Roaches (A Short Story)

God. Hot in the house today.

Too hot.

Figure it would have cooled down now that the sun’s gone down, though.

Some hope.

Patio.

Hey, yeah … why didn’t I think of that before?

Ahh … !

Smoke.

Yeah.

What’s … ?

Itchy bloody thing.

Ahh … ‘bloody’ being the operative word.

Wonder where I picked that up?

Mosquito bite I scratched in my sleep, probably.

Keep scratching at it, it’ll never heal …

Ah, well …

… just something on my leg.

Bleeding a little, though.

Bugger it. It’ll stop soon enough.

Can barely see out here.

Should’ve turned the light on.

Oh, well.

What the hell … ?

Lighter’ll show me …

… cockroach!

Get away from it ya bloody disgusting …

Oh, eww!

Right on my leg where it was bleeding …

There ya are, ya bastard …

Oh.

Waste of a perfectly good potplant.

Mmm …

… actually … now I feel kind of …

… sorry for it.

I mean, cockroaches are living creatures, too. It’s not their fault they’re considered filthy and disgusting.

Probably very clean insects, really.

I’ve seen insects cleaning themselves.

Cockroaches are probably the same …

Damn.

Now I am officially weird.

Feeling sorry for a cockroach …

Still …

… poor thing was probably only looking for some food.

But the scab on my leg … ?

Well, no … the blood that came from the scab on my leg after I scratched it attracted it, I suppose …

I am such a sap.

But …

… I really feel bad for that poor little thing now.

Blood’s probably very nutrient-rich for it.

I wonder …

I wonder if it’ll come back …

… what?!

Lighter’ll show me …

… there you are!

Aw … y’know …

… sorry I tried to kill you with that potplant.

Okay … this is a little disgusting.

Right up to the scab on my leg, eh?

Not going to take much, though, are you?

No …

… ow!

Actually took a tiny little chunk out of me! Right at the edge of the scab, too … !

All right … my first instinct is still to kill you …

… but I won’t.

Not your fault you’re considered disgusting.

Just after a feed, aren’t you.

Poor little thing.

Actually, you’re kind of nice-looking …

… the way the light from my lighter shines off your wings …

… amazing little creature.

Ow!

Okay … that’s okay.

He won’t eat much.

Hey … there’s another one …

… amazing! A completely different species and it crawls right up on my leg.

Just like your mate, eh?

Ow!

All right, fair enough.

I can spare it.

I can …

… I can …

… another one.

What’s wrong with me … ?

Sitting here like a sap feeling sorry for ‘em when they’re taking bites out of …

… I should be …

… I should be …

… sitting too long …

… how long have I been …

… legs …

… numb …

… can’t move!

Another one … !

Ow!

Biting me …

Another one …

… right up my leg …

Ow!

Another one …

… and another …

… where are they all coming from … ?

Ow!

Agh!

Oh, God …

… hundreds of ‘em … !

Copyright © 2007 by David Scott Aubrey
All Rights Reserved
558 Words

This short story is a work of fiction. Any and all names, characters and/or incidents are either products of my imagination or are used fictitiously. Where any such resemblance may exist to actual persons (living or dead), actual events or locales, it is purely coincidental.

Please don’t assume that my characters speak for me or carry my own opinions on various matters in any way, shape or form (though some might … you never can tell).

By the Chimney with Care (A Short Story)

Janine had loved her great-grandfather, even though their time together had been far too short. A lifetime of experience had made Earl James Bowart wise, and that wisdom had manifested itself into a considered kindness. Moreover, he always listened to her when nobody else she knew seemed to.

The fact that she now owned the house he had built said something about how much the feeling had been reciprocated.

Earl James Bowart had always known the importance of looking after family. Even after his death, he knew it was important they be cared for. And Janine was one example of that.

They’d only met on Janine’s sixteenth birthday. Earl had been – until then – living in another part of the country. Still, age catching up to him, Earl had found that he couldn’t maintain his independence as much as he would have liked, and outback Australia was an unforgiving locale.

Janine had been amazed to hear that she even had a great grandfather, let alone her mother’s news that he’d be coming to stay with them.

Ellen had been writing to Earl on and off for years. Naturally, when she heard about his situation, she asked him to come and stay with them.

Earl agreed, on the proviso that he was able to still contribute – to provide – however he could.

And when Janine and Earl had first met, they’d become inseparable.

Earl had been there for Janine when his grand-daughter (her mother) had died from the cancer just after Janine had turned seventeen. Ellen still had nearly a year’s contract on their place, and wise investments had meant that it was easy for Earl to continue paying the rent after she was gone, so they both had somewhere to live.

Still, Earl was concerned about Janine. He knew that – before too long – she was going to be put into a position where she would have to forego her studies in order to find whatever work she could, just to make ends meet, which was an intolerable situation to him, because he could see her potential.

Yes, he could pay the rent now – and did, happily, brooking no argument from Janine – but he knew that he wouldn’t be around himself for very much longer.

So he organized his will a little more, adding a strange request.

Plans were drawn up and land was bought. Upon his death, construction would begin on a house for Janine to be solely owned by her. He arranged to have any rent required on the old palce continue to be paid until either the contract on the rental expired, or until construction of the house was completed (whereupon the contract in the rental could be broken, since Earl had also arranged that any future rent through to the end of the contract be paid). He also arranged a stipend so that Janine wouldn’t need to find even a part-time job to make ends meet, and could completely devote herself to her studies.

When he told Janine about the strange request in the will, she reacted better than he thought she might. A lot of people might have thought it macabre – and some in the council even considered trying to block it (but didn’t) – but Janine liked the idea, in an Angelina Jolie/Billy-Bob Thornton wear-a-drop-of-each-other’s-blood-in-a-pendant-around-the-neck kind of way (back when they’d been together, at least). Although not as obvious as the celebrities’ notion, Earl’s idea guaranteed that he’d always be near her.

And the thought was never more comforting than on the evening of the day she first moved in.

Mark could tell just by looking at the chimney that it was the perfect way in. For a start, it was huge, taking up nearly a third of the side of the house it was on. Because of this, the flue cap was easily large enough to get through. In addition, there were plenty of good, sturdy places to get a grip (from what he could see as he drove past casing the place that morning). And it was obviously large enough that he wouldn’t get stuck at the damper halfway down.

Still, he took a few tools with him when he came back that night (just in case). As it was, though, things turned out better than he’d hoped.

At around two o’clock, he quietly exited the car he’d parked behind the large bushes on the council reserve up the street earlier that evening. Although it had been a good place for a ‘stakeout’ – both out of the way of any neighbours who might see him, and where, through the gaps in the bushes, he could keep an eye on his intended target – Mark was still glad to stretch his legs.

Shaking his head in wonder at just how good a target the place was (a single lamp down at the other end of the street meant nobody could see him), Mark made his way to the chimney.

A couple of little niggling doubts tickled the back of his mind as he found some quick handholds (a drainpipe, some lattice). One was the usual – if he knew how to get into a house through a door or window without making noise, this sort of thing would be much easier. But he didn’t, and was saddled with having to find houses with chimneys for his attempted B & Es.

The second one was that – despite having watched the place all night and not seen any sign of people (no lights, no cars, no automatic sprinklers) – he still realized he couldn’t see every angle of the place from where he’d sat in his car.

It was obvious that the place wasn’t empty, given the modest Christmas decorations in the yard and over the windows and door. But Mark didn’t think anyone was there …

“Maybe they’ve gone away for the holidays”, he thought to himself.

Unable to hold a thought for too long, Mark stepped onto the roof, focusing only on what came next.

A strong grip had allowed him to get to the roof without a problem. The lattice had been firmly fixed to the beams which were firmly fixed to the house, and the spaces between them were easily large enough for the toes of his sneakers to fit through, meaning that his climb had been silent. With the same dearth of sound, Mark made his way across the tiles until he came to the chimney itself.

He nodded silent approval as he noticed that – up close – the chimney was exactly as he’d hoped. Even better, from the absolute lack of soot it had either been cleaned recently, or had never been used.

He poked his head through the ample space of the flue liner and looked down, shining a pocket torch as he did so.

Just as he’d hoped – enough space at the damper that he could get through. In fact, it looked as though it was open!

Mark chuckled to himself as he squeezed past the flue cap and into the chimney proper. Powerful muscles on a lithe frame pushed out against the sides, holding him in place. By allowing himself to sink down crosswise to the width of the chimney, then pushing out sideways with his feet against the sides, Mark silently descended. The lack of soot meant that nothing fell down ahead of him to alert anyone who might be inside.

And it wasn’t long before Mark found himself looking out from the empty fireplace onto a well-furnished lounge room …

As always happened when she woke up in the middle of the night, Janine spent a good few minutes wondering what the time was. She refused to have an alarm clock near her bed, and the only clock in this part of the house was out in the hall – her great-grandfather’s wonderful antique … grandfather clock.

She smiled to herself as she thought of her beloved great-grandfather again. He’d done so much for her. She …

… what was that noise … ?

Somewhere else in the house, something had fallen. She knew it. It wasn’t the house settling, or anything like that. She hadn’t been there long, but she knew the sounds of the place. A sound like that could only have come if …

… someone was in the house … !

“Shit”, Mark thought, trying to put the painting of some old guy down in one piece. For some reason, it had fallen out of its frame and the canvas had first hit the wall, then fallen to the tiled floor.

And Mark looked disdainfully at the clean, smooth wall where it once had hung.

“Okay … no safe behind the painting for these folks … ”

Setting the whole mess down, Mark listened carefully for a minute or so until – sure he hadn’t been heard by anyone …

“ … I still don’t know if anyone’s in this house … ”

… he continued.

There were some nice crystal Christmas decorations over the fireplace. On the floor-to-ceiling shelves opposite rested some nice-looking odds and ends. Some looked silver, some gold. There was a widescreen TV in the corner of the room with a DVD recorder which might fetch a couple of bucks at the hock shop, if he could convince the manager to give him money for ‘em without ID.

Given the general look of the room, Mark figured that whomever owned the place was fairly well off. If he was careful, he could do very well out of this.

Chuckling to himself, Mark took the rolled-up sack out of his pocket. An image had come to mind of himself as a ‘Bizarro’ Santa … taking things in his sack instead of giving.

“Me am here for Christmas presents … ”

Figuring to move to the next room, Mark reached for the handle of the closed door …

… just as it opened … !

Janine was looking to the left when she opened the door, and didn’t see Mark until it was too late. All that alerted her to his presence was the whispered, “Shit” …

… and then something hit her.

The woman slammed back into the door jamb and bounced forward. Her head struck the tiles before Mark – operating on instinct – could jump forward to stop her.

“Shit!”

He hadn’t wanted to kill the woman … just stop her before she saw him and screamed, or something.

Shaking, Mark reached forward and tried to move her into a recovery position. It was a while since he’d been taught first aid in high school, but he remembered something about checking airways, and moved her head back where she lay.

“Damn!”

Knowing there was nothing more he could do for her, Mark knew he had to either leave or check the rest of the house for other people.

“And what the hell happened when I hit her … ? The whole house seemed to shudder … !”

Frozen with indecision, Mark looked down at the woman’s unconscious form, knowing that a lot of B & E people would try to take advantage of such a moment. She was helpless, after all.

But not him.

He was no rapist.

He just didn’t want her in his hair while he sacked the joint.

Finally coming to a decision, Mark knew he’d better check the house for anyone else before he got out of there. If he had time to grab some loot, fine. If not, it was still better than getting done for assault.

With one quick look back at the unconscious woman, Mark headed into the other parts of the house. He wasn’t too worried about being quiet now. Time was of the essence. However, he soon found that the woman had been alone.

Breathing a huge sign of relief, he headed back to the lounge. Maybe he could tie her up or something, give an anonymous call to the police later so they could come rescue her.

These and more thoughts raced through his mind. What had started out as such a good target for a quick break-in had degenerated into a nightmare.

And it was a nightmare which was only getting worse, because – when he got back to the lounge, Mark found that the woman …

… was gone … !

“ … off to call the coppers, no doubt. Must’ve dragged herself into the kitchen”.

And that decided it. Loot or no, Mark was getting out of there.

He made his way into the hallway and over to the front door. Grabbing the handle and expecting it to open, his momentum nearly ran him into the door when …

… it didn’t.

Panic set in. He shook the handle furiously, looking for some sort of latch. But there was none, and the door resolutely refused to open.
“Fine … I’ll break a window”.

Right next to the door was a large picture window of thin, frosted glass. Knowing he’d be picking glass out of his clothes for hours, he nevertheless kicked out. A kick, a step back to let it fall, and he could easily step through and be gone …

… except …

… the glass didn’t break …

“What the hell is going on around here … ?”

At a run, Mark tried the other windows in the nearby rooms, keeping a quick lookout for the woman (who was nowhere to be seen). He didn’t know how long it had been since she’d woken up and moved, but he knew she’d had ample time to call the coppers …

Kicking out furiously – even grabbing a chair at one stage and throwing it at a window – Mark nevertheless found himself in an impossible situation …

“None of the doors work! None of the windows break! The woman’s disappeared … ”

“What the hell is going on around this place?”

Then he saw it …

… the chimney.

“Fine … I’ll go back out the way I came in … !”

Sweat dripping from his face and arms, Mark found climbing it harder than descending it. Nevertheless, he was almost halfway up …

… when he began to smell the wisp of smoke.

He hadn’t heard her come back into the room – he couldn’t hear much of anything from inside the chimney – but he knew …

“The bitch is trying to start a fire!”

He almost laughed out loud with relief as he continued to climb, knowing he’d have plenty of time to get out of the chimney before she got it going.

Still, he looked down to see if he could see her looking up at him. He wanted to show her his laughing face so she could realize just how ineffectual she was …

… but she wasn’t there.

“But …

… where’s the smoke coming from?”

Because it was plain – even in the dim lighting – that there was no fire starting below.

And no evidence that there ever had been …

“What the … ?”

And then Mark inexplicably knew that the woman had not, in fact, come back into the lounge room.

He also knew (somehow, and with more certainty than he’d ever known anything in his life) …

… that something beyond his understanding …

… was wrong.

The temperature inside the chimney suddenly plummeted – impossibly fast and impossibly low for summer in this part of the country. In an instant, Mark could swear that it was so cold, he should be seeing his breath.

But he wasn’t.

Because he then knew that the cold wasn’t something he could feel physically …

And he knew …

… knew …

… that something was in the chimney with him.

Something that assaulted the flue with an incomprehensible eruption of terrible, flameless heat. For the brief moment of its existence, it was – impossibly – hotter than the surface of the sun, yet – inexplicably – completely contained within the chimney.

The only concession to the unspeakable ignition was a microsecond burst of illumination that flashed furniture shadows into the walls. Despite this – once it was gone – the shadows rapidly faded away, almost as if the walls had … healed.

And of Mark, not a particle remained.

Not even ash.

Janine woke in her bedroom, knowing everything was well. There was a bump on the back of her head where she’d hit the door jamb, and a cut and bruise on her cheek where the thief had struck her …

… but she knew those things would heal.

And that everything was fine.

She smiled to herself, thinking about her great-grandfather, and the unusual request he’d placed in his will.

She remembered that many considered it an unorthodox request at the time, to be sure, but the local council had ultimately granted permission for it due to Earl’s contributions to the community, and, thus, it was done.

And so it eventuated that anywhere there was masonry, Earl’s ashes had been mixed into the mortar. Earl became – quite literally – part of the house.

After all, Earl knew the importance of protecting his family …

… even after his death.

Janine drifted back into sleep, knowing her great-grandfather he was still there, looking after her, whenever she needed it.

“Thank you”, she whispered as she drifted off.

The house exuded a feeling of love.

Copyright © 2008 by David Scott Aubrey
All Rights Reserved
2,870 Words

This short story is a work of fiction. Any and all names, characters and/or incidents are either products of my imagination or are used fictitiously. Where any such resemblance may exist to actual persons (living or dead), actual events or locales, it is purely coincidental.

Please don’t assume that my characters speak for me or carry my own opinions on various matters in any way, shape or form (though some might – you never can tell).

MC_Garland_In_Da_House

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Pukka Tukka (A Short Story)

Right … today I’m gonna show yer ‘ow t’ cook one o’ the simplest things yer can ever learn ‘ow t’ cook, yeah?

Believe it or not, I’ve seen people look at recipes like this an’ turn white … literally. Their teef cha’er, they sweat, they feel physically ill at the fought o’ it, an’ I can’t figure out why.

‘See, I promise … I swear to yer, right? It’s nowhere near as ‘ard as it looks, yeah? An’ if yer follow what I show yer ‘ere, yer’ll find out that a roast like this is dead easy.

Right … first off, yer can see that the skin is a bit tougher than it looks, yeah? It looks all soft an’ smooth, but it isn’t. Yer can stretch it, yer can try an’ tear it … nothin’ works, right? But the fing I found out … if yer haven’t got chef-quality knives like this, yeah? Nip down the High Street an’ pick yerself up a Stanley Knife. Cheap as chips, an’ it’ll last yer a long, long time. An’ it’s perfect for scorin’ the skin, yeah?

Now, yer need t’ score the skin like this, right? About free-qua’ers of an inch, or about two cen’imetres, yeah? The fing is, get some o’ this cookin’ salt, then, an’ rub it in. Not too much, but yer don’t wanna be too delicate about it, ‘cause then yer end up losin’ all the flavour.

Now, durin’ all this, make sure yer oven ‘as been pre-’eated to about two-sixty. Five ‘undred faren’eight, or gas ten, yeah?

When it’s ready, get yer roast with the rind side on top an’ whack it in a bakin’ dish, yeah? Then put that on a roastin’ rack. Pour in a bit o’ water an’ cook it for firty minutes. Until the skin begins cracklin’ an’ bubblin’, yeah?

Now, at this point, yer wanna reduce the heat t’ one-eighty, or free-fifty faren’eight or gas four an’ bake it f’ about two or free hours, yeah? About twenny minutes for ev’ry five ‘undred grams.

Ev’ry so often, take it out an’ baste it with the pan juices, yeah? But don’t cover th’ cracklin’ whatever yer do, ovverwise it’ll go soft, an’ yer don’t want that to ‘appen, do yer?

Anyway, when it’s all done, take it out an’ leave it in a warm place for about ten minutes, covered in foil, right? Leave it for that amount o’ time to sit and let it settle before slicin’, yeah? Then yer serve it wiv that apple sauce an’ gravy we made before.

An’ that’s ‘ow yer cook a baby …

Copyright © 2007 by David Scott Aubrey
All Rights Reserved
439 Words

This short story is a work of fiction. Any and all names, characters and/or incidents are either products of my imagination or are used fictitiously. Where any such resemblance may exist to actual persons (living or dead), actual events or locales, it is purely coincidental.

Please don’t assume that my characters speak for me or carry my own opinions on various matters in any way, shape or form (though some might – you never can tell).

Sidestep (A Short Story)

Nearly out of milk …

First time since moving into the new place.

Better head up to the shop.

Corner store’s only about three blocks away.

Long blocks, though.

Nice walk, though.

Figure it’ll cost an arm and a leg there, but there you go. When you need milk, you need milk. Coffee’s no good without it … gives me heartburn.

Bit hot this morning, even though it’s early.

Yup, I was rightDamn … four dollars … !

Still … nice enough shop.

This walk back’s all right, too. Bit of a breeze. Not too much traffic …

What the hell is that … ?

God damn … ! Sun’s right in my eyes … !

Hang on … how’s that possi … ?

Did the sun just … shift?

Can’t see …

What the hell was all that about … ?

Sun’s … normal … now.

Now I can see.

What the hell just happened, then … ?

Weird.

Aw, fuck it. Too tired to care.

Actually … something like that … think it’d bother me more …

The sun doesn’t just …

… some kinda weird light in my eyes …

Ah, well …

Yeah …

Yeah … that’s it …

Still recovering from the move …

Although …

… ahh! Forget it.

Home.

What the … ?

Wh … where’s my table an’ chairs … ?

Son. Of. A. Bitch!

Someone stole ‘em!

Aw, for fuck’s sake!

Quick … back out to the footpath … look up and down the street … !

Nothing.

Typical.

How someone steals an outdoor table and chair setting and gets away so quickly is beyond me … !

Worthless asking if the neighbours saw anything, too. Large properties out here. Lots of trees …

… more that I remembered, actually …

Aw, I dunno.

Must be that I haven’t settled in yet.

Only been here about three weeks.

Yeah …

Still recovering from the move and haven’t had time to really look around the neighbourhood.

Feel so … fuzzy in the head …

Exhausted.

Coffee!

Milk’s getting heavy, anyway … better get inside.

Hey … door’s a little harder to open than I remember. Key’s a bit stiff …

Ah, well. Maybe the lock needs oil.

Okay, put the milk …

What. The. Fuck … ?

Have I … have I got the right house … ?

I got …

Everything’s …

… different …

… yeah … this is my house …

… but … how’s my furniture all different?

What’s my ‘fridge doin’ over th … ?

An’ my table … my …

… it’s all been … moved … !

But … I’ve only been gone – what – fifteen minutes?

How can … ?

What was that … ?

Someone’s in the bathroom!

Comin’ out … !

Who the fuck are you … ?

What the hell are you doin’ in my house … ?

You what … ? Your house? This is my bloody house! I just moved in … !

You what … ? You’ve been here for the last ten years … ? I’ve been here for three weeks and haven’t seen …

Just who the hell … ?”

Oh, shit … !

Okay! Okay … !

I’m goin’!

Fuckin’ psycho!

Point that fuckin’ knife at me … !

I’m goin’ … !

My bloody house, ya bastard … !

Fuck’s sake … !

Runnin’ away from my own bloody house!

Who the fuck does that bastard … ?!

Shit!

He’s not … he’s not followin’ me … !

Left my phone … my keys …

Fine.

Shop has a phone.

Head back there an’ call the police … fuckin’ sort this out … !

Knife or no knife … !

Ahh … !

That … light … !

That light again … !

What … is … this … ?!

Huh?

I can … see again … !

I can …

… fuck it! Don’t care!

Forget it! Forget the shop and the police, too! I’m goin’ back there! That’s my fuckin’ house … !

There … !

Brandish a knife at me, ya bastard … ! Let’s see if you …

… what the … ?

Outdoor setting … ?

But … it was … gone before … ?

Fuck it. Sort it out later …

Door’s locked … fuck the keys … left ‘em inside, anyway … !

Kick the … !

All right, ya bastard! Try an’ wave a fuckin’ knife at me now, ya … !

Hey … !

Hey … !

Where are … ?

What … the … ?

My … my stuff … my … furniture …

… it’s all back where …

… I’ve been gone less than a minute … !

How does someone move every piece of furniture in my house in less than a minute … ?

An’ where’s …

… not here …

… he’s not …

… where, then … ?

Nobody’s here but me … !

Everything’s … like it was before …

Hang on …

… did this really … ?

That …

… light …

Comin’ back from the shop and headin’ up there again …

… that light …

… where did it take me … ? 

Copyright © 2007 by David Scott Aubrey
All Rights Reserved
880 Words

This short story is a work of fiction. Any and all names, characters and/or incidents are either products of my imagination or are used fictitiously. Where any such resemblance may exist to actual persons (living or dead), actual events or locales, it is purely coincidental.

Please don’t assume that my characters speak for me or carry my own opinions on various matters in any way, shape or form (though some might – you never can tell).

Sway (A Short Story)

It has to be said, when I heard Sway start … talkin’ to me, it was bit bloody weird, y’know?

I was on the bus, right? Heading into town … ? An’ I was sittin’ up the back. I mean … right up the back, y’know?

Uhh … fuck, eh?

Bit bloody stupid of me. Why am I tellin’ you that?

Of course … you know.

But, see … that’s how I knew that I was the only one there.

Besides you, I mean.

And … you were up the other end of the bus.

Anyway … I knew it wasn’t you, ‘cause of how close the bloody voice was. I mean, it was right in my fuckin’ ear …

Well … actually it was kinda …

… it was kind of in the back of my head, really.

Between my ears. But …

… back a bit …

know …

… there’s a lot of people out there who say they got some little voice in the back of their heads …

But that wasn’t it. That wasn’t it at all.

See, this voice was clear. Clear as if it came from someone sitting right behind me.

Which was bullshit, of course, because the only thing that was behind me was the back window of the bus!

Which didn’t stop me from lookin’ around, of course.

But …

… there was nothin’ there!

I mean, no cars. Nobody … bloody … behind the bus.

An’ the road was empty …

I mean, you fuckin’ know that … we’d been goin’ along for about, what … forty minutes? An’ there was no sign of anyone!

But … even if there was, right? Even if there’d been a car there and some prick in it’d been yelling, or something, right? That couldn’t have been it. Because the voice I heard wasn’t yelling.

It was speaking.

It was speaking loud and clear. Like …

… like one of those bloody actors, or somethin’, y’know? Who knows how to … project his voice? From the pit of his stomach?

Strong …

… commanding!

That’s the bloody word I was looking for … commanding!

I’m surprised you didn’t hear it.

Well … not really surprised.

Not now.

I was kind of surprised then, I remember. I was like, “Why can’t this prick hear it?”

But now, of course …

… well, now I know that nobody can hear Sway but me.

That’s right.

He only talks to me.

He told me.

I bet you’re wondering what sort of … life … that’d be for him, eh? Like … how would he be able to … uh … interact with the world, if all he is is a bloody voice in my head, eh?

Well … well, I dunno, mate.

I only started hearin’ ‘im about half-an-hour ago …

But … nah … it’s all right.

No need to worry about that.

He can interact with the world just fine.

Through me, y’know … ?

I mean, like I said, he hasn’t been talkin’ to me for very long, but …

… yeah … he can get his point across just fine.

Hah!

Heh, heh …

… I guess I don’t need to tell you that, though.

Do I?

Heh.

No, you figured that out already …

Uh …

… what was I … ?

Kinda hard t’ think.

Uhhhh ….

Ah!

Yeah.

Questions!

I bet you’ve still got some bloody questions though, eh?

Well … well, okay.

We’ve got a bit of time.

And … it’s not like nobody’s gonna interrupt us, eh?

Hah hah hah!

Ahhh …

Sorry.

Guess you don’t see the humour in it.

Ah, well …

An’ … look, sorry about that smack on the back of the head, too. But it was the only way I could get control of the bus to drive it into the paddock, y’know?

Are me … are me socks too tight?

It’s all I could find to tie you up with …

Uhh …

Shit. Where was I … ?

Oh!

Yeah.

That was it …

Sway …

Y’know, I reckon you’re wonderin’ some things. Like …

… like …

… like why’s he called Sway, for a start.

Well … I wondered that myself, y’know? I mean, I knew it wasn’t his real bloody name, or nothin’.

He told me, but … he said there was this … this quote, y’know? Kinda famous if you’re into that kind of shit. Me, I’d never fuckin’ heard of it before.

It was …

… it was, “Pause awhile, And let my counsel sway you in this case” 1.

Something like that. Some … some bloody guy with a spear. ‘Shake’ fuckin’ somethin’. Could’ve been ‘Shakin’ fuckin’ Stevens’ for all I bloody know.

Anyway …

What was … ?

Oh!

Yeah …

… next question!

bet I know … ! Eh?

Eh?

What did Sway say to me?

Well …

… well …

… like I said … his voice was …

… commanding.

I mean, I couldn’t bloody help myself, y’know?

And …

… an’ I’m pretty bloody sure you can figure out exactly what he fuckin’ said, Driver …

… considerin’ I just ate your bloody eyeballs.

Copyright © 2007 by David Scott Aubrey
All Rights Reserved
877 Words

This short story is a work of fiction. Any and all names, characters and/or incidents are either products of my imagination or are used fictitiously. Where any such resemblance may exist to actual persons (living or dead), actual events or locales, it is purely coincidental.

Please don’t assume that my characters speak for me or carry my own opinions on various matters in any way, shape or form (though some might – you never can tell).

1 “Pause awhile,
And let my counsel sway you in this case”.

– William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616); British dramatist and poet. Spoken by the character of Friar Francis, in Much Ado About Nothing, Act 4, Scene 1, l. Trying to help the distraught Leonato.

Talkback (A Short Story)

FOR THOSE OF you just tuning in, you’re listening to the Breakfast Show with Ross Davie and Peter Dick.

It’s coming up to six minutes to eight here on Talk Radio, triple-one-six, 4BC. Nearly time for the News, with Walter Williams. And an update to that horrific accident on the Gateway Bridge earlier this morning, Walter … ?

Yes, Ross. Police say an overloaded semi-trailer carrying wooden palettes tipped onto its side. A Yellow Cab swerved to avoid it and ploughed through the concrete barrier and off the bridge. The driver of the cab was still alive when paramedics reached him, but died before they could free him from the wreckage of the car.

Police, fire and ambulance are still at the scene. A police spokesperson said they’ve already managed to contact the deceased man’s family, and are expecting to release his name soon.

We’ll have more in the Bulletin at eight.

Awful. Tragic. Absolutely tragic. Please, folks, if you’re out there, just slow down and take it easy.

Absolutely, Ross. Okay, thanks, Walter. We’ll hear more from you at eight.

Almost time to pay some bills, but – before that – I reckon we’ve got just enough time for a call … from … Andy, from Mt Gravatt. Y’there, Andy … ?

Is that Ross … ?

Yeah, mate.

Aw, sweet! I’m a huge fan, mate!

Aw, steady on, Andy. He’s having enough trouble fitting his head through the door as it is.

Is that Peter … ?

Yeah, Andy.

Andy … ? Andy …

Ross … ?

Yes, Andy. Listen, pay no attention to Peter, Andy. He’s just jealous because of that poll we had earlier that stated that men who are … let’s say … leaner in the hair department are more … attractive. More virile.

Dead silence on that joke there, Ross. What’s on your mind, Andy … ?

Well … I’m a bit nervous, actually.

Don’t be nervous, Andy.

Yes, Andy. Nothing to be nervous about. Not unless you have hair …

Sorry, Andy. Go on …

It’s all good, Ross … well, I’m a first time caller. Been a big, big fan for a long time.

Yeah, mate. That’s great …

You in particular, Ross.

Well, Andy, somebody has to be.

Aw, and you, too, Pete.

Look, I just called up about that accident …

Ah. Awful, awful tragedy. Folks, I’ll say it again, please, just take it easy on the roads this morning.

Absolutely, Ross. Especially in this rain.

Yes, Peter. Go on, Andy …

Well, I drove a Yellow Cab for a little while.

How long, Andy … ?

Aww … about a year? Up until I was twenty-three. I was in Uni right up to just before I turned twenty-two.

So … about a year then … ?

Yeah.

Were you involved in any accidents during that time, Andy?

Ahh … just the once …

What happened?

Well … it’s hard to remember, really. It all happened so fast. But … I do remember that I was on the Gateway Bridge. It’s just a jumble of images, though. It’s why I’m not driving anymore, though. I know that …

Mmm. How did you fare out of it, though, Andy? Did you sustain any injuries … ?

Y’know … I do remember – really strongly – the guy from the ambulance …
The Paramedic … ?

Yeah. I mean, there must’ve been more than one, but there was this one guy I remember really strongly …

Absolute champions, our Paramedics.

Indeed, Ross. Go on, Andy.

Well … I remember he was … he must have found out my name from my ID tag or my Display Card, or something. I remember him calling me, “Mr Sørrücraft, Mr Sørrücraft. Andy … ”. But … everything was going grey around the edges … everything was starting to go black.

Here’s the funny thing! I remember thinking that you guys had been my absolute favourites over the years. Listening to you guys is what helped keep me sane sometimes. Really! I just had to call you, somehow …

Aw, well, we’re glad you did, Andy!

Absolutely. Always like stories where people fought their way back after adversity. How long did it take you to recover?

Sorry to interrupt, Pete. That’s an interesting surname, Andy. Is that Norwegian, or Dutch, or something … ?

Andy … ?

Nope. He’s gone.

He hung up?

Gone.

Okay, well, thanks for the call, Andy.

Yeah … !

Okay … time for a break, then we’ll be back with the News with …

Er … excuse me, Ross …

… Walter Williams from the News Desk, everyone! You’re on in about a minute or two, there, mate.

Yes … uh …

You seem a bit perplexed there, Walter … ?

Uh … well … it’s just that … well … the police have just given the name of the man who died in the crash. He was from Mt Gravatt, twenty-three year old …

… uh huh …

… Andy Sørrücraft …

… uhh …

Well … well that must have been a mistake, or something …

Or a coincidence, surely …

That’s right. Twenty three year old Andy Sørrücraft from Mt Gravatt was just talking to us …

But …

But what … ?

Well … there can’t be that many people named Andy Sørrücraft from Mt Gravatt who are twenty-three, can there … ?

Well, no, Peter, but the poor gentleman who died in the crash was killed just over an hour ago. It couldn’t have been the same person talking to us on the phone just then, could it … ?

… uh …

… um …

… we’ll uh …

… we’ll just take a break here on 4BC …

Copyright © 2006 by David Scott Aubrey
All Rights Reserved
962 Words

This short story is a work of fiction. Any and all names, characters and/or incidents are either products of my imagination or are used fictitiously. Where any such resemblance may exist to actual persons (living or dead), actual events or locales, it is purely coincidental.

Please don’t assume that my characters speak for me or carry my own opinions on various matters in any way, shape or form (though some might … you never can tell).

Crack, Shatter and Plop (A Short Story)

WAL LIKED A good crack.

First thing he did in the morning was crack. Before he even opened his eyes, he stretched his arms out in front of him and opened his hands, pausing to savour the inevitable, before clenching his hands into fists. Multiple cracks would issue forth, filling the room, as gasses escaped from between his bones.

He’d then revolve his wrists, deriving almost ecstatic joy from the rolling thunder that came from them.

That done, Wal would place first his right hand against his left wrist and then his left hand against his right wrist. Both times, a sickening crunch gushed from his elbows.

Sitting up in bed and opening his eyes, Wal would then take on the challenging task of cracking his neck:

It was challenging, because sometimes – especially first thing in the morning – it hurt. Only a trained chiropractor should have attempted the manipulations that Wal delighted in. But Wal didn’t care.

A twist of his head – with one hand on the back of his noggin and the other under his chin – produced ten or twenty ‘good cracks’ from his neck and upper spine. Reversing the process, he got ten or twenty more.

God, Wal loved a good crack.

Wal then rubbed the sleep out of his eyes before tackling his back. He placed his fists in the small of his back and punched. The sounds that shot out could have made the weak-of-stomach vomit.

But Wal wasn’t finished …

Moving his fists up as far as he could manage, Wal gave himself another punch to the back and was rewarded with the satisfying (to him, anyway) pop of his sternum. His shoulder joints got a look-in, too, popping in unison.

Pulling his legs into a cross position, Wal then placed his right hand on the bed behind him as far as it would go and the other on his right knee. He then proceeded to twist as far as he could manage.

“Lovely, oh, lovely”, he thought, as his lower back clicked and crunched with the turn.

The opposite position produced the same results, though on the other side.

Wal then stretched his legs out in front of him and brought his knees up slightly. He hooked his left arm under his right knee. He then brought his right hand down hard on his thigh – a sudden punch.

Obscenely, his right leg popped and clicked at the pelvis, the ball shifting slightly from its socket.

Again – but this time on the left.

Crunch. Pop. Crack.

Wal then lay back down and extended his right leg into the air before bending it savagely.

‘Crack’, went his right knee.

And again on the left.

He rolled his ankles around until he was satisfied at the percussion they produced, before setting to work manually pushing against his toes for the cracks they’d give him.

Wishing he had more bones to crack, Wal figured that it was time to finally get out of bed.

He swung his feet over the side, moved to stand up …

… and every single bone in his body – sick and tired of the constant abuse over the years – instantly turned to powder within him.

Now nothing more than a pile or oozing human sludge, Wal slipped from the bed to the floor in a heap of agonized flesh and blood and internal organs and screaming nerves barely contained within his twitching skin.

Nevertheless, through the savage agony that assailed him, part of him was sad at the fact that he’d never be able to crack again.

Copyright © 2006 by David Scott Aubrey
All Rights Reserved
594 Words

This short story is a work of fiction. Any and all names, characters and/or incidents are either products of my imagination or are used fictitiously. Where any such resemblance may exist to actual persons (living or dead), actual events or locales, it is purely coincidental.

Please don’t assume that my characters speak for me or carry my own opinions on various matters in any way, shape or form (though some might … you never can tell).

Zoo (A Short Story)

It was only meant to be a quick stopover on his way up north, really. But the snap strike by the Transport Worker’s Union meant that the bus wouldn’t be in until well after six.

Which meant that Don had a little over seven hours to kill.

He moaned about it all a little, but soon decided that – since he was in town, anyway – he’d make his way to the Zoo.

After all, it was virtually an icon, and at least the taxi drivers were still on the job.

It wasn’t more than five minutes by cab from the station in any case, and he soon found himself lining up at the huge gates.

He’d seen the place loads of times on TV. You couldn’t miss the host if you tried. Still, after following the group on some of the tours, it seemed he had. There was no sign of him.

Don figured that he must’ve been in America, filming another one of his series.

Still, it wasn’t like he was a major fan, or anything.

It just would’ve been interesting to have seen him.

All the series and the ads made you think he was there, after all.

In any case, he couldn’t complain about the Zoo itself.

It was magnificent!

No expense had been spared to provide the animals with environments perfectly suited to them. And he couldn’t believe the size of some of the habitats! The Zoo itself was on hundreds of acres, with over fifty separate habitats – some housing only three or four animals!

There was a huge staff there, each team specializing in the care of the particular animals they were looking after. There were on-site vets trained in the treatment of each type of animal, too. Regular health checks. And the best food was provided for them …

Even the animals’ emotional needs were provided for. The carers said in their presentations that mental stimuli was vital for the animals.

Take the lions, for instance. When the carers would put food out for them (food which – apparently – cost prodigious amounts per year) it was in a different place in the habitat each time. Sometimes inside a log, or under some overhanging rocks. Other times up a tree. It wasn’t just hurled into the same part of their enclosures. The animals would grow fat and lazy. They had to work for it a little, which kept them from getting bored.

Don learned about the atrocious conditions in which animals used to be kept in zoos of the past. Little concrete cages and bars, where the poor things could only pace up and down all day. A lot of them ultimately died of madness, essentially.

Don tried to imagine what it would have been like for them – how people used to treat them. Trapping them. Confining them. How the poor beasts would have felt – stuck in a concrete cage for the rest of their lives, never able to touch the ground again, or run through the grass of their homelands.

It made him almost feel ashamed to be human.

But a look around at the incredible job that had been done at the Zoo – at how far people’s understanding and treatment of animals had come, at the compassion and genuine concern for the welfare and wellbeing of the animals shown by the dedicated people who worked there – filled him with a sense of hope and pride.

Even though the big man himself wasn’t there, Don still learned a lot from the people delivering the presentations. He had thought that he knew a fair bit about the wildlife in this country, and a reasonable amount about some of the animals outside it, but he felt that he’d learnt more in the couple of hours since he’d walked through the front gate than he had in a long time.

For instance, he’d learned that the animals that scientists knew about weren’t all that could exist. New species were being found all the time, all over the world. Even locally. It was extreme hubris to think that people had discovered every type of creature on the planet.

The Zoo was an amazing place … and a magnificent experience.

After a mouth-watering (but late) lunch, Don felt like breaking away from the main group, and so – as the crowd headed off for other presentations – he found himself following a tidy walkway into a beautiful rainforest.

The canopy grew thicker and thicker and the path changed from neatly-raked pebbles to bare dirt track as he strolled, and it was a good hour or so before he noticed that he was alone.

Figuring that he’d wandered onto a private path somewhere – perhaps for staff use only (he must have missed seeing the signs, or something, while looking at the rainforest) – Don stopped and checked his watch.

It was a bit later than he’d thought.

He thought he’d better start finding his way back so that he could get his stuff from the hotel and get down to the station to be ready for when the bus showed up.

He started back along the path the way he’d come, but soon realized that none of it looked at all familiar.

He shook his head in bewilderment.

He must have been looking up at the rainforest and just enjoying it so much that he hadn’t even noticed where his feet were taking him.

Still, he envisioned that – if he just stuck to the path (and kept his eyes on it, this time) – he’d find his way back to the main parts of the Zoo sooner or later.

So … he started walking.

The gentle trilling of birds accompanied him as he walked. Shafts of sunlight fell through the trees from low on the horizon. The heavy canopy made it difficult to see, and Don was a bit concerned about how late it was getting.

But not too concerned.

The environment was very soothing.

Which made it all the more jarring when he saw the leg sticking out of the bushes up ahead.

He stopped and shook his head.

It couldn’t be.

But it sure looked like it.

leg. A woman’s bare leg – about thirty metres ahead of him – sticking out of the low bushes that ran alongside the path. The heel of her foot was just lying on the dirt of the track.

Head tilted back a bit as though something were going to bite him, Don nevertheless moved forward, wondering if it was – perhaps – someone who’d had a turn of some kind. Perhaps an epileptic. Or someone who’d had a stroke, or something.

He noticed that the canopy was darker than at any other part of the track he’d been on.

He looked around.

Nobody was around to help him.

Even calling out – first to anyone that might be around who could come running to help, then to the woman herself – didn’t help.

There was definitely nobody around.

The leg was barely ten metres away now, and Don was surprised that he still couldn’t see the rest of the woman’s body. He put it down to th fact that the bushes were so thick where her leg was pushing through them, and hoped that she was still alive.

He had to blink a few times because it was getting so dark. Either the canopy of the rainforest was cutting off really large parts of the light, or it was closer to sunset that he’d thought.

Or both.

The path narrowed a lot as he got closer, the bushes on either side seeming to reach out to hem him in.

But he pressed on.

When he was about a metre away, Don crouched down and reached out a hand. The combination of bushes and canopy and fading sunlight was really making it difficult for him to make out any detail, so he couldn’t be one hundred percent sure when he thought he detected something strange-looking about the woman’s leg.

He reached out, just to try to tap her on the shoe, to see if he could wake her up that way. If he couldn’t, he figured that he’d have to try to get under the bushes and maybe drag her out.

But … what if she had internal injuries, somehow? He knew he wouldn’t be able to move her, then. It’d just make things worse.

Then … her foot twitched.

Sweating – despite the fact that the afternoon was cooling down considerably – Don backed up a little.

The woman’s foot …

When it twitched … it didn’t look quite … right … somehow.

“Hello … ?”, he said, reaching out for her once again …

… as something reached out for him.

The woman’s leg had been some sort of tail – camouflaged to resemble a woman’s leg and lying out on the path to attract him, like a rattlesnake would use the rattle of its tail to attract prey.

As whatever it was came for him – all teeth and claws – Don thought of something he’d heard during one of the presentations.

It was about lions.

About people who’d been attacked by them and lived to tell of it.

He’d learned that – somehow – these people reported a feeling of extraordinary calm as the lion attacked them. They also reported a lack of pain as the lions inflicted heinous injuries.

Don hoped for that.

Prayed for it.

But it didn’t happen.

Without even the ability to scream because whatever it was had savaged his vocal chords by digging either its claws or teeth into his throat, Don felt every slice and laceration – every puncture and wound as they happened.

He could feel great strips of himself being torn off and cast to either side of his body as whatever it was sought his insides. His own blood sprayed into his face with the pressure of a garden hose.

“Artery”, he figured …

… before his wounds became too much for his mind – his life – to bear …

… and he gave up the ghost.

The creature – having killed its prey – began its meal in earnest. Unbelievably powerful jaws split bone and sought out first the liver and then the kidneys. A rough tongue lapped the blood that had all but covered Don’s body. Deadly incisors gouged strips from his torso, his neck.

Sitting in what those in the business call a ‘high hide’ – a secure platform high in a tree where watchers can observe animals without interfering with their behaviour – two people moved.

The man’s eyes were wide open and the look on his face was one of pure rapture.

His wife’s voice – as strongly accented as his, though as different from it as chalk and cheese – was hushed as she leaned over to speak to him.

“It’s amazing! I’ve never seen anything like it! And you first saw it yesterday? Where did it come from?”

Pushing his blonde hair out of his face and adjusting his khaki shorts so he could change position and get a closer look at the beast, the man – who hadn’t been at any of the Zoo’s public displays that day, but had been there (in the high-hide all day) – shook his head in wonderment.

Crikey! I dunno, darlin’ … ”

” … but I do know that it’s gonna be real cheap t’ feed the little beauty!”

Copyright © 2007 by David Scott Aubrey
All Rights Reserved
1,887 Words

This short story is a work of fiction. Any and all names, characters and/or incidents are either products of my imagination or are used fictitiously. Where any such resemblance may exist to actual persons (living or dead), actual events or locales, it is purely coincidental.

Please don’t assume that my characters speak for me or carry my own opinions on various matters in any way, shape or form (though some might … you never can tell).