shake what?”

Granny T frowned. You know the feeling you get just before you sneeze? Like a tingle? Imagine that right now and-

The kitchen was flooded with a rainbow of colour.

Granny T was sat at the kitchen table, knitting needles flicking and clacking. His mum turned to look at her hand, then at the plate that wasn’t there. She gasped and stared straight at Jake.

“Mum…?”

Granny T hummed to herself. “Did you count to two hundred yet?”

Jake blinked and looked around the kitchen. “Er…”

“She’ll be thinking you’re not coming,” Granny T said.

“Who?”

“Felicity,” his mum said. “Your sister?”

“Oh.”

Granny T smiled and glanced at his mum. “World of his own,” she said, then resumed her knitting.

Jacob’s mum aimed her scowl at Granny T. “I wonder how that happened.”

“Kids, rare and beautiful, indeed they are.” Granny T bowed her head and looked over her spectacles at his mum. “You were like that once.”

“Once.” His mum looked down. “But not any more. Thank God.”

“Adults stop using what they don’t have time, need or desire for,” Granny T said. “Such a shame.”

“There’s more to life than…childhood dreams,” she said and returned to her dishes.

Jacob sensed they were talking about different things, or maybe the same thing but for different reasons. Though bewildered and tired, Jacob plodded across the kitchen floor and stood outside. With the sun on his face he remembered the game and where Felicity was hiding. Instead of going straight to her this time he wondered around the garden pretending to look for her.

He could hear her giggling and pretended not to hear.

When he eventually found her, Jacob couldn’t share her glee. He smiled and chased her across the lawn, but his mind was busy thinking about the grey kitchen, the noise, the Reek and the Glimmer. His stomach felt tight and tingly – a Christmas Eve feeling, but both worse and better at the same time.

That evening, after a roast chicken dinner, Jacob watched his parents dozing on the sofa. The TV program was very boring. Too much talking and crying. Careful not to wake them or Granny T, who had fallen asleep in her armchair, knitting in her lap, Jacob had crept upstairs to play on his Playstation.

“Not many people can Glimmer.”

Jacob jumped when he heard Granny T’s voice behind him. He paused his game and watched her shuffle across to his bed and sit down. She shifted aside his games and looked at him over her spectacles.

“And those that can often lose the gift when they grow up.”

Jacob twisted around on his bean bag. “What’s Glimmer?”

“Glimmer is many things, Jake. It let’s you know things. Things you shouldn’t be able to see or hear but you can. You know what I’m talking about?”

Jacob nodded. “But I thought everyone could…Glimmer.”

Granny T smiled. “It’s very rare. Your mother stopped when she discovered boys and kissing.”

“Eww.”

“Maybe the same will happen to you when you grow up.”

“What’s Reek? Why did everything go grey? What was that sound I heard?”

Granny T patted the bed and Jacob crawled onto it.

“Sometimes when we Glimmer we see the world of the Reek. We slip from our world into theirs, but we’re not really there at all. The Reek hate that.”

“Why?”

“Because they don’t want to be there.”

“Why?”

“There’s no colour or life. It’s like a ghost world.”

“With dead people?”

Granny T laughed. “Not quite. Think of their world as an old photograph that’s been photocopied again and again, over and over until it becomes grey and stale. It’s what our world used to be, shaped by every memory anyone ever had.”

“But who are they then? The Reek?”

“I’ve never met anyone who could Glimmer that would tell me that.”

“But I don’t get why they don’t like us.”

“Because we can come and go as we please. They can’t. They both hate and love us at the same time.”

“They’re trapped there?”

“Yes. And when the see someone Glimmer they come looking. The want to find you.”

“Why?”

“So they can travel with you, back here.”

“Why?”

“Because then they can become real. And dangerous.”

Jacob frowned and looked at his Playstation games. “Can the Reek hurt me?”

Granny T was silent for a moment. “Only if they find you.”

“Will they?”

“Not if you’re smart and quick.”

“I don’t want them to find me. They can’t if I don’t go there, will they?”

“Very true, Jake. But sometimes you can’t help but go there, it just happens.”

“Why?”

“It’s like a shiver. It happens when you feel cold, yes? Glimmer happens when feel connected to someone. Like you’re sharing their life.”

“Like Felicity? We share things.”

“Very much so. That’s part of the reason why it fades. Our lives take us to different places from our brothers or sisters or even friends we were once very close to. We lose some of that connection over time. We still love them but we become different people with different experiences and memories.”

“You said sometimes. Sometimes it just happens?”

“Yes.”

“Can you make it happen?”

“Yes, Jake. When you need it most. You’ll know when.”

“How?”

“You just will and you’ll know you can Glimmer just by thinking about it.”

“But what for? Why do it if the Reek are going to chase me?”

“Because you’ll do amazing things there if you practice.”

“Like what?”

Granny T touched a finger to the tip of his nose. “That much I can’t tell you. Those who Glimmer have very different stories. I can teach you some of it, even Glimmer with you sometimes, but I can’t tell you what to do when you’re there.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Me neither.”

Jacob frowned again. “But you know everything.”

“I know a little,” Granny T said with a chuckle. “Some might say too little, others would say a little too much. I know enough.”

Jacob sighed. It was a lot to take in. Some of it didn’t feel real, as if he was dreaming. But then he thought about the plate and the sludgy time. That had felt real. And so had that itchy whisper in his head and the sensation that something was coming to get him.

“Did it scare you?”

Jacob rubbed his eyes. “Yes. A bit. But it was kinda cool at the same time.”

“Never lose that fear, Jake.” Granny T looked serious. “When you Glimmer you should enjoy it. But not too much. Never stay too long and never do it at the same time each day. The Reek might be waiting for you.”

Jacob yawned and stretched. “Okay.”

“I’ll be back visiting next weekend and I’ll show you a few tricks, yes?”

“That’d be cool.”

Granny T eased herself off the bed then pulled the duvet over Jacob. “Last thing. Don’t ever tell anyone you can Glimmer unless you’re absolutely certain they can too.”

“Why?”

“Because they’ll say you’re nuts.”

“It’s sorta nuts anyway.”

Granny T shuffled to the bedroom door and held her hand over the light switch. “But in a good way, yes?”

Jacob was asleep.

“Sweet dreams my little traveller.”

divider 1

Through the blur and static Jacob saw everything.

The carnival was a ghost land of hazy shapes. Silent and still.

On the floor beside him lay Felicity. She had stopped moving even before he began to Glimmer. The Reek had come for her and though he knew so much that he shouldn’t, he didn’t know why they wanted her.

For the millionth time since Granny T had died four years ago, Jacob wished he could see her one last time. He wished she had come back the next weekend so she could teach him more tricks. His parents told him she’d died in an accident driving home after his first Glimmer.

He knew they’d lied.

From his bed he knew they’d argued in the living room. He knew they’d kept their voices low so they didn’t wake him or Felicity. If they’d cried Jacob would have left them alone. Some things were meant to private. But they hadn’t. They’d talked about Granny T and why she had to be kept away from Jacob and Felicity because she was dangerous. His dad didn’t like how “it had happened” but his mum said it was how “they’d arranged it” and everything would be okay.

Jacob had wanted to Glimmer right then. He wanted to appear in front of them and scream how he knew they were liars.

Instead he kept his mouth shut. He practised on his own because Granny T said he’d do amazing things if he practised. But he never did it in front of them, or near them, or showed any sign that he could Glimmer at all. He knew they knew he could, or maybe had, because of the way his mum spoke to Granny T after his first Glimmer.

She didn’t like it.

She was afraid to Glimmer.

Or maybe she was upset because she could no longer do it herself.

One thing stuck with for the next four years. Granny T had tried to persuade his mum to nurture his gift because he might be a danger to other people if he didn’t have help. But what did that mean? He wasn’t dangerous. He was just a kid. A kid with a cool gift but how could that hurt any one?

As Jacob searched through the crowds for the Reek that had come for Felicity he sensed something else.

The sound below the hiss and hum was changing.

He held up his hand to slow the world further. Even in its almost motionless state it moved too fast.

The grey shapes that once looked like people shifted into shrill strands of dark light as Jacob concentrated. With his head down, staring at his sister on the ground, he listened very hard until he could make out a boom-boom sound. It was a long way away, but coming closer. Only this wasn’t the Reek.

It was similar to them but somehow different. Angry and twisted.

He knew it was blackened by hatred and had spent years, no, decades maybe or…even centuries, searching for a way out. Searching for someone to ride through on their Glimmer and poison the world beyond their own.

Like the Reek, this new thing was coming for Felicity. But why? She didn’t Glimmer. He’d never told her about it. Not once.

Unless…

Felicity hadn’t changed. Everyone else at the carnival had almost disappeared, lost on the edges of the other place as his Glimmer moved him deeper into the grey world where time became meaningless. Felicity still looked normal. She had colour like Jacob. Her clothes were vibrant, almost glowing. A splotch of blood on her forehead seemed to pulsate it was so bright.

She shouldn’t be there with him.

She couldn’t be.

Could she Glimmer too? It was the only reason why she was still there.

The boom-boom rose and fell like the jangly tune of an ice-cream truck as it winds its way through the streets, dipping and rising as sound waves emerged between houses. At the edge of its sound, Jacob knew he could also hear screaming. At first it sounded like a T-Rex from Jurassic Park. But it also sounded like a human, a baby perhaps. No. More than that.

Lots of babies, all crying and screaming at the same time.

But they weren’t babies. Not real babies.

Jacob had never concentrated so hard in his life. His ears hurt so much he thought they might explode. His arm felt tired and heavy but if he moved a muscle even a tiny fraction he would burst from his Glimmer so hard and fast he was certain he’d slam into the side of the hot-dog stand that had been next to him.

He knew that sound.

He’d heard it before during his very first Glimmer. Only he’d not paid much attention as there was just so much going on at the time.

Through the murky haze something shifted and rolled. Black fog seeped around empty spaces where people had been.

Countless babies screamed inside his head.

Who was coming for his sister?

Why did they want her?

Keeping one hand in the air, Jacob knelt down and placed his right hand on Felicity’s head.

“Fee?”

She didn’t move.

They’re not babies, Jakey.

Jacob felt like cheering. “Fee? You’re okay. You can Glimmer.”

Yes. Granny T showed me how. Jakey, they’re coming for me.

“Why?”

Felicity twitched her head and looked up at him.

Because without me there’s no one to protect you.

Jacob reeled as both knees touched the ground. “Protect me? Who are they, Fee?”

Felicity raised a shaking hand and placed it on Jacob’s.

Shake yourself free. We have to leave.

Writhing black tendrils of fog surrounded the empty space where the hot-dog stand had been. They slithered toward Jacob like twitching snake tongues tasting the air. The endless scream of tormented babies boomed inside Jacobs head.

“Who are they?”

Darkness come to eat the light.

“What darkness? What light?”

Felicity grasped his hand tighter.

We are the light, Jakey. The last light. Guardians.

“You mean, like angels?”

Yes. Which makes them…

Jacob stared up at the pulsating black cloud gathering around them. “Demons.”

Shake yourself, we have to-

Lights, colour, music and the sweet odour of hot-dogs burst through grey sludge.

Jacob collapsed on the wet grass beside his sister. Every inch of his body hurt like he’d never felt before.

Felicity’s face rose over him. Her blue eyes hung like jewels against the dark night sky. Jacob was aware of people looking at them and stepping away. Felicity, still holding his hand, tugged him upright, and although he cried out he let her haul him to his feet.

“Fee…I need to…” Jacob wobbled and nearly fell over.

“Not now, Jakey.” Felicity glanced around before looking back into his eyes. “Tell you everything later. We have to leave. Now.”

“We did.” Jacob took a deep breath. “We’re back. It’s okay now.”

“No it’s not. They’re coming through. They followed us.”

Jacob glanced at her then turned around. His attention shifted to a dark cloud of smoke that rose over the bumper car pavilion. It pooled over the ground, formed into a sphere and began to roll toward them.

“Believe me now?”

“Oh no.”

Felicity tugged his hand. “Run.”

To the sound of countless demons echoing inside their heads, Jacob and Felicity flew through the crowds.

divider 1Gosh, and gosh again.

That was awesome fun!

Okay, so that wasn’t within the 50 to 1,500 word limit, and was actually 3,600 words, but damn that was a wild ride! Whilst I love my somewhat plotted and planned writing of my novel, I sure do get a massive rush when writing stuff like this.

Pure word screaming out of my noggin, down my arms, forcing my fingers to swoosh across the keyboard to make the words appear on the screen.

In case you’re wondering, this took just under 3 hours to write. I’ll spell check and it post it.

Hope you enjoyed it, dear blog reader, because that was some of the best fun I’ve writing for some time!

“Self Portrait” photograph by Nicholas Bruno.
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17 thoughts on “Angry & Broken – Short fiction inspired by Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press

  1. OH MY! I haven’t read the story yet but that header, WOW, I definitely need to make that the graphic for SPP from now on. Hope you don’t mind and I will give you full credit.

  2. Wow, that was a helluva ride! I actually got goosebumps. Great read and (too) quick even at 3,600 words lol. Will there be more? Seems like it is set up for another installment. Thoroughly enjoyed the ride!

    • Now and then when doing the writing by the set of your pants type stuff, I reach a certain point where I wonder if the story could be expanded or built on. When I finished this piece I knew (like Jacob) there was enough bones to flesh out a decent novel or at least a longer work. Glad you enjoyed it.

        • I did once gather them together in a word doc, tidied them up a bit here and there, though I didn’t spend much time on them as I should, and probably will in the future. At the time I had a vague idea of releasing a sort of collection of alternative view points to the characters from The Range.

          So same world, but told through the eyes of characters I either cut from the trilogy (laughing at that as it isn’t even half complete, or even published yet!) or written as short pieces because I couldn’t find a place for them in the big scheme.

          I even gave the collection a title, Another way of seeing the Truth.

          Maybe if I keep adding to it I’ll have a decent collection to work on once the trilogy is complete.

          • Perhaps you can submit some of the short pieces to various horror/scifi publications and start garnering attention in the full trilogy. Like teasers for the soon to be released.

            Or, what was it called way back when they used to publish a chapter at a time of a novel? I believe Dickens did that with several of his books and you could buy a chapter for a penny or something like that? Maybe I’m remembering wrong, thinking of penny dreadful… all that stuff starts jumbling together in my old brain but I think you get my point.

            • Actually I think you’re right about Dickens, and I think it was quite a common thing back in the day, a penny for a chapter. I have had a look around at some horror/scifi publications but it’s somewhat bewildering and I can’t figure out who to approach. Kinda sucks when there’s too much choice.

    • I am indeed full of words at the moment! As I said in my comment above, this did have a YA feel to it. For now I’ll keep it sizzling at the back of my mind, and maybe return to it at some point, after I’ve finished my big projects, The Range, The Holt and The Retreat.

  3. That was a fabulous read Dave. I love the richness of the characters, they were so real to me and for a short story you established them so quickly. I felt like i was holding on the back of a car and being pulled along for the ride afraid to let go but also enjoying the wind in my hair. Great stuff!

  4. Pingback: Sunday Picture Press: Missed Communication | Indigo Spider

  5. Pingback: Secrets – Short fiction inspired by Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press | Dave Farmer

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