The butler did it!

The Butler did it by Chris Hall lunasonline
Blenheim Palace (Wikipedia)

The Queen gazed out of the window as a team of paramedics, flanked by dark-suited security men, slid the stretcher into the ambulance. Its occupant, whose face was covered, had been pronounced dead at the scene, slumped over his dinner at the top table in the Long Library. It had only been by great good fortune that the contents of the glass he’d been holding had missed her spangled evening gown. White silk was a devil to clean, apparently.

Standing by the back of her chair, her butler coughed discretely. The Queen turned to him and gave a conspiratorial wink. ‘Don’t worry, Watkins. You were only acting under orders.’ The Queen smiled serenely. ‘And I am monarch and above the law.’

‘Very good, ma-am.’

‘Worked a treat, didn’t it?’ she giggled. ‘Something Philip was given on a State visit. I knew it would come in handy one day.’

‘Indeed, ma-am. If I might be permitted to say, the poisoning was entirely justified. Not that one’s Royal Highness would need to.’

‘He might have been the Leader of the Free World, but in all my years as Queen, I have never, ever come across such an odious man.’

‘He actually asked for a Coca-Cola when Blenheim has such a wonderful wine cellar!’

They both glanced at the portrait hanging over the fireplace.  ‘I’m not sure what Mr Churchill would have made of him, or his own current successor.’

The Queen raised her glass to the portrait. ‘He’s a problem for another day.’


Written in response to a prompt from Susan T. Braithwaite
Genre Scribes Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #32

The challenge this week was dinner.

Dream Time

Capturing the rain animal by Chris Hall lunasonline

/…previously

The breeze-caressed veld sways, sending parched waves to break on a distant shore. The two men sleep on. Under the gaze of their eagle totem, they dream of the great herds of springbok, eland and kudu which once stalked the land; and of the zebra and wildebeest, hunted by prides and tribes.

Back on the koppie, strong arms carry the young man’s trance-cast body into the cool darkness of the cave, where the ancestor paintings will watch over him. The new maiden emerges to stand on the threshold, proud and tall in that powerful place between hearth and wilderness.

Everywhere between, the veld bakes. Shimmers of hot air rise above the rocks and whirlwind dust-devils dance over bare earth, rising up to be scorched into stillness.

Later, as the tendril fingers of the thorn-tree’s shadow reach out towards the smudge-blue mountains, the San Man appears out of the jagged heat haze. A hide pouch is slung across his bony barrel chest; he carries the carcass of a small, furred animal. At his approach, the two men stir. The eagle bows, locking its keen eye with that of the returned hunter, before taking flight on strong, silent wings which will carry him back to the beckoning maiden who stands on the threshold of the night.

Still entranced by the dream-world of the ancestors, the two men look on as the San Man conjures fire. As the thin flames crackle, he offers them water which is cool, sweet and laced with magic.

/…to be continued

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

The Flight of the Eagle

flight of the eagle by chris hall san man lunasonline
Source

/… previously

Never before has he experienced such freedom!

The curve of his beak parts the dawn sky as he spirals upwards from where his man-body lies inert on the koppie. A wisp of fragrant smoke from the flickering embers of the camp fire floats upwards in his wake. Then the last remaining log splits asunder and explodes in a shower of pin-prick scarlet sparks.

He soars on the thermals; the warm air fills his wings and transports him over the purple veld. He flies east, as the new day’s pink-gold sun emerges and spills over the purple mountains. Below him, he watches his own shadow running beside a long ribbon of eland as they follow-my-leader across the parched earth.

His keen eye discerns the path his companions have taken and he smells their scent which lingers in the breeze.

The song of the San Man reaches out to him across the sapphire sky.

Soon he alights on a branch of the solitary thorn tree. His companions are resting in the still-silence; neither awake nor asleep, drifting in the half-light of the awakening veld. Now, with his arrival, they let go and he watches over them as they sleep.

The San Man picks up his spear-stick and walks silently off into the veld.

Back on the koppie a slender figure emerges from the cave. She kneels down by the man who lies by the dying fire. He stirs, staring up at her with unseeing eyes. She shakes her head. He sleeps on.

/… to be continued

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

 

Casting Woes

what do you see 12 by chris hall lunasonline

‘You’ve got me an audition for what?’ Freya stared at her agent in disbelief. ‘You are joking aren’t you?’ A neat curlicue of steam issued from her purple nostrils.

Jed Talent hurried across the room and flung open the office window. ‘Unikitty is big time, Freya.’

‘I’m a serious actress,’ Freya huffed. ‘I will not work in some Lego toy spin off.’ She raked a purple-painted talon across the arm of the capacious couch on which she was perched.

‘Sometimes we have to take what we can get, sweetie.’ Jed returned to his leather-upholstered armchair. ‘After your disastrous audition for G.O.T…’

Freya pouted. Her spiky tail began to twitch; the glass-topped coffee table in front of her rattled ominously.

‘Okay, okay.’ Jed held up his hands in surrender. ‘Not Unikitty.’

‘Well?’ Freya’s eyes smoldered. ‘What else have you for me?’

Rainbow Butterfly Unicorn Kitty?’

‘What’s with the unicorns, Jed? I’m a dragon!’ Freya snorted, issuing a shower of sparks from her nostrils.

Jed eyed the resulting scorch mark on his thick shag pile carpet.

‘You want me to dress up in drag?’

‘Unicorns are where the big-time is at, sweetie.’ Jed ran his fingers through his thinning hair.

‘If that’s the best you can do, I’m finding myself a new agent!’ Freya stood up and swept from the room, her tail overturning the coffee table as she went.

Jed sighed as he watched Freya fly off from his office window, her dazzling blue wings framed against the giant Hollywood letters.


Written in response to SadjeWhat Do You See #12 photo prompt.
Photo credit: Flickr

Read more about Freya’s story in The Audition

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

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