Friday, 12 April 2013

Karen

Apologies to anyone who came here looking posts L to R, I'm more than a little behind, but I'm persevering.

---

Karen
Karen was crouched in a ball on the floor with her hands clamped over her eyes. She had resisted all attempts to make her interact with the others. She moved her left hand away from her eyes and down toward her pocket. Her other hand remained firmly in place over her right eye. Her left eye flicked open and she took in the room. She was alone. She could hear the sounds of others behind her. Her left hand snaked back up from her pocket, but now it held a precious cargo. She brought it level with her face, but rested it on the floor. She could feel the prickly carpet on her palm. Her left hand joined the right and she began to crawl slowly forward. So slowly, that a casual observer might not have realised she was moving at all.
It took her several minutes to cross the room. When she stopped, her forehead was almost touching the skirting board. She had arrived.
Armed with her cargo, she sprang to her feet. Her hand darted around the wall in a complex pattern of lines. Between Karen and wall, a piece of chalk betrayed the path her hand had taken across the pale green paintwork.
‘Oh God, she’s at it again.’ one nurse said before calling out to another ‘Jim!’
As a pair, they rushed over to Karen and grabbed an arm each. Jim wrestled the chalk from Karen’s hand, while the other nurse pushed her face first onto the floor.
‘I’ve got her.’ said Jim, as he knelt on her legs and held down her arms.
The other nurse stepped back from the restrained patient and stared over Jim’s head at the wall. A complicated series of lines and intricate interwoven shapes now adorned the wall of the day room.
‘What does it all mean?’ asked the nurse.
Karen smiled. She felt the prickly carpet on her cheek.

‘Go! Go! Go!’ shouted the captain without taking her eyes of the clock. Someone opened the back doors of the van and the platoon scrambled out. Seconds later the doors slammed shut. The driver opened his door and leapt out. He reached under his seat for a firearm and assumed his position to stand guard over the vehicle. In the darkness, he could see the others clustering around the rear of the van. Someone knocked on the doors. This was not the plan. The driver knew something had gone wrong. He looked to the captain. She was still sat in the passenger seat, but with her head in her hands.
‘Shall I go and see what the trouble is, captain?’
She nodded feebly. He raised his gun and walked almost sideways around the van with his back clinging to it. Upon his arrival at the rear of the van, he saw the other five members of the group stood about awkwardly.
‘It’s locked.’ said the Sergeant.
‘Don’t look at me.’ the driver replied. ‘Why do you need to get in anyway? What have you forgot-’
The driver didn’t finish his sentence. For the first time, he realised that the platoon was surrounded. Not just surrounded, but outnumbered as well. There were civilians everywhere. He estimated there were maybe a hundred of them in the street. The strange thing was that none of them were even looking at the armed soldiers in the midst. They were all staring up.

Joseph watched as the van’s back doors opened and some indistinct shapes clambered out. He watched as they tried and failed to clamber back in again. The passenger door opened and indistinct shape climbed out. Joseph stared, but he couldn’t distinguish where the figure was. Unexpectedly, he caught a glimpse of the shape as it passed in front of Mrs Hardacre stood on her lawn in a nightdress. Joseph only saw it briefly, but the silhouette appeared female.

Harry arrived at the bottom of the ladder in darkness and felt for the narrow door. He stepped through uncertain of his footing. He could see Ivy and the light from her torch about twenty feet away, but nothing of his immediate surroundings. He walked towards the light and it became apparent that they were in a long corridor lined with doors. Ivy’s torch lit up one of the doors like a spotlight. She was staring at it, almost mesmerised.
Harry stopped, it was that corridor.
‘Are you OK?’ he asked. It startled Ivy.
‘I’ll be fine.’ she lied.
Harry looked at the door, but he wasn’t surprised to see ‘Ivy’ written across it. They stood in silence. Harry put his arm around his sister’s shoulders, but she shrugged him off.
‘It’s locked.’ she said.
‘Did you want to go in?’ asked Harry.
‘I don’t know.’
Harry turned looked at his door on the opposite wall. Even in the half-light he could still read his name on the outside. He pushed on the door and it swung away from him, but it was too dark inside to recognise anything within. Ivy turned and suddenly the torch lit up the room and it sprang into life. The blue walls sang as toys and books vied for his attention. Harry stepped in and cast a dark silhouette against the far wall. He picked a toy car up off the floor and looked at it closely.
‘It’s time to put away childish things.’ Said Ivy, and with that she left the doorway taking the torch and the light with her.
Harry’s room was instantly plunged back into murky blackness. He threw the car onto the bed and took faltering steps back toward the door.

Gloria moved to top up Emma’s glass only to discover that the wine bottle was empty. She stood up purposefully, but stopped and looked out into the garden instead
‘Didn’t it get dark quickly?’ she said.
Emma nodded and said ‘We’ve only been here five minutes.’
Annabelle knew they had been there much longer.
‘Oh, shall we have a look at that comet?’ said Gloria as she returned with another bottle.
‘Comet?’
‘Or is it a meteorite?’
‘Is that today?’ said Emma getting out of her seat.
Gloria picked a corkscrew up off the kitchen counter and twisted it into the new bottle’s cork. Annabelle could see from the tension on her face that drinking wine was hard work.
‘What is the difference between a meteor and a meteorite?’
‘I don’t know, ask me another.’
She handed the wine bottle to Annabelle and turned her attention to the patio door’s lock. The plastic handle and key proved problematic. Annabelle studied the bottle with the corkscrew sticking out of it like a cross.
‘Stalagmites go up and stalactites come down.’ Gloria imparted, in a voice that she hoped sounded informative.
‘What are you talking about?’ asked Emma.
‘So, maybe it’s only a meteorite when it comes down.’

---

Thank you again for reading.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Joseph

Another late one sorry. J is for Joseph.

---

Joseph
Joseph stood at the edge of the window frame with his back flat against the wall. He reached up and slid one curtain over to the centre of the window. He crouched down and crawled under the window and repeated the process on the other side. He breathed a sigh of relief. He moved across the room to a desk and opened a drawer. He rummaged around, and after a bit more of a search than he had been expecting, retrieved a pair of binoculars. Returning to the window, he parted the curtains slightly. Holding the binoculars vertically, he poked them through the gap and peered through one of the eyepieces. It occurred to Joseph that it was a shame to have to go to these lengths not to be seen, because he thought that he probably looked pretty damn cool doing this.
He’d seen the black van park outside his house and no one had gotten out. Joseph scanned every inch of the van, but from this angle the number plate was obscured by Mrs Parker’s dustbin. Nor could he make out any other distinguishing marks. Well, not that the van wasn’t distinguished enough. How many black vans with blacked out windows could there be on Britain’s roads?
Joseph stared intently at the tinted windows hoping to make out some shape beyond, but to no avail. It was still light out. He decided he’d try again when it was dark. Maybe whoever was inside would turn a light on and he’d be able to see something.

The inside of the van was still. The driver looked in the rear view mirror again. Everybody was avoiding his gaze. Nobody spoke. Everyone inside was tooled up and ready to go, but the order hadn’t come. The captain simply sat and stared at the clock on the dashboard.
Somebody sneezed and instinctively someone else said ‘Bless you’. There was a disapproving look from the captain, but she said nothing and returned her eyes to the clock.

‘Sorry, honey, that’s another thing that we just don’t know.’ said Gloria, as she pulled bottle of wine out of a cardboard box.
‘He could still be alive and we could pass him in the street and we’d never even know it.’ added Emma.
Annabelle thought about this news. She decided that since she had done without parents so far, she’d probably manage fine without them now.
Gloria poured two glasses of wine and placed a mug of water in front of Annabelle. Emma and Gloria began to talk as if she wasn’t there. This was more like old times.
Her questions seemed to spark an interest in her sisters and their conversation grew quite animated. They talked about what they might do to discover names and facts about their parents. Gloria suggested that there must be a paper trail to follow, which Annabelle didn’t really understand. Her sisters discussed going to the facility and searching for dusty filing cabinets by torchlight. They laughed and grew louder. Annabelle didn’t know why it was so funny.

The beam of the torch cut a swathe through the darkness. Ivy moved from room to room, often leaving Harry behind. He would usually catch up and become fascinated in some detail, just as Ivy moved off again. She rounded a corner and shone the torchlight on the end of a corridor that lay ahead. There were three doors. The door at the far end was metallic and she recognised it instantly as the lift that ran through the centre of the facility. To the right of the door was a panel with a single button on it marked “Press To Call”. Ivy pressed the button. Nothing happened.
Harry appeared behind her asking ‘What have you found?’
‘It’s the lift, but…’ By way of explanation, she pressed the button again. Nothing happened again.
‘Yeah, there’s no power. What are these?’
Ivy turned around and pointed the torch towards her brother. The other two doors each bore signs.
Harry looked at Ivy and for a moment he was certain they were thinking the same thing. As one they both said ‘Ah’ and shared a knowing look. They both read aloud the sign on a door, but sadly, they were each reading from different doors.
‘Records Room.’ read Harry.
‘Emergency Stairs.’ read Ivy.
Ivy pushed the door open to reveal that there were indeed Emergency Stairs beyond it.
‘Come on.’ she said, pushing passed her brother.
‘But Records Room.’ said a surprised Harry.
‘So?’ said Ivy, her face catching the torchlight in a way that cast a grotesque shadow on the ceiling.
Harry opened the Records Room door and said ‘Well, we can find out all those...’ He stopped talking. He had been plunged into darkness. Ivy had gone. He sagged and pulled the door closed. He turned and took faltering steps toward the Emergency Stairs. He was disappointed to realise that it was actually a ladder. He could see the light from Ivy’s torch flicking around as she climbed down. He sighed and began to climb after her.

Elsewhere, the darkness was interrupted by a streak of light as the meteorite came as close as to Earth as it ever would. Across the surface of the planet, millions of people prepared to watch something spectacular. They would not be disappointed.

---

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Ivy

Another day, another delay. I'm sorry. Anyway here's I for Ivy to try to make up for it.

---

Ivy
Ivy pushed the heavy door with her foot. It was unlocked and swung open easily on its hinges. She remained outside with her hands buried deep in the pockets of her overcoat. She gave it another push and leaned in to take a closer look. There was nobody inside. Her eye was drawn to the pattern of black dots that ran up one cream-coloured wall.
She crossed the threshold to get a closer look and froze when she realised that the pattern was not a bizarre design choice, but instead that the wall was strewn with bullet holes.
Ivy crept back through the door and was unsure what to do next. She heard a splash. Someone was coming. She shrank back into the hedgerow as far as she could to avoid being seen.

Harry tromped down the track and began to see the rocky mountainside among the greenery ahead. A large puddle lay in his way. He looked down at his shoes and sighed. He could have planned this better. He tried to find the narrowest part of the puddle to make his crossing, but had to resort to stepping right in the middle of it. His foot disappeared beneath the surface of the water. He could feel his sock getting wet and pictured a pristine pair of walking boots that purported to be waterproof in the cupboard under the stairs at home. He stepped on dry land with his left foot and pulled his right out, soaking wet trainer and all. As he walked the next few steps he grew accustomed to a wet flopping noise that his right shoe had acquired. He sighed again.
He rounded the corner and took in the sight of a security checkpoint, now apparently unmanned, with a large heavy security door behind it and a woman in a long coat trying to appear nonchalant. She turned around and Harry saw her face for the first time.
‘Ivy?’
‘Yes. Hello.’ Ivy replied.
‘What are you doing here?’
She gave him a withering look. There was apparently no answer forthcoming.
Harry gave up waiting and continued asking questions ‘What have you found? Is there anyone here? Oh, sorry, how are you by the way?’
Ivy stepped behind Harry and looked down the track to check that he hadn’t been followed.
‘Bullet holes, no and fine, I suppose.’ she answered attempting to betray nothing of her earlier alarm.
‘Bullet holes? Where?’ said Harry, presumably not interested in the answers to his other questions.
Ivy showed her eager brother the pock-marked wall. He marvelled at it and prodded and poked at the holes.
‘This is a crime scene.’ said Ivy.
‘So?’
‘So are you sure you want your fingerprints all over it?’
Harry pulled his hand back quickly as if burned by something in the hole.
‘Shall we go in?’ he asked.
‘That’s why we’re here.’
They stood silently for a moment.
‘Ladies first?’ said Harry gesturing to his sister.
‘No, thank you.’
He stepped inside, flicked the nearest light switch and looked up expectantly. Nothing happened.
‘I wish I’d brought a torch. I used to have one in the car, but-’
There was a click. Ivy was stood next to him holding a lit torch. Its beam cut through the gloom.
‘Onward.’ she said, and they headed into the facility.

After a couple of wrong turns, the driver of the black van had successfully navigated country roads and housing estate alike. He parked the van opposite a house. The captain had barked a series of orders and then added the caveat that nobody was permitted to leave the van until after dark. When no-one moved she offered to repeat her orders. The rear compartment of the van was suddenly thrown into chaos as five people attempted to ready apparatus, put away maps and load firearms. This would be difficult enough in a confined space, but was made all more impossible in the half-light provided by the tinted windows and while dressed all in black.
The captain turned to the driver and he sat to attention. She commended him on his driving and how he handled the shortcomings of his fellow officers. He was extraordinarily embarrassed. She went on to instruct him, in no uncertain terms, to relax and let the others get on with their tasks. His eyes darted up to the rear-view mirror and even in the dimness he could see the bitter expressions on their faces. He was in agony.

Annabelle’s attention alternated between Gloria and Emma as her sisters attempted to explain their family’s convoluted family tree. They had different opinions of which parts were important and kept getting bogged down in what Annabelle thought was gossip. Emma said something that made Gloria laugh uncontrollably.
‘I asked about our father.’ said Annabelle.
Gloria and Emma stopped talking and looked her at her. They looked at each other and both attempted an explanation. Upon hearing the other speak they both stopped and politely offered to let the other one do the talking.
Annabelle exhaled noisily.
Gloria shuffled in her seat and said ‘I’m sorry, Annabelle. It’s too easy to get side tracked by what we do know and forget about what we don’t know.’
‘We don’t know who our father is?’ said Annabelle slowly.
‘We don’t. We don’t know who any of our mothers were. Aside from little things we don’t know very much at all.’
Annabelle reached into the fruit bowl and turned the banana around to transform the happy face into a sad one.
‘What little things?’ Annabelle asked.
‘Well because we all have the same father, we can work some things out about our mothers.’ Emma said as she stood up and walked over to the patio door and looked out into the distance.
‘What things?’ Annabelle repeated forcefully.
‘Well, my mother must have been black’ said Gloria pinching the skin on her arm. She reached out to Annabelle’s arm and stroked it. ‘And your mother must have been white.’
Emma turned around and added ‘Some of us have different blood groups, which means if we knew what our father was, we’d be able to work out what our mothers were.’
Annabelle didn’t know what a blood group was, but it didn’t sound like something she would want to join. She realised that both Emma and Gloria were using the past tense.
‘Are they still alive?’ she asked them.

---

Thanks again for reading. I'm going to make a concerted effort to make up some lost ground over the next couple of days.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Harry

Apologies for the lateness of this, but here is my H post.

---

Harry
Harry hung up the phone. Uncertain what to do, he picked the sponge up off the floor. If he was quick he could follow the van, but then what? He wandered back to his car and put the sponge into a nearby orange bucket. He opened the car door, but didn’t get in. Instead, Harry stood staring down at the water running off the car’s bonnet, dripping onto the ground and forming a soapy puddle. He looked over at the empty road that the van had taken and then up at the mountain that loomed over the village. He climbed into the car and drove in the same direction as the van, but Harry wasn’t trying to follow them. He was going back. The orange bucket awaited his return.

The black van thundered down narrow meandering country roads. Huge hedgerows loomed over it from either side. The driver was uncomfortable. He didn’t usually have to struggle to keep his eyes on the road, but then the captain didn’t usually sit in the passenger seat next to him. It was rare that she would ride with the rest of them at all. He could see her out of the corner of his eye and it was niggling at him. He was relieved when she said ‘Sergeant?’
He was off the hook. ‘Yes, ma’am’ came the reply from the back of the van.
‘At the next fork in the road are we turning left or right?’
The driver heard a noise like a series of tiny thunderclaps as maps were unfolded and his confidence was short-lived when his sergeant answered with an uncertain ‘Well’.
‘Well what?’ asked the captain.
‘Sorry, captain. I’m just-’
‘Just quicker.’
The fork in question was almost upon them. The driver began to slow down hoping to give the sergeant more time. It felt like an eternity before he finally said ‘Right!’
As the van sped up and turned right down the lane, the driver heard the captain say under her breath ‘You’d better be.’

The school bell rang and Frank headed to his office to change out of his overalls. He waded through children intent on heading in the opposite direction. There was a smattering of parents in the hallways as well and he went through a familiar routine with each of them. They all initially smiled. Then the smile would fade as they saw his overalls and whatever tool he happened to be carrying today. Finally they would shore up the smile again out of the sense of guilt. He saw this played out at the end of every day. Normally he could take his time getting ready to go home and allow the corridors to quieten down, but not today. Today, he had somewhere to be.

Harry drove along the road that would take him up the mountain. He arrived at a fork in the road, turned left and would never know how close he came to catching the black van he had tried to convince himself he wasn’t following.
The road snaked up the side of the mountain and grew steeper the farther he went. The trees thickened and more frequent, almost blotting out the sky. Suddenly he took a sharp turn to the right into a small overgrown track and stopped the car. Harry got out of the car and headed down the track. He could hear birdsong. He was surrounded by greenery and nature. He rounded a bend and the image of Eden was rudely interrupted by a military facility pretending that it didn’t exist.

Emma and Gloria exchanged looks. Gloria guided Annabelle over to a chair and sat opposite her. She took a deep breath. ‘Annabelle, I thought you knew.’
‘Knew what?’ asked Annabelle.
Gloria moved the fruit bowl to the centre of the table and straightened a pile of magazines.
‘Well, now it sounds like they’re dead.’ said Emma. Annabelle gasped and she immediately felt guilty. ‘Oh, they’re not dead.’
Annabelle was reassured, until Emma added ‘Not as far we know.’
Annabelle looked to Gloria for an answer, but she said nothing.
‘What do we know?’ Annabelle asked looking down at the fruit. It occurred to her that none of the apples had little green leaves on. Apples in storybooks always had little green leaves on.
Gloria cleared her throat and said ‘You see, the thing is we’re sisters, the three of us and all the others too. But technically we’re half-sisters.’
‘Half-sisters?’ Annabelle repeated as she picked up the apple.
‘Yes, now it doesn’t mean we are any less related, but we all have different parents.’
Annabelle placed the apple on top of the magazine over the smiling face of a woman on the cover.
‘We all have different parents? You’re confusing her.’ said Emma, not really helping.
Annabelle looked back at the fruit bowl and laughed. The remaining apple, orange and banana had conspired to make a face that smiled back at her.
‘There are twenty-six of us.’ Gloria tried again. ‘Twenty-six brothers and sisters, and we all have different mothers. Twenty-six mothers, but we all share one father.’
‘Who?’ Annabelle asked the face in the fruit bowl.

---

Thank you for reading.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Gloria

Week two and G for Gloria. Again it probably makes a great deal more sense after reading A, B, C, D, E & F...

---

Gloria
Gloria slept. The doorbell rang and she groped for the sleep button of her alarm clock. The doorbell rang again and once more she reached for a button to turn it off. As her searching fingers ventured across her bedside table, they knocked a glass of water to the floor. Now she was well and truly awake.
She sat up in bed and rubbed her eyes. She looked down at the sodden carpet and sighed.
The doorbell rang a third time and realising her mistake, Gloria clambered out of bed. She stood in the middle of the puddle as she pulled her dressing gown off a nearby chair. She struggled into it as she headed to the front door.
The doorbell rang a fourth time.
‘I’m coming, I’m coming.’ Gloria shouted, adding under her breath, ‘This had better be important.’
She reached the front and could make out two figures through the frosted glass. Their features were mangled by a pattern of leaves etched into the glass.
Gloria knew who it was. She took a deep breath and opened the door.

Miles away, a man washing his car watched as the black uniformed platoon silently, although not subtly, marched through the village. They rounded the corner and filed out of sight. Abandoning his car in favour of his curiosity, he started after them with his sponge still in hand. One by one, they were climbing into a van parked under a lamppost. It was a black van with black tinted windows. As soon as the last member of the platoon was inside the van, the two passengers sat nearest to the rear doors, pulled them closed and they drove away at high speed. The van turned right around and began driving back toward the onlooker. The front windscreen was also blacked out. He wondered if that was legal. The van sped up and was bearing down on him. He dropped the sponge and threw himself out of the path of the van. It rocketed passed him through the village square.
He picked himself up off the ground and watch the van disappear out of sight. He looked down at the sponge. There was a muddy tire track running straight over it. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his mobile phone and dialled a number. He waited until someone picked up and said ‘Hello, it’s Harry. We may have a problem.’

Annabelle and Emma sat in Gloria’s kitchen while she changed. They sat in silence. Emma looked at her sister. Starved of human contact, she would have expected Annabelle to want to do all the talking, but she seemed very comfortable with silence. For Emma, the wait was torture. Eventually Gloria bustled in looking more than a little flustered. Emma immediately felt better and said ‘I’m so sorry we woke you.’
‘Oh, don’t be silly, this is much more important.’ said Gloria.
Gloria stepped in front of Annabelle who craned to look over her shoulder. Gloria hugged her and stepped back holding her by the arms. She realised that she didn’t have Annabelle’s full attention. She turned to see that her sister was staring through the patio doors at a cat in the garden.
‘Annabelle has a question.’ prompted Emma.
Annabelle’s question couldn’t have been further from her mind. She was enthralled by the cat as it sinuously worked its way across the lawn.
‘Nothing, you couldn’t answer I’m sure.’ Gloria offered.
‘Well, we called Frank and he was reluctant to talk about it, but I think he’ll come round.’
Annabelle climbed off her stool and walked into a slow crawl moving towards the large glass doors, mimicking the lithe and twisting motion of the feline.
‘Is that your cat?’ Emma asked.
‘No, it must be a neighbour’s. It treats our garden like a big green litter tray.’
Annabelle’s face was close enough to the door that her breath misted up the glass, momentarily obscuring her view of the cat. She panicked and lost her balance, bumping into the glass. There was no pain, but plenty of surprise. The cat was startled and stopped in its tracks. It stared briefly at Annabelle and fled the garden.
Gloria moved to Annabelle’s side and asked ‘Are you OK?’
‘She’ll be fine, but she needs you to answer a question.’
Annabelle watched the empty garden intensely and barely noticed as Gloria knelt down next to her.
‘What did you want to ask me, honey?’
Annabelle said nothing. Emma was getting sick of waiting and volunteered ‘She wants to ask you where babies come from.’
‘I beg your pardon.’ said Gloria turning back to face Emma.
‘I have brothers and I have sisters’, Annabelle said to the garden as much as anyone in the room, ‘but where are our parents?’.

---

Thank you for reading.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Frank

Last one for the week, I give you F for Frank.

---

Frank
Frank bounded up the steps and into the school as he did every day. He was smartly dressed with a tie and shoes so shiny his brother had joked that you could see the future in them. He left his identity at the door. Outside he was Frank, but in here he was Mr Jenkins. To tell the truth he would probably be Frank in the staffroom, but he never went in there. He glanced up at a clock and reflected that in mere minutes, a tide of children would wash down these corridors. Some would sink, some would swim and some would remain continually adrift.
He would have extended his metaphor further, but he had arrived. Not at a classroom as such, although he was sure you could learn a few things in here. He envied the members of staff that worked in classrooms surrounded by the sugar paper covered wall displays. He opened the door and entered. He closed the door behind him and flicked on a lurid orange lamp. He got changed out of his smart clothes and into a set of overalls. He heard children’s voices outside. In a little while he would hear the bell, followed by the frenzied running of a latecomer. The faces changed, but the children seemed to stay the same. He had a theory the every school had the same ratio of late children, bright children, naughty children, lazy children, smelly children, class clowns, bullies and bullied. If a bully left the school and the balance was disturbed, then the ratio would make another child sufficiently cruel to replace them. The natural order would be restored.
Frank positioned a bucket with wheels under a tap next to the sink, filled it with water and squirted something hygienic, yet noxious, into it. He wheeled the bucket over to the door and planted the mop firmly inside. He gripped the handle of the mop, opened the door and walked out pulling it behind him. The children were in their classrooms and the spaces in between were all his. He mimed punting down the corridor and danced back again with his mop as his partner.
Frank cleaned the school in half the time expected of him and spent the rest of his day listening. He wasn’t proud of his eavesdropping, but because it wasn’t gossip he was interested in, his conscience was clear. In reality, Frank had learnt a great deal whilst listening to lessons aimed at five to eleven year olds.
He worked his way around the school looking busy and listening to a bit of simple mathematics here or a bit of an all-consuming project about Egypt or the Aztecs. Storytime was always frustrating, because he usually had to move on before he got to find out what happened in the end.
The children were all talking about the meteorite currently flying by. Mrs Cartwright had realised that she wouldn’t get anything else out of them and changed the lesson accordingly. Frank polished the coat pegs and dusted the light fitting outside the classroom as he listened to her talk about some basic astronomy.
‘So if the weather is clear, then we’ll all be able to see meteor tonight, but you’ll have to ask your mummies and daddies very nicely to let you stay up to see it.’
Frank smiled. He didn’t think that mummies and daddies would thank her for that.
‘And make sure you wrap up warm, because it’ll be a cold one tonight.’
Frank’s mobile phone vibrated in his pocket. He rushed to the door to the outside world and rummaged around for the phone. The phone display read EMMA CALLING.
‘Hello Emma’, he said. Looking around and hoping no one would catch him on the phone.
‘Hello Frank’, came a voice, but it wasn’t Emma’s.
Frank hung up. He was immediately ashamed of himself. The phone vibrated again. He checked and it was EMMA CALLING again. He answered and instead said ‘Hello Annabelle.’

The village square was largely empty, apart from a man washing a car and a severe lady dressed all in black.
‘Can I help you?’ asked the car washer.
‘I doubt it.’, was the woman’s reply.
‘Suit yourself.’
She passed him and thought better of it. Turning back, she said ‘Actually, there is one thing.’
‘Too late now, in’t it?’, he said as he worked a large yellow sponge over the car’s windscreen.
‘Very well.’ and with that she was gone. The car washer was taken aback. He didn’t see her leave. His attention had wavered, but she couldn’t have just vanished, could she? He walked away from the car to see if he could catch a glimpse of her down a side street. He saw nothing and returned to the car.
A few moments later he heard a familiar voice shouting, ‘We are supposed to be undercover, sergeant! What is so stealthy about getting drunk and falling asleep in the pub?’
‘Oh, that’ll be her then’ the carwasher said to himself as he scrubbed the rear number plate clean.


---

As always thank you for reading and this probably makes much more sense after Chapters A to E.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Emma

Better late than never here's my E post. To reiterate, the plan is to post a circa 1000 word chapter of a novella a day.

---

Emma
Emma was running late. Her hair was wet and for a moment she thought she had her pullover on backwards. She didn’t, but these were valuable seconds she was wasting. She plucked her car keys and house keys out of the bowl by the door and hurried outside. She had one set of keys in her hand and the other between her teeth. She unlocked the car and got in. There was something she’d forgotten. She looked over at her house and the front door was still wide open. She groaned, got out and walked back to her front door. She tried to lock it, but the key wouldn’t fit. She looked down at her hand and after a moment of disbelief she realized she was trying to use her car keys in her front door.
Emma screamed in frustration, but with teeth clenched to keep her keys in she made a very odd sound indeed. She tried to swap the sets of keys over, but one fell from her grasp and hit the ground. Emma sighed. Her frustration had gone beyond a scream. She picked the house keys up off the floor and locked the front door before rushing back to her car and getting in
She started the engine and checked in the rear view mirror. Annabelle looked at her from the back seat.
‘Oh God. You’re here.’ said Emma.
‘Yes.’ Annabelle agreed after a brief pause.
‘But you’re here, and now.’
Annabelle was confused.
‘Never mind, I’m just glad you’re out.’ Emma switched the engine off, turned to face her sister and continued. ‘So the experiment is over. You must be the last one.’
‘The experiment?’
‘Yeah.’, she turned back to face the front. Emma was knackered and the day hadn’t even begun. She pulled her sleeve up to look at her watch. She was late and getting later. ‘Do you want to come in? I think I ought to call in sick.’

Light filtered through the gaps in the pub’s thick curtains. It made fascinating patterns as it shone through bottles on tables. No one in the pub was particularly interested in refraction. Instead they were all trying to pretend that their heads didn’t feel too small for their cargo. Each of the benches against the walls bore a prone figure in black.

Annabelle sat with Emma in her kitchen as her sister lied to someone on the telephone. She was working her way through a bowl of corn flakes, although couldn’t understand what she was supposed to do with the bottle of milk Emma had given her. Emma made her apologies and hung up.
Annabelle asked a question, but the words were lost in a mouthful of dry cereal. Emma asked her to repeat herself as she poured some water in the kettle and switched it on. She opened the bottle of milk, drizzled some over Annabelle’s corn flakes and buried a spoon in it.
‘Tell me more about the experiment.’ Annabelle asked again, this time unencumbered by her breakfast.
The answer wasn’t what Annabelle was expecting, instead Emma said, ‘I’m so proud of you. It was always easier for the rest of us. We had each other, but you were always separate.’
Annabelle picked up the spoon and made short work of the rest of the bowl’s contents.
‘And you’ve learnt so much, so quickly. Life is more complicated on the outside, isn’t it?’
Annabelle nodded.
‘I knew you were out. Just like I knew you were nearby. Of course, I didn’t realise just how nearby, but you were always good at hide and seek.’
‘You didn’t seek.’
‘What’s that?’
‘I hid, but you didn’t seek.’
Emma changed the subject and Annabelle listened, but the question about the experiment wouldn’t go away. Annabelle asked it repeatedly until she got an answer.
‘Alright, alright’, Emma relented ‘the facility was set up to do experiments. Well, one experiment in particular. There were twenty-six children, but only one experiment. You were separated out. I can’t remember how old we all were.’
‘Five.’
Emma stopped. The kettle had boiled and she missed it. She flicked the switch and it began to boil again.
‘I’ll take your word for it. So at five, you didn’t see the rest of us, but we were still there.’
‘I know. I could hear you all.’
‘You could. ’ said Emma as she poured herself a cup of tea. ‘Well, the scientists were doing a series of tests on us, but over the years they lost interest.’
‘Why?’
Emma looked out through the kitchen window at the tree being buffeted in the wind and said. ‘I don’t know, loss of funding, bad results, maybe. The up side was that they started to let us go. Did they ever tell you anything?’
‘No, but it got quieter.’
‘I’ll bet. Well one by one we would leave. Nathan was first. One day, he was just gone. We all wanted to know what had happened to him and they said he’d gone to a better place. We panicked. We thought he’d died. Then they panicked and told us, he’d gone out through the door at the end of the corridor. You know the one I mean.’ She looked to her sister and added ‘of course, you do.’
‘The tests stopped. Maybe they’d proven or disproven whatever it was they wanted. As the years went by there were fewer and fewer of us. When it was my turn, I left three of them behind.’
‘Four of us.’
‘Yes. The strange thing is that we all did what you’re doing now. We all went in search of the others.’
Annabelle wondered if doing this was her choice or someone else’s. Emma pointed at the left temple and said ‘something buried in here means I know where the rest of you are all the time. You can feel it too, can’t you?’
Annabelle nodded.
‘It used to drive me crazy, but I’ve learned to take comfort from it. So anyway, I went to see Nathan and Rebecca and the others. Nathan sold me that car, that’s what he does. He sells used cars. I had hoped that we’d all see more of each other, but we don’t really keep in touch. Well unless you count.’
Emma pointed at her left temple again.

The meteorite skimmed the atmosphere of the planet. It was unconcerned with Earthly matters.

---

Thank you again for reading.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Daniel

Here is my D post, but it probably makes more sense after my A, B & C posts...

---

Daniel
Daniel sat in the pub with his back to the door. He was nursing a pint. Someone sat down next to him. He drained his glass and caught the barman’s eye.
‘Same again.’ he said, raising his voice to be heard over the television.
The barman took his glass and as he began pouring another, he continued ‘And whatever the lady wants as well.’
Daniel turned to look at Annabelle for the first time. She was perched uncertainly on the edge of the barstool. Her eyes scanned the various bottles stood against the back wall. She pointed at an intimidating looking green liqueur. Daniel caught the barman’s eye again and said ‘Orange juice it is.’
‘So you’re out.’ Daniel said.
Annabelle nodded. They both sipped their drinks.
‘What are you going to do now?’ he asked.
Annabelle shrugged. They both sipped their drinks again.
‘Well, I’m glad we could have this little chat, thank you.’
He set his pint down on the bar and his attention drifted to the television.
Annabelle looked at her brother. She put her arm around him and said ‘You’re welcome.’
She regretted it almost immediately. He smelt bad. Annabelle didn’t want to make him feel bad so she stayed where she was. She looked down at his clothes. She could see the remnants of spillage from an earlier meal.
‘Something’s coming.’ she whispered.
‘I know, look.’ said Daniel gesturing at the screen and without taking his eyes off it.
Annabelle looked at the television and only then became aware of what the voices were trying to say.
‘…Astronomers assure us that it will not hit the Earth. It is believed that this meteorite could be almost twice the size of that which caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. A sobering thought for stargazers.’
‘That’s not what I meant.’ said Annabelle.

Annabelle sat with Daniel in the bar for a couple of hours. They talked and drank sparingly, before she got up to leave. Daniel tried to convince her to stay, but she was adamant. They said their goodbyes and Daniel told her that they ‘should do this again sometime’, but he was vague on detail when she pressed him. She lingered in the doorway and then walked out into the night.

As the barman called Last Orders, six people filed in. The new clientele were dressed all in black and appeared very conspicuous. One of them was very muddy. The small pub suddenly seemed very busy to Daniel. The muddy one limped over to the bar and ordered several drinks as the others stowed various cases and equipment under the tables. The barman worked quickly to pour the drinks and the muddy one paid him.
‘Come and help me carry these, corporal.’
‘Sarge.’
The barman reminded them that the pub would be closing soon and the platoon’s sergeant wheeled around as best as a man with a limp can and said with as much authority as someone covered in mud can summon, ‘We’ll see about that, won’t we?’
Daniel and the other locals decided it was time to leave.

---

Thank you again for reading.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Charlotte

This is the third chapter, but here are links to A and B.

---

Charlotte
Charlotte replaced a freshly plumped cushion back on the sofa as she glanced through the window. There was nothing there yet. She straightened the large book on the coffee table so that it covered a newspaper and in her head she counted through the jobs she had left to do. She moved from the lounge into the hallway and picked up a large heavy cardboard box of assorted detritus. She moved towards another door and sat awkwardly on the handle until it popped open.
‘Charlotte!’ a voice called from the lounge.
She sighed and shouted back a ‘What?’
‘Where’s my-’
‘In the spare room and no, you can’t have it now.’
She returned to the lounge to see her husband, Jeff, wearing paint-flecked overalls with the arms tied around his waist, a faded Iron Maiden t-shirt and on his face, a very perplexed expression. Charlotte offered ‘I’ve just finished getting the house all nice and tidy’ as an answer to a question he hadn’t yet asked.
He shrugged and moved to sit down.
‘Don’t sit down!’ Charlotte said urgently.
Jeff did exactly as he was told and hesitated in his descent. He stood at half mast with bent knees and a waggling posterior.
‘Why not?’ he asked as he teetered precariously. Jeff remained in this position as he listened to her answer. He began to regret this decision as the reply went on longer than he expected, but he was a stubborn man so he persisted.
‘We’re expecting a guest and it would be nice if just for once we could pretend that we live in a neat and tidy house that doesn’t look like a pig sty. I’ve put all the things you had laying around in the spare room. You don’t need them now, do you?’ it was clear to both of them that she didn’t expect an answer. ‘There’s no need for her to go in the spare room’, she continued, ‘unless she wants to stay the night. Oh God, we don’t want that. OK, don’t offer and hope she doesn’t ask’.
When his wife had finished he simply said ‘Oh.’
Charlotte retrieved the newspaper from between book and coffee table and was about to place it under her husband like a coaster when she saw the woman in the window.
‘Annabelle’, she said and moved to the window to open it.
‘Hello Charlotte’ she said.
‘How are you? Oh, what am I saying? Come in, come in.’
Annabelle gripped either side of the window frame and lifted her foot onto the sill. She began to hoist herself up.
‘No, no. Come round to the side. I’ll open the door for you.’ Charlotte said with obvious embarrassment, before she hurried out of the room.
Annabelle shrugged as well as you can halfway through a window. She looked at the man hovering over the armchair with his bottom in the air.
‘I’m Jeff’, said Jeff trying to make a better second impression.

Annabelle didn’t stay long. Neither Charlotte nor Jeff knew how long she had been stood at the window, but they both presumed she had heard everything. Annabelle hadn’t asked to stay the night, but Charlotte suggested it if only to assuage her guilt and give the impression that she and her husband had been talking about someone else. Annabelle declined, but did take Charlotte up on the offer of some shoes and socks.

After she’d gone Jeff plucked up the courage to ask Charlotte who this odd woman had been.
‘My sister.’ the answer came
‘Another one! How many have you got?’ he asked incredulously.
‘Eleven.’
‘Gordon Bennett. Anything else you need to tell me?’
‘No.’ she lied.
Jeff had met two of her sisters, Emma and Karen. He couldn’t remember which was which, but one of them had come to the wedding. He hadn’t taken much time to get to know them, but they both seemed well adjusted. He’d found Annabelle very odd company. She was clearly very intelligent, but na├»ve. Jeff had liked her, but he wasn’t sure why. He pulled himself out of his armchair to go and liberate his belongings from the spare room. As Jeff left the room he shook his head and said ‘well I wasn’t expecting surprises like this after twelve years of marriage.’
His wife paused before volunteering ‘I have fourteen brothers as well.’
Jeff’s face reappeared in the doorway with an incredulous expression on it.

The platoon had made their way down the mountain and combed the forest for clues. They found nothing. A report came through of a young woman in a white dress seen walking toward the church in nearby Peckford. After dark, seven figures, dressed all in black and armed to the teeth, stalked their way through the village square and on to the church. Another thorough search revealed nothing.
The platoon’s captain was leaning against a gravestone with her arms crossed. The sergeant sidled over and broke the news to her. She remained calm and simply said ‘Find something.’
She moved to go. The Sergeant stepped backwards to allow her to pass and vanished. She looked into the darkness. There was no sign of him. The black camouflage they wore wasn’t that good, she thought. She flicked her torch on and scanned the graveyard. There was still no sign. She looked down to see him clambering out of what appeared to be a green carpet that must have been placed over an open grave. The sergeant was dazed by the experience, but managed to report ‘I have searched the hole thoroughly and she’s not in here either, sir’ before attempting a pathetic salute.

Billy watched from the tree above as they found his ladder and freed the soldier that fell in Mr Moore’s grave. His eyes darted from soldier to soldier, and then again from gun to gun. Annabelle was in trouble. He was relieved that they weren’t after him, but wondered how long that would last.

---

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Billy

Chapter A is here.

---

Billy
Billy forced his shovel into the bottom of the pit and let go. The shovel stood upright. Billy followed suit as he tried to rub an ache out of his back. He turned around and saw a pair of feet. They were filthy, bloody and level with his face. He looked up at their owner. She was a woman in her twenties in a long white dress which had seen cleaner days with sandy blonde hair resting on her shoulders. She stared at him. He stared at her.

"Annabelle?" he said to break the silence.
"Yes", said Annabelle.
"I don't know why I said that. I knew you were coming."
"You did?" said Annabelle.

He moved to the ladder and climbed out of the hole. Annabelle stared down into it.

"What is it?" she asked, not taking her eyes off the bottom of the trench.

Billy was wiping his hands on a rag and watching her as it started to rain. He threw the rag on the grass and said "It's a grave".
"A grave what?" she said without taking her eyes of it.
Billy turned and began to walk away. "Come on, sis."
Annabelle looked over her shoulder and ran after him.

The hut was dry, but there was a funny smell that Annabelle didn't recognise. Billy dusted off a chair and gestured to it. Annabelle looked at the chair and back at her brother blankly. He sighed and steered her into the chair. He sat down opposite her on a crate and reached into a bag. He pulled out a flask and a plastic box before setting them down on a larger crate that served as a table. Annabelle hadn't realised how hungry she was until she read the words Vanilla Ice Cream written across the lid. She remembered having ice cream at the facility. She reached across and tore the top off, but was disappointed to see a collection of other foods but no frozen dessert. She picked up the lid again and studied the image very carefully. She put it down as Billy unscrewed the top of the flask and poured out a brown liquid. She pulled the box toward her and began to eat.
"Oi, that's my lunch” said Billy, which he instantly regretted "but I suppose you probably should have it." He watched as she polished off sandwiches, crisps and an apple at speed. He smiled as she struggled a little with the yoghurt, but she triumphed in the end.

They didn't speak again until the box was empty.
"When did they let you out?"
"It's been two days."
"Two days! No wonder you're hungry."
Annabelle peered down at the box more than once in the hope there was more food. There wasn't. They sat in silence again. Billy felt the need to end it.
"I never thought they'd let you go."
"Why?"
"Because you were the justification for what they did, without you it was all pointless."
Billy could see that his sister took this as a compliment. He didn't want to point out that wasn't quite how he meant it.
"What changed their mind?" asked Billy.
"I don't think they did. I think someone changed it for them." Annabelle replied.
"How do you mean?"
"I was told to leave because it was closing."
"The facility is closing? I never thought I'd see the day."
"Have you seen the others?"
"A few. I've been here four or five years and when people were released they all came this way."
"It was strange. I knew you were here even though I didn't know where here was."
"Well Leonard and Michelle got out together and then Ivy came by about a year after them, but I haven't kept in touch with any of them."
Another silence. Annabelle looked through the window. It was raining quite heavily now.
"Why are they closing the facility?"
"Men with guns came."
"Guns? What are you going to do?"
"I don't know."
"Well you can't stay here!"
There was another silence, but this time it would be Annabelle that broke it. She sat back in her chair and closed her eyes. She pictured herself back at the facility in the corridor. Doors ran the length of the corridor. There were thirteen on each side all bearing names. She closed her own door and then Billy's. Annabelle looked to her neighbour's room. The name upon the door took a while to come into focus. She opened her eyes and announced, louder than she probably needed to "I'm going to see Charlotte."

A door opened in the side of a mountain and a woman dressed from head to toe in black peered out. She rolled out a corpse in a bloodied white coat with her foot. She looked out at the sky, over the forest and then down at the dead man. Another black-clad man appeared behind her in the doorway. He awkwardly manoeuvred his pen and clipboard into one hand before saluting with the other and barking "No sign of the girl, sir."
"He wouldn't tell me anything. Even when I said I'd let him live."
"I don't think he believed you, sir."
"What is the world coming to when two government employees can't bring themselves to trust each other?”
"I think your sincerity was in doubt when you put the first bullet in him".
She glared at him and he added a "sir" a little too late.
She looked out at the view again and gave her orders without looking at him. "I want a complete inventory of this place. I want someone to check the air vents, rip up the floors if you have to. I want that girl found, sergeant.”
The Sergeant moved to go, before turning back and asking "And if they find her?"
"The new policy is simple. This place never existed. There is to be no evidence."
He stood with his hovering over his clipboard and asked "Could you be a little more specific, sir?”
"Kill her."
"Thank you, sir. It's good to have clarification. Otherwise-"
"Dismissed."

---

Thanks again for reading. I'll be back tomorrow.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Annabelle

Welcome to the first of my posts for the A to Z Blogging Challenge and I'd like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank Arlee Bird for starting this whole thing. My plan is to write 26 alphabetical chapters that will make up a novella. I'd love to know what you think of it.

---

Annabelle
Annabelle stood with her eyes closed. She stared intensely at the inside of her eyelids. It was as though she was searching them for some all-important detail. The view from the tower was just as beautiful as she remembered. She could see the snowy peak of the mountain and its rocky slopes below. Stark lines softened into the curve of a lush forest. Her eyes travelled down to the foothills and farmlands which surrounded the mountain. A brook flowed out of the trees and darted in and out of her view between green fields. It joined another stream and broadened. It ran under a bridge, passed the mill and through the middle of the village. Annabelle looked down on the village. She studied the roofs of the buildings. She knew which were houses and belonged to the blacksmith's forge, the apothecary and the tavern. She looked around the village square and saw smiling people going about their day.

She opened her eyes. There was no snow-capped mountain, no green fields, no babbling brook, no village square and no smiling faces. Only four grey walls. The same four grey walls she had spent the last twenty years looking at. Annabelle stood in the centre of the room with her arms outstretched. She could almost touch both walls at the same time. Almost.

She had heard strange noises that she didn't recognise and then the alarm. She knew the alarm because it sounded every week as a test, but this time it went on for hours before it stopped. She was glad of the quiet.

Annabelle moved to sit on her bed. Her eyes drifted from her open wardrobe to her bookshelf. Her gaze was drawn to the spines of her books. She was very proud of her little library and had read them all more than once. She had seven books.

The wardrobe door was always open. The other door was always closed. It had a hatch in the middle and opened out onto a corridor. Annabelle wondered if that made it a 'corridoor'. She had been out of her room, but not often, and when she came back she could always tell that someone else had been in and closed the wardrobe door.

Annabelle got up and walked to her wardrobe. It took her three steps. She reached in and pulled out a white dress identical to the one she was wearing. She hung it up next to the other three.

The hatch in the other door opened outwards and startled Annabelle. It always did. Lunch must be early today, she thought. She rushed over to her bed to see who was bringing her meal. Three times every day the hatch would open and someone outside would rest a tray of food on it. Annabelle liked to see as much of them as possible. For years, all she had seen was their torsos and hands. The torsos were covered in different clothes every time, but Annabelle got used to seeing the same pairs of hands over and over again. Some were brown, some were pink and one had long pointy red nails. Some wore rings, most wore watches.

She peered at the hatch and she couldn't see anyone. She saw the other side of the corridor, and the door opposite hers which bore the name Billy.

Annabelle realised that not only was there no torso and no hands, but there was no tray. She hadn't been particularly hungry, but now she worried that lunch wasn't coming. She stood up and walked toward the open hatch leaning left and right to try to see more.

A hand loomed into view and Annabelle shrank back to the safety of the bed. The hand grasped the door through the hatch and the door made a hissing noise. It sounded a bit like the noise the door made when it open on its own, but louder. The hand pulled the door towards it and it opened.

Annabelle jumped up onto the bed and pressed herself against the back wall.

The door swung outwards and a man stepped into the room. Annabelle didn't recognise him immediately. She looked down at his hand and felt a wave of familiarity. She recognised the bitten nails and the wedding ring. She knew those hands. They had brought her breakfast, lunch and dinner for several years. She looked at the rest of him. There were spectacles in front of his eyes. They were blue. He had a furry chin. He wore a long white coat, what looked like a red shirt and a small rectangle with a little picture of him smiling and the words PROF. PETER JENKINS written under it.

"Annabelle." He said, leaning in the doorframe. "You have to go."
"Where?"
"Anywhere" he said abruptly, he could see Annabelle searching his face trying to make sense of this. Disappointed in himself, he offered "Elsewhere" in a softer tone.
"Why?"
"This facility is being closed.” Her expression must have made it clear that she didn't understand, because he added. "There are men here. They're coming in through the front door, which means you need to go out through the back."

PROF. PETER JENKINS motioned her towards him with his left hand. He was holding his side tightly with his right. Annabelle took a tentative step toward him and he moved backwards into the corridor. She followed him out and stood outside her own door. She closed it and lifted the hatch shut. Her name was written on the outside. She ran her fingers over the letters and turned to see Billy's door.

She looked down the corridor and PROF. PETER JENKINS was quite a way ahead of her lurching from side to side. She started after him looking at the names on the doors either side of her. Charlotte, Daniel, Emma, Frank and the rest. She knew these names.

"Where are the others?" she asked.
"What others?"
"Olivia and Peter and the others." she said reading names from the nearest doors.
"Oh, they are long gone. You're the last one here, Annabelle."

The end of the corridor lit up and Annabelle saw PROF. PETER JENKINS in silhouette. She caught up with him and he ushered her outside. It was bright and her eyes hurt. She felt a breeze through her dress and she shivered. She looked down at her bare feet among the undergrowth.

PROF. PETER JENKINS was doing something to the door. She looked at his torso and she could see he was bleeding a lot. She reached out towards his reddening shirt and then looked up at his face. He pushed a button. Their eyes met and he said only "Go" as the door began to slide close between them.

Annabelle turned her back to the huge metal door. Ahead of her there were trees are far as she could see above her blue sky and mountain slopes. She started walking down the mountain. It was time to go and see Billy.

---

Thank you for reading. More tomorrow.