Friday’s Short Story: The Barbarian

The barbarian stood atop the pile of bodies. He did not think it too many. In fact, he did not think it enough so he went looking for more bodies to add to the pile.

He ventured into the lingerie department. He looked at the scraps of lace and cotton and felt nothing but rage. Rage was pretty much his default emotion so we should not read too much into that. He found two ladies behind the tills and slaughtered them mercilessly. Their gender barely registered with him, and I think we might see that as a positive, even feminist act.

It would be very easy to say the barbarian had no business being in Marks and Spencer in the first place, but of what use is that to us? He was there. We can look into the root causes of his presence: a quest, a wizard, a portal etc. etc. A direct line of cause and effect can certainly be plotted there, with hindsight, starting with a dread prophecy uttered on the seven hundredth day of the third endless winter on the desolate frost-scorched plains of the Blüdrealms and ending with, for example, Malcolm Tovey’s head on a pike in the men’s formalwear department of a major high street retailer in Middlesbrough, but of what use is that to Malcolm?

And by extension: of what use is my writing this, to anyone? And yet write I feel I must. Are these not the songs we must sing? Of blood, and steel, and slacks. (The slacks suffered minimal damage, but were sadly no longer saleable.) And so my song is sung and cannot be unsung, or de-sung or whatever.

The barbarian is still in there, if you want him. He’s in the food hall, covered in bits of staff and customer, staring in wonder and dread at a packet of prewashed kale. He’s not my problem anymore.

******
The Barbarian
by Harris
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Friday’s Short Story: Secret Origin

A bat flew through Bruce Wayne’s window. Superman was rocketed to Earth from a dying planet.

I was nine and tidying up the bookshelves in the corner of the classroom, because I was a good boy and I got asked to do things like that. The rest of the class were busy with a maths worksheet. I didn’t like maths. I liked being a good boy. I was quiet, I kept myself to myself. I liked tidying the shelves, putting everything in order.

The classroom door opened and in came Mrs Ramshaw; huge, hairy and angry, a furious grey-permed sunset of a face above a formless planet of a body. With her was a little girl who had obviously just been crying.

“Mrs Murphy, Shelley says that one of the big boys made her cry at dinner time. Shelley, can you see the boy who made you cry?”

Shelley scanned the class. Everybody, boys and girls, looked guilty. They fiddled with pencil cases, looked at the ceiling. I tidied the shelves.

It was me. It was me who had made Shelley cry. I wasn’t a good boy. I was a bad boy. I had done it and I was going to get told off. Mrs Ramshaw would shout at me in front of everybody. I might get the slipper. My stomach felt cold and empty as fear and guilt and more fear replaced the blood in my veins. Being told off was the worst thing in the world. The universe was looking at me, cold indifference had turned to icy interest. This was not an improvement.

“Can you see the boy, Shelley?”

I kept tidying. Putting the shelves in order.

“No,” said Shelley.

Shelley couldn’t see me because I was tidying the shelves because I was a good boy.

“Sorry to disturb you, Mrs Murphy. Come on, Shelley. We’ll try Class C.”

They left.

School is where you learn the most useful lessons. Everything was in order. I didn’t get told off. Good boys tidy the shelves during maths and good boys don’t get told off. The emptiness in my tummy turned to warmth. The best feeling in the world: relief. I had got away with it. And the shelves were neat and tidy and the universe was looking away from me again.

I would never be bad again. Honest. I’m a good boy.

I am very quiet and keep myself to myself.

******
Secret Origin
by Harris
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“Saint” Nicholas Ordeal Over

storytellerFather “Father” Christmas, the wealthy Lap toy manufacturer and philanthropist, has finally been released after a forty-four year kidnap ordeal.

Mr. Christmas had been seized in 1970 by some very, very naughty boys and girls.

News of his release has revealed a massive worldwide conspiracy to conceal the fate of the man known as “Santa Claus”. Parents had been instructed to maintain the appearance that Mr. Christmas was still visiting homes every Christmas Eve, by buying toys that he had previously given away for free.

Precise details of his capture and eventual release remain a closely-guarded secret, but a police spokesman announced they were looking for a Mr. Mattel and a Mr. Hasbro to help them with their enquiries. It is also believed that the Toys R Us giraffe was shot in the face in the course of the operation.

A frail-looking Father Christmas could only raise a red-mittened thumbs up, and mutter something about his kidnappers being “on my list, and not my nice list.” before being placed on a plane bound for RAF Lineham for debriefing.

Father Christmas is expected to return to work next December.

Short Story – Gareth Beats The Dragon

Gareth had finally vanquished the dragon, and probably should have been feeling pretty good about himself right now. He gave the rust-coloured, scaly corpse a kick in the leg.

“Yeah,” he said, and the crowd of grateful peasants, kings and pretty girls cheered.

He kicked it again, for the want of anything else useful to do, and the crowd cheered again.

His birthmark itched, the one on his swordarm, the one shaped like a dead dragon. He watched the birthmark fade.

“Huzzah! You shall marry a pretty girl,” bellowed King Umbert, a bearded barrel of a monarch and the crowd cheered once again. “A princess! You shall have everything promised to you, and you shall never want for anything ever again. The pretty girls of our kingdom are well versed in the homemaking arts, and are,” he patted his belly, “good at cakes.”

“Great, thank you,” said Gareth. He looked down at the dragon. It was huge, and ugly, and had taken a lifetime to track down and kill. It was the last of its breed.

An unfamiliar itch started on his right arm: a new birthmark, shaped like a man in an armchair, kicking back, taking it easy. A new birthright.

“You won’t be needing this,” said Umbert, taking the blood-streaked Dread Sword of Destiny from Gareth. “We’ll frame it or something. Would you like some cake?”

“Cake,” said Gareth, and he kicked the dragon. And kicked it again, harder.

“Get up you bastard! Get up! I’m not finished!”

******
Gareth Beats The Dragon
by Harris
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