#VignetteSeries – A Queen Angers

Author's Note: This is a snippet from the Steampunk Novel I am currently editing. Here, two particularly slimy scientists are confronted by a — let's say altered — Queen Victoria. She is not a happy monarch.
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“What is it you wish of us, Your Majesty?” Monk’s words shot from his mouth like a trigger-happy soldier.
They were met by an ominous silence. The quiet extended from a pause, to a thought, to a comatose sleep.
Monk wrung his hands together as the silence lengthened, his finger ends apparently not up to the job on their own. Somerset fiddled with something deep inside his jacket pockets before reemerging to pick remnants of Monk’s masonry from his shoulders. Each piece fell to the floor with a plink.
“I hate littering!”
“Sorry, Your Majesty,” Somerset’s hasty response as he shoved both hands back inside his pockets.
“I hear you have taken issue with my eyes.”
“No… no, not at all. I just mentioned it to…”
“To whom?”
“Just Sir Magnus, Ma’am, I was concerned nothing more.”
“It concerns me that you are concerned enough to concern yourself with a verbal distribution of facts that do not concern you.”
“Ma’am?”
“KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT!
The words echoed around the throne room like the bells of Westminster Abbey. Sir Magnus covered his ears, Somerset, too. The warning grew louder than ever until the two pitiful figures quaked on the floor like rabbits before the hounds.
Only when the two men wept without care for who or what saw them, mucus pouring from their noses like Cumbrian tarns, did the echoing stop. Not even a ghost of a whisper remained.

#VignetteSeries – Yellow: of Wars and Flowers

Author’s Note: This first draft section has been cut from my upcoming Steampunk anthology. I hope it gives a taste of the characters involved. I don’t think it needs explaining.

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“Yellow is such a pretty colour.”

Grace eyed the daffodil that protruded from Sir Belvedere’s buttonhole.

“Yellow is the colour of cowardice.”

“No, sir, it is not.”

“I have seen many things on many battlefields most too terrible to recount. However, one thing I can say with assuredness, is the colour yellow is associated with the worst in each.”

Sir Belvedere’s eyes blazed from beneath bushy eyebrows. He stared into a cold nowhere, one his beautiful companion could only imagine in nightmares.

If it bothered Grace, she did not show it. Instead, she poured a cup of Earl Grey and placed it before the giant of a man.

“Thank you,” said he through gritted teeth.

“My pleasure,” the angel returned.

“How much longer will your father be?” Belvedere enquired. “Her Majesty was most specific.”

“Not long.”

“You are certain? If ever this infernal war is to end, we need him.”

Grace took a sip from her cup and set it back down with a chink of China on China.

“My father lays flowers on my mother’s grave. He shall return shortly.”

“So you say, but there are no roses to lay in April.”

“Yes, so I say!”

Grace stood so suddenly that Belvedere almost fell out of his chair.

“My father lays daffodils on the anniversary of her death. He has done so every April of every year since the day she died in childbirth, my birth. This is how I shall remember yellow, not as some act of wartime desertion.”

Belvedere was quick to his feet, his hand slipping to the flower at his chest. “War taints a man, Grace and for this I apologise. I see war in everything these days. Everything. Please, accept this flower and my condolences.”

Belvedere passed Grace his buttonhole and turned to leave.

“You said it was most important that you wait?”

“There are more important things.”

“But, Her Majesty?”

Belvedere hung his head and whispered, “I wear the daffodil for her as your father lays his for your mother.”

“But, Her Majesty is not dead?”

“Isn’t she, Grace? Isn’t she?”

#VignetteSeries – Callisto Descends

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“My name is Kalliste.”

“That’s unusual, lovely, but unusual,” I bumbled.

“You may know me better by Callisto.”

“As in the moon of Jupiter?”

“Amongst other things.”

She blinked, and the world went dark. My heart stopped, body froze, even the birds fell silent in the forest. When she reopened them, I gasped; she smiled.

“My form affects you?” she purred like a Siamese cat.

“You… you… are very beautiful.”

“My apologies. I thought this form best suited when I fell from the sky.”

“Fell!”

“More drifted, really.”

“But… but…”

“I did not anticipate such obscure behaviour. Allow me to change.”

She did. In a burst of emerald and amber light, she grew in size, bulk, proportions. She towered above me and roared into the night, a bear of such magnitude as to frighten lions.

“Is this better?’ she growled. “I am the great bear fallen from the night sky, my image missing from the stars.”

And it was. Her constellation had vanished, in its place, darkness.

“Why are you here?” I asked.

“Even a nymph must mate,” her drooled reply.

“Maybe best as you was then,” I said, as I took off my shoes.

#VignetteSeries – Lost

Author’s Note: This is a snippet I’m working on, where the investigator, Mortimer Headlock, begins to lose his cool. Headlock is a man who never loses his cool!

Lost in the space between dreams and insanity, I tremble with the frustrations of another damn dawn. The world reshapes before my eyes, twisting, contorting, stretching beyond the realms of reality, administering lies. These vehicles for ocular perception see what he wishes me to see, what everybody sees, what the universe sees, yet I am Mortimer Headlock, so my eyes must see more. And they do. I see it all. Everything! I’m coming for you, Black. I’m coming.

#VignetteSeries – Merryweather

Author’s Note: Here we find Sir Walter Merryweather charming the ladies — sort of. I liked the idea of this but ditched it from the beginning of The Eternals as unnecessary. I’ve added the names here so you know who’s talking. Still makes me laugh though.

THE ETERNALS

Merryweather: “Ah, Jean, the blackhole to these ladies’ lovely planets. Are they trapped in your gravity or lost?”

Jean: “Oh, God. What are you doing here, Merryweather?”

Merryweather: “I came to join the party, sourpuss. I thought I might take one of these lovely ladies off your hands.”

Jean: “Please do, I’ve tried depositing Portia on everyone else.”

Portia: “Why must you feign insouciance, Jean. You know you want me, my dark raven. Why not admit it.”

Merryweather: “Yes, Jean, why not admit it.”

Jean: “Button it, Merryweather.”

Merryweather: “Why? Because I appreciate Portia’s charms when you don’t? Honestly, I don’t know why you treat her so badly. She’s everything a man could want: educated, stylish, voluptuous, knows all the right people, has eaten the rest, likes you — I can’t understand that one — and provides excellent ballast in a balloon. Who else could offer so much as a singular individual? Eh, riddle me that? So what do say, Portia, shall we take a roll? I mean stroll! My apologies, your merangueness. I mean, your thighness! Oh, my!”

Jean: “Might be for the best if you shut up.”

Merryweather: “I agree. I’m quite tired with all this chatting the girls up malarkey. Best leave it to an expert.”

Jean: “Yes, please do.”

Merryweather: “Jean?”

Jean: “What.”

Merryweather: “Where can I find one?”

Thanks for reading

Richard

Richard M. Ankers

Author of The Eternals Series

The Eternals

Hunter Hunted

#VignetteSeries – Luna

Author’s Note: A first draft clip from the latest fantasy I’m working on. Here we find the mysterious gentleman Cornelius Black preaching to a very frightened little girl called Luna.

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“There are few views ones might accept as the truth of all things, fewer still an exactitude. The universe in all its alternate dimensions has many beauties, many baubles and trinkets, many curtains of colours to draw across imperial night. They all falter before she. You see, my dear, my sweet young thing, to reign in heaven as one does on earth one must weave subtlety into one’s shades, not venture to outshine nor outdo. Those with the bravado to boast such things become a target for those inferior higher percentile who smudge the cosmos with tainted greys and dirty shades. The majority hate the minority unless that minority compliment them, ease their worries, become as essential as she to me. You see, Luna, like your namesake, you are a child of subtlety. If you stood out too far you would be persecuted. I shall not allow it.”

Thanks for reading

Richard

#VignetteSeries – Fair Enough

Author’s Note: From my WIP.

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“It infuriates!”

“I’m sure it does”

“Her sheer refusal to die flies in the ideals of God and nature!”

“Must you rant and rave so?”

“Yes!”

“Fair enough.”

Headlock flipped the pages of The Times open with such ferocity as to rip its central spine.

“Is there anything I can say to calm you?”

“I doubt it.”

“That was not a no.”

“Neither was it a yes.”

“Fair enough.”

“Do you have to say that? Is it now your signature sentence?”

“Why, do you find it infuriating?”

Headlock lowered his paper so dark eyes peered over its literary horizon. “Yes.”

“Fair enough.”

#VignetteSeries – The Fairground

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Love was like a Ferris wheel, always revolving. Sure, there were good views, the odd adrenaline rush, even some pleasantness in the spinning, but ultimately it just made you sick. Trapped, I revolved on that fairground ride for the longest time, pinned in place by metal restraints. When all I wished was to hook a duck, instead, I spun around in circles. Fate, what could you do? I wasn’t even brave enough to jump.

#VignetteSeries – She Wore Feathers

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Author’s note: I wrote this scene for a specific story and then didn’t use it. It seemed a pity to waste it, so I hope you like it.

Richard

I came upon her quite by accident. She cowered beneath the boughs of a cherry blossom tree, one of which I presumed had disgorged its petals on her shivering self. She was one mass of light pink.

“Hello,” I said, then rolled my eyes at such predictability. I’d never been good with the ladies. If any of my friends had accompanied me, they would’ve charmed her with some wonderful opening line. I envied them often, but was glad of their absence this day.

If the enveloped girl heard me, she did not show it. She never even raised her eyes, her shivering intensifying.

“There’s no need to be afraid,” I tried. Still nothing.

I might have walked on by and left her to it, but it just wasn’t me. Her desperation called, and I answered.

I walked softly over to her, the grass lush and damp under my feet. Afraid that if I touched her she might scream, instead, I crouched beside her and whispered, “You don’t have to be afraid any more.”

I don’t know why I said it, nor why it moved her, but it did. The girl stirred, her second skin of pearlescent nature shimmering.

When she stood, her eyes agleam in gold, I realised why she hadn’t dared stir; the petals that buried her fell away as feathers, and she shone even more.

I am fallen,” she breathed from everywhere and nowhere. “Help me. Show me the way home.”

#VignetteSeries – Whispers in the Night

Author’s Note: Another throwaway item today. This was part of a ghost story I ditched. The man in question (the one doing the observing) is rather less alive than he imagines. His descent into madness begins.

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They fluttered over the midnight graves like silver faeries. Larger than moths but no birds, the creatures shimmered in and out of existence like faulty film in a projector, here one moment gone the next. Vanishing from above one tombstone to reappear over another some distance away, I observed their goings on in absolute silence.

The creatures, fey folk or whatever they were, communicated in intangible gestures as though erasing one finger movement with the very next. Not a sound did they emit, a reality amplified by the night being paused. Not even the willow trees that dotted the graveyard swayed as was their wont, their tendrils limp and languid.

How long I remained I could not say, but it was too long. The whispered threats that started in one ear then fluttered to the next, denoted such. When they moved into my head, I knew the truth.