Archive for: October, 2017

Hints by Mark Bilsborough

Oct 15 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

It rained. I remember that much, even though most of my memories from that time have been mercifully removed. I take my eyes from the television and ease myself out of my chair.

“Stop muttering, you old fart,” Jimmy shouts out from across the room. He’s not really called Jimmy, of course, just as I’m not really Frankie. Code names. I’m a sleeper agent, probably. Jimmy’s mostly asleep, except when he’s yelling at me to switch over to EastEnders.

Jimmy’s been at Dreamlands for nearly as long as I have: five years and counting. Jimmy’s eighty three and looks closer to death than any man has a right to and still be alive. He’s a survivor, is our Jimmy. Held together with gristle, meanness and sheer bloody mindedness. He used to be a train driver, and part of him still thinks he is. He probably thinks he’s on some sort of endless strike and he’s picketing a run-down nursing home in Margate. All the others turn down their hearing aids when he rambles on about decades old incidences of minor rudeness from his long suffering passengers, but I listen. I’m listening now, because the wheezing sound coming from poor old Jimmy doesn’t sound entirely natural, and I’m beginning to develop a theory about that.

Plenty have come and gone since I got here and I can tell by the slightly worried look on the faces of the staff that it’s less of a miracle and more of a bloody inconvenience that I haven’t followed them out of the door.

But I’m one step ahead. I’d been in a month when it occurred to me that people in here were sick. Not the normal sick of people who’d lived too long and were ready to go but the kind of sick you get when someone’s messing with your medication. So I stopped taking mine and started watching.

Five years, twenty four deaths, two survivors. Jimmy never sees me swap his pills for smarties every morning at breakfast, and I reckon that’s why he’s still here. I make sure the staff never clock the swap, though I doubt if all of them are in on the conspiracy.

But Jimmy’s wheezing is a concern. That’s how the others started, one by one. I didn’t mind at first. A steady stream of funerals gets you up and about and the cakes at the crematorium are certainly worth the trip. And every time someone in a better room than mine died I got to move up. After a while, though, there’s nowhere to move up to; only out.

Young Chrissy. She’s the ringleader. I’ve seen the look in her eye as she scopes out her next victim. Jimmy’s the latest, then it’ll be me. They must know about the medication by now.

I surprise her in the kitchen as she prepares a cup of tea for Jimmy. I bet that’s how she’s doing it now. Tea so strong he’ll never notice it’s laced with rat poison.

“I’m on to you, you know.”

She turns and smiles. She might be pretty if she didn’t have an evil glint in her eye. That, or too much mascara. “Hello, Freddie. Want a cuppa?”

No one human has ever said ‘cuppa’. And that’s how I know for sure.

“You’re not from round here, are you?”

She pours another cupful of the tea. I don’t see her slip the poison in but my eyesight’s not what it was. “No, love. I’m from Middlesbrough.”

Further than that, if I’m not mistaken. Much further than that.

“And what are your plans, Chrissy from Middlesbrough?”

“Me? Always wanted to be by the seaside. And I met this bloke…”

I cut her off. “Your real plans. Don’t forget I’m on to you.”

Her mask slips and I see the shrewd interior. “Ah you mean the plans for world domination? Clever. You found me out.”

My collar starts to feel tight. I’ve overplayed. She’d only be this honest if she was about to kill me. Let the victim know the full horror of his defeat.

“Where are you actually from?”

“Midd… oh hell. Why not. I’m from a planet circling a star you call 61 Cygni, about ten light years from here.”

“I knew it!”

“And we thought the best place to start our quest for world domination would be a retirement home in South East England. Sugar?”

I’m not in the mood to be distracted. “I bet by now you’ve infiltrated the government; got your hands on those nuclear codes.”

She gives me a long appraising look, as if marvelling at my perception. “Well, you know the new leader of Thanet District Council…” She leaves the implication hanging.

He’d come from nowhere. Could he…?

“Nah, just joshing. I really am from Teeside. Digestive?”

I shuffle back over to Jimmy, who’s fast asleep even though the television’s on at full volume. I turn it off and suck on my biscuit.

Rain. Something to do with the rain.

Jimmy’s funeral takes place two weeks later. For some reason the old fart had left a will, and it specified a proper burial. That means standing outside while a bunch of old railwaymen lower his slowly rotting carcass into the ground. And, being England in June the skies are grey and even with my umbrella I’m soaked. I realise it’s the first time since I entered Dreamlands that I’ve felt the rain.

Memories. Rain washed them away, rain sweeps them back, like a trigger. I’d read that sleeper agents usually come awake with a code word or a flashing image, but I can testify that a drop of water in the right place works just as well.

I’m not really supposed to be in the nursing home, I know that now. And I’m not really a sleeper agent; just an agent who because of the vagaries of the British weather found himself inexplicably asleep for five years.

Why did I think the staff were killing the residents? The hints were there. My aversion to their dreadful food and ridiculous TV isn’t anything to do with old age; it’s because I don’t belong here. And I have no access to smarties: I was swapping Jimmy’s pills with my own.

I’m the alien. I need to get on a train to London as soon as I can.

Chrissie intercepts me as I fumble for change at the ticket counter. She leans a hand on mine, and that’s when I realise we’re the same, her and me.

“Frankie. Time we went home.” I start to object but she cuts me off. “And none of that nonsense about taking over the world. You’re retired from all that, remember?”

Now that Jimmy’s gone we can watch the sci-fi channel. And I truly believe that Chrissie really does come from Middlesbrough, just like I do.

Because that’s where we landed, all those years ago.

 

End.

 

Bio:

Mark always wanted to be an astronaut but left it a bit late, so he writes fiction instead. His work can be found dotted around the internet. He has work upcoming in On The Premises, The Colored Lens, Digital Science Fiction and Storyteller.

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Boots by Rory Angus

Oct 08 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

He took another step.

The mountains of Benren faded out in their slow descent into the emerald plains of Kalanan, which were fertile and green and glowed like a field of jewels. They were crisscrossed by the scars of the tracks of the armies and war machines from Dakria, most of which were long gone on their journey to Kassia City. A web of rivers wound across the plains, and he unknowingly stepped into the waters of one of those rivers, but the river at that place was very shallow, and it did not rise over the tops of his heavy, ornate boots. The sky overhead was blue and clear, though dark clouds were gathered to the east, where the Dakrian armies feasted and made cheer in the capital.

He took another step.

The farmlands closer to the capital had been rich and brimming with a surplus of food which was sent to other lands as trade or gift or tribute. This generosity, among other virtues, had once endeared the land of Kassia to its neighbours. However, like many virtues, it was, to some, a sign of weakness. Now the farmlands were in many places smoldering – the fires still swirled together and flocked up like ugly incorporeal birds to the sky. He did not like to linger there. The contrast between what that part of the land had once been and what it was now was too painful, and he was a sensitive man.

He took another step.

Around the outskirts of Kassia city, many buildings rose. The architects of Kassia were renowned far throughout the land, and the Dakrians had not seen it necessary to slaughter all of them, nor to destroy the fruits of their labours utterly. So many of the buildings were still standing. Patrols of Dakrian soldiers ranged through the streets, and in places there were only blackened piles of char where there once had been buildings, and other buildings were only the burnt-out shells of their former selves. The man stood in the middle of a mostly-deserted street, and looked down into the ruin of the city, along a line of hastily-erected tents where the Kassian slave-girls were kept, out to a barricade set up down the street. A few people turned to look at him. He did not even know if they were Kassian or Dakrian.

He took another step.

The stairs up to the great palace of Kassia City were heavily guarded, and protected by soldiers and magic spells. The streets before the grand stairs were utterly deserted, by order of the Dakrian Empress. He looked down at the streets behind him, for a moment, even as he heard shouts from the guards who had spotted him standing on the stairs where no one was meant to be. He had only seconds to look before his death was certain. The city, being so empty, was eerily foreboding. He had been here when the streets were bustling with throngs of happy Kassians going this way and that about their lives. He had learned, of late, to make the most of moments and seconds. So, for a moment, he imagined the streets the way they had once been. It was pleasant to indulge in that fantasy, but a second later his time was up. He turned around. He saw guards with their spears and bows levelled; saw the crackle of an unknown, killing magic in the air.

He took another step.

The throne room of the palace had been greatly changed by the occupation. He had never truly been in the throne room, for even though Kassia had been, and perhaps would be again, a free and happy kingdom, there had to be limits upon everything. No one of such common background as himself had been allowed into the throne room. Nevertheless he could only be certain that before the invasion the room had not been designed in the fashion of the great sunken temples of Dakria. He stood just behind a dark, ornate, towering throne. It was nothing that the rulers of Kassia would have chosen, but their line was now extinguished and their throne was gone. A crowd of well-dressed people gathered in the expansive floor below the steps that led down from the throne. Some of them were arrayed in armor, and others in religious robes, and others in fine civil clothes. The man carefully crept forward, hiding behind the great throne, edging closer to the statuesque woman who stood on the steps above the crowd. Her back was to him; he could not see her face. Her robes flowed out from her and spread down the stairs, blanketing them in sheets of gold and black. Her form was enclosed in intricate wiry armor, but the back of her neck was exposed, and the man carried a dagger in his left hand. As he crept forward, the noise of conversation swept over him.

“No one has died in the attacks, highness. Whoever this bandit is, he seems content to cut ropes and spill oil and set fire to supplies. Inconveniences of note, certainly, but nothing that the army cannot bear.”

“It is impossible to catch the man, great lady,” another, pleading voice said. “Whatever the power behind the artifacts, their wearer appears and is gone in an instant. We have summoned all the magic we can muster. Without the means to track the bandit’s disappearances, we are forced to keep the mages ready at all times for an attack – which, may your greatness forgive me, is beyond them.”

“Excuses, excuses, excuses,” came the cold, cultured voice from the figure whose face the creeping assassin could not see. “All I understand is that a single man, and a Kassian, at that, has caused such chaos in our armies. And what great power does he possess, one wonders? Nothing but a pair of magic boots!”

“My lady! Forgive me, but he is right behind you!”

Swords and spears and arrows sprang forth from a dozen places; mages around the throne room summoned their terrible powers; figures darted up the steps, heading right for the young man who stood behind the empress and the throne. The woman herself turned around, and for a moment he was face to face with the leading power behind the ruin of his land, and perhaps he had hoped to see fear or shock on her face.

To his dismay, he saw only scorn.

He took another step.

The marshes to the east of Kassia City were wide and treacherous, but he was fortunate enough to step onto solid, if squishy, ground. Here, the land had been spared from war, for few armies could pass through the swamps. Gone was the noise and confusion of the uproar in the throne room. There was only the soft wind, and a bird crying far away, and the rustling of the foxtails in the water. He took a moment to collect himself, wondering. He had had his chance. It had taken days to learn that the Dakrian empress would be in the throne room of the palace in Kassia City at that particular time, on that particular day. From now on she would be far more heavily guarded, if she ever came to the throne room at all. He could have taken his chance to strike down the scourge of Kassia, but he had not. Perhaps he had wanted to wait for the perfect moment to end her life. Perhaps he had been too absorbed in the conversation occurring. Perhaps he had simply been unwilling, for he had not yet done so in the weeks of his lonely campaign of insurrection, to kill.

It did not matter. The moment was gone. As fast as he was, time was faster. Surely, he would have another chance, and when that chance came again, he would take it.

Perhaps it was time, the man reasoned, to cease fighting the war alone. Word of his exploits would have spread among the Kassian people by now. All was not lost. There was much work to do.

He took another step.

 

Bio: My name is Rory Angus. I am an aspiring fantasy writer from Victoria, B.C. Canada. I have studied creative writing and philosophy at Camosun College. I prefer to write high fantasy and science fantasy stories. I also write formal poetry and have been published in the 2014 “Island Magic” anthology by The Poetry Institute of Canada and Young Writers, for the short fantasy poem “Giants”.

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The Returning Avalanche By Charles G. Chettiar

Oct 01 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

Inspector Sathi didn’t like night shifts. Many of the crimes were committed in the night and he didn’t like frequent calls on his time. It was raining outside when he saw the albino coming near the police station. Inspector Sathi was at the end of his fag—a one of many—till the night ended.

Complainants normally didn’t reach him. They were unusually disposed off by the head constable or the sub-inspector. He raised his eyebrows when his door opened and the albino came in.

He pressed the buzzer for the sub-inspector. When the head constable entered he looked at him.

“He wants to only meet you, sir,” said Dhondu.

“And you let him?”

Dhondu scratched his head looked at a spot behind the inspector.

Sathi turned to the albino and said, “So what is your problem?”

“My name is Vishnu Sahatrakar. I have been robbed.”

“Did you see the robber?”

“Of course, I also know where they live.”

Another dead-end case like so many. He would file an FIR and then get to it after loads of other cases were cleared.

“Tell the address,” said Sathi.

“Pinkaria mall, 1st level,” said the albino.

Blood rushed to Sathi’s head. He had felt lethargic but hearing the Mall’s name he came wide awake.

“Dhondu? Come here,” he shouted through the door. “Do you think we are fools?”

“No, sir,” said the albino.

“Then what’s this.” He tapped the file with his baton. “Your robbers live in a mall?”

“But yes it is sir. They stole all my ATM pins, netbanking passwords and credit card info.”

“How?”

“They just took it.”

Sathi twirled the pen in his fingers. He looked at his watch. More than six hours till his shift ended.

“I can show you my bank account. Not even a single rupee is left,” said the albino.

Sathi called Subedar his sub-inspector, and told him to verify. After about a quarter of an hour Subedar reported that the complainant appeared genuine.

“Has the man left?” he asked Subedar.

“No sir. He says that he could take us there.”

Sathi sighed. He’d anyway would get bored in the next six hours. He’d just stretch his legs. The night was cool after a very hot day. He could use the fresh air.

“Ready the jeep,” said Sathi.

“Sir?”

“You heard me. We are going to Pinkaria mall,” said Sathi.

The mall seemed deserted when they reached it. Sathi entered it brandishing his baton.

“Where are they?” he asked.

“First floor,” said Vishnu.

Sathi used the escalator. It stood still but started as he took a first step.

The place was deserted except for some people leaving after the midnight show.

“It is at the corner,” said Vishnu.

The board of Pikari toys glimmered as they rounded the corner.

“A toy shop?”

Sathi looked around but couldn’t see Vishnu. The door of the toy shop opened and he ascertained the faint shape of Vishnu going inside.

“Subedar? Dhondu? Where have these people gone?”

Sathi’s feet told him not to go but still he felt himself gravitating towards the toy shop.

Sathi couldn’t help himself. He slid towards the door. he willed his legs to not move. The red carpet on which he stood slid under him. it pulled him forward. He got through the door. the shop’s counter twinkled with lights. He put his baton on the glass counter.

A girl materialised in front of him. he didn’t see her enter. He looked back. Where were Subedar and Dhondu? And where was the complainant?

“Sir?”

“I am here on a case. Robbery,” said Sathi.

“We don’t rob. They get robbed themselves.”

“So you agree,” said Sathi, “that you rob.”

Did he detect a faint hint of blackness in her teeth? He wasn’t sure.

“We can give you a deal to drop the case. It will be a deal of a lifetime,” said the girl.

“First I got to find my people.”

“Your people are being taken care of magnificiently.”

Sathi’s stomach rumbled. Somehow the girl’s violet hair and green lipstick was making him nauseous. The twinkling lights added to his exacerbation.

“Are you ill, inspector?”

“Uh.”

“We have a pill which could cure all your illnesses in one go.”

“No.”

“Then a gift. We need to be generous to the police. The ever grabbing criminalised police. Criminals in uniform.”

“Watch your tongue girl!”

“That’s why a gift is so necessary,” she said twirling her hair.

“I want my men,” said Sathi. He couldn’t believe the pleading tone which had crept up in his voice.

“All in time inspector. All in time.”

He looked away from her. she looked large, as if her head had swollen.

The bell beside her head jingled twice.

“Good inspector, we are ready to go. Your men are done with.”

“I want to go away.”

Sathi turned his face towards the door. It beckoned but he couldn’t move his feet towards it. He moved his hand and it moved. He reached out for the revolver in his holster.

“Uh oh. It’s time is not yet,” said the girl. “But if you insist, you can keep it. But don’t play with it.”

The girl pushed the door.

“Welcome inspector, to the hall of illusions,” she said. “I didn’t tell you my name. I am Mistress Illusia. The hall has a lot of my inputs. But sorry to say that it isn’t my sole brainchild.”

Like a blade cutting into skin, Sathi was through the door.

“Good, that you accepted my invitation.”

Then he was inside like a knife searing through butter.

“Don’t you feel warm?” asked Illusia.

“No,” said Sathi.

His hands could move. His feet could move.

He had felt a certain amount of freezing of his hands and feet, but the freezing had gone off. He lifted the gun and levelled it at Illusia.

“Oh my goddamn. You are free. I didn’t expect this to happen,” she said.

“Where are my men?”

“Don’t shoot me,” she said. “I’ll do whatever you ask.” She winked.

Sathi’s hand went limp and fell to his side. His fingers unclenched and the revolver clanged to the floor.

“Don’t shoot me,” she said. She winked.

Sathi’s knees gave way. He knelt.

Something elemental came to him. Something in the start of fear.

When he came to, Dhondu stood over him.

“I killed her,” said Dhondu.

In Dhondu’s hand was a dagger dripping blood. Illusia lay on the ground her left eye a bloody smear.

“Witch!” said Sathi.

“Get Subedar,” said Sathi. “Fast.”

Dhondu scampered away.

Sathi kicked Illusia.

“Bitch! Bad that you died too soon. Otherwise I would have shown you the repercussions for messing with the law.”

Involuntarily his hand went to the holster.

A bullet should teach that bitch, he thought.

A bullet should.

But his revolver was no longer in his holster. He had dropped it. He looked around the girl but couldn’t find it. he searched but he couldn’t find it.

What could be more certain than grieving with your eyes open. The grief which comes in waves could only come in small measures. Only if he could find the door. A door which would lead him away and beyond.

Away and beyond.

He would have stopped stark without a hint of further prodding. But he didn’t.

“You killed her,” the old man said.

“Who are you?” said Sathi.

“I am Illluson, her father. Wait what I will do to you now.”

He raised his hand. But Sathi was quicker. Sathi launched himself at Illuson and began throttling him.

“Nooo!” cried the old man.

Sathi increased the pressure. Sathi paid no heed to the nails of Illuson digging in his wrists. He kept applying pressure till he old man’s hands grew limp. Sathi withdrew his hands and Illluson crumpled to the floor.

Sathi’s hands shook from the exertion. He could kill not just by weapons but with his bare hands too. He puffed up his chest motioning his hands here and there. He was invincible.

His legs gave a tick. It became a very bad tick. With all the various things in his head, he could make anything suck.

“Sir?”

Sathi had squatted beside the old man with his hand on his heart. Sathi stood up.

“You killed the old man too?”

“Yes,” said Sathi.

“But he was the doorway,” said Subedar.

“The doorway?”

Subedar morphed into a dagger and then into the girl. Dhondu morphed into a doorway and then into Illuson. The bodies on the floor morphed into Dhondu and Subedar—their khaki uniforms splattered with blood.

“No.No.No…,” said Sathi.

Sathi’s knees gave way and he covered his face with his hands.

“It won’t go away inspector,” said Illusia. “Why are you so afraid of your gift? It takes some time to prepare the gift. Do you need gift wrapping?”

“No.”

“You wanted your men inspector. So there they are,” said Illusia.

“I want to get out,” said Sathi.

Illusia’s green lips turned blood red. Her dazzling smile grew crooked with mottled teeth filling them. The teeths grew into fangs. Her hands turned to feathery wings and topped with green claws.

The old man grew different in ways like Illusia. His clothes got ripped as he burst through them. His mouth became a snout and his legs spindly thin their edges razor sharp.

Sathi’s hand grew heavy. His palm had the gun. He levelled it at them.

“No, no,” said Illusia, “you are being hasty.” Spittle dripped from her mouth.

Sathi squeezed the trigger. He kept squeezing till his gun emptied out. With every bullet they grew larger.

He flung the gun at them and shouted,

“I want to get out!”

“First bring your superintendent of police,” said Illusia. An array of light disturbed the darkness.

Behind Sathi a door opened.

THE END

Bio: I am an Engineer by circumstance and writer by choice. I work in Engineering in Mumbai. I started writing short stories when in college, and have just now completed my first novel. My fiction genres include, horror, fantasy, political thrillers & historical. I am looking out for a publisher at present and working on my second book.

 

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