National Flash Fiction Day

Apparently, it’s National Flash Fiction Day. So, I wrote you some flash.

The Monster Under My Bed

It turns out there really are monsters under the bed. Which is an odd thing to discover at the age of thirty-four.

I say ‘monsters’; I guess I default to that because it’s what children would say are monsters. Not human. Nightmarish to look at with human eyes. Not something you want under your bed, anyway. I mean, I don’t really want anything under my bed, do you? That’s quiet time. Alone time. Unless you have a partner.

I newly don’t have a partner. She left me for a girl with long red hair and a collection of ‘vintage’ My Little Ponies. I hadn’t realised My Little Ponies were a thing I needed to have to keep her heart.

So, anyway: me, alone, in bed, newly single. About a month. Still not sure if I should change the double-bed in for a single to fit my new ‘relationship status’. And there I was, 4am, woke up from a dream where all my friends could fly, and I was still stuck on the ground. Couldn’t get back to sleep. Made some tea. Decaf, of course, I’m not that stupid. And I thought, well, time to sort out the room.

I’d kind of let it all go to hell since she left. Revenge. You know, ’cause me living in a shit-heap is revenge on her for leaving me. Or something.

My clothes had started not making it to the laundry basket, and then slowly creeping under the bed. And then getting covered in biscuit crumbs because I’d basically retreated with my laptop to my bed when I got home from work – insulating myself from the world with layers of Internet and duvet.

So. I put my tea on the floor and crouched down to see what had slipped under there, and I saw them:

Eyes looking back at me.

I screamed, of course.

I mean, I’d been worried about spiders, but great, big, human-sized-but-not-human-coloured eyes were not what I was prepared for.

The eyes opened wide – as shocked to see me as I was to see them.

I stared at them, unblinking. Not wanting to lose sight of where they were even for a second. Not that much unlike how I react to spiders, to be honest.

The eyes stared back.

Finally, they broke the silence:

“Hello,” they said.

“Hello,” I said back.

“Well, this is awkward.” The eyes looked down, shiftily.

“Would you care to explain what you’re doing under my bed?”

“I thought you would be asleep,” said the eyes.

“That’s not reassuring.”

“Well, you usually are at this time.”

“Not getting better.”

The eyes sighed. “I suppose I’d better come out, then.”

“I’d appreciate that.”

I’m not sure what I was expecting to crawl out from under my bed. Man? Woman? The voice was that middling pitch that makes it hard to tell, but even so, how did I think a man or a woman would get under my bed – repeatedly – without my notice?

What crawled out from under my bed was not a man or a woman. And I suppose it didn’t really crawl. It sort of oozed. Its body, in as much as you could say it had a body, was composed of a sort of shifting, shadowy darkness. It almost seemed to melt into the shadows cast by the mess on my floor from my bedside lamp. Except for the eyes, which glowed blue on feathery shadow stalks.

“Hi,” it said.

“OK,” I said.

It rolled its eyes. Which is something of a more dramatic move for something whose eyes were on stalks. “I’m a sentilamia.”

“Are you? That’s nice,” I said. “And why were you under my bed?”

“You’ve let a lot of stuff collect down there.”

“I know. I was going to clean it out.”

“No, not that stuff,” it sort of shivered with what might have been annoyance. “Feeling stuff. Sentilamias, we eat waste emotions. Well, you’d call them waste. I’m not dirty – I don’t want you to think that!” It drew itself up, shifting up the shadows of my open dresser drawers.

“I’m honestly not sure I’m thinking anything with any certainty right now,” I said.

“So, you don’t mind?” it ventured.

“Of course I mind!” I snapped. “I don’t want anybody under my bed when I think I’m alone!”

“It’s a perfectly healthy ecological relationship,” it said, primly. “You don’t want this stuff collecting. You’ll be wallowing in it within a week and then you’ll never get over her!”

“‘Get over her?’ – what do you know about that?”

It rolled its eyes again. The motion was quite disconcerting. “Only everything, of course,” it said. “I have been eating your waste emotions for the last three weeks. She’s not worth it, you know. If her head could be turned by that redheaded bint you deserved someone more committed to you anyway.”

“Uh, thanks, I guess,” I said. “Look, I don’t want to interfere with your ‘ecology’, or whatever, but you really can’t just hang out under my bed when I’m asleep.”

“It’s your ecology too,” it said, a little huffily. “You don’t want to know what happens to people who don’t have a good sentilamia on hand when they get really low.”

I thought about it for a moment. I only had its word to go on that it was providing some kind of psychic service, but what it was saying did make a certain amount of sense, and it did seem to know all about Alley and her new lover. That, and I didn’t have a better explanation for the presence of something I didn’t even know existed living under my bed.

“OK,” I said. “But do I need to be asleep for you to eat my ‘waste emotions’?”

It seemed to consider this. “No, I suppose not. I’m consuming some of them right now. Don’t you feel a bit better?”

Oddly, considering I’d just confronted a home-invader shadow-monster, I sort of did. “Yeah… I guess.”

“I could stop by in the evenings, just before you go to bed? We could even have a bit of a natter. Venting verbally is a good way to expel the waste.”

“Uh, sure. And you won’t come again without announcing yourself first?”

“I swear on all that’s dark and mysterious.”

And… she did. It turns out she’s a she.

And that’s how I met my first monster, and a strange new friend. Shoshi the sentilamia.

She even helped me set up wards to stop other monsters getting into my room uninvited. The undersides of beds are apparently prime doorways to the underworld. (Although they don’t like you to call it that – who’s to say that our world is not on the underside of theirs?)

Shoshi helped me get over Alley, and I sleep better now than I ever have in my life. On Saturday nights she takes me down to her side of things and shows me what real nightlife is like.

I can’t say that I miss Alley at all.

Teenage Wasteland 2: The Legend of Catherine of Gawthwate Continues!

So, people seemed to enjoy reading my horrifically bad early writings, last week. Favourites including my unique spelling of the word accent ‘exuent’ and Sir Richard’s horse, Belinda. For kicks and giggles, and so you can find out what happens to Belinda, I have decided to put the rest of the story up, too. Not all at once – 3,000 words is a lot to read in one sitting, especially when it’s complete rubbish. But over the next few weeks you will get the rest of the story, and be in a position to judge just how legendary Catherine of Gawthwate was.

Incidentally, there was some speculation that ‘exuent’ was the product of inaccurate spell-checker suggested word selection. Not so! As you will see as the tale continues, there is plenty more in the way of creative spelling that very clearly has not been through a spell-checker. I was writing this on a very old computer, with a very old version of Word Perfect. I don’t remember if there was a spell-checker (it’s entirely possible that there was) but if so, I may well not have realised it. I remember that all the menu options were accessible via function keys and then a series of other letters once you had the menu open. If there was a spell-checker it may have been several years before I found it.

If you didn’t read the first part, get yourself over here and catch-up!

Part two:

After this, between the fighting, there was a most romantic courtship which lasted 5 months, then they were married. Catherine wore a most beautiful wedding dress, encrusted with jet, diamonds and rubies, it was made of pure silk and the vale of the most beautiful lace.

See, most girls supposedly spend a lot of time thinking about their ideal wedding dress. I actually hadn’t. I mean, I knew I wanted it to be a princess dress, and obviously I wanted one of those very badly, but when I came to write this scene I realised I didn’t really know much about wedding dresses or what would make for a good description of one. My answer? BLING, apparently. I guess the jet was to make it stand out from all the other dresses encrusted with diamonds and rubies. I was so alternative.

The 8th most expensive wedding dress in the worldI asked the Internet if it had any photos of a wedding dress with jet, diamonds, and rubies on it, and the Internet’s respnse was something to the effect of ‘What? No! Nobody has ever worn a dress like that!’ I was kind of avaricious as a child, so I imagine I was pretty much thinking that the more expensive the better, hence all the bling. Catherine was probably wearing the fantasy equivalent of this (above), only with more jet. This dress is supposedly the 8th most expensive wedding dress in the world, worth 999,999 Yuan, or around £101,000, with 9,999 karats (about two kilograms) worth of jewels on it. It’s hideous, isn’t it?

The dress isn’t the only wonderful thing in this paragraph, though. It continues:

As she walked down the aisle she looked at her lover and thought of the first night they met and tear of happiness sprang to her eyes for this was the happiest moment of her life. Richard felt just the same as he remembered the romantic cements he’d made and the music of her voice as it answered.

Got to admire the single, beautiful tear of joy that recalls that really classy bit of flirtation I wrote at the feast in honour of Sir Richard’s trustworthy looks. Richard made some really romantic cements, that night.

The vicar cleared his throat ” Dearly beloved we are gathered hear today to witness the marriage of Lady Catherine Anne Heckles to Sir Richard Anthony Charles…” and so on and so on until ” Oh me oh my would you help me young lady I can never read the last bit, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.”

” It says, you may now kiss the bri…” Catherine got no farther for Richard knew what it said and gave most beautiful kiss.

The priest from The Princess Bride

‘Deawy bewoved…’

You have to understand that I thought I was very witty. See how I’m trying to smooth over the fact that haven’t a clue what people say at weddings by having the vicar be a bumbling fool. I totally wasn’t copying The Princess Bride. No. It can’t be that that was probably the only wedding I’d seen on film. Also, comedy is a great way to segway into a beautiful kiss. TruFax!

11 months passed to which were most blissful and then a baby boy was born, they named him Calith.

Wow. That was fast. 11 months is totally a reasonable amount of time for baby-making, though. And Calith is totally a name.

“Oh look at him Richard, he has your eyes and nose… we must have him christened as soon as possible.” Catherine said. (She was so exited with the new born child.)

Christening is the best way to express your excitement.

So it was that, as had been requested, the child was brought to be christened two days later.

I guess you hop to when Lady-Queen Catherine wants you to christen her child. No bedrest for Catherine – get that child prepped for God!

As the vicar searched through his book for the correct ceremony Calith began to cry, this wrinkly old man he had be placed before had not noticed him and his mother was out of view, so as Catherine soothed him she urged the vicar to be quick.

The vicar cleared his throat “Now, what did you say the Child’s name was, Caylith? No, no, no, no, it’s … Calith, isn’t it? Good.” And so it went

on quite well considering the vicar was way past the age of normal retirement.

Yup, bumbling vicar is comedy gold. I should do stand-up. Incidentally, I have no idea how you pronounce ‘Calith’ if you don’t say it so as to sound identical to ‘Caylith’. Also: creative line breaks for all! (this may actually be a formatting error from transferring Word Perfect files to Word, but pfft!)

“I do declare,” said the vicar “that this child shall be the answer to your dreams. He shall defeat Lord Colotus!!!”

All vicars are prophets in Gawthwate. The font doubles as a scrying bowl.

As the years went by Calith became a strong boy and a quick learner, but all the time Sir Ganathry grew to dislike the child, and despise his father.

Did you forget about Sir Ganathry? He was a named character, you should have been paying attention. Anyway, despite Calith’s obvious chosen-one good qualities, Ganathry really doesn’t like him. And he despises his father. Remember right at the beginning, with all that headshaking? That was set-up, that was. He never trusted Sir Richard. Because of reasons.

” Ganathry! Come hither at once! Hath thow no ears?” Catherine was furious. ” What right hath you to disobey my orders? I told you to stay with Calith. Why did you leave him with maid Jane? “

‘Maid Jane’ is totally a term of address in this world. It’s coming back to me now. I’m pretty sure this was a deliberate bit of world-building. FEEL the colour it adds.

” I had important business to attend to … lady Catherine.” Ganathry stammered in ripply.

Is Ganthry a face-hugger? Pretty sure that’s the only way to stammer in Ripley. Oh, wait, I get it, reply – he stammers in reply

” What business could be more important than Calith? ” She posed. ” Well? Anyway, I asked thee hither to inform you that due to this afternoon’s behaviour you are to be relieved of from nannying my son.This is Mary, she is the new nanny. You may now continue with other duties.”

What the hell was he doing nannying Calith in the first place? No wonder he was annoyed. Sir Ganathry is a knight, they are not known for their nannying services. They’re known for hitting things. Sometimes stabbing things. Why have you left your kid to this man’s care to bring up? Why didn’t you go with Mary in the first place?

Mary was 20, single, and she loved children. She instantly Knew how to deal with this fussy 9 year old child.

I’m not sure why we need to know that Mary is single. Is this plot relevant? I’m worried that this might be plot relevant. Are we meant to be shipping her with someone? If so, I’m not really sure who…

” Hello, I’m Mary … and you must be Calith. ” Mary said.

” Yes. But where’s Ganthry, he’s supposed looking after me? ” Calith was confused.

” He’s been relieved of thee and thee’s now in my care. Come I hear thee’s a good rider, I know not how to ride. Might thow teach me? ” Her voice was joyous and rang like a bell.

Well, she’s just a young Mary Poppins, isn’t she? I suppose this isn’t a bad way to deal with a fussy child – get him showing you something he’s good at.

” This is my horse Lightning, a-and this is Belinda. You can use her, she’s old and gentle, perfect for beginners.” Calith was liking his new nanny better and better every second, she didn’t shout at him, or boss him about, nor had he been left alone in the corner.

And so their friendship began.

Belinda’s here! I didn’t forget about her, but time has passed, and now she is old and gentle. And check out that dialogue – didn’t need to tell you that Calith was stammering in ripply, did I? A totally more subtle way to show his youth and nervousness. And Mary is clearly a much more suitable nanny than Ganathry, she hasn’t left him alone in a corner or anything! All it takes is a little kindness, Ganathry!

Early next morning Jane flung open the curtains and declared the beauty of the day and said that with such fine weather he should already be up. Unfortunately when she opened the curtains the light nearly blinded Calith.
” Jane!!” He said annoyed. ( As he had been left with her so often he called her Jane instead of Maid, or Maid Jane.)

Aren’t there any other maids in the castle? Also, if he’s left alone with Jane so much anyway, why couldn’t she be his nanny?

” Yes Master Calith? ” She asked.

” You nearly blinded me ? ” He said. ” And tiss far to early anyway.”

” I, but ‘ow could I let thee miss a morn like this? And anyway thee wanted to see the dawn chorus. ” She said gaily ” Sh. Listen.”

If you ever woke really early and heard the dawn chorus you would know just how they felt, it’s magic to hear all the birds singing together, it makes you feel like a great weight has been lifted off your shoulders, and you know that you’ll remember it for the rest of your life.

They sat their, just listening for a full hour, then it gradually died away. The two stood there for a while, speechless, then shook them selves and Jane said ” If ‘eared it once or a thousand times still get’s one in the
heart.” She sighed ” One ‘a natures wonder … oh Master Calith don’t thee forget breakfast is at 8 bells.” She then went off humming gaily to her self.

Guess who had recently woken up early to hear the dawn chorus? I actually have a distinct memory of writing this bit. I thought it was so rad. That’s writing from experience, my friends! And it’s completely plot relevant! No, it is not.

That day and for the year that followed Calith learnt all the skills he was going to need in battle – sword fighting, lances, archery and that
sort of thing – he learned fast and even became better than his teacher. By the age of 14 he became his fathers page and sometimes (though none new) sneaked his way into battle.

Another nice bit of ‘I have no idea what training in any of these things would involve, so I’m just going to say that it happened and move on!’ Also, Calith really must be a fast learner. Inside of a year he’s become better than his teacher in sword fighting, lances, archery (well, he gets that from Catherine) and ‘that sort of thing’. That’s umm, well. Well done, Calith. You terrifying superman. And he’s sneaking into battles – I’m sure that’s going to end well.

Tune in next week for more of The Legend of Calith Catherine of Gawthwate!