Extract from The Sweet Smell of Lilies

The following is an extract from a short story called The Sweet Smell of Lilies. Phoebe is fanciful teenage with a very over-active imagination. She sees murder and intrigue wherever she goes, even in the most innocent situations. But nothing is as strange as the eventual outcome of the story. The story is written from the POV of Phoebe herself, using her voice.

But before I carry on, I had better tell you a bit about me. My name is Phoebe and I am going to be a renowned crime writer, like Agatha Christie or Dorothy L Sayers. I am working on my first novel right now.

I was born in the Cotswolds, eighteen years and eleven months ago, the only daughter of Marion and James Partridge. We were an ordinary family, just like any other with a cat, two dogs and a goldfish. Then suddenly, when I was almost five, my father vanished. I barely remember him now. He was also a spy like my uncle. One day he went on a secret trip to the city, but he never came back. No-one ever saw him again, not even my mother. He was kidnapped by the Russians. They tortured him for days on end, using thumbscrews and other instruments of medieval torture. They shone bright lights in his eyes and stuck matchsticks under his fingernails. He never talked of course. He was such a brave man….

‘Phoebe,’ my mother would say, ‘Don’t tell such stories. You know it’s not true. Your father was not a spy. He’s just another missing person now.’

Extract from A Ghost Story

This is a short passage from my work in progress. It’s a ghost story which is split into the present and extracts from a part written novel. The writer died at the same time as the main protagonist, Emily, was born. This is taken from the novel which Emily is reading from an old manuscript given to her earlier. The child also called Emily is the heroine of the novel and is trapped and frightened. She is remembering something that happened when she was very young. I have had to take a few bits out to fall within the word count.

…A faint wailing was coming from the well and was carried on the wind as if the fairies were taking its breath and sucking it away. Her mother ran to the well and called, ‘Is there anyone there?’

It was four hours before the fire brigade pulled him out, a small boy, wet, bedraggled, lifeless. He had fallen halfway and clung to a branch for as long as he could. The well was only about 15 foot deep they said.

‘But if you dropped a stone you couldn’t hear it when it hit the water, it was so deep?’ her mother asked.

‘Just an old wives tale,’ they muttered, ‘just an old wives tale.’

Emily cried for the boy for the first time in ten years. She remembered when they brought him out. She remembered the wet hair and the dirty face and his little battered and bruised arms hanging by his sides.

The fireman was crying. ‘I’m so sorry,’ was all he could say.

Emily sobbed. She sobbed for the boy and his parents and for her own mother, who she couldn’t find.

‘Where are you mummy?’ and she sobbed for herself, alone and afraid of the dark.

The Indulgence

This is for the next Storycraft flash fiction challenge. Tell a story in 300-500 words of dialogue. Tags and action description are okay, but no exposition!

The Indulgence

‘How long have you been dead?’ asked the angel, not even looking up once at the pretty young woman sitting across the desk in front of him.
‘About 30 years,’ she replied. ‘I am not sure. Time moves slowly when you have nothing to do.’
‘Do you miss your children? Your family?’
‘I don’t know,’ she said, ‘I can’t remember. Did I have any? Children that is, I must have had a family of some sort. Is this a job interview?’
‘Some might call it that. Personally I would call it an “indulgence”.’ The angel dipped his pen in a bottle of Quink and continued scratching shapes on the page.
‘Have I been good? Is that why you are “indulging” me?’
‘It’s not about good or bad,’ he replied, ‘it’s just your time.’
‘30 years? Is that my time?’ She fidgeted nervously.
‘Yes,’ said the angel, never even glancing at this small, slight woman who was twitching and rubbing her hands together. Anyone with a modicum of compassion would have appreciated how she felt. But not him…
‘Am I still pretty?’ She asked.
‘I wouldn’t know,’ he replied. ‘That’s not my department. You need to ask someone from the Department of Girlfriends, Models and Attention Seekers, or DoGMAS for short.’
‘Why? Do they keep all our pictures in the attic? Do they age and we don’t, like Dorian Gray?’
‘Gray? Dorian? Oh yes, accidental death by poisoning? No, no, he was the one in the boat, when the engine caught….’
‘Forget it,’ she said, ‘It’s a book, by Oscar Wilde.’
‘Ah, so you remember that.’
‘A little, from school….Did my children die with me?’ She asked.
‘Who’s conducting the interview?’ The angel swore under his breath as his nib split and ink splattered across the page.
‘Sorry, I need to know.’
‘You don’t have any.’
‘But you said….’
‘I was just testing. But you had a cat called Tabitha. She’s dead too, of course, natural causes. Old age, but then she’d be 42 if she was still alive.’ He chuckled, as if he had cracked a really good joke.
It wasn’t that funny, she thought. Poor Tabitha, not that she remembered her. The angel stood up, picked up his pen, wiping it methodically with a piece of cloth, followed by his ink and his paper, placed them neatly in a small leather bag and began to walk away.
‘My indulgence, you haven’t told me what it is.’
‘Tomorrow,’ he replied, ‘we’ll have another session and I will tell you then. In the meantime, try and remember what your father did for a living, who your friends were or what school you went to, or anything useful. Goodbye.’ And he was gone.