Dry Spell Released

Decided now was as good a time as any to release Dry Spell, an uber-short story that I wrote in January.  It’s up for free on Smashwords if you’d like to have a look.  Young adult drama with a hint of fantasy, Dry Spell tells of teenager Paul Fields’s difficulties getting through drought when an inner voice keeps urging him to hurt anyone nearby.

cover2Paul Fields has had a rough few years: elfin mother assaulted, well-known father arrested, and unfairly turned away from his rugby club. Now, the weight of the clouds is upon him. And as Paul sits unwillingly through his younger brother’s school play, intrusive thoughts of violence assail him, demanding he act. His brother in his arms, will Paul break him to ease the suffering of all?

Click here to have a look or download 🙂

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Darkness and Heat

There was lightning. And wind. Rain pelted and walls shuddered with air surrounding as the original tone of power pulsed through all being nearby. Now, there’s only darkness. Darkness and heat. You hear a lot about darkness and cold – the combination’s used so often to generate atmosphere: chilling, desperate, evil, and fell. The lights go out and the temperature drops when spirits are near, and countless stories begin along the lines of “it was a cold winter’s night.” Perhaps I’m biased here, given where I’m from and what I have more experience in. But darkness and cold, I find, cannot generate the eerie stillness that is darkness and heat. Stifling and close, time doesn’t stop – it’s heavily medicated, minutes sluggishly oozing on while the unearthly, tense expectation of unknown mounts. A different atmosphere to the cold and dark. Under used, I think. Nothing quite like the stage between sweating and not, the odd discomfort and twitch of warmed skin as innards slowly turn, waiting, always waiting.

Power should be back on by one.

Dry Spell

Just saw the results for the young adult short story competition I entered back in January. Failed to achieve any recognition, though was expecting that more and more after reading something indicating that the judges may not approve of violence in young adult stories. Excuses are bad, though. Just wasn’t good enough. But even though it’s not literary magazine material, I still like it. Wanted to share. There are a few Australian terms throughout – if any non-Australian readers need an explanation, let me know 🙂

*

The instant the engine spluttered silent, Paul threw himself from the passenger seat.

Don’t speak. Don’t engage. Don’t look up.

Monstrous clouds soaked up the sky, so black and harsh they could have been smoke. The stagnant air Paul breathed was near as thick with moisture, though the earth was sucked dry, two years of drought tanning the adjacent school oval, blades sharper than a field of thumbtacks. According to the most recent dam levels update, Wivenhoe lingered at a distressing eighteen per cent. Paul had long since gnawed his nails down to ten tiny, stinging nubs.

Don’t look up.

Parents and friends congregating in the car park peered skyward with such expectation. Several optimists even carried umbrellas. Paul threaded through them, knowing better. Heaven wouldn’t spare a drop.

Don’t engage.

He shouldn’t be here. He wouldn’t last. Not with the clouds bearing down on him. Not with the itch of his knuckles, each larger than a quail egg. His fists were solid enough to collide with brick, a truckload of angst and hard teenage muscle behind the blow, and retract un-shattered. That was fact. He’d seen for himself only two days ago, five times in a row.

Don’t engage.

“Paul! Hang on, love.”

Mum at last disentangled from her seatbelt.

“You should really think about getting your learner’s,” she said, gliding across the bitumen in her slip-on sandals.

Both dust-choked vehicles flanking theirs had large red Ls stuck in both windscreens.

“How can we give you the old ute if you never get your licence?”

“Don’t want to drive,” Paul muttered, edging away from her apprehensively.

Operating a malfunctioning machine gun under urgent orders to cease fire. That’s the sorry disaster Paul likened his driving to.

“You could change your mind,” Mum countered cajolingly. Beneath the car park floodlights, Paul’s looming mass cast her elfin form entirely in shadow.

You could break her… you should…

Paul’s breath shuddered in his chest.

Big Bill got her pretty good…

Rain had bucketed horizontally that day, distorting the sirens. In his mind, Paul saw Mum splayed on the cold tiles in his mind, shattered like a lobbed porcelain doll’s delicate face. Dad was crumpled beside her, bawling. Paul had been forced to leave his rugby club, once Dad’s arrest hit the news. The managers would have no connection with the disgraced forward.

“Lucky it wasn’t worse. And lucky it was me,” Mum had said fervently to a newly-subdued Paul once she’d been discharged, “not you or Deano.”

You’re bigger than him… you could do more…

Mum reached to touch Paul’s arm fondly.

“It’ll be hard to get around, once you’re on your own.”

His giant’s hand smashed Mum’s skull into the bitumen with a nauseating crunch, splintering her nose, riddling her bleeding brain with bone shards…

Break her… Do it…

NO!

“Don’t touch me!” Paul hissed wildly. Mum’s chipped pink fingertips stilled, just brushing his T-shirt sleeve.

“Don’t want the ute,” Paul mumbled, despising himself. “Save it for Deano.”

Leaving Mum behind, Paul ducked into the auditorium, passing near the diminutive principal. He remembered her from his own elementary school years.

She’d do…

The principal’s right forearm shattered in his grip…

Paul shook his head violently.

Don’t be so choosy… What about him…?

He slammed that cheery kid collecting gold-coin donations into the wall, fists buried in each kidney…

Paul groaned, mashing his face into his palms.

“Paul Fields?”

The principal studied him, mildly alarmed.

“Is something wrong?”

Paul’s fingers twitched.

Don’t engage!

“Nothing,” he muttered, sure he’d almost grabbed her. Evading her gaze, he escaped to an isolated seat in the second-to-back row. He’d barely hunched down when satin rustled, and chair-legs scraped beside him.

“Can’t you sit someplace else?” Paul growled as Mum arranged her skirts.

“Paul, love…” Mum began hesitantly as Paul knotted and drove his fists into his thighs, hard.

“Jenny!”

Voices meshing in child- and traffic-related banter, three mums and a grandma filed into the seats beside Mum, demanding her attention.

“Bloody ridiculous—roadwork at six, Jenny! On a Friday! We almost didn’t make it!”

One hit… That’s all it’d take…

Paul snapped that old hag’s collarbone…

No!

He moaned as a beefy dad dropped heavily into the seat on his right.

Paul’s fists pummelled relentlessly into his bloated gut…

Please stop!

How long can we last like this…? Stop being selfish…

“No,” Paul whispered as the principal stepped under spotlight in the darkened hall, audience hushing compliantly.

Yanking a scratched MP3 player from his pocket as they were welcomed to the end-of-year performance, Paul muffled the principal with his soundproofing earbuds, turning up the volume. Satisfied, he tucked his chin into his chest, and closed his eyes.

You can’t ignore it forever…

But there was no blood. No pain.

Paul began to unwind, near-permanent state of distress waning.

Clueless of what passed onstage, Paul coped well until the intermission. The vibrations of hundreds of unseen soles scuffling to buy drinks and queue outside the bathrooms were hard to endure.

Anyone… Choose anyone…

Paul stayed glued to his seat. He nearly sprang when a petite hand brushed his shoulder, overwound and nearing snapping point. Heart galloping, Paul snatched the water Mum offered, gulping down half the bottle in two swallows.

Settling down as the lights dimmed, Paul was half asleep when Mum prodded him gently. He groggily opened his eyes. Red curtains were closing.

“Over?”

“No, grade three’s next. Deano’ll be looking out for us. It’ll upset him if you’re not watching.”

“Can’t watch,” Paul protested as Mum pulled out his earbuds.

“You never talk to him anymore,” Mum whispered as the curtains re-opened on scraggly lines of eight-year-olds in rat ears and whiskers. “I know you’re still having a rough time…”

“I’m fine.”

“But how’s he meant to take it when you leave every time he enters a room?”

Onstage, Deano sported a magnificent handlebar moustache, presiding over the townsfolk as mayor. He’d probably been cast due to his bulk. Paul had been chubby at eight, too.

Little worshipful Deano… he’d more than do…

Paul’s hands were at his brother’s throat, slowly squeezing, strangling…

“Mum…” he breathed, petrified.

“Just watch.”

Unwillingly, Paul watched Deano hire a spritely piper girl in coloured tights to lure the rats away.

Ease the suffering… break him…

Deano refused to pay up in the next scene, crossing his arms pompously across his chest. The finale saw him weeping noisily as the tiny classmate playing his son danced away to a lively, pre-recorded tune.

Imagine if you killed him… that would fix everything…

“No,” Paul frantically denied as proud applause swept through the auditorium. Mum nudged him, and he mechanically brought his trembling hands together.

Deano found his family quickly amid the hubbub outside; Paul stood out like a burning lighthouse.

“Mum!”

“Deano! You were fantastic, love!”

Mum flung her arms about her younger son, hugging enthusiastically.

“How was I?” Deano looked to his brother, scratching his face beneath the itchy moustache before pulling it off. “Paul?”

“You were… great,” Paul managed to say. ‘Just great.’

Alight with glee, Deano lunged, fastening his pudgy, loving arms around Paul’s middle.

Unstoppable headlights glared.

Snap his neck…! Use those gruesomely engorged fingers and kill him…!

“Deano…” Paul choked, fighting for control. “That’s enough…”

But Deano wouldn’t let go, burrowing his grinning face into Paul’s chest.

KILL HIM NOW!

With a wild cry, Paul violently shoved his little brother away. Surprised, Deano nearly hit the concrete, Mum just managing to snag him before he toppled. Deano sniffled, skinny lips rippling with heartbreaking hurt.

“Paul, what the hell?!”

But Paul hurtled drunkenly to the side, heedless of Mum’s exclamation. Every scrap of his impressive weight and power summoned, Paul hurled himself into the auditorium’s solid stonework wall, elbow first.

The hideous crunch split the festive atmosphere. Paul howled. Savagely, he gritted his teeth, forcing his anguish back behind them.

That’ll do…

“Paul!”

Mum rushed forward, aghast, as Paul slumped down the wall. His tears stoppered by shock, Deano trailed after her.

“Paul… oh, love, why would you…? Come on.”

Mum swiftly gathered her wits.

“Let’s get you out of here.”

Every witness stared, shaken by the violent conclusion to the night’s events. So enthralled by his gasps as a pair of burly fathers gingerly raised Big Bill’s son to his feet, it took the first thunderous rumble and a few excited children’s cries of “it’s raining!” for onlookers to notice they were already drenched.

It’ll do for now… But it won’t be long before you’ll have to break another dry spell…

Rain pelted from heaven, drops larger than bombshells. Beneath the deafening tumult hammering the car roof, Paul gulped brokenly as Mum snapped the wipers on full-blast, and sped out onto the road.

Next time, don’t wuss out… Deano might’ve bought even more than Mum did… He’s worth a La Niña, to you…

Short Sunday Log Entry

Room cleaning today, forcing the place back into a more easily navigable state after allowing it to fall into unsightly disarray. Mighty storms fell before the cleaning feat and accompanied throughout, continuing sometime afterwards after a short quiet spell, though more distant. Lightning was impressive – caused several unbecoming outbursts of cursing from my own lips as my sister and I watched “Game of Thrones.” Storms reigned last night also, reaching its peak as the choristers of QUMS met for their academic dinner, this year a semi-outside affair. Though my yukata was christened by rain, as were many other suits and dresses, the thunder timed itself well (for the most part) to add emphasis and offset speeches, and the food was tasty, one delightful course delivered in individual noodle boxes. Received most gentlemanly courtesies from a friend in the form of his protective jacket, and also a rose from another’s friend’s mother’s garden, beheaded yet still lovely. White its dominant shade, the blossom is splashed with rouge  – would be as a blood splatter, were it more red, and less cool, lovely pink. This rose now floats in a small glass bowl on the kitchen bench, fed by sugar dissolved in water once warm, which I was assured the blossom would most enjoy. Not yet touched NaNo today, my intention to complete a side-section of the novel and top up my word count as soon as this log entry is complete. Which I suppose it is. Now.

Strangers, Storms, and Scars – Part 4

Sienna smiled at him. For all she was dangerous, adept at protecting herself and her companion on their travels, and her talents had been described by several lawmen to rival that of master thieves, Sienna’s wants were simple. She never dreamed of laying hands on gems or gold, anything of money value, that was not her own.
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Strangers, Storms, and Scars – Part 3

Nadia couldn’t see what Sienna did, and shot her a confused look as Sienna stared at the boy’s scar, speechless. ‘If you want her to let go,’ Sienna pulled herself together and instructed roughly, ‘you have to promise you won’t scream, and you won’t run.’

The boy breathed hard through his nose, frightened, frozen in Nadia’s grip. He made no form of response.

‘Well?’ Sienna demanded, eyes unwillingly drawn back to his neck every few moments.

He gave the barest of nods, the only movement he could manage, ravaged throat pulled taut.
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Strangers, Storms, and Scars – Part 2

Sienna took the lead, Nadia just behind, looking around at everything her torch lit up. It was rather plain and bare, but this hallway was better tended than the storeroom they’d broken into. Despite the hallway’s general sparseness, occasionally there was something very out of place shoved against the wall. Statues mostly, great white and black things shining like glass, faces smooth and blank eyes contemplating the passing pair until they moved beyond their fixed gazes.
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