To Prove

Written by Terrestris Veritas


I wouldn’t call it anything other than what it was. Things happened and I just got on with life. The way people tell you to, shouldn’t have to dictate certain things, but because they’re “bigger” than you it does. Even still, you get to have your way occasionally; though it pales in comparison to how often they get they’re way.

The way to do things is in secret. That often works since to observe and criticise something you must first know about it. So if they never know about it, they cannot do a thing. The triads that were in The Hatch were actually quite nice despite whatever crimes they were accused of. One of them told me she could help me do what I wanted, help me get revenge for what they did to my friend. Even though it wasn’t them at fault this time. It was more like him.

Her name was Lipi. She was from the south and locked in the binding chains, the sort that inhibit the use of vintage powers. Even though I couldn’t break them, she still taught me a lot. She gave me elixir to awaken some powers, others she guided me towards. Pretty soon I had all the strength that someone my age was capable of wielding.

Vintage, however, was illegal for common people. It was only used by the elite hunters that they owned and by those in the south. Even though it was frowned upon for the latter, it was still tolerated up until a certain distance from the border. Since it was such an exclusive art as well, it could be identified pretty easily. Luckily for me, Lipi had been observing my crystal magic and taught me how to hide vintage within the crystal. “Since crystal is in your soul, you can do everything through your own soul.” That was what she told me.

She had been a good teacher, given that it was through the constraints of The Hatch – and I felt proud that a little girl such as myself had been such a good pupil. I owed it all to her. As I stood over his body, I felt my heart give a little skip and my crystal flare a little brighter. Maybe I was built for the killing business. At the very least, I had proved to myself that little girls just like me can have quality time with a boy; and make sure it’s his blood that’s spilt, rather than hers.


Inspired by our July HHC challenge themed under ‘Justice’, Terrestris Veritas’ short piece is a beautifully dark tale woven to keep us suitably intrigued. We feel there’s a glint of magic in the moonlight here; blood spilled from previous lovers, hearts beating and skipping. If you enjoyed Terra’s work as much as we did, why not view his previously published work such as “Spark of Hate” and “The Wisps on the Moor”. 

Featured Image CC // Macroscopic Solutions

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Morte Mare

Written by Alex McCarron


There’s a pool way out on the moor, as deep as you ever did see. And there’s a lady who lives in that pool, and she’ll come out if you ask kindly.

“Please won’t you come out, please can’t I see—” She’ll rise up, her face like a shadow on the water at night, for it’s all dark depths and deep, hidden teeth. Her name’s Lizzie Jack, and she once was a girl, a girl twice your age and three times as pretty.

Plump and fair our Lizzie was, with slim hands, long fingers, and such strong white teeth. She used to work spells and she used to bring children all alone to the moor at night. She rocked them and spun them, and sucked the life from them, and drowned them in the pool at night.

Now Lizzie had a sister; a sister who followed her to see what she did at night. She saw Lizzie lift the bones from the pool. She saw Lizzie crack them and suck them, and lick the marrow from her sharp white teeth.

With every bone she sucked, and every life she took, Lizzie grew fairer, and far fairer still. She grew fat and full, like a billowing cloud, and her hunger grew with her. Day and night her teeth ground in her mouth, ripping her own cheeks and tongue. She longed for meat. The bones called her back.

Her sister watched, and her sister followed her. She couldn’t believe it, but she could stand it no longer, so she pushed Lizzie into that pool. How Lizzie screamed, how she fought, clawing her own fingers to the bone. And how long her sister held her there, long after she’d breathed in the black water. She drowned Lizzie in that pool in the moonlight.

Night after night she came back to see Lizzie at the bottom of the pool. Lizzie cried and cried, and said, “Sister, sister, I’m rotting away, and the children all hate me. Sister, oh, sister, their bones hate me so.”

Now her sister loved her, though she was a witch and a murderer. With her own hands she drew Lizzie’s face up from the water. She kissed her wet and crumbling forehead.

“I bind you to these waters,” she said. “I bind you to these bones. I bind your lips so you will not speak. But if anyone is a fool enough to come here, let them rot in the water with you. I’ll not leave you alone.”

Her sister knew a witch’s words; her sister had a witch’s power. Lizzie sank down, gnashing her teeth.

Lizzie’s sister returned every night to talk with her beneath the water. She grew old, with a handsome husband and a house full of children. Far and wide she spread their story, so nobody would go near the pool but her. But one day she set out early, striding tall in the mist of the moor, and she did not come back.

Her children searched for her, we all searched for her, calling long into the night. We found her, but late, much too late. She’d fallen and split her head on a stone. We buried her where she lay, for what the moor takes it must keep; so her blood seeped into the earth and her bones sank until they lay buried in the roots of the hills.

But Lizzie still waits, for nobody’s told her that her sister has died, and nobody ever will.

If you go to that pool, and if she rises up, don’t look in her eyes, but look at her hands and her teeth. Lizzie’s hands are scabbed and twisted. Her teeth are broken and bloody and ready for your throat – for she is so hungry, and so lonely, with only the bones rattling beneath her, night after night after night.

If you look in her eyes, you’ll see the beauty she once was, fat and full as a cloud, gathering little children into her arms. You will jump into her arms, and Lizzie will carry you down to the dark depths and the feast among her bones.

There’s a pool way out on the moor, as deep as you ever did see. And there’s a lady who lives in that pool, and she’ll come out if you ask kindly.


Inspired by the classic ghost story, returning contributor Alex McCarron has written such a creepy tale. The black water has seeped through and into Lizzie’s spectral figure. We can’t get enough of this terrifying pre-Halloween treat, hiding under our blankets and pillows, just hoping to avoid the gaze of Lizzie and her sharp teeth. If you enjoyed Alex’s short horror story, make sure to read her other supernatural tale published earlier this year, “Jenny of the Road”. 

Featured Image Courtesy // Fatal Frame, Nintendo

Howlers

Written by Dizzy Dazzle


They were gaining on her. Fast.

She tore through the trees like a bullet, barely acknowledging the razor-sharp cuts to her arms from the branches. She would feel the pain later. The forest passed by in a blur, tree trunks merging into one another, their jagged arms grabbing at her, forcing her back. She glanced behind her, long black hair whipping out round her cheekbones. Her first big mistake.

They were close. Nearly close enough to touch. She let out a gasp and, as though they could smell her fear, they let out shrieks of triumph, whilst their fiery yellow eyes burnt ever brighter.

She willed her legs to go faster, but she could feel them tiring. The girl knew the creatures were clever. As she couldn’t rely on speed, she’d have to deceive or trick them. If only she had access to a torch – they hated fire.

Without pausing to think, she made a sharp turn to the right. But the girl was too slow. They were still following her, growling and snapping at her heels. She urged herself onward, heart pounding. Her legs were beginning to feel like lead weights.
They had split up. She was dimly aware that there were three of them, and that two were rounding her up from the sides. She glanced to her right, glimpsed a wolf-like head and lean, withered human body. The creatures eyes flashed menacingly, and she swallowed a scream that was building up inside her.

A river loomed into view. She headed towards it, though knowing she was going to tire before they did. She closed her eyes, then snapped them open again, surveying the width of the river. Maybe they wouldn’t be able to jump that far.

She gave a sudden burst of speed and launched herself from the bank towards the far side. But it wasn’t enough.

As she fell down towards the fast-flowing water, she closed her eyes and hit the surface, plummeting down. She heard them behind her in the river, and she surfaced quickly, gasping for air and clutching at the banks, her fingers scrabbling at the sodden earth. Something grabbed her from behind, and she let out a scream as claws cut deep into her ankles. Claws tore at her shoulder, ripping the flesh, and she went under again.

The creatures dragged her towards them, scratching at everywhere there was skin. The water was thick with blood. Her blood. She struggled to turn herself around, and managed to kick one of them in the neck. She heard a yelp of pain, and then they turned on her again, eyes burning angrily. This was it, she was going to die. She no longer had the strength to fight back. And letting out a deathly scream, the creatures closed in on her.


Our Halloween content has certainly kicked off in style with Dizzy Dazzle’s short fictional piece. Born from a larger work, Howlers is just a tense, fast-paced snapshot of the world she has built, but it holds our interest so tightly. A Wendigo is a particularly gruesome creature known for their gangly bodies, wolf heads and acts of cannibalism throughout North American and Canadian myths. Typically seen as monsters of the northern, colder regions, the beasts are often found in many contemporary horror stories. If you enjoyed Dizzy Dazzle’s piece, perhaps view her other work such as “Sinners”, and her short poetry, “Spiderwebs”.

Featured Image CC // Miguel Angel Avila Lombana

 

The New World

Written by Ricardo


“What is this?” Charlotte asked in the gap between shoving more of the half-melted brown substance into her mouth, occasionally stopping to wedge a chunk out from between her molars with her tongue. “It looks kinda like poop,” she stopped chewing then, with several blocks of the stuff in her right hand and looked up at the man beside her, horrified. “It isn’t poop is it?”

“No, you idiot, of course you haven’t,” the man replied. “It’s a food from the Old World.”

“Oh, so it isn’t…?”

“No,” he interjected. “Just eat it.”

“Oh, okay.” Charlotte looked down at her hands, where the chunks she had been holding had begun to melt, creating a hardened shell around her palm and the base of her fingers. She shoved the chunks in her mouth, chewing at her hands like a cat trying to groom itself.

The man shook his head, looking up and away from the girl pulling more of the stuff from a broken vending machine. He scanned the area around him, trying to mark out any potential hiding spots or escape routes, either for himself or for anybody else currently in here. But he found it difficult to concentrate when all his eyes could see was what used to be there.

It had been nearly fifteen years since he was in this particular supermarket. He with his girlfriend the last time, buying groceries and kitchen appliances for their new house. He even remembered, rather oddly, the vending machine. He tried buying a drink from it but the damn thing ate his money. It took almost two decades, but he finally showed that vending machine what for.

Illuminated aisles showed shoppers the way to their selected produce for the day. The burning heat of thirty 700 watt light bulbs went largely unnoticed. Nobody cared, it was normal. But there was a brief moment after stepping back outside from your weekly shop when natural sunlight was appreciated. And the warmth of it too, rather than the chilled air conditioning and stale smell of sweat.

Now all that surrounded him were filthy floors, shattered windows, and the shelves were pushed into each other in order to create makeshift camp sites and barricades. Everything was either riddled with bullet holes, or plastered in blood, or the green sludge that those things emitted whenever you so much as touched them. This was a hot-spot for them. In actuality, this was good as it meant it was one of the few places where no humans came, meaning supplies. And lots of them. He checked his bag was still intact and nothing was leaking, tightening the cross-body strap around him. They made a good haul today, they’d have enough to survive the next three months.

“Shaun, what’s that man doing?”

The man stopped right where he was looking, between two empty and defrosted chest freezers with the lids torn off. Charlotte must have started looking around too and saw him before Shaun did. He could see the figure between the freezers clear as day, on his knees, with one hand on the freezer beside him vomiting blood and a puddle of green sludge in front of him. Shaun’s heartbeat seemed to triple in speed after seeing the man at the freezers and hearing the Howler tear the revolving door out of the wall, throwing it into the parking lot behind it, and showering the entrance in a glowing green spatter of goo.

Shaun dropped behind the shelving units where the vending machine was and where Charlotte was sitting wide-eyed, a mouthful of the chunky sweet stopping her from screaming. As her eyes filled with tears, they locked on to Shaun. He never thought he’d be so thankful that she had an insatiable sweet tooth. He placed a hand over her full mouth.

“Listen, we’re going to get out of here the way we came in, okay?” he waited for her to nod in confirmation, her tears now streaming down his hand. “You go to the manhole, I wedged it open so you can pull it back open. Get back to the shelter, I’ll be right behind you.”

Charlotte obeyed, crawling through the door entitled Staff Only. Shaun heard the manhole cover drag across the ground, and her footsteps descend the ladder. He took several deep breaths, getting his thoughts together. Now that she was gone, all he had to worry about was getting out with his supplies. He clenched his hands into fists until his knuckles turned white and peered over the shelving unit.


With our next batch of content coming up in October under the theme “Halloween Scarefest”, it’s a great time to conclude August’s work with a post-apocalyptic short story. Loosely tying into both themes, Ricardo’s story was written on behalf of a past Half Hour Challenge and we can’t get enough of it. In fact, we hope he writes more! If you enjoyed his HHC, you can read his other stellar work published on Inkblots, including “A Sweetened Ache” and “Love After Death”. 

Featured Image CC // Revan Jinn

A Conversation of Song

Written by Warp Spade


The moonlit waves swashed back and forth over a stretch of sand two miles long. Gentle and soothing, its sound a dull wash in the back of the mind. A clear night’s sky stretched out above like a black canvas filled with flecks of white paint. Not a soul to be seen, the sandy shore was smooth and untouched, ready to be shaped by the footprints of hundreds of visitors the next day.

A wooden pier stood old yet proud, stretching out to sea like a great finger, pointing to a distant unknown. Empty but for a jet black piano that rested at the pier’s end. Grand it stood there, waiting to perform to the world under the great spotlight of the moon.

A figure appeared, a shadow, gaunt and tall. It stood beside the piano, looking around before sitting quietly at the keys. It had no discernible features, seeming to almost change in shape as it stretched its arms out to touch a key. A single note resonated, sending ripples through the water beneath. Another note, higher this time; more ripples.

Note after note came, each one as spine-tingling as the next. Yet there was no song, no melody. It was as if the pianist was lost, tapping note after note, getting faster and faster, more angry and frustrated, no sense of rhythm. The sea began to surge beneath the disgruntled figure, moving this way and that in a swirl of confusion. Each note causing the water to jump in a mist of rage.

Then, in an instant, it stopped. The figure slumped down, defeated. The sea receded and the calm from a moment ago returned. Sitting motionless, the shadow was fading and re-appearing as if breathing deeply, heavy with thought.

A sound. The pianist turned its head suddenly. Another figure, standing upon a huge rock at the water’s edge a short ways down the beach. With violin and bow in hand, it quickly slid the bow across the strings creating a shrill, rough sound that clung to the air around it. The pianist replied wearily with a long deep note.

A moment passed. The violinist tentatively created a sustained and wafting sound, and the air around breathed effortlessly as the music ebbed and flowed. The pianist joined in, beginning to find rhythm and fluidity and the two instruments began to work together, one following the other. The noise grew louder and stronger as the musicians began to feel more confident in themselves and each other. Melodies grew and changed, rapid one minute and slow the next.

As song filled the air, so too did the air begin to move with it, the sea erupted around the pianist like a sudden storm. Water crashed around the pier, excited and spontaneous. The two figures were speaking and the elements were listening.

They played together, minute upon minute, hour upon hour. A symphony of sound, wind whistling and the sea seething, working together to create something greater than the sum of its parts. The music between the two musicians was not meant to have an audience; it was a love letter to fall on only their ears, yet played on the world’s greatest stage. The pianist’s hands moved in a blur. Hunched over the ivory keys, the figure was pouring his soul into the song and the result was magic.

The violinist, head bent and arm moving to and fro, created a merry song that danced from the strings and into the air. The sensuous sound wrote words of love into the wind. The two instruments were symbiotic, crafting sweet music together from night ’til the approaching dawn. A conversation of song.

The black of the night slowly turned crimson as the horizon came alight, setting the sea on fire with the approaching sun’s rays. The violinist stopped suddenly, and the pianist turned to its musical partner perched upon the rock, pausing in anticipation.

The violinist turned to face the pianist before bowing long and deep, and letting its violin and bow drop onto the warming sands beneath, crumbling away into nothing. And with that, the early light engulfed the figure leaving nothing but a slight breeze behind.

As the violinist was engulfed, so too was the pianist, not by light, but by rage. It hammered its fists down on the keys, returning to its ways of frustration and anger. This time the sea grew monstrous, huge waves rolled high and crashed into the pier from all sides sending spray everywhere, covering the pianist in a mist of sea and salt. The noise from the piano grew and so too did the waves. Suddenly the pier was engulfed completely and with it the piano and its companion, swept away into the sea, drowning in the sorrow of loss. The loss of that perfect night, never to be recovered.


 

New contributor Warp Spade’s short fiction is eloquent in word choice. Wrapping together the beautiful sounds of music with the frenetic rage of the sea works so wonderfully, it gives us the chills just reading it. The personification of the sea within his short story keeps us gripped to the certain tragic conclusion. But all things come to an end, sadly, we’re just happy we got to read such a great piece. If you enjoyed Warp Spade’s work, feel free to leave a like or a comment below. 

Featured Image CC // 2thin2swim

 

Heidi – Part Two

Written by Rob


This is a two-part short story, Part One of Heidi can be read, here.

Once Michael was installed in a new bed beneath the front window, David called Heidi in, to make the formal introductions. She was tall, straight, slim and she moved with the quiet graceful force and control of an athlete or gymnast. He gazed at her impassive face, tanned and healthy looking; only the slightest hint of a smile as she shook his hand with cool fingers and scarlet nails, “Hello” with heavy accent and Scandinavian up-tone inflection. He didn’t want to let go of her hand but she looked down, puzzled, and he shook himself out of his reverie and let her go. He noticed what dazzling white teeth she had. Her perfume lingered.

Heidi’s duties were not onerous. She looked after Michael for five days whilst his father was at work, usually 7:30 am to 6 pm. She had weekends and evenings to herself, in theory. In practice, she spent most of her time off in Michael’s room, much as she did when on duty, reading to him, watching television with him, talking to him. Occasionally, David would insist that Heidi accompany him to the pub for dinner, joking that he needed looking after too. Michael didn’t see the joke and seethed with jealousy.

In their time together, Michael probed Heidi to find what made her tick. Although she was caring and attentive to his needs, he found her distant, cold even. She regularly expressed gratitude for the opportunity that Michael’s injury had afforded her. This puzzled Michael greatly – opportunity for what he wondered? A 22-year-old Norwegian, from a bustling port town, looking after a teenage lad in a rural backwater; it made no sense. But he kept prying, even though she tended to clam up, and discovered she meant “opportunity to escape”. She would not say what she needed to escape from, but he noted she would not speak of her father, even though she spoke fondly of her mother. He sensed a secret.

Heidi seemed to get on well enough with both of Michael’s parents, though rather better with David, since she had so much more opportunity to see him and Molly was missing for the working week. She tried to tell Michael how lucky he was to have such a caring father but he didn’t want to hear it.

Prior to his injury, “love” meant the convenient fit Michael enjoyed with his parents. He sometimes overheard the other sixth-formers talking about their latest crushes, jealousies, lusts, and found them puerile. Now he couldn’t bring himself to even think of the “L word”. Heidi had infected every cell of his being and every cell yearned for her. He examined her for hours at a time, particularly over the top of the book he was pretending to read; never tiring of finding new minuscule details. The cut of her short brown hair; the tiny mole on the lobe of her left ear; the enticing way she looked above his head when she finished speaking; the slope of her not quite straight nose; the scent of her; her beautiful, long, clever fingers. He found every detail perfect. What was happening to him? He’d liked girls before, but had never taken the idea of a relationship seriously. He’d experimented with a snog and a fumble, mostly driven by curiosity at a couple of parties, but then lost interest.

Michael endeavoured to recover his previous calm and resolve. He tried to concentrate on his A-level studies and catch up on the lost weeks but it was hopeless. Heidi did her best to help, though her English was not really up to science studies. Hadn’t people suffered far worse catastrophes than his, yet gone on to lead full lives and successful careers? Michael could not wrench his mind away from Heidi long enough to make sense of words on the page. When she left the room, he suffered an anguish and agitation he could not explain. He wanted to touch her and devised plans to make this possible: offering to hold her tee-shirt down while she removed her sweater, placing a book for her to read on her lap, putting his hand under hers when she handed him his lunch plate. At night, when she was upstairs and he was supposed to be sleeping, he tossed and fretted with imagined romantic scenarios, where he thrashed her bullying father and she fell gratefully into his protective strong arms.

He tried to entice her into discussing romance. She wasn’t interested. He asked if she had a boyfriend; she gave him a flat “no”. He asked her what kind of boys she liked and she said “older ones”: it was like a slap. She must have been aware of his pain, yet she still looked at him as though nothing had happened, with an ice-cold stare.

One evening, she came to collect his discarded dinner plate from atop his bed quilt. As she leant over the bed, he had a perfect view down the v-neck of her blouse, to her bra-less brown breasts and tiny dark nipples. As she bent, she turned her head and started to ask why he had eaten so little, then caught the direction of his ogle, dropped the plate, clutched her arm across her chest, turned and ran from the room. He called after her but to no avail: she did not return. He hadn’t meant to look down her blouse but he couldn’t help himself.

Later, he heard her chatting with his father, watched them wander down the garden path together and away down the lane to the village, probably to the pub. He heard his father laugh out loud beyond the hedge, presumably at something Heidi had said. Michael darkly imagined she’d said “I caught him looking at my tits!” Michael wept with anger and frustration. He was sixteen years old, yet crying like a baby! “Take a hold of yourself” he shouted then wept all the more. The pain he had suffered from his leg injury was nothing compared to what he felt now. He wanted to die, he wanted everyone to die, the world to end, his father to crumble to dust, and still he wept and wailed like a wounded animal. His grief utterly overwhelmed him. He cried until he was exhausted, curled up like a puppy in the middle of his bed, where he fell asleep.

Michael woke with a jolt. The house was dark and silent. He shivered with cold in his sweat-soaked pyjamas. He groped for the quilt but it had fallen to the floor. He succumbed to an involuntary sob then quickly held himself still. He resolved he would not go down that road again. He must speak with Heidi. She must understand, be made to understand, that he needed her and she was his. He tried to crawl off the bed but fell in a heap, the quilt saving his shoulder. He crawled to his crutches by the door and used the welsh dresser to lever himself upright, grunting with exertion as the plates rattled in protest. Out into the hallway, then the slow painful fight up the stairs, sweating and swearing under his laboured breath. At the top of the stairs, his bedroom door was open. He swung himself inside and switched the light on. He winced in the sudden brightness, then took in the surroundings, familiar yet not familiar, his room but her things. The bed was empty and still made. He felt a stab of pain: she had left! But no, all her stuff was still here.

Michael heaved a sigh of relief, backed out and struggled down the landing towards his parents’ room. He must ask his father where she was. As he grappled with crutches and the searing pain in his leg, a guilty memory invaded his mind. He remembered abusing his parents’ bed as an impromptu trampoline when he was young. He remembered the squeak of the springs and the flap of the headboard. Then another sound came, like a moan or even a whimper, in the same rhythm. He nudged the door to his parents’ room open with his forehead. His father’s rather spotty bum was pounding away between Heidi’s thighs, urged on by her scarlet finger nails. His face was turned away from Michael, issuing grunts of exertion. Heidi was looking at Michael with her usual cool stare.


The conclusion to Rob’s short story is rather bleak. The abrupt betrayal tears into Michael like a hot knife gliding through butter. Though a rather cruel place to leave the teen, it’s also a cruel place to leave the readers. Perhaps we’ll just have to persuade Rob to write another part; the aftermath. There are far too many questions left unanswered, but maybe that’s how it should be. If you liked Rob’s two-part drama, make sure to read some of his other work including, “Coach” and “Mirror, Mirror”. 

Featured Image CC // Brandon Warren

Heidi – Part One

Written by Rob


They say accidents come in sets of three. The fire at Molly Stevens’ place of work – the Catterick sugar factory – qualified as accident number one. It started on the day after Boxing Day, when the place was utterly deserted. Not even security staff were on hand to notice anything awry. All of the businesses in the area were similarly locked up and deserted for the holiday. The nearest residents were at least two miles away, and the fog that day hid the smoke from view. The alarm was eventually raised by a gamekeeper who came to investigate the smell. By that time, the fire could have been raging for hours. It took the fire service fourteen hours to subdue the flames.

The damage was extensive. Little remained of the factory but a tangled, blackened mess of steel work and machinery. The offices where Molly worked as chief accountant had fared a little better, in that the basic structure was still standing. But the insurance assessor said, with a pained sigh, as though it was his own money, that demolition was inevitable.

The refining company had disaster recovery plans already in place. Production would move to their Thetford plant, which would step up to a three shift, seven-day per week system. The Catterick workers would be billeted in a nearby RAF barracks for four nights each week. Molly could not help but wonder who had the friends in high places to make that possible. Buses were chartered to ferry folk to Thetford on Monday morning and home again Friday night. Weekend shifts were all covered by the indigenous workforce. This five-day commute was projected to last until the Catterick plant was rebuilt and recommissioned, thirteen months later.

Dr. David Stevens greeted the news of his wife’s planned absences with little emotion. At 44 years of age, his life as a country general practitioner was a comfortable, predictable plod. Very little happened in Marsham village where he lived and worked, and that suited him just fine. A few more dinners for one at the Marsham Arms would be a blessing in very thin disguise: he didn’t think much to Molly’s culinary skills. Provided he kept up the exercise regime he had set himself, avoided the chips and the temptation of extra beer, all would be well. Not least, the prospect of spending four nights each week in the company of the Marsham’s barmaid, Sally, generated a sparkle of excitement.

Molly, meanwhile, had very mixed feelings about the whole business. She was six years younger than her husband and found his country life-style rather restrictive and not a little boring. The initial shock of finding the devastation at the factory on the second of January had not left her. She had worked there since she came down from university and regarded the site as her personal fiefdom. The refining company had put her through her accountancy exams and invested great faith in her abilities. Not many women achieved plant chief accountant at the age of only 38. They had been so supportive when she gave birth to her son, Michael. She was grateful for their trust and felt a bond of loyalty. When her clerks started to moan about the long hours, additional travel and disruption to home life, she gave them little succour. They would pull together until this problem was sorted.

The prospect of four nights in every seven in the company of her work pals, whilst surrounded by lots of young men in uniform, made Molly’s face flush. She had never contemplated being unfaithful to David and she didn’t now. Even though their love making was rather predictable and wooden, she knew he loved her and she him. But she also knew that she still “had the look”, attracted admiring glances with her slender legs and waist. The prospect of the attention, the opportunity, the chase, even if she had no intention of being caught, sent a thrill through her body that she had not known since the early days with David.

Michael Stevens’ pals liked to rag him about his good fortune. He landed straight As in his GCSEs with apparently slight effort and looked set for impressive A-level results; a place in Liverpool University’s school of medicine, following in David’s footsteps. He had much in common with his father: the same boyish good looks, the same quiet demeanour, the same stoical acceptance of the world around him. When Michael spoke, people listened. When arguments broke out in the sixth form common room, Michael would listen to the ranting, observe the emotion, take in the facts, then issue the answer in a quiet firm voice. Everyone understood that it was the end of the matter. He captained the school rugby team to great success. This was not because he was a great player: he had not the strength, speed nor agility to be so; it was his leadership, tactical and organisational skills, coupled with near devotion from his team, which made him a winner.

Michael’s good fortune deserted him one Saturday afternoon in late January, when a scrum collapsed, snapping his right femur, and later, when the junior doctor in Accident & Emergency failed to notice that Michael’s lower leg had no blood supply before applying the plaster cast. Molly thought her son’s pitiful complaining about the pain was most out of character. When David arrived an hour later and saw the colour of Michael’s foot, it was too late to save his calf muscles. David’s anger and frustration was all-consuming, but he recognised the junior doctor was only partially culpable, having been on duty amongst the drunks and ne’er-do-wells for thirteen hours straight.

Michael regarded the news that only his right calf muscles, and not the foot, must be amputated, as a seriously fucked-up version of good fortune. A lengthy period of convalescence was inevitable. Molly found herself torn between the two greatest loves of her life: her job and her son. The family would have struggled to cope with Michael’s predicament, even without her working week absence. As it was, they clearly needed support.

Managers at the Infirmary feared a sizeable malpractice suit and were falling over one another to help. They offered, albeit without prejudice, a bed in their staff convalescence facility, but Molly feared for Michael’s emotional well-being. He’d always been the strong quiet type, and now he looked quiet and beaten.
David said the answer was an au pair. The Infirmary almost snapped his hand off – au pairs were considerably cheaper than convalescence home beds.

Heidi arrived from Stavanger a week later and moved into Michael’s room. Fred, the gardener, helped David convert the dining room of their cottage into a temporary ground floor bedroom for Michael. David arranged for a district nurse from his surgery to visit every morning. Molly checked everything to her satisfaction. And so, all was set for Michael’s return.

Michael had spent long hours considering his predicament and it seemed pretty bleak. He knew he would never run again. It was possible he would never walk without crutches again. There was talk of locking his ankle but this would give him a most unnatural gait and, possibly, big problems with the ankle joint later in life. Surgeons, occupational health professionals and physiotherapists were still undecided on his best option. His mobility, or rather, the lack of it, once taken for granted, was now the number one issue in his life.

Michael saw her face, fleetingly, at his bedroom window, as the paramedics lifted his stretcher out of the back of the ambulance. Heidi, he guessed. By the time they had carried him down the garden path, she was hovering on the front door step, behind his fussing parents. Her big, cool, khaki eyes flashed at him, then she was gone. He’d barely seen her but already something deep inside him, something he didn’t know was there, was awake.


As a two-part publication on Inkblots, Heidi was submitted within our forum’s Half Hour Challenge back in February under the theme ‘Fanning the Flames’. Since it fitted so perfectly, Rob spent some extra time on the piece, given us a wonderful short story to read. And as it’s part of our June theme this month, betrayal plays a big part in Michael’s life, so make sure you return on the 20th when part two will be published. If you enjoyed Rob’s work, feel free to check out his other short stories including, “Man’s Salvation” and “Ending at the Start

Featured Image CC // Kerrie_