Flash Fiction: Hunting Day on Medium

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Here’s another little piece of flash fiction I’m sharing on Medium. This one is about a son remembering his father. Hunting Day.

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Flash Fiction: Emotional Labours

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Some gothic horror fun for Hallowe’en. Cross posted from Medium. Happy Hallowe’en to everyone who follows this blog.

There are subjects in every family which are not spoken of. In mine, it is my father’s death. Since my father died when I was five, spending time with my family has been a chore. The manner of his death was ridiculous, because my father cannot do anything that is not ridiculous, but also more ridiculous is the pretence his death never happened. Inevitably the whole charade will slip, he’ll walk through a wall without thinking or drip the ectoplasmic remnants of the puddle he died in all over the hall floor and my mother will loose another piece of her favourite china at the kitchen wall.

We have always spoken of my mother’s nerves but really it is my mother’s anger that hangs over us and makes my father’s death an impossibility. I suspect they would both be happier if he were simply allowed to pass in the ordinary way. She has always found him the most infuriating person and her anger has always brought out the worst in him. But I’ve noticed as I get older that people are prone to falling into habits and in time those habits become cages. So it was with my parents.

Those of you who are eldest children will understand there are certain emotional labours which befall us, to which our younger siblings are blithe, if not entirely oblivious.

Unfortunately, my younger brother and sister had invited me to a family get together which I felt obliged to attend.

My sister, Millicent, sent a handcrafted invitation to each of the family, even though most of them are still in residence in the old family home. My brother, Algernon, phoned me to ensure I’d received mine and spent a painful fifteen minutes extracting praise from me which he would pass on to her. She included my partner, Francis, but I refuse to involve him in our ludicrous affairs, having carved out a small niche that is entirely apart from them.

I suspect my siblings have become somewhat deranged over the years, maintaining their blithe spirit.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to fix them for you?” Francis asked, as I picked up my sword cane and made for the door. Outside, the rain poured down in a solid sheet and the taxi driver tapped the steering wheel impatiently.

I stood on the threshold and sucked in a breath. “They’re still my family.”

“Is that not rather the point?” Francis asked. He did away with his own many years ago without a great deal of fuss. The police have still to find any suspects, though they nebulously blame the act on occult practices. He considered me from under his heavy brow and then with a wave of a hand, added, “Well, if you change your mind….”

“Of course,” I said non-commitally. He is wont to fly into a funk if he thinks I’m at all critical of his life choices.

I found some consolation in shutting down all small talk on the taxi ride over. I caught myself sliding the blade from my cane absent-mindedly when it winked at me in the streetlights.

Milly and Algy crowded me as soon as I was through the door of our old pile, deluging me with hugs and kisses which I tolerated for a few moments before setting them both aside.

“Did you like my invitation?” Milly asked. She was dressed as some kind of witch, with her hair teased into a demented fuzz around her head.

I slipped the grey card from my jacket pocket and ran my finger over the real spider she’d trapped there under a plastic coating and the ‘Trick or Treat’ she’d scrawled across the top in someone’s blood. “Charming,” I assured her. “Very inventive.”

“Papa’s in disgrace, again,” Algy confided. He’d favoured a vampiric costume for the evening. “He keeps re-enacting his death. I don’t think he can stop, poor thing. It’s driving Mama wild.”

“Do you think you can fix him?” Milly asked. Francis’s offer ran through my head. Milly meant it in a completely different sense, of course.

“Oh, do try, Gus,” Algy pleaded. “You were always ever so good at that sort of thing.”

I nodded and went through to the sitting room, my cane tapping lightly across the ornate hall tiles. My father lay hovering an inch above the floor, face down in a puddle of blueish-grey fog. He was particularly insubstantial.

His words came back to me from that day. You can drown in a puddle of water, Gus. Only takes a couple of inches.

And of course, I hadn’t believed him. And of course, he had to demonstrate.

I walked over to the centre of the room, where he lay. A spectral chill cooled me to the bone. What had I said?

Nothing. I’d giggled. And then he’d turned blue and my mother had looked up from her roses and seen us. She’d come flying across the lawn.

“What are you doing, stupid man?”

I turned to her now, standing in the doorway. Yes, that’s just what she’d said that day. And then she’d pushed me aside and hauled him up by the back of his tweed jacket. But it was too late, of course.

I knelt down by his side, as I had that damp autumn day, and pressed my palm down on the back of his head. Just so. And she came flying across the room.

Flash Fiction: Memory Box on Medium

I’ve put my magic realism flash fiction, Memory Box, on Medium. The story originally appeared in Crannog Magazine. It’s a story about memory and dementia and children trying to understand their parents.

I’ve locked it to members only for now (because that allows me to get paid, as part of Medium’s new system), but everyone can see up to three stories without joining. Click on the link above if you’d like to read the story.

Memory Box Collection Free

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I’ve just released a small collection of seven of my short stories and flash fiction. Some have been published before in other places, some are completely new. There’s a mixture of magic realism, literary, sci-fi and modern fairy stories. You can get a copy on Amazon or click here for a free copy if you sign up to my newsletter in November. (I promise not to spam you, but I will tell you about my upcoming vampire sequel.) Blurb below.

 

 

Seven stories of magic and meaning, love and loss.

A daughter discovers a wonderful product of her mother’s artistry after her death. An employee realises how far his company’s sinister connections reach when he has an unfortunate accident with his soul. A depressed entrepreneur discovers authentic emotion on tap through a faulty piece of tech. A museum artefact comes to life to serve the cause of true love. A broken-hearted young man gets a winter treat from Jack Frost. A boy gets more than he wants when he captures an illegal alien with psychotropic powers. A young woman tries to make a connection with the unborn child she will lose.

Ambrose Hall is a speculative and literary fiction writer from the UK. This is a collection of some of his short stories and flash fiction.

Flash Fiction: Fraternising

Here’s some grubby Northern sci-fi for you.

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It was a small, grey, scrawny thing, slumped in the corner of my dad’s shed on a pile of compost bags. It stared up at us with those giant saucer eyes they have. I felt a pang. It was like looking at a puppy in a pound, only ten times worse; like looking at a super-puppy.

                “What the hell have you done, Jimmy?” Sam said, as he caught sight of the alien.

“I was out picking snails for my mam,” I said, “down the alleys out back of the club. Then I see it just ambling along like. And I had the sack already.”

“Jesus, Jimmy. We should phone the council… or the government. You’ve seen the posters.”

“Don’t you want to see for yourself what it feels like?”

Sam narrowed his eyes at me, then his whole expression changed and his mouth fell open.

                I crouched down and watched it watching me. The government had put up posters with warnings, and adverts on the telly giving out scares about the risks of “fraternising.” That’s what they called it. But the rumours on the street said different. Most said these aliens were harmless. More than that, word was their touch was like the best drug you’ve ever had, and with no side-effects. So when I’d seen the little grey fella walking along, I took my chance. I’d brought him down to the shed on my dad’s allotment. No one really came here since the rift opened, and my dad got conscripted. It was the safest place I could think of.

                Sam crouched down next to me. “How’s it done?”

“I think you just touch its hand.”

“You first then.”

“Too bloody right.” My stomach churned, but I didn’t want to show my nerves.

The alien was still staring at me. I put my hand up, palm facing towards it, and I hoped Sam didn’t notice me shaking. His eyes were still on the alien, nearly as wide and round as the creature’s.

                Slowly, the alien held its hand up, mirroring mine.

“Shit,” said Sam under his breath. He said it really slowly, stretching out the middle. “This is it.”

I moved my hand towards the alien’s hand, and then we touched.

                A wave of blue enveloped everything. The deepest blue, like the UV lighting in the club, but ten times as deep. It hummed with depth, but I couldn’t feel the humming. I couldn’t feel a thing. The blue was me and I was the blue. For a moment, I felt completely at peace. And then it hit me like a wave made of pain. Not physical pain. I still couldn’t feel my body. Sorrow, sadness, fear, and hurt pulsed through my consciousness. I wanted to cry out, but I didn’t have a throat to make the noise or a mouth to shape the sound.

                A second wave came, this one of loneliness. I realised how we’d connected. Could it feel what I felt? I saw myself like an onion being peeled, layer after layer, until, in the middle, the core, black and rotten, spreading decay, like something on my dad’s compost heap. Something selfish, using, corrupting. I didn’t want to feel its pain. I didn’t want it to see my rottenness. I pulled away with some part of myself, and willed myself out of that place.

                The blue disappeared. I was sprawled on the floor of the shed, looking up at the wooden roof with its damp stains and mould patches where it hadn’t dried out from the winter. I struggled to stand, limbs all at the wrong angle. The alien was curled up in the corner, its knees pulled up to its too-big-head, its skinny arms wrapped around its legs, its face hidden.

                “You all right?” Sam asked. Now he was staring at me.

“Come on,” I said to the creature. I crouched in front of it again, gesturing for it to get out of the corner. I didn’t dare touch it. I just knelt there and waited. It probably couldn’t understand me, anyway.

                Finally, it raised its head to the side, one big eye peering over its arm.

I gestured with my hand again. “Come on.”

I moved out the way, shoving into Sam as I did. I’d forgotten he was still crouched there.

“What are you playing at?” he asked as he fell on his arse. “Watch it.”

I didn’t care about him. I just wanted to let the thing go, and it wasn’t going to come out of the corner with me blocking its way. I pushed the door open, then stood back and waited.

“Go on,” I said. “Get going.”

“What the hell are you doing?” Sam shouted, picking himself up. “What about my go?”

“You don’t get a go,” I said. I couldn’t be arsed explaining. No. I couldn’t explain. He wouldn’t understand. I wasn’t sure I did. I just couldn’t keep it here anymore.

“What’s your problem?” he asked.

“I’m letting it go.”

Slowly, the alien uncurled itself from its ball.

“But …” Sam began. He didn’t bother finishing. The creature ran past us and shot out the door as fast as its skinny little legs could carry it.

                I stepped outside.

“I wanted to see what it was like,” Sam said. He just sounded confused now.

The sun was setting over the backs of the houses, spilling orange light across the rows of red bricks and the alleyways, the washing out on lines in back yards, the half-dug allotments, some going to weed since the conscription came. It reflected off windows, making the houses look like they were on fire, and leaving me twice as cold. Fizzing away like a great electric eye, the rift’s blue light warred against the orange flood. I couldn’t see any sign of the creature.

“You’ll have to find your own,” I said. “But if I was you, I wouldn’t bother.”

 

Early Learning | Ambrose Hall

My flash fiction in THE FEM.

THE FEM

“Don’t play with that. It’s for girls.”

My head whipped round. Across the toy shop, a boy sat behind a pink plastic dressing table, exploring the array of small drawers with delight. The dressing table was lurid, bubblegum baroque, the mirror oval, a real fairy tale dream. His mother hovered behind, her face stiff with tension. For a moment, the boy was oblivious to her disapproval.

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