Maneater

Praying Mantis by Laurette van der Merwe

Mickey, the young mantis, poked his head out of the bougainvillea bush. There she was, the lovely Marula, sunning herself on the trellis by the stoep. He watched her in admiration as she stretched out her plump olive-skinned limbs. His ardour was rising. She was a gorgeous creature. If only he could get her to notice him.

He crawled down to the windowsill where Gerald the Gecko was snapping at flies. Gerald followed Mickey’s gaze. ‘That mantis-lady’s a tough cookie, Mickey. You should steer clear of her.’

‘But she’s…’

‘She’s too old for you, Mickey.’

Charlie the Chameleon slowly made his way up the lavender bush, his colour changing from a dusty grey to jade green. ‘I couldn’t help overhearing you two,’ Charlie said, rolling his eyes so that one fell on Marula and the other fixed on Mickey. ‘Don’t grow up too fast, Mickey, she’ll eat you for breakfast.’


Written in response to a prompt from Susan T. Braithwaite
Genre Scribes Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #31

The challenge this week was cookie.
Photo credit: Laurette van der Merwe

Author’s note: the female praying mantis doesn’t always eat her mate, although if he irritates her or she’s a bit peckish, she often will.

 

Burns Supper

Burns Night by Chris Hall lunasonline

People thronged around the marquee which had been erected on the tennis courts. Nobody knew why their little Lancashire village had been picked, but who’d question the Office of the US President?

The Women’s Institute had been tasked with preparing the celebratory supper. Mrs. Doubtworthy had suggested that they pop down to Asda for a brace of Hall’s haggises, but the other members of the WI were resolute. The haggis would be made from scratch.

Mr. Greenwood was ready with the requisite musical accompaniment. Everyone was familiar with his bagpiperly skills which he regularly practiced of a Saturday morning, when most civilized people were still abed.

At precisely 7pm, the motorcade swept into the village. Besuited security men shepherded their charge into the marquee, where the Mrs. Duckinworth, chair-lady of the Parish Council, bid him sit at the head of the table.

Mr. Greenwood’s pipes heralded the haggis which was laid before the President. Miss Lynch, the former language teacher, began the address.

The President prodded his haggis with a fork. ‘You Scottish people eat this stuff?’

Mrs. Duckinworth frowned. ‘Sir, we’re not Scottish. This is Lancashire.’

The President’s advisers muttered amongst themselves.

Mr Davies, the Geography teacher intervened. ‘Perhaps you’d intended to visit Lanarkshire?’

‘Whatever,’ growled the President. ‘I’m here now and I’m hungry.’ He stabbed a piece of haggis and thrust it into his mouth.

The room fell silent as he chewed.

‘Ugh! What is this?’ the President spluttered. ‘Forget my Scottish roots. Go get me a burger.’


Written in response to a prompt from Susan T. Braithwaite
Genre Scribes Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #30

The challenge this week was tennis.

Author’s note: I strayed far from the word prompt, not wanting to pass up the opportunity of writing about something so topical and so appropriate to Susan’s proud Scottish heritage. Burns Night, 25th January.

I give you the ‘Address to a Haggis’ by Robert Burns:

The recipe for Haggis the WI ladies used

Hall’s haggis from British Supermarket, Asdano relation, by the way!

Sadly for you US and Canadian folks, haggis has been illegal in your countries since 1971.
I shall be popping into our local Spar for mine tomorrow.

The Test

what do you see 13 by chris hall lunasonline

Alys balled her fists, digging her nails into the palms of her hands. She stepped into the stone circle. Moonlight shone on the cromlechs and lit up the faces of the members of the coven who stood in eager silence. This was the final test. Unless she could prove her mastery of the fourth element, she’d be banished from the sisterhood forever.

She raised her head and closed her eyes, centering herself. Palms back to back, she laced her fingers and took a deep breath. Muttering an incantation she opened her hands. A tongue of fire issued forth. She held her open palm aloft for all to see.

She had conjured fire.

Another word, and the fire was extinguished. Alys slowly folded her hands and clasped them gently to her chest before descending from the stone circle. ‘Thanks Sparky,’ she whispered, as the miniature dragon scurried back up her sleeve.


Written in response to SadjeWhat Do You See #13 photo prompt.
Photo credit: Pixabay

For the Greater Good

For the Greater Good by Chris Hall lunasonline
Source

Great Being Five gazed up at the three Superior Beings in Interview Chamber 4. She didn’t have to be told why she was here.

She had contravened the non-interference protocol¹, deleted one of her planets² and banished a fellow Being to the furthest corner of the universe³.

There was silence in the Chamber.

Five reflected on her transgressions. She must justify her actions.

She flung out a mind-picture of how she’d saved her lovely blue Planet Earth. One US president accidentally falling from the top of his own building had prevented the outbreak a third world war. It had only been a tiny tweak.

She visualized the moment when, years later, she’d reluctantly activated the total destruction of Planet Earth. It had been for the Greater Good. Those wicked little humans were about to infect another planet.

As for the fate of the odious Great Being Nineteen: who’d missed him with his destructive ways? Probably someone he owed money to. If anyone had contravened…

ENOUGH!

The thought-wave almost knocked her out of her chair.

The room vibrated as the Supreme Beings mind-melded.

Five gripped the arms of her chair.

Great Being Five, we are filing a guilty verdict.

Five braced herself.

However, your justifications are accepted.

You are assigned to the Academy for Wisdom.

* * * * * * *

Five sat expectantly in the big red chair in her shiny new office. Her screen flashed.
Assignment:
Great Being Nineteen – Re-education. Take all the time you need.

Five smiled. This was going to be fun!


 

Written in response to a prompt from Susan T. Braithwaite
Genre Scribes Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #29

The challenge this week was interview.

——————————
¹ Accident on Earth
² And Finally She’d Pulled the Plug
³ A New Dawn

 

Game on, Sinead!

what do you see 11 by chris hall lunasonline

Sinead had fought and won. Finally, the Sword of Elshain, the second of the four Sacred Artifacts, was hers. The first, the Crystal of Nor, was safely tucked in her unicorn’s saddle bag, and he, Moonsprite, had gone on ahead over the dark mountain, while she followed the sunset path into its heart to find the fabled Blue Orb.

She pressed on into the gathering darkness, a halo of bats swooping and calling her onwards. The Sword began to glow, lighting her way. All she had to do was hold her nerve and follow the words of The Prophesy.

Without warning, Sinead was plunged into darkness. The silence pressed in on her.

No sight, no sound.

*    *    *

‘Arrrgh!’ Sinead screamed out in frustration. ‘Damn these power cuts. That was the furthest I’ve ever got: Level 9.’ She sighed and groped around for her head torch. Its beam cast a hollow light over the dark and silent computer screen.

She picked up her book and ran her fingers over the embossed lettering on the cover: The Prophesy.


Written in response to SadjeWhat Do You See #11 photo prompt.
Photo credit: Pixabay

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

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!

Catch a falling star

what do you see 9 by chris hall lunasonline

‘Okay, kiddo, you might come from a long line of lovable Disney characters but…’

Dumbo Olivier III held the phone away from his large crinkly ear and let his agent drone on. From the hotel bar where he was standing, he could see the pool area where a couple of tasty elegirls were frolicking. One of them caught his eye and beckoned playfully to him.

‘Dumbs!’ his agent’s yell caught his attention, ‘you listening?’

He put the phone back to his ear. ‘Yeah, yeah. Go on.’ He fiddled with the swizzle-stick in his empty cocktail glass.

‘You’re gonna fall off the Disney money train if you carry on like this!’ his agent continued. ‘Just lay off the booze and the chicks for a month or so. Keep your trunk out of the snow… you know what I’m sayin’ kiddo?’

‘Yeah, okay man. I’ll tone it down.’

‘I’ll book you into the Betty Ford Clinic if you don’t behave yourself.’

The young Disney star sighed. ‘All right, already!’

‘Towel yourself off, kiss the girls goodbye and get down to the studio now. I’ve got some cute photo shoots lined up for you.’

‘Cute shoots with girls?

‘Yeah, kiddo. Something like that.’


Written in response to Sadjes What Do You See #9 photo prompt.
Photo credit: Yo