Into the Veld

Thorns - Sunset in the Lowveld by Nigel Whitehead
‘In the Lowveld’ photograph by Nigel Whitehead

/… previously

The San Man unties a small skin bag from the beaded thong which he wears around his waist. He shakes the contents onto the fire which sputters and sends up a shower of silver sparks. Scented smoke descends. The younger man slumbers on, his eyes moving restlessly under sleep-closed lids.

The San Man turns around. He leads the waiting men down the narrow path into the veld where the blue-black landscape is alive with the sound of night-time creatures. The three walk on, following the moon-bright swathe cut into the pungent African night. Up ahead, a long ribbon of eland trek across the land, curving away to be swallowed up by the night.

The grass sings and the men walk, one foot in front of the other, a rhythm like a heartbeat, walking on through the night-time veld.

A sliver of sunlight breaks free from the purple mountains, but still they walk on.

Back on the koppie, the young man lies motionless. Free of his body, he soars towards the summit of the heavens on dawn-warmed wings, flexing his cruel curved talons as, keen-eyed, he scours the waking veld below.

A solitary thorn tree reaches out long shadow-fingers, drawing the heartbeat walkers closer. They plough on, footfall after footfall, their footprints erased behind them by the gentle berg breeze.

The sun climbs and the veld bakes, but now the men rest silently in its shade. An eagle wheels high above. The San Man beckons and slowly it begins its descent.

/… to be continued

What lies beneath?

Remington Portable Typewriter

The night is still. Down in the village of Little Sidebottom on the Marsh, all is quiet. The streets are deserted and the houses in darkness, even though it’s not yet eleven o’clock. The residents of this quaint picture-postcard village, in the heart of the quintessentially English countryside, are of the ‘early to bed’ variety, although not necessarily in their own beds.

Under the village’s bucolic exterior lies a hotbed of vice, murder and worse.

Who will be the next victim? Will they die by pistol, blade or poisoned cup?

Agatha’s fingers hover over the keyboard, poised for action.


Written in response to a prompt from Susan T. Braithwaite
Genre Scribes Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #27

The challenge this week was village.

Author’s note
I’m a great fan of Agatha Christie. I recently came across this article about her writing habits:
https://tonyriches.blogspot.com/2014/02/agatha-christies-writing-habits.html
I was interested to discover I have quite a lot in common with her way of working.

Space Cadets Holiday Special – Part Two

Hanson Lu on Unsplash

Previously…/

I lean forward and tap on the blank viewing screen. ‘Can you get her back, Harris?’

Harris fiddles with the comms controls. ‘Nope. She’s gone.’

Stevens looks up from his side of the console. ‘There’s no trace of Greta’s Ark.’ He holds up his hands in frustration. ‘Doctor,’ he says swivelling around in his seat to face the time lord, ‘can’t you take us back in time to before she disappeared? Like when you saved us from the black hole?’

The Doctor shakes his head. ‘Sorry Stevens, it’s a good idea in theory, but the black hole was fixed in space and time. We’ve no idea where young Greta is on the space-time continuum. That monkey chap disabled her ship’s stabilizer and the Ark is spinning out of control.’ He taps his sonic screwdriver against the side of his head. ‘We need to find her.’

The Doctor starts to head towards the Tardis, but suddenly he stops and spins around to face us. He waves his sonic screwdriver at me. ‘Jemma, how did you lot manage to summon me just now? You had no idea where I was did you?’

The Doctor’s right. We just have to use our imaginations.

‘Genius, Doctor!’ cries Harris.

I look from Harris to Stevens. ‘We need to imagine Greta on her ship, just as we saw her. That should take us to the Ark, don’t you think?’

‘In theory,’ adds Stevens.

‘What about us?’ asks our new friend, David Attenborough. ‘What can we do?’

I glance at the Doctor. ‘The same: picture Greta on the Ark.’

‘Well, I guess that won’t do any harm,’ replies the Doctor. ‘I just want to check on something,’ he bounds over to the Tardis. ‘You carry on.’

‘Okay, guys,’ I say. ‘Now concentrate.’

David walks over to the console and leans on the desk opposite me. He looks up to the ceiling for a moment, then bows his head and closes his eyes.

I close my eyes and focus.

Space Cadets Christmas Special Greta Thunberg

Once again, the power of our minds works almost immediately and Greta appears back on the screen. The monkeys have vanished, and the only sign of the earlier disturbance is the broken down door in the background and the sight of her lieutenant patiently re-attaching the stabilizer lever on the control desk.

Greta smiles at us and leans on her folded hands. ‘What happened to my monkeys? They seem to have vanished.’

Suddenly there is a cacophony of screeching behind us.

‘Wait! No, come back with that!’ The Doctor is shouting from inside the Tardis. I turn to see the baboon and the spider monkey bowling out of the Tardis with the Doctor in hot pursuit. He grabs the spider monkey’s arm and prises a large silver key from its paw. ‘He’s only tried to run off with the Tardis’ ignition key!’

‘Doctor, what happened?’ I dodge the baboon, as it leaps onto the desk. Before the Doctor can reply, more monkeys spill out from the Tardis, screeching delightedly. ‘Did you bring them onto the Tardis?’ I say, edging away from the desk nervously as the baboon bares his teeth at me.

‘I don’t think so,’ replies the Doctor, dodging around a tiny marmoset which scrabbling about on the floor by his feet.

David Attenborough looks slightly sheepishDavid Attenborough raises his head. ‘I’m afraid that may have been me,’ he says rather sheepishly. ‘I was thinking about the way they were behaving.’ He eyes the two monkey ring-leaders who are both now perched on top of the console. Harris and Stevens are fighting to prevent them fiddling with the ship’s controls. ‘Sorry,’ he holds his hands up.

‘Okay, one thing at a time.’ The Doctor approaches the screen. ‘Are you all right, Greta?’

Greta nods.

‘And your ship is working correctly now?’

Greta nods again. ‘We’re back on course,’ she glances at her lieutenant who gives her a thumbs up.

Suddenly the capuchin leaps onto the Doctor’s shoulder and launches itself at the viewing screen. It peers at Greta. She leans past him. ‘You have the monkeys now?’

‘I’m afraid so,’ says David, reaching over to remove the capuchin. ‘You’re a nice little chap, aren’t you’ he murmurs to it, stroking its head. ‘Doctor, if I can lead the monkeys into the Tardis, will you be able to take us to Greta’s Ark?’

‘Just so long as they behave themselves,’ the Doctor frowns at the baboon who is now engrossed in watching Harris playing ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ on the pop-up screen in front of him.

David looks at Greta. ‘And you can be ready to receive them?’

Greta looks at her lieutenant. ‘I’ll get right on it,’ he says.

Apart from the baboon, who’s still mesmerized by the video game, the monkeys are screeching excitedly and chasing each other around the flight desk. The mess they’re making is unbelievable. What can they have been eating?

‘Righto,’ says the Doctor, raising his forefinger in the air. ‘I’ll get a fix on Greta’s Ark and, David, you round up this lot.’ He points at the excited animals. ‘I think we’ll better lock them in the basement.’ He dashes into the Tardis.

David feels in his jacket pocket and pulls out a small banana. He crouches down and holds it up to the nearest monkey. ‘What have I got here then?’ he whispers to it gently. The monkey puts his head on one side. David starts to peel it and the monkey lets out a squeal of delight. He breaks off a piece and hands it to the monkey. He breaks off another piece and gives it to the tiny marmoset which has climbed up onto his knee. Soon all the monkeys are crowded around him; even the baboon tears himself away from Harris’s game.

David produces more bananas.

‘Did you bring those with you?’

‘I didn’t, no, Jemma. They just seem to have appeared. It just occurred to me that they might be useful. It seems your ship obliged.

‘Way to go, David,’ says Stevens admiringly.

I’m reminded of the ancient Pied Piper story as David begins to lead the monkeys into the Tardis. We follow too, watching as they troop down to the basement. Soon they are all secured for the transfer.

‘Ready to roll then, David?’ says the Doctor springing up the stairs.

Regretting that we are unable to leave the ship, we watch over the monitor as the monkeys are safely delivered back to Greta’s Ark and safely locked in their cages.

Greta, flanked by David and the Doctor, waves her thanks. The Doctor turns to David. ‘Can I give you a lift back to the BBC? I was in the middle of a spot of filming with Professor Cox; quite a bright chap, by human standards.’ The Doctor winks at us.

The screen goes off and we’re alone again. I wonder what our Professor’s doing right now.

The Space Cadets will return with a new series later in the year.
Meanwhile, the Head Scriptwriter has a novel to finish.

Happy New Year

I’d like to read your book!

Looking for books

As I’m sure most of you know, I really love to read.

Almost as much as I love to write!

I have my nose in a book or, more usually, my Kindle whenever I can, and knowing how important it is to other writers, I post a short review of whatever I’ve read.

If you’re curious about the books I read this year, here’s my Goodreads ‘Year in Books’.

Now I’m ready to load up my Kindle for 2020, and I need to do this within the next three months, since that is the length of my super-duper deal on Kindle Unlimited.

So, fellow writers, add your Kindle Unlimited book links below,
or recommend someone else’s.

2019 on Goodreads

 

Over here!

what do you see 10 by chris hall lunasonline

It wasn’t his ideal choice of job, but Jim had been desperate. He didn’t really understand why the clown outfit was necessary, or the balloons which sent him off balance.

All he’d been asked to do was stand on the hillside and wave.

But when the shooting started, he realised.


Written in response to SadjeWhat Do You See #10 photo prompt.
Photo credit: Alexey Avdeev

Space Cadets Holiday Special – Part One

Hanson Lu on Unsplash

As promised, our gallant Space Cadets return to your screen…

I’m woken by a vaguely familiar song playing over the star-ship’s hailing channel. Rubbing my sore neck, I look around. I must’ve been out for some time. Stevens and Harris are in their seats on either side of me, heads lolling. Stevens is snoring gently.

Then I hear a voice. ‘May Day, May Day! This is Greta’s Ark. Anyone receiving? May Day!’

The voice is lost in a burst of static. Greta’s Ark? It sounds familiar. Then it dawns on me. We’d learned about Greta Thunberg when we studied early time travel. She was the girl who travelled back two hundred years to the 21st century to save the Earth’s animals. How can we be receiving a distress call from the long distant past?

I jab angrily at the console, trying to get the message back. What’s wrong with the ship now?

‘Hey, what’s the drama, Jem?’ Harris has finally woken up.

‘Comms aren’t working. Drat this ship!’ I prod at the console again.

The static clears and we hear Greta’s voice: ‘May Day, May Day! This is Greta’s Ark. Come in, somebody… please!’

Harris puts his ear to the speaker. ‘Wow! That’s the Thunberg girl, isn’t it? Cool!’ He pulls an uncomprehending face at me. ‘But hold on… she was, like, a hundred years ago…? How come she’s hailing us now?’

‘The timey-wimey thing?’ Making air quotes with my fingers, I mimic the Matt Smith version of the Doctor, who saved us from the black hole.

‘She sounds as if she’s in trouble,’ Harris says.

I roll my eyes. ‘Yes, right. So fix the console so we can find out what’s wrong!’

‘What gives, peeps?’ Steve rubs his eyes and yawns.

I can’t hide my sarcasm. ‘Welcome back, Steve.’

Harris, meanwhile, is fiddling with the comms system; the static whines and crackles. Finally, Greta Thunberg’s face appears on the view screen. I catch the end of what she’s saying: ‘… and they’re going ape!’

Space Cadets Christmas Special Greta Thunberg

I lean forward. ‘This is Jemma Kirk. How can we assist, Greta?’

‘Thank goodness.’ She doesn’t seem surprised that I know her name. ‘Listen, the monkeys have escaped and are causing mayhem. We need to get these animals under control before they do any more damage to my ship.’ Behind her we see a young man in a khaki uniform fighting to hold the flight deck door closed against a barrage of blows which are accompanied by excited screeching. ‘Please, get me David Attenborough!’

‘Who?’

‘He’s the naturalist from the 21st century who’s been helping us gather the animals. He’s from the BBC, you must have heard of him.’

Stevens is busy searching the ship’s data banks. A clip from an ancient British TV series pops up at the side of the viewing screen. I recognise the man who is crouching in a leafy rain forest next to a group of gorillas.

‘Yes, that’s him,’ Greta exclaims! ‘I’d go myself, but I can’t leave the ship.’

‘Well you can’t be in two places at once…’ I begin.

Greta cuts in. ‘I can actually, aren’t you familiar with quantum superposition?’ She throws her hands in the air. ‘Look we’re wasting time. Can you get hold of Mr. Attenborough, or not?’

‘We’ll get the Doctor,’ I say confidently.

‘Doctor who?’

‘No, just the Doctor. Don’t worry, he’ll track down your Mr. Attenborough.’

I glance at Harris and Stevens. ‘Okay, let’s do it.’ I turn back to the screen. ‘Hang on in there Greta, we’ve got this.’ I signal to Harris to cut the comms.

‘You hope…’ says Stevens.

I look from Stevens to Harris. ‘Come on, guys. We need to focus.’

All we need to do is imagine. That’s how our ship works – powered by our minds and guided by our imaginations – although I’m not sure how Greta’s distress call fits in, but there’s no time to worry about that now.

Space Cadets 5 by Chris Hall lunasonline

‘Guys, think of the Doctor! Imagine the Tardis!’

Almost immediately we hear the familiar sound of the Tardis materializing, and sure enough, the iconic blue police box appears at the other side of our flight deck. We’re getting good at this!

The door opens and I’m delighted to see the Matt Smith version of the Doctor.

‘Hi guys,’ the Doctor lifts his hand in greeting. ‘You seem to have summoned me.’ He frowns. ‘Slightly inconvenient, but I’m sure it’s important.’

‘It is, Doctor,’ I assure him.

‘So’, the Doctor claps his hands together, ‘what’s the problem Jemma?’

I explain.

‘Oh yes, David Attenborough, lovely man. Don’t you just love his nature programmes?’

At that moment, the Tardis door opens and David Attenborough himself appears. He looks around, a mildly puzzled expression on his face.

‘And here he is!’ announces the Doctor.

‘How did you do that Doctor?’ I ask.

‘No idea, Jemma.’

David Attenborough is scratching his head. ‘Oh, hello, Doctor.’ He gestures vaguely at the Tardis. Sorry, I must have wandered into the wrong studio.’ He looks around again. ‘Are you filming?’

‘Just the man we were after!’ The Doctor claps him on the back.

‘I’m going to be in one of your episodes?’ David exclaims excitedly.

‘Well, not exactly. A young lady by the name of Greta is asking for you.’

‘Ms Thunberg? I was only with her the other day.’ He frowns. ‘Has something happened to the Ark?’

‘She needs your help, Mr Attenborough.’ I guide him towards the console. ‘She’s having some trouble with the monkeys on her ship.’

‘Monkey trouble, eh?’

Harris brings up the comms and Greta’s face appears on the screen. ‘Mr Attenborough,’ she sighs with relief. ‘Thank goodness!’

At that moment, the door behind her gives way and her lieutenant is pushed off balance. He lands in a sprawling heap on the floor and a group of around ten monkeys of assorted shapes and sizes start leaping around the flight deck screeching mischievously.

‘They’re totally out of control,’ Greta cries, ‘they’re all over the ship!’ She deftly removes a cute-looking capuchin which has climbed up onto her control desk and is peering at us on the screen.

A spider monkey appears at her side and starts fiddling with the controls on the desk. ‘Get off that now!’ She tries to bat the animal away, but he persists. Another one joins it. This one’s larger; a baboon.

David leans into the screen and points a finger. ‘Now stop that at once!’ His voice is calm but authoritative. The baboon pauses and looks at the screen, turning his head to one side. Then he turns his back on us and his large red behind fills the screen.

‘Charming,’ observes the Doctor.

The picture flickers. We see Greta desperately wrestling with the spider monkey who now seems keen to sit on her head. The baboon turns around and brandishes a large lever at us which he has clearly wrenched from the control desk. ‘No!’ Greta bellows. That’s the stabilizer!’

Our viewing screen goes blank.

‘Where did they go?’ asks David.


Will the Doctor and the Cadets be able to locate Greta’s Art? Will they be in time before the monkeys dismantle Greta’s ship? And will David Attenborough take charge of the escapees?

Find out in Part 2 – coming soon!

 

Beyond her comfort zone

Apocalypse by Cliff Davies
Apocalypse by Cliff Davies

Modern art glares at her from the gallery walls. Does it demand her praise or merely crave her understanding? She pauses before a blood-red canvas, a slash of blue and two blobs of green, created by a modern Scottish artist of whom she’s never heard. Should she have done?

She feels the assistant’s snooty gaze rest on her as she crosses the room, her footsteps echoing on the stark white floor. The centre-piece sculpture rears up menacingly; a hooded man, a gaping maw. Does his expression reflect the artist’s angst?

She’s seen enough.

Out on the street she meanders past a few shops but none can tempt her within. She crosses the road. The city’s unfamiliar and she’s just killing time before her train leaves.

Then she sees it.
The display beckons.
She quickens her step.

Soon she’s inside perusing the shelves and bathing in the gladdening glow of beautiful books.


Written in response to a prompt from Susan T. Braithwaite
Genre Scribes Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #26

The challenge this week was literature.

With apologies to galleries and gallery staff – I used to work in one!