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A Short Writing Prompt

Sometimes it’s good to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. This prompt is so random that it’s great for getting your creative juices going!

So, take a book, any book, fiction or non-fiction, and turn to page thirty-eight. Go to the fourth line and write down the first full line of text you come to. This is your springboard into your next piece of writing. Either use it as the starting point of your story (the inspiration) or split it up and use the words in different parts of your text.

For example, the book next to me is Robert Galbraith’s Lethal White. The fourth line on page thirty-eight is:

“They discussed money for five minutes.”

As Lethal White is crime fiction I would probably try and change the genre too. So, maybe I would try and think of a story that’s a comedy, or maybe a fantasy.

Please note though, the book you’re using was written by someone else and it’s their intellectual property so no plagiarising or copying guys! You’re using it only as a prompt.

What have you come up with?

 

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Death’s Apprentice – Part Ten

So, this is part ten of my writing experiment. I’m not planning this story at all so I’m really outside of my comfort zone being a plotter. I’m enjoying the ride though. But, please be warned, as I’m writing this as I’m going along, there will be mistakes and plot holes. Lots of them! 🙂

Death’s Apprentice – Part Ten

Azrail vaulted from his seat at the front of the carriage onto the wet ground with a speed and grace that shouldn’t have been possible for a man of his age. He disappeared to the front of the horses as Joe carefully jumped from his seat. He landed on the floor but felt unsteady, his legs feeling like jelly, his stomach doing cartwheels from the speed of the journey. He looked up as Azrail came to stand in front of him. He grabbed the small lamp, lit by a single candle, from its hook at the front of the carriage. His fingers reminded Joe of old brittle branches that looked as if they’d snap if he held anything heavier. He spun on his heels and swept over to the large gates. Joe could see Azrail’s grey wispy hair peeping out from under his top hat.

He was sure Azrail had just snapped his fingers and the padlock had willingly fallen to the floor without being touched. The chain slithered from around the gate like a snake and the gates swung open with a loud creak.

He turned to Joe and said, ‘Come on then,’ before he turned and strode off into the darkness of the cemetery.

Shit, thought Joe. He was used to being out and alone at this time. His mum didn’t give a toss about where he was as long as he wasn’t under her feet but in a cemetery? Alone? With a strange guy, he’d only just met. And when Joe had just imagined that the gates had opened with a snap of Azrail’s fingers.

But a deal was a deal. And no one was going to say Joe Bones ever reneged on a deal.

He put his hands in his hoodie pockets to disguise the fact that they were shaking ever so slightly. If you’d asked Joe at that very moment Joe wouldn’t have ever told you that he was scared. Joe never admitted to being scared, He’d learned not to admit to anything, good or bad. Being stripped down to your boxer shorts at the age of eight by your stepdad and being made to stand there in the junk-strewn garden whilst being bombarded with cold water because you admitted to being scared kind of made him not admit to anything anymore. But, let me tell you, Joe was very scared as he stepped over the threshold and into Angel Gate Cemetery.

Azrail had been swallowed up by the darkness. All Joe could see was a small pinprick of light that bobbed up and down. With no other ideas, Joe followed the light into the depths of the cemetery.

A crow called from somewhere in the darkness making Joe jump. The branches of the oak trees that lined the small road into the cemetery bristled as he passed. Joe pulled at the collar of his hoodie. The long limbs of the trees reached out over the top of his head making him feel claustrophobic. He could just make out the faces of angels peering at him through the darkness but they didn’t feel like guardians to him at that moment, more like malevolent beings waiting for him to trip up.

He continued down the road, following the swaying spot of light. What if it wasn’t Azrail at all? What if it was one of those Will-O’-The-Wisp things that his Nana was always going on about and it was luring him to his death?

His heart began to pound in his chest like a drum. Joe really wished Lola was there.

‘Finally,’ said Azrail, stepping out of the darkness, illuminating the inky blackness with his candle lamp. He was standing in front of a large marble tomb that reminded Joe of a Roman temple. It was the size of a large garage with a huge triangular pediment astride two ornate pillars. Ivy crawled across its walls and across his roof. There was a strong gust of wind that shook the oak tree neck to it, making its gnarly limb hit the roof of the tomb like it was playing a drum.

Joe clutched at his chest. Azrail’s voice made him jump. Joe noticed that the light he’d been following was still moving away from him in the distance.

‘Take this,’ said Azrail, grabbing a spade from where it leant up against the front of the tomb.

Joe did as he was told. The wood was rough in his hands.

‘A spade, but…?’

‘Well done, you know what a spade is,’ replied Azrail shaking his head.

‘I mean,’ said Joe, aware that his anxiety was giving away to his pride and anger, ‘I know what a spade is -‘

‘Good, I’m glad you do. You wouldn’t last long in this job -‘

‘I mean,’ said Joe a little louder, ‘why do I need a spade, in a cemetery, at night? Isn’t that illegal? To dig in a cemetery?’

Azrail shook his head. ‘Over there, the anonymous grave in front of Sissy Simmons, the one with the wooden cross,’ he said with a point of his crooked finger, ‘dig.’

‘You want me,’ said Joe, his voice becoming awkwardly high, ‘to dig up someone’s grave?’

Six Things To Remember When You Think You’re Failing

Think you’re failing? Just that word, “failing” is enough to give you nightmares, isn’t it? Well, all is not lost. When you’re feeling like you’ve failed remember these six things:

  1. Remember, EVERYONE feels like this at some point. EVERYONE fails at something. What’s important is that you get back up again. You might need some time to get over it; it’s okay to feel shitty, it’s okay if you fall apart for a bit, just make sure you don’t unpack and live there! Get back up and straighten that crown.
  2. It doesn’t matter how many times you think you’ve failed. It’s not the failure that matters; you could fail fifty times, just make sure you get back up. THAT’S what matters. It’s not how many times you fall but how many times you get back up!
  3. Failing means you’re living. It means you’re trying things even if they’re not working out. THAT, my friend, is worth it on its own because:
  4. That means you’re learning. Failing means you’re trying things and learning what to do and what not to do. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Keep on learning, keep on growing.
  5. Keep your failures in perspective. You’ve probably not brought about the end of the world (which is a good thing, I think? Although if it is the end of the world and there are zombies involved, I’m down for splatting a few. What can I say? That’s the gamer in me:)) Don’t turn it into a catastrophe if it isn’t one. Learn from it and move on (after doing whatever it is you need to do to move on. My poison of choice is wine and chocolate. A proper writer cliche, I know, but I am what I am :))
  6. Remember, “Failure is a verb, not a noun.” This is from an article on Psychology Today. I like this point. It’s important that you realize failing doesn’t mean you’re a failure. See?

And, as Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” More importantly, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

 

Further Reading:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201610/8-things-tell-yourself-when-you-feel-failure

Death’s Apprentice – Part Nine

A shiver zig-zagged down Joe’s back as the horse-drawn carriage pulled up alongside him.

The driver lifted the brim of his hat and said, ‘Joe Bones?’

He didn’t know why but Joe looked around him before he answered with a short, ‘yes.’

‘Jump aboard,’ said the driver with a gesture of his hand.

‘Who are you?’ Joe asked. He might have been seventeen but the old saying of not getting into cars with strangers sure seemed appropriate now. The guy was giving him the creeps. He looked like a corpse with his shrunken face and yellowing skin. And his eyes, his eyes were red with large black pupils and they looked at him like a vampire looked at its prey in those old horror movies. Joe didn’t like the look of this at all. No. Not one bit.

‘I’m your ride,’ the driver said, with a bow of the head he added, ‘the names Azrail Bartholomew Brown.’

‘Where we going?’ Joe asked. His stomach was tight and there was a little ball of dread growing in his gut.

‘Angel Gate Cemetery.’

‘At midnight?’

Azrail smiled, allowing Joe a glimpse of his jagged yellow teeth. ‘Are you getting in, or shall I tell Mrs Crow that the trial is over?’

Pull yourself together, said Joe to himself. He took a deep breath, took hold of the silver handle at the side of the carriage and pulled himself aboard.

The black leather squeaked as he sat down. He could smell leather, cigarette smoke and something funny, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on but it reminded him of his nanna.

Azrail gave a flick of the reins, shouted “Yah!” and the horses took off at break-neck speed into the night.

Joe’s knuckles turned white as he tried to find some grip on the black leather seat. Vomit threatened to explode up his oesophagus as the horses and the carriage zigged and zagged across the town.

‘Do you think,’ said Joe, swallowing down the bile, ‘we could slow down?’

‘Eh?’

‘Can we -‘

‘I can’t hear you, hang on a minute,’ said Azrail. The horses came to an abrupt stop. ‘What did you say?’

‘I was just wondering if we could slow down.’

‘Ah, not good with travelling, eh? No matter,’ said Azrail with a wink, ‘we’re here now. Although, if you want to keep this job you need to sort that travel sickness out. Anyway, we’re here.’

Joe smiled weakly. He could hear the horses panting hard, their hot breath steaming in the air.

They were indeed in front of Angel Gate Cemetery.

The old Victorian Cemetery was on the outskirts of town, its sprawling grounds rambling in between farms and the odd expensive house. Angel Gate took its name from the two angels, Nox and Morta, who stood draped in their heavy marble robes, beatific smiles on their skeletal faces, their hands beckoning the weary traveller to step inside. Two big iron gates stood between them, bound together by thick iron chains and a large padlock.

So, you want to be a writer? A writing Prompt.

The best thing to do when you first start out writing is to write.

Simple right?

Ha! If only. As Ernest Hemmingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

I don’t want you to bleed. Really, no I don’t. I hate blood (insert puking emoji here).

Anyway, because sometimes finding inspiration is hard in the beginning I’m giving you a short prompt that you can finish. Grab a pen, a notebook, or your laptop and try to finish this story:

My grandfather was a pilot in the war and he was trained in emergency landings. Apparently, in times of trouble, “you should pick a nice spot to land, but don’t get too picky, you probably won’t have the luxury of time.”

He always said to me as I was growing up that this had proved most useful advice, and that he had applied this logic to most things in his life; his job once he was de-mobbed, his house and, unfortunately, for Gran, his choice of wife. That’s not to say he didn’t love her. In fact, he came to worship the ground she walked on and even had her name, Flo, tattooed on his right buttock (don’t ask, that was one story he wouldn’t confide in me) but, as he used to tell me as we sat in the garden as he was preparing the blood mix for his prize roses, sometimes, you’ve just got to make a decision and not think about things. Apparently, it had served him well over the years.

Not that it was the same for Gran. Let’s not think she’s a victim here. She told me, and, often him to his face that, “she couldn’t bloody stand the man.”

It occurred to me the other day….

 

Must just give a shout out to my writing mentor, David Calcutt. This was inspired by a writing workshop I attended where we had to find a book and use a quote from it to inspire us.

The quote was, “Pick a nice spot to land, but don’t get too picky, you probably won’t have the luxury of time.” Taken from The Indiana Jones Handbook – The Complete Adventurer’s Guide (by Kiernan, D., and D’Agnese, J., Quirk Books, 2008).

 

Death’s Apprentice – Part Eight

It had finally stopped raining when Joe got back to Crow’s Funeral Home. He was cold, wet and in a particularly bad mood as he was susceptible to when he was tired, and/or hungry and had had a run on with his shit head stepdad. Not only that, his “stepdad” shithead had eaten his tea for him too. His mother almost never cooked but every third week, on a Thursday night, she’d cook stew. It wasn’t the best stew; his mom was a pretty shit cook to be far, but it was a home cooked meal and better than a sandwich or cold pizza. One night, every three weeks, and he had to go and eat it before he got home. Joe pumped his fists at his side. God, he hated that bloke.

And now he was here. At midnight. It was a good job he loved his dog. To be honest, reallly honest, she was the only thing he’d ever loved. Before Lola, he didn’t know what love was. He couldn’t really say that he loved his mother. She was, in all honesty, a shit mother, and he knew it, but she was the only constant in the shit storm that was his life but that didn’t mean he loved her. He knew he didn’t, not once Lola had entered his life.

The clouds were scooting across the sky, covering and uncovering the moon. It reminded Joe of one of those old zoetropes that flicked as they spun around showing photographs and giving the illusion the images were moving. Joe pulled his hoodie in around him. What on earth could they want with him at midnight? If he really thought about it, and he really didn’t want to think about it, he had a bad feeling about this. But, if it paid Lola’s vet bills and got him out of the shithole that was home, then, what choice did he have? Although, all that talk about chosen ones and burying the chosen one had been a bit strange. He hadn’t got a clue what all that was about but still, that seemed to be the story of his life. Joe never knew what was going on.

Suddenly the clouds totally relinquished their grip on the moon and bright silver moonlight illuminated the ground in front of him. He hadn’t noticed, until now, the fog that was beginning to roll in across the road. His legs felt like jelly. Actually, no, it wasn’t his legs, it seemed as if the ground itself was shaking. There was the sound of thunder in the distance and…

No. It wasn’t thunder. It was the sound of hooves. Lots of hooves. And they were moving at an incredible speed.

Seven pure black horses with bulging red eyes and black feathery plumes adorning their heads, emerged out of the moonlight. They were pulling a large black Victorian Mourners Coach. At the front of the coach sat a man, dressed in black, and wearing a top hat.

 

Swansong – A Short Story

Please don’t read on if you don’t like horror, or swearing or anything like that. Also, as a trigger warning, this story contains details of murder and violence against women.

Swansong

John gasped violently for air as he woke, his mind still recoiling from the images that had forced themselves into his dreams. The images still lingered on the edge of his consciousness like ghosts. They were far too close for comfort. Even through the dark, he could see his heart battering his ribcage as his body fought to get back control.

What the hell was wrong with him?

He exhaled loudly and concentrated on his breathing, trying to slow it down, to get it back under his control.

The room was oppressive. Beads of sweat were dribbling down his skin. The bedclothes were saturated. His cotton sheets stuck to his legs and back. He felt like he’d wet himself.

Why did they never turn the heating down? Why was it always so Goddamn hot? Stupid bitches, making him feel weak and useless. Now he’d have to buzz them again. He hated fucking calling them.

He closed his eyes and prepared himself for the monumental effort it would take to grab the buzzer from the table. Reluctantly, he opened them again and looked over to the small bit of plastic. Stupid fucking whores always left it just out of his reach. How the fuck was he supposed to reach that?

The door scraped across the floor, momentarily flooding the room with bright light. His head turned to it instinctively. At least the bitches had saved him the effort this time.

‘Hi, nurse,’ he said, his voice still hoarse from the tubes they’d stuffed down his throat, ‘could you open the window, please? It’s really hot in here.’

He waited for a reply, a grunt or some small sound of acknowledgement, but all he could hear was the distant sound of laughter mingled with the robotic breathing of the machine he was hooked up to, next to his bed.

The door shut again, sealing the room in darkness.

Stupid ignorant whore. They were all that way. All fucking mouthy. He hated them. The lot of them. They were only good for one thing and even when he was doing that to them they’d have to snivel or cry or fucking scream. He hated the screamers. They were the fucking worst.

He raised his head from the pillow. Clumps of white hair, matted and tangled, clung to the side of his face.

‘Excuse me, nurse?’

John strained his eyes against the dark. He couldn’t see anything but he knew someone was there, he could feel their eyes stalking him through the black, could smell the aroma of their floral perfume.

‘Nurse?’

He dropped back onto the bed with a thud and snorted. He was losing his patience now. Did they think this was funny? Did they really think they could scare him?

Fear was weakness. And he was not weak.

They obviously didn’t know who they were dealing with. Well, when he was back on his feet, he’d show them. He’d show that pretty blonde one all right. The nights he’d spent in hospital so far thinking about what he’d like to do to her. He might be getting old but that got him stiff. Oh yes. The old dog was still there.

‘I know you’re there,’ he snarled.

The dark room went darker. His machine died. Now he knew they were playing games.

‘Stupid fucking…’

Well, they’d started playing with the wrong man. John was a master at playing scary games. And, he never lost.

A gentle breeze began to roll across the room sending ripples of cold through him. His sticky, sweaty skin felt like it was being caressed by a thousand ice cold lips.

He shivered. They were really starting to fucking piss him off.

‘Show yourselves you fucking stupid whores!’

He pushed his elbows into the mattress and tried to lift himself off the bed, to see the bitch’s face. If he’d have been ten years younger he’d have knocked the smile off her stupid face right there and then. Bitch.

He dug his elbows into the soft mattress but he couldn’t lift his own weight. His body was heavy, dead, and it felt as though a thousand hands were holding him down.

What the fuck?

His face crumpled in confusion as he caught sight of a single white feather lying across his chest, its pure white rachis pointing straight at his beating heart like a poisoned arrow.

How the fuck had that got there? He hadn’t brought any with him to the hospital.

No one knew about the swan feathers. No one. They were his little secret.

After each and every death he’d wrap her up and dump her in the lake, but he’d keep a small piece of her in his basement, away from prying eyes. Normal people wouldn’t understand his proclivities. They didn’t know or care that he needed each death to renew him. The girls, with his hands wrapped around their necks, their eyes pleading with him to not kill them, gave him his greatest pleasure as he watched the life being squeezed from them. He needed their deaths to make him feel truly alive.

Of course he couldn’t display his trophies to the outside world so, instead, he would hang a white feather on his wall, a reminder of such beautiful times. A reminder that he was alive. That he could feel. There were a thousand pure white feathers hanging there at home. His life’s work. His Magnus Opus.

The cold of the room pierced his flesh and hit his heart. He gave a strangled scream as the pain ripped through him.

The feather lurched into the air, it’s nib pointing straight at his heart like a dagger ready to strike.

What the fuck…?

And, as if a light had been turned on, cold reality hit him. Their images began to materialize in the gloom. He didn’t know any of their names, but he recognised each and every one of their faces. He remembered the last gasp of breath every single one of their delicious mouths had took the moment the life was squeezed from them. Their swan song; his symphony of death.

This couldn’t be happening. It…

The feather stopped ascending and hovered. It glowed with the brightest light he had ever seen. It burned his eyes. He turned his gaze away, his eyes unable to withstand the pure light. He closed them, trying to shield them from the pain and prayed that this was just another one of his bad dreams.

But he knew it wasn’t. He knew they were coming for him. He’d seen it in his dreams.

The feather plunged, the nib piercing through flesh and ribcage, to enter his heart. The pain took his body over. He felt nothing but the pain as the nib tore through his heart.

‘Kathy,’ came a voice from the darkness.

And the nib plunged again.

‘Sophia.’

And again.

Their faces burned onto his vision as the nib fell again and again.

‘Teresa.’

‘Rita.’

‘Olivia.’

This was their swan song. Their symphony of death.