Cardinal Sin

It lay in the street like a puddle of blood. A soft liquid, downy, not right, I approached this small death with tentative steps. The blood shifted as if to pour away.

Startled, I recoiled.

Though detested by this fear of something so small, this unexpected disturbance, I regathered. My breaths steadied to a pulsing fog in the cold winter morning.

The scarlet pool appeared unbothered, too, resettling like an agitated baby rocked to sleep.

If the frost was finer, the dawn warmer, the effect would’ve lessened, but red on white like a Crusader’s bold announcement of the purging victory to come, gleamed. How dare it! How dare it ruin my morning?

I made to walk around the thing but life intervened. A city fox so alive as to dismiss extinction ran out of a hawthorn bush. The creature lowered its head as if to lap at the pool.

It was wrong, this I knew. Nothing could’ve turned my stomach more.

So what did I do this disenchanted morning when one of God’s creatures required my aid? What did I do when the devil in a fox fur coat came to finish what nature had started?

I let it.

#

There are many kinds of sin but none so great as indifference. One might say it the cardinal sin, yet we bask in its crimson illumination gladly.

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The Babe Magnet (In Dialogue)

“Call me old-fashioned but I like my pants clean, pressed and swishing.”

“You’re old-fashioned.”

“Thanks.”

“You’re very welcome, gramps.”

“There’s nothing wrong with looking and feeling smart.”

“And there wasn’t in the seventies, either, eh?”

“Cheeky sod.”

“Look, I’m telling you this as your friend, purple velour pants and an orange crinoline shirt’s only gonna get you one thing.”

“A date?”

“A beating.”

“So you’re saying I should compromise.”

“I’m saying you should change, it’s different.”

“But this is me.”

“I refer you to my previous statement.”

“You said you liked them.”

“On a muppet.”

“Goddamn it!”

“No need for that. We can soon sort you out. I’ll lend you something fabulous. Something of mine. Top draw stuff.”

“But I don’t want to look like you. And stop winking.”

“Kid, you’ll never look like me.”

“I’m a year older than you.”

“Potato potahto. You leave it to me.”

Fifteen minutes later

“I love it.”

“Black leather never fails. The bright red Nikes set them off, the gold chain finishing the ensemble. You’re a babe magnet.”

“You think so?”

“Sure do. Where’re you going, anyway?”

“Seventies disco.”

The Arrangement

She kept a bowl of flowers on the sideboard I never once saw wilt. Regardless of the time of year, weather, or the close attentions of her ginger cat named — unsurprisingly — Ginger, the flowers thrived. They were pink, pretty even, but never worth more than a cursory glance.

I passed those flowers every day for the three years we lived together. Not once did I water or maintain them, and to my knowledge, neither did she. I prayed they’d keel over just to prove they weren’t plastic, or, at least, not as false as me. Once, I even tugged their petals, but we’ll keep that to ourselves. Obstinate flowers still didn’t fall.

The day I left, I paused at the door. “At least tell me their bloody name, I’ve looked at them all this time and still have no idea what they’re called!”

“Same name as me,” she replied, her eyes wet and weeping.

So, I still don’t know.

They


They differ to us substantially. The most apparent of these is their appearance. We stand upon two legs, make our way through a tactile world with two hands and regard all through two eyes. In a more direct description, we are paired. This pairing navigates beyond the physical into the realms of belief. It is believed we should live our lives in pairs, couples, if you will, and so we do. We are a species who thrive in plural. A species must thrive if it wishes to endure.

They exist in the singular. They are derived from a singular entity, one that split to spawn many. Wherever possible, they refrain from interaction and keep to themselves. They live alone, talk alone and enjoy doing so. Physically, we are comparable, but they do not see it this way. They look through two eyes, but act as though looking through none. They have two legs, but refuse to use them unless necessary. Their paired arms and hands are now conjoined with so much technology, they have become indistinguishable from the greater whole.

Their name? They have many names and many subsets. They dislike being classified as many and prefer singular — as is their way — identification. My colleagues term them vermin, but the correct and almost forgotten genus is human. They are a strange lot, yet as I scientist I find them intriguing. Though I suspect I shall not for much longer.

Exempt

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Exempt

It was not that I was exempt from fear. No, it was not this at all. Neither was it that fear had such a hold as to addle my mind, to disturb and disrupt. Not one bit. I had faced my fears and throttled them. Now, as I stood before the Devil, it was his turn to fear, for exempt from fear he’d find he was not. We would see whose eyes blinked first. I knew for sure, it would not be mine.

50 Word Stories – In Hallowed Halls

In hallowed halls we found them cowering like the frightened mice they were. Dark shapes with white-flecked collars, the clergy crumbled as our ravaged world burned.

“Where’s your God now!” bellowed one unruly bystander.

I would never forget their reply.

As one, they stood and said, “He’s already here.”

Special Feature / Hugh Roberts

It gives me great personal pleasure to feature my friend and yours, Hugh Roberts. Hugh is always incredibly generous with his own time in relation to others, so it’s a pleasure to be able to return the favour. Please read and enjoy.

Richard

Thank you so much to Richard for allowing me to take over some space on his blog today. My name is Hugh W. Roberts. I’m dyslexic and have a passion for writing.

In celebration of my short story collection, Glimpses, reaching its first birthday in December 2017, I’ll be publishing some short stories from the book, both on my blog and as a guest over on the blogs of other bloggers. Look out for them over the next few months.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Jonathan, one of many characters who feature in my stories.

The Bridegroom

Jonathan ironed his shirt. It was brand new, crisp, and white, but the creases he thought he’d ironed out had miraculously appeared overnight.

His stomach churned; he’d not been able to eat a thing; too afraid he would heave it all up the moment he reached the church.

His mobile phone had been pinging for what seemed like days now with messages and emails, most of which were of no importance apart, that is, from the one which begged him to call her back.

Matthew, his best man, was due back in five minutes.

The crease in the left sleeve was stubborn, refusing to budge. He looked for a bottle of water from the minibar so he could sprinkle some of it on the crease. His mother had taught him that this always helped when ironing out stubborn creases. It would have to do, even with the stubborn crease. After all, it would be hidden by his jacket so nobody would see it.

Ping, ping, ping. He picked up the phone and was about to throw it against the wall when her face stared back at him from the screen saver and stopped him in his tracks.

A tear rolled down his face. He couldn’t go through with it. She’d understand, wouldn’t she? But in five minutes’ time, Matthew would be knocking on the hotel bedroom door telling him it was time to go to the church.

Within minutes of him slipping on his shirt, doing up his tie and putting on his jacket, Matthew was knocking on the door. They hugged each other briefly.

“Are you ready?” Jonathan nodded his head.

“Take your time, mate, there’s no rush,” uttered Matthew.

As they walked out of the room and down the stairs to the ground floor of the hotel, a few more tears slid down Jonathan’s cheeks.

The tear duct dam burst the moment he stepped out of the car outside the church and saw the light oak box his ‘no longer wife-to-be’ was now laying in. Jonathan was supposed to be getting married to her, not burying her.

***

Taken from Glimpses. A collection of 28 short stories that will take you up a path full of twists and turns.

#books #shortstories #sciencefiction

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50 Word Stories – Pay Attention


“Pay attention, small fry,” he said, which got our backs up straightaway. “I’m giving one unbreakable command. Understand?”

We nodded.

“Don’t follow.”

With that, he stepped off the cliff and into the void.

“He ain’t tellin’ me what to do!” I bellowed.

So I suppose it was my fault really.

50 Word Stories – Birds of Hope

They did not fly, nor move more than but a few inches, even then just beak to beak. Twisting coils of white-feathered, serpentine necks, they adored each other with a perfection mastered over generations. Beautiful, they were, in a world gone mad, two cranes preening where children once played.

Ferocity Lost

Their ferocity mirrored our own. Man for man, pound for pound, we tore into each other with a reckless abandon balanced only by the immovability of both. Stalemate.

Like deadlocked chess pieces all we had fought for had achieved nothing. Nothing! 

Was this war at its worse were armies died without purpose? Or was that the purpose of war itself, to serve no purpose other than death? And for what? A field of lost flowers. 

I walked away. 

Sometimes their shouts of coward haunted me. Mostly not. It takes a braver man to see sense in the senseless than a fool to expound it.