I wish I could

A thud, wet and sick. Pinging sounds as gravel hits the windscreen. A crack. A scream – I don’t know if the voice is real, or an echo that’s now permanently tattooed in my mind. All the noises of a world in a slow motion. Except for the radio. The music carries on at normal speed, absurdly bright. The taste of copper and ozone. I look, wanting not to see what I know I will see. Red streaks on glass. A strand of hair.

A white bubble on the screen of my phone says “Undo Typing”.

I wish I could.


Author’s notes

This is another drabble – a 100 word piece. It came about from a prompt to write something along the theme of “wish”.

© Kat Day 2017

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News: stories soon to be published!

A short update for those that follow this blog to say that I have two stories due to be published – yay!

The first is called “The In-between Place” and will be published in the online magazine Daily Science Fiction (DSF) in the near future. If you haven’t already signed up to DSF’s email service, I highly recommend it – they send you a lovely (very short!) story every single day, absolutely free.

The second is called “We Have Now” and will be published in the anthology 24 Stories. This anthology is being edited by writer, director and performer Kathy Burke and has been put together to raise money to support the PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) related needs of the survivors of the Grenfell tower fire. All the proceeds are going to the Trauma Response Network (a sister charity to Trauma Aid UK). The anthology contains stories on the themes of community and hope, 12 of which are written by well-known authors, and 12 of which have been written by relative unknowns – like me!

Please support this project if you can – it’s a great cause. You can pledge here to buy a copy of the book or, if you can’t do that, you can always follow @twenty4stories on Twitter and/or share a link – the more people that hear about it the better.

Thank you, lovely readers, for all your support!

The trip of a lifetime

Dear Han and Lettie,

Having a wonderful time in E. California. It’s so different from the forest – the rocks are the colour of cinnamon and chocolate and the sky is clear and bright, like peppermints. Tomorrow I’m going to visit the local “Nut and Candy Store”. I’m sure I’ll find some lovely knick-knacks to bring back. Maybe something pretty for the gables. I hope there’s air-conditioning. The heat here is ferocious. They say that if you crack an egg into a pan and leave it in the sun, it will cook. I can believe it – the ground is so hot it’s like a stovetop. It’s tough on my old bones! Thanks again for spending some of your windfall on little me – it’s been the trip of a lifetime,

Baba Rosina x

Furnace Creek Ranch, Death Valley

P.S. Look after the cottage, darlings, don’t eat me out of house and home!


Author’s notes

This piece came from this idea: What if Hansel and Gretel didn’t so much as push the witch into an oven, as send her away to one? All the places mentioned – the Nut and Candy store, Furnace Creek Ranch, Death Valley – are real locations. The witch’s name is an amalgam of the old “Baba Yaga” myths and Rosina Leckermaul, from the Engelbert Humperdink opera. 

© Kat Day 2017

A woman, turning

The silhouette twirled endlessly on Janet’s computer screen. It was the ponytail, she thought, that reminded her of her daughter. It was black of course, in the animation, but the outline… that was like Abby’s wheat-coloured hair had been, once.

If you see the girl spin both ways you’re using both sides of your brain!” yelled the caption. Janet chewed her finger. To her, it was always going the same way.

She looked at her phone, then pressed a button. It began to ring. Janet glanced back at the computer screen and smiled as, finally, the graceful dancer changed direction.


Author’s notes

This is an attempt to write something in exactly 100 words. Such pieces are sometimes called drabbles. Can you see the girl go both ways? I always see her moving clockwise. Maybe I need to make that phone call I’ve been putting off… 

© Kat Day 2017

Check out the PodCastle flash fiction contest!

This is a little break from my usual thing, namely (mostly) flash fiction stories, to write a little something about an organisation that does great work getting writers’ work out there for everyone to hear.

Escape Artists produce weekly, free audio fiction

This post is about Escape Artists, and Podcastle, and the Podcastle flash fiction competition, which you can go and participate in, right now.

For anyone who’s thinking, wait, Escape what? Pod what? Here’s some background… (if you already know all this, skip the rest and go and read the free, awesome, stories and vote, vote vote!)

Escape Artists produce FREE, weekly audio fiction. Yes, free. I know they say nothing in life is free, but this is totally, actually free. They do pay their authors and voice artists, but they mostly rely on voluntary donations to do so (via their Patreon and good old-fashioned PayPal).

There are four podcasts and they are all brilliant with incredibly high production values (seriously, ditch your Audible subscription and just subscribe to all these):

Last month (June) PodCastle accepted entries for this year’s Escape Artists Flash Fiction Contest. The criteria were that stories had to be fantasy (at least arguably, it’s a pretty flexible genre) and had to be 500 words or less. That was it. Simple.

In June PodCastle accepted 500-word, fantasy story submissions to this year’s Escape Artists flash fiction contest

And now it’s July and the contest is closed! But that’s cool, because it means you can read all the stories. And vote on them.

To protect authors’ publication rights the stories will be published on the PodCastle private forum. You have to register to access it, but that’s simple and quick and, once done, you can head straight over to the Flash Fiction Contest IV board and start reading, and voting.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I do have a story in the contest. But I’m not allowed to tell you which one – that might be cheating. Just go and vote for whichever stories you love.

There were quite a few entries and so they’re being managed in leagues. Like football only, much, much more fun (!) The stories with the most votes in each group will go forward to semi-finals, and then the best of those will go onto the final at the end of August.

Right-ho, so, here’s a quick summary:

  • Escape Artists are awesome, subscribe to their podcasts.
  • PodCastle is their fantasy podcast.
  • Sign up to access the Escape Artists forums and you’ll be able to read, and vote on, all the awesome stories from the recent PodCastle flash fiction competition.

That’s it – have fun!

Have I mentioned that you should sign to PodCastle podcasts? You should totally do that.

Jin 2: the slipper

Rina looked around, trying to blink away the memory of a strange, glossy blackness.

“It’s a tent,” she said at last. Cream-coloured canvas walls rippled in a gentle breeze which smelled of thunderstorms and something thick and floral. Cushions were scattered all around, jewel-bright colours darkened by lighting that gave the impression of candlelight, although Rina couldn’t see any candles. The space was large, with plenty of room to stand and walk about. A low, wooden table had been placed near one wall, more cushions around its sides. Little clusters of books lay on the floor, some open, some closed, some with their spines bent painfully back.

Jin nodded cheerfully, as though being transported from a room full of shouting people to a wedding marquee which the bride and groom had decided would make a nice first home was entirely normal and everyday.

Rina picked up one of the books from the nearest pile. “Mushrooms of the Northern Isles of Araniae?” she asked.

“I like to read,” said Jin, settling on one of the cushions near the table.

Dozens of questions bubbled in Rina’s mind. For some reason, the first sentence to make its way out was: “you said this was a craft.”

“So it is. The Slipper can move outside of what you understand as space and time. Which, I am certain, is very little,” she added.

“I did physics at school.”

“Of course you did, child. But-”

“Why do you keep calling me child? I’m not a child!”

“How old are you?”

“I’m nineteen!”

“I am four thousand, five hundred and sixty-seven of your years, approximately,” said Jin, calmly. “You are a child. As I was saying, human understanding is very limited. You struggle to comprehend anything you cannot describe with language. You know that there is no concept of the colour blue in your famous Homer’s Iliad? Blue did not exist in your minds until you invented a word for it.”

Rina’s knowledge of Greek mythology was limited to playing the part of Medusa in a school play, and she wasn’t even sure that was in the Iliad. “That can’t be right,” she protested. “What about the sky? And the sea?”

“Have you ever looked at the sea? It is only ever blue in childish drawings.”

“But…” Rina shook her head. “Why am I arguing about this? I don’t care. The only thing I know about Homer is that a cartoon character was named after him. I think.” She walked over to one of the canvas walls and pressed her hand against it. It gave slightly, but only slightly, and merged seamlessly with the floor and the ceiling. Where was the breeze coming from? “Thanks for rescuing me and everything, but how do I get out of here? I need to get home.”

“You do not.”

“I do. Mum hates it if I don’t get back when I said I would.” Rina felt in the back pocket of her jeans for her mobile.

“I meant, you do not get out of here. You cannot get ‘out of here’ without my leave, and I say that you stay,” said Jin cheerfully, glancing at her book. “Your plastic and glass thing will not work,” she added.

Rina stared, a terrible sensation of wanting to press ‘undo’ filling her gut. “I can’t go home?”

“You cannot. Do not make me eternally repeat it,” said Jin, waving a hand dismissively. “Accept it. Explore. The Slipper is larger than it seems.”

For the first time Rina noticed what looked like a fold in the canvas to the right of the table, a sliver of blackness behind it. A thought worked its way around her growing panic. “What if I wish to go home?” she asked slowly.

Jin inclined her head slightly as if inviting her to try it.

“I wish to go home!” said Rina.

Jin chuckled. “Very good. Now we have resolved that. You still cannot go home, because I cannot safely return to your world, and you cannot get there without me. You can demand it, or even wish it, as much as you like, but it will quickly become a very tiresome and circular dialogue.” She turned her attention back to her book.

Anger elbowed its way to the top of Rina’s emotions. “You’ve got to be kidding me! I helped you! I called that stupid dog because you told me he was lost, not some bloody guard dog! And now I’m trapped on your… your… this!”

Jin did not look up. “You requested that I take you.”

Rina moved towards the old woman. “I just wanted you to get me out of there!”

“And so I did.”

“You didn’t explain that it was a one-way trip!” Rina was now just two feet away from Jin, who was still staring at her book.

“You did not ask,” said Jin, mildly. “I suggest, child, that you cease this tantrum.”

“STOP CALLING ME CHILD!” Rina reached out and made a grab for Jin’s book, intending to fling it aside and make her meet her eyes.

She blinked. She was back on the other side of the tent, and Jin was still in her spot by the table. Rina ran at her, only to find herself moved back to the same spot. Again. And again.

“You realise,” said Jin, after the fourth attempt, “that I could destroy you? I am simply choosing not to. It is quite possible that I will get bored with this game. Are you sure you want to see how long that will take?”

“Why did you bring me here, if you didn’t have to?” spat Rina, breathing hard.

“You amused me.”

“So, what, I’m some sort of, of, dancing monkey?”

“Finally you understand,” said Jin cheerfully. She reached out and pulled on the fold in the fabric, creating a triangle of darkness. “It really could be very much worse. You are alive, you have not been disfigured by a vicious dog, and you find yourself on a craft which can travel through multiverses in the blink of an eye. One might imagine you would be excited. Now,” she waved her arm at the gap, “explore!”


More to follow soon…

Jin 1 – the beginning

Breathing hard, Rina looked around the room she found herself in. Its walls had been painted plain white, and it was lit with bright spotlights. The air was dry and cool. There were no windows, and no furniture except for a single pedestal in the centre which held some sort of brass antique thing.

There was only the one door, and she’d come through it. No other exits. Outside, she could hear the ear-slamming sound of the alarm, mercifully muted in here, and the sorts of bangs and thuds made by, say, people opening and closing doors quite violently whilst running around in heavy boots. They were not, on the whole, friendly sounds.

On the other side of the room, Jin smiled. Rina had thought she was… elderly when she’d first met her. A little slow on her feet. Perhaps a touch of arthritis here and there. Now, standing with one hand on her hip, she seemed considerably more sprightly. Old, yes, but more the kind of old person who ran marathons at weekends, waving cheerily at youngsters who were puffing and throwing water over their heads as she passed by without even breaking a sweat.

There was no way she’d ended up in this room by mistake. “So, how do we get out of here?” asked Rina.

Jin shrugged and nodded at the door. “You can always go that way,” she said.

Rina noticed the emphasis. “And you?”

The woman said nothing, but the wrinkles around her eyes twitched.

“Come on, you have to help me! I can’t go out there! I’ll be caught, arrested! I can’t have a criminal record!”

“You should not have followed me.”

“There was a huge dog about to rip my arm off!”

“I taught you the whistle.”

“You taught me the whistle to make the damn thing attack me so that you could get in here!” Outside the door, Rina thought she could hear raised voices. It had clicked when she’d slammed it behind her. Had it locked?

“Perhaps. But you had a choice. You could have run the other way.”

“Funnily enough, I had the idea that the very fast dog with four legs might catch up with me!” There were bangs from the door. Rina thought she heard someone say something about a key.

“They’ll be in here in a minute! How are you going to get out?”

Jim grinned again. “I have a way.”

“Are you going to tell me what it is?”

“I am not.”

“Come on!”

“But,” said Jin, slowly, appearing to decide something as she spoke, “there is one thing you could say.” Her eyes flickered to the pedestal in the centre of the room.

“Oh, god, it’s not please, is it?” said Rina in desperation. The door behind her rattled.

Jin shook her head, looking a little disappointed. Her long fingers reached for the brass object on the pedestal. It had a loop of a handle attached to a wide section that tapered to a narrower spout. It was sort of shoe-shaped, if a shoe were placed on a small, upturned saucer and had a handle stuck on its heel. Rina thought she’d seen something like it before, somewhere. This was larger, and probably older, but…

Several things clicked into place in her mind. It was a lamp. An ancient, brass lamp. And the woman she’d followed into this room had said her name was Jin.

The lock rattled in the door behind her. “I wish you would take me with you!” she said.

Jin threw her head back and laughed. The door flew open and someone shouted something, but the sound dropped away. Rina’s skin tingled, her vision turned first black and white, and then, just black.

***

“Where am I?” said Rina, pushing herself into a sitting position.

“Welcome, child!” said Jin, cheerfully. “This is my craft. I call her The Slipper!”


Author’s notes

Unlike the other pieces on this site this is not a complete work. It’s something which starts here, with this first scene between Rina and Jin. These characters had been bouncing around in my brain and my notebook for some time, and I decided to let them out. And then, once they were out, they started clamouring for more.

You can read the next part of their story here.

© Kat Day 2017