Short Stories

“Prize” – short story

Albert’s chest swelled with joy to the point where he thought he would break the buckles of his battered harness. Such a fight! Such a victory! Even the King was content at last! Albert had won many a tournament like today’s, but never before had his father’s approval been among his prizes. The King hadn’t smiled since the elder of his sons had exiled himself, but after today Albert would no longer be the runt, only suffered in his brother’s stead. Today, his skills and speed had been the downfall of the strongest knight on the field.

Divested of his armour, Albert retreated to his chambers to prepare for the customary banquet in the victor’s honour. His honour! He held the defeated knight’s sword, by right of tournament rules now his, close to his chest. Years ago, as a boy and his brother’s knave, he had carried Gerhard’s prize swords. Now the honour was his own, as was his growing collection.

Short Stories

“Lucky” – short story

I discover him more or less by accident. A shell has hit the trench full on, turning the defensive parapet into a crater. The explosion has rent apart woodwork, sandbags and bodies alike. The handful of enemy soldiers who made it across No Man’s Land during the battle now hang like ragdolls in the tangles of barbed wire that run along our lines. One of them stares at me. Or seems to. Shrapnel has gauged out both his eyes.

The chance of finding anyone worth saving is slim, but to a medic like me, any sign of life is a sign of hope. Only I don’t find any such signs among the crumpled uniformed heaps. At first sight, I concluded the shell killed everyone here. At second sight as well. If he hadn’t cried out from behind the rubble like he did, I never would have found him.

Short Stories

“Strip Poker” – short story

This time I’ve got him! This time I’m going to win back the seventy thousand I lost tonight.

I lower my cards, hiding them to my chest. “I’ll raise you one thousand.” That makes it my last five; the five I won back an hour ago in the one lucky strike I had. But that is about to change, because with this hand, I just can’t lose.

My opponent regards his cards with a quiet, steady look. He doesn’t need sunglasses to hide his eyes. They’re cold as steel and give away nothing. He extends a hand and puts down the money to meet me.

“I will see you,” he says. A tiny smirk appears and in a flash I fear he’s got me.

Blog, Short Stories

“The Arches” – short story

The forest was wonderful at this time of year. Everywhere, the leaves had begun to change colour, but it would still be a week or two before the autumn storms transformed the beaten paths between the trees into soggy mud pools. The first mushrooms of the season had popped up, while the chestnut trees started to shed their conkers, spiky shells and all.

Mark Haynes whistled at Thor, his enthusiastic Alsatian. The young dog had bolted off between the scrubs to chase a squirrel up a tree and, despite Mark’s efforts, wouldn’t be convinced it was a lost cause.

“Thor! Heel!”

Reluctantly the Alsatian abandoned its playful hunt and trotted back to its master, tongue hanging out of its muzzle. When it found Mark, it sat down on its haunches, the very image of obedience.

“After a treat to make up for that squirrel, are you?” Mark shook his head, a lopsided grin on his face as he pulled a dog biscuit from his pocket and tossed it up. Thor leapt and snatched the treat out of mid-air.

“If all else fails, I can always sell you to a circus, you crazy mongrel,” Mark said as he roughly petted the Alsatian. When he rose again, the deep colours of evening shining through the trees caught his attention. “See that, boy? Time to go home.”

Twilight set in before they were halfway back to the car. Mark didn’t mind. He knew the forest well enough to find his way around on a moonless night. There had been a time when he would do exactly that, but for a year or two now, his eyes were failing him. Only last week he had tripped over a root and twisted his ankle; not badly, but it had hurt.

Blog, Short Stories

“Downswing” – short story

DOWNSWING

Tick.

I sit and listen to the emptiness. A circle of light, cast by a source I cannot see, marks the edge of my world.

Tock.

A gigantic pendulum swings back and forth in a slow, steady rhythm.

Tick.

It comes and goes. The only company I have, and the only thing that tells me time has not yet stopped for me.

Tock.

That I may still be alive…

Tick.

The pendulum’s creased face catches the light as it passes through my world before disappearing in the shadows high above. A soundless moment, then: