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

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The Merriment of Summer

Written by Rob


Pebbles click and rattle as each restless wave retreats. The gentlest of sea breezes wafts the drying seaweed, over-salted spinach, on the groyne. Gulls wheel and squawk, searching the next titbit to squabble over. Only mid-morning, but the glare and heat-haze from the white sand is already intense. Almost low tide, the beach is vast; this town barely qualifies as “sea-side”. The awkward merriment of the fun-fair seems miles away. All is calm, azure, bright.

This place, this “here and now”, what can it mean? Decades and millions of holiday-makers passed this way. Two weeks escape from the daily grind, the blood and bullets of economic activity, the boss and his targets. Plump wives and sticky children, string vests and ingrowing toenails, shown to sun, sea and sand. Gritty butties and cherryade, ice creams and squeals of delight; the summer was made for these. Aspire for nothing more: these are the times of our lives.


Rob’s flash fiction was written as part of a previous Half Hour Challenge. Though it’s one of his older HHC works now, it’s a great way for us to kick off our content for August. We rarely think about what’s on the surface during the summer, usually we’re just hoping we don’t recognise anyone from back home when we go on vacation. Tan lines and bulgy bits are a constant worry but they rarely keep us from having fun in the summer. If you enjoyed Rob’s work, you can also view some of his recent published fiction such as “Heidi”, parts one and two

Featured Image CC // J Lippold

 

Black Cat’s Doom

Written by Sparky


This is the legacy of an old cat, which has been passed down through countless generations and has survived purely by spoken tradition. It’s the only written copy known to exist today, although many of the details have been lost or changed, as is the passage of time.

Long ago, perhaps too long now to know for sure, a young black cat walked along the beach not far from his current home. Named Sam, short for Samson, though, if anyone called him the latter, they found themselves on the wrong side of his claws. He hated his name; he hated most things about his life. The families near him all viewed him with suspicion, all on account of his colour. Witch hunts were popular in his village and, lately, even innocent animals had also fallen under suspicion. In fact, Sam had almost been walking the cold path to death many times, through close encounters with hunters and mobs.

His stomach growled menacingly under the waning moonlight. Time to attempt a snatch and grab; he hoped that he would not be seen tonight. He hadn’t eaten in days, his strength greatly weakened. As Sam headed back into the village, he kept to the shadows, watching carefully for any signs of life that may betray food or danger.

His nose soon picked up an irresistible smell emanating from a place down the road. He knew that area well and had hunted many rats there. It was the local inn and, for a smart cat who knew the place, easy pickings for a fresh cooked fish or two. He crept closer to the inn, keeping in the darkest shadows to ensure he would not be seen by anyone.

As he came closer to the kitchen, he saw the door was open. Most other cats would take this as good fortune, but not Sam, he had been caught like this before and was not willing to risk it again. He kept to the shadows and watched the hustle and bustle of humans with two marble eyes. He didn’t move until he was certain of the cooking process routine. He saw a fresh fish, raw, and laid on the side near the door. He was not about to pass that opportunity up, danger or no danger.

Sam quietly padded over to the door and listened with his attentive ears. His ears flickered, straining slightly for any human movement close to him, all while never taking his eyes off that fish. As soon as he was sure the coast was clear, he made his move. With a mighty leap to the worktop where the fish was placed, he picked it up in his jaws. A quick glance behind showed the owner was far on the other side of the room. No matter the risk or reward, it was time to run.

The wind rushed past Sam’s face as he bolted down the alleyways and back streets, ones he knew so well from past exploits. The head and tail of the fish flapped back and forth as he ran. And he didn’t stop for breath until he had made the beach and his small sanctuary tucked into the caves. Once there, he put the fish down and began to eat. He hadn’t eaten in days and was savouring every little mouthful of delicious salted fish. Barely an hour had passed before the fish was reduced to nothing more than a skeleton. With all the meat gone and straight into Sam’s waiting stomach, he was finally satiated.

But the markings of betrayal are often hidden. That fish had been left on the side deliberately and it was laced with poison. Truth be told, the villagers had been suspicious of the black cat for many moons, believing Sam was consorting with despicable witches, as well as the Devil.

Sam’s stomach twisted and contorted around itself. He howled out in pain and threw himself against the rocks trying to stop it from hurting. The pain drove him mad, leaping to his demise from the cliff top and into the sea. Nothing was ever seen or heard from Sam again. That cove still has the same name to this day: Black Cat’s Doom.


Inspired to take to up his own writing challenge, Sparky penned this short story many months ago, but it still holds us with interest. Banking on superstition and horror clichés, his fictional piece works with the moral that betrayal may find one when we least expect it. Sometimes our hearts can be in the right place, but caution tells us to keep our distance. And if the heart becomes stained from a poisonous act, it can be hard to find the cure. If you enjoyed Sparky’s story, you can view some of his other published work such as, “Teddy’s Tale” and “The Inkwell”.

Featured Image CC // Stefano Mortellaro 

 

Coach

Written by Rob

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Happy Hallowe'en! 🙂

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“FGM to Mission Control, FGM to Mission Control, can you hear me Eric?”
“Loud and clear, Fairy God Mother. How are things Mabel?”
“We have a problem, I’m afraid. I’ve done white mice into horses OK. Glass slippers were a doddle. The frock took a while ‘cos Cinders has not been eating well and I made it a size too big (those ugly sisters are such nasty bitches) but that’s all sorted.”
“OK, so what’s the snag?”
“I can make just about anything out of anything, but you’ve got to give me some sort of a chance.”
“What are you struggling with Mabel?”
“Eric, I’m hanging up my wand if things don’t improve. Time is pressing. The ball will be over before I’ve got this sorted. The National Union of White Witches don’t like me chasing this kind of mission creep. I should not be deviating from the plan.”
“Mabel! Stop wittering and tell me what the problem is.”
“It’s this pumpkin. It won’t transmogrify into a coach.”
“Why ever not? You did it in practice last Thursday.”
“Because some cretin has carved it into a Jack O’Lantern!”

Rob’s HHC was written on behalf of last month’s theme, Pumpkin. It’s such a humorous piece, we couldn’t help but add this into November’s content. While it delivers on the HHC theme, it also gives a good spark in light too. And hey, since it’s in the spirit of Halloween, we’ve added in our very own Inkblots Pumpkin carving as the top image. The good news is we can add this to the Bonfire later, as it’s just started turning mouldy… er, lovely. If you enjoyed Rob’s piece, make sure to check out his other short stories such as, ‘Last Breath‘ and ‘Shot Blast‘. 

Inkblots Special Hallowe’en Post – A Hedgehog Named Barry

Written by Lilith

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Scavenge hunt. Image // Tomi Tapio

The hedgehog looked up at May with wide black eyes and twitched its nose. It was a tiny ball of brown spines, sitting at the edge of the pavement and staring up at her with something akin to adoration, though the little girl didn’t know why. She bent down to him, expecting him to shuffle away, but instead he sniffed her hand curiously.

“Hello,” she said nervously. The streetlights were starting to come on now, and she was late coming back from the shops. She would get into trouble for it, she knew, but she’d spent so long deciding what pick and mix to get – choosing and weighing and taking some out and weighing again until it was worth a pound. Now she knew she should hurry back so he wouldn’t be so angry, but at the same time couldn’t bring herself to face her father’s rage.

The hedgehog sniffled at her fingers and licked them.

“Can I call you Barry?” she asked, and although he didn’t say yes or no, she decided that he was OK with it.

“I have to go now… Sorry.” Another street lamp flickered from pink to orange to yellow above her. Home was only two streets away, so she picked up her satchel back and carried on walking.

She was only a few doors away from home when she heard a scuffling sound in the gutter beside her; she looked down and saw Barry waddling through the autumn leaves.

“What are you doing?” May hissed down at him. “Don’t follow me! My dad’ll be angry.”

Perhaps he understood her words or maybe her tone of voice, but Barry stopped still in the leaves and turned around a few times. He watched her go with mournful black eyes, his nose beneath a crisp golden leaf.

May’s father was angry, but her mother was less of a wreck than usual. She took one look at her daughter traipsing in with windswept hair and muddy boots and sent her to her room at once, in a tone that was forceful, but not wholly unkind. She stood between the little girl and her husband, who had been drinking for hours and was already shouting at the slightest thing. As May’s door closed, he began to shout at her up the stairs, and although May could work out some of the words, she did as her mother had said and kept the door tightly shut, then played pop music to drown out the worst of it. He fell silent after half an hour, but when May was called to dinner there was a dark mark on her mum’s face that hadn’t been there before.

That night, as May lay in bed, it started again. First her dad yelling, then the crashes and bangs as he threw things – anything that came near to his hand – at his wife. May was too scared to put on the music, so she pulled the duvet from her bed and sat by the window, staring at the sky.

“I wish…” she began to say, but the world was too big and too scary and too bloated with unfulfilled wishes that she suddenly didn’t know what to wish for. Should she wish for her dad to stop drinking? Would that make it better, or worse? How would she know? Or maybe she should wish for him to go away again… But when he did that before her mum had sat hunched over the kitchen table for days on end, crying into her wine, pulling May onto her lap and phoning him over and over again to tell him how much she missed him and they needed him back. Did she really want that?

“I wish Barry would come back,” she said, and looked down into the garden. The kitchen light was on, flooding the yard with light, and there besides a flower-pot was… No, it couldn’t be.

She squinted down at the flower-pot, trying to make out the dark shape beneath it. The noises from downstairs faded to nothingness as she struggled to identify whether that shadow was really her friend, or just a trick of the light.

There was only one way to be sure. She threw on a dressing gown over her nightie and stepped carefully out onto the landing. She could hear them arguing again – were they in the living room? She tiptoed down the stairs, placing her feet near to the sides of each step to stop them from creaking. Yes, they were in the living room, she decided, so she kept away from that door, instead stepping into the kitchen where piles of washing up had been discarded only ten minutes ago. As she reached the back door, she heard a crash followed by a sickening “thunk” sound, and then her mother screaming.

She peered out into the night. There was the flower-pot – the big one with the poppies – and there he was, smiling his sweet half-smile at her from the shadows.

“Barry,” she whispered. The door clicked open quietly and as quick as a flash she was outside in the yard, dropping to her knees to greet the hedgehog.

“Come with me,” the hedgehog seemed to be saying to her. “Just for a little while, until your mother is feeling better. It will be an adventure.”

May glanced nervously back at the house.

“Won’t dad be angry if he finds out, Barry?”

“He would, little girl, but he won’t find out. I promise.”

She put down both her hands to the ground and Barry climbed into them, carefully keeping his sharp spines from stabbing at her soft skin.

“You tell me where to go, OK?”

He nodded.

“Do you promise I’ll be safe, Barry?”

He turned around to face her, his black eyes meeting her blue.

“Yes, little May. Right now, this is the safest place you could be.”

Lilith’s ‘A Hedgehog named Barry’ was written as part of a HHC challenge in 2013, however it was such a wonderful short that we raided through the archives in order to bring it to you, our readers and followers, as an Inkblots special Hallowe’en post. Those feelings of uneasiness through the sinister shadow of May’s father really come to light within the final few sentences. Is Barry really a lovely hedgehog? Or is something more horrible happening? Either way, we can’t help breathe a sigh of relief when our fear for May’s safety is finally over. We hope you enjoyed reading Lilith’s story, and have a Happy Hallowe’en! 

Last Breath

Written by Rob

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Christopher Lee stars as Dracula. Last breath? I don’t think so. Image // Warner Bros, Dracula Risen from the Grave

I don’t find this easy to talk about. People say that it is good to get things out in the open; a problem shared is a problem halved; talking is good; other such platitudes. I say “people” weren’t there; they didn’t go through what I went through; they probably have never felt that degree of blind terror. Even as I write, I find I’m crying and trembling again. I feel like I’ve been branded; that moment will forever be burnt into my very being, like an ugly scar.

I wanted to run but I couldn’t move. I wanted to cry out but my lungs were paralysed. I wanted to look away but no part of me would respond to instruction. I wanted the earth to swallow me. I wanted anything but to be there and then.

There is no shortage of clever dicks who tell me I was in no danger; there was nothing to fear; the whole incident was entirely harmless. And there is a corresponding supply of those who like to take the scientific tack; telling me about natural processes of decay and ferment; biochemistry of gas production in a dead body; rigor mortis and the like. None of this helps.

I was alone in the front parlour, with Uncle Ernie, laid out in his coffin, paying my last respects. I had only been stood beside him for a few moments. Then Ernie spoke to me.

The proverbial king of short fiction, Rob’s HHC – written on behalf of last month’s theme “sigh” is one to leave a lasting impression. So, a dead man talking rather than walking. That there is a real fear – a subconscious one. Of course, Ernie didn’t really speak, though maybe he spoke to the narrator in a different way. If you enjoyed Rob’s short entry, you can view some of his other work such as ‘Shot Blast‘ and ‘Mirror, Mirror‘. 

Not The One Who Knocks

Written by Blue-Eyed Devil

Part of the Grimsley Chronicles

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Can you hear that howling? Image // Bill Dickinson

‘S’nice place,Grimsley thought to himself.Breaking in hadn’t been all that much trouble. Duct tape placed on one of the small windows in the back door and a sharp jab with his elbow had allowed him to enter the premises without much hassle. He had found himself in a kitchen, cleaned well but small and rather bare. Running a gloved hand over the crockery, he put a little thought into what he would use to end the owner’s life.Skillet? No. Frying pan? Been done, and recently.His eyes slid their way over to the selection of knives in a wooden block and he pulled one free, examining the blade. Yes… this should do the trick.Seeing a tall glass on the draining board, Grimsley casually nudged it off. It fell to the floor and smashed into a dozen pieces.

He moved further into the house with practiced ease, his footfalls not making a sound on the floor as he inspected the place. He was no interior decorator, but you could tell a lot about a person by the way they kept their personal space.

No pictures anywhere – could be that she didn’t have any family alive, or was estranged from any that were. But Grimsley doubted that. There were more than a few pieces of furniture about. That implied that the occupier had company often; friends, family, partner. Or partners. He wasn’t old-fashioned; each to their own. No pictures but she had visitors often? Not a sentimental type, perhaps.

Working his way around, Grimsley continued his observations. Everything looked neat, nothing out of place or flung about randomly. A tidy person, then? But a quick inspection of her cupboards and drawers revealed things simply stuffed in haphazardly. She made a show of being put together, but under the surface was chaos. Out of sight, out of mind…

Grimsley sighed to himself. Were it so easy to put that into practice.

A sudden creak brought the thug back to his purpose. His target was finally awake and was investigating the noise he had made. It had taken her long enough.

Slipping silently out of sight, Grimsley waited for the woman to show herself. He didn’t have to wait long, the figure of a small but compact person was moving past him in the dark. She was shorter than him, he noted. A pleasant change, he thought to himself.

Well, time to get on with it. He approached her from behind, thrusting the knife upwards between her ribs and into her heart.

Or that had been his intent anyway. She surprised him by turning sharply and kicking the weapon out of his hand.

Huh. That’s odd.

Grimsley blocked a punch aimed at his jaw and locked the arm in place at his side. He thrust forwards with the palm of his hand and struck her nose, but she moved into the attack and it bounced off her forehead. A knee jabbed into his stomach, making him let go of her arm.

His head was beginning to ache again. Not now. Gotta end this now.

She aimed another kick at him and he caught her leg, taking the blow to his side but grasping firmly onto the appendage. She was well muscled, but Grimsley was much stronger. She discovered this herself when he shoved all his weight into her, knocking her straight to the ground. She tried to struggle free but the stocky thug had his forearm pressing down on her neck and his whole body was crushing down onto hers.

Grimsley looked down onto the slowly purpling face of the woman as he slowly cut off her air and suddenly realised something. She was… normal. She wasn’t changing. Her face was… human.

A sudden, blinding light filled his head and he felt… renewed. Refreshed.

Reborn.

“It’s your lucky day, miss,” muttered Grimsley, more to himself than to her. His fist cracked into her face and she stopped struggling.

He made sure she was still breathing before he left. Placed her in the recovery position too, just to be on the safe side. Concussion was a tricky thing.

Walking back to his flat, Grimsley reveled. Everyone was a monster. Makepeace had been the first. Others had come; people he was forced to work with, those that passed down his orders, those that drank in the same pub as him. But the woman he had been sent to kill was not. The pain in his head had come, but she had not changed.

He knew what the others thought about him. He was the organisation’s pet wolf. Everyone was afraid of him, of who the bosses would unleash him on next. He remembered someone saying that even angels would cross the street out of fear from him. Knowing that they were scared of him did not diminish him; on the contrary, it invigorated him, as if he fed off of their fear.

Striding into his flat, the thug made straight for his couch, lifting the seat and revealing the hollowed out innards. He reached in, rummaging inside it until he found what he was looking for. Things have changed now. The monsters had struck fear into his heart before, but he would exorcise that fear by becoming fear itself. Becoming the Wolf that even angels feared to tread near.

Running his hand along the blade of the machete, Grimsley smiled to himself.

Yes… this should do the trick.

Blue-Eyed Devil’s Grimsley shorts began with a simple Half Hour Challenge idea, from then the Grimsley Chronicles were born. Now, our Haiku creator writes interesting scenarios for his character to get into, and most of the time it’s tense in action. There’s definitely a big sense of fear in ‘Not the One who Knocks’, which is exactly what we’re aiming for with this month’s content. If you enjoyed Blue-Eyed Devil’s short HHC, you can check out some of his other work, including Haiku Selections One and Two