Our latest story prompt was a bit of a mixture, with a few stories based on the theme of pancakes and others focusing on the theme of possession. We even had a poem to add to the mix this time. Regardless of theme, all of the stories were a great success with the rest of the group and we hope that you enjoy reading them!
Yours, by Michael Bailey
Gwen walked along the woodland path here and somewhere else. It was cool in the leafy shade, a relief from the searing sun outside on the lake. The path wound up the hillside between birch trees. A strong breeze shook the branches and made the leaves shiver. The birdsong died away as the temperature seemed to drop and Gwen felt the skin on her arms rise in goose-bumps. She looked behind her, there was nothing to be seen and yet a shadow moved at the corner of her vision. She stopped and looked again, the shadow didn’t move but hung like a dark area out of focus close to the path. “Get away from me. You have no place here, go back to where you belong,”, Gwen commanded. The shadow dissolved but Gwen didn’t feel reassured. She hurried on, turning down the hill and back into the sunlight at the lakeside.
She was still agitated when she met up with her partner, Rob. She told him what had happened and he asked if she was sure. She nodded. They went back up the path she had taken but all was peaceful and untroubled. They returned to the lake and sat on a bench looking left across the lake to the cleared track through the woods underneath the descent of a winter ski lift.
Rob lifted his binoculars and studied the vertical trackway. The supports of the lift cast black shadows that lay parallel at intervals like railway sleepers. He had thought he might spot a deer but instead he saw nothing. He couldn’t be sure, he couldn’t see anything to focus on but he got the impression of something outside his field of view moving from shadow to shadow towards them. Finally it disappeared behind the brick building that housed the end of the ski lift fifty yards away from where they sat. Now it was Rob who felt the hairs on his neck rise. He could sense something there, hidden behind the wall he was staring at. Gwen suggested they go into the hotel.
They talked about what might or might not be out there and drank a beer each, encouraging one another to put the incidents aside as the products of overactive imagination in this slightly spooky out-of-season ski resort. The shadows softened and the colours intensified into the golden hour of evening as they stayed at their table by the window and ate supper.
Upstairs in their room Rob was relaxing when Gwen burst sobbing from the shower. She said she was frightened, her eyes were wide and the suntan on her face had blanched where her skin was drawn and pale. Rob tried to put his arms around her but she pushed him away clutching her towel tighter around her shoulders. No, she said, I’m frightened of you. “Who are you?” she asked, staring hard at him. “I’m Rob and you are Gwen and we are the same as ever”, he told her. He suggested they go back into the bathroom and look in the mirror.
As she stood in front of the mirror over the sink with Rob standing behind her Gwen couldn’t bring herself to look. Rob gently raised her chin with his hand.
Look, he said, there is nothing to be frightened of. He put his hands on her shoulders and massaged them and her neck which was stiff with tension. As she relaxed she let her towel slip to the floor and he looked over her shoulder to admire her nakedness. Come on into bed he said, it’s all over, nothing to be frightened any more. He took her hand and led her into the bedroom.
Gwen kissed Rob tentatively at first and then with a desperation that went beyond their usual passion. She clung to him as he kissed her. She moaned and wrapped her legs around him pushing herself against him, pulling his buttocks with her hands, digging her fingernails into his skin.
Rob’s face was above Gwen’s as he entered her. In that familiar moment when intense feelings of love and oneness usually overcame him he suddenly saw Gwen’s face transformed into the mask of a wild beast, lips drawn back in a snarl that bunched under the merciless eyes staring at him. The long sharp white teeth were daggers bared in a grimace of savagery that would surely rip his throat open in an instant. Rob’s eyes popped as he thrust harder and heard his own voice “I love you, I don’t care, do what you want, I’ll never stop loving you.”
He blinked and Gwen’s face had the look of sublime and far away calm it always had when they made love. The terrifying mask had gone. Rob had no doubt that he had seen it and that he had somehow passed a test by reacting as he had. Accepting his fate without bargaining, without relinquishing his love for Gwen whoever or whatever she was.
In the morning Gwen was her old self, chatting about the history of the resort and of the region they had travelled through to get there. She said nothing of the strange apparition they might have imagined in the afternoon or of the terror they felt in the night. Rob didn’t want to upset her so he kept quiet as well.
Weeks later Gwen started crying one evening. Words tumbled from her as she told Rob she was afraid of what she was inside. Rob let her talk until she ran dry then gradually tried to comfort and reassure her that he loved her.
She was not convinced. “How can you love me when you don’t know who or what I am inside?” she asked. Rob smiled sadly and shook his head. “Gwen my love, I have already seen what you are and I know one day you may bite my head off, quite literally. But loving you makes me what I am and I am yours.
The Embassy Ball, by Alex Chase
Our eyes met
Across a crowded room
Kindred spirits shared a spark
A single thought
Your eyes shone
Brighter than the diamonds round your neck
And then we’re off
Our twin circles
Never quite align
Mutually exclusive gatherings
At the Embassy Shrove Tuesday Ball
As lackeys and toadies
Each more demanding than the last
Beg for favours
“Not me, it’s for a friend”.
I found out who you were
A duchess, in another life
The endless social swirl
Spins us ever further.
Apart we drift.
I saw you later on that night
But you were occupied
In quartering a crepe
Lemon and sugar
Simple tastes for one so glamorous
The music plays
“Ask her to dance”
A voice behind me says
I turn but no one’s there
Perhaps an angel
I turn again
You and your partner
Never pausing for breath
Much less a chance for other men
To tear you from his grip.
And then the evening’s done
The serving staff
Return to tidy up
The debris of the night’s soiree
And back to work
Though sore of head and heart.
Another function to attend
Perhaps this time
We can communicate
And not just looks.
But then I read
Society was not for you
And so the country girl went home
To her cows
And stable lads.
The life less gilded.
And I was left
Once more alone
Amid the spires and steeples
Of the urban wilderness
And so I go
Through endless parties
Until I reach the end of term
Recalled to home
At that great sea of toil and strife
And shines out just this
One moment full of happiness and bliss.
I’m So Lucky to be Alive, by Cuca Vega
‘I’m not a pancake!’ I kept repeating again and again to Jimmy, Joey and Tommy.
They wouldn’t believe me.
‘Seriously, I’m just a kind of flat donut, that’s all.’
Jimmy has been a rye bread all his life and the wisdom that comes from such a nutritious way of being prompt him to reflect. ‘Rather a flat donut, then?’
I jumped at the opportunity. ‘Yes! yes! A very flat donut without any jam inside.’
Joey wasn’t convinced and nodded his disbelieve to Tommy.
‘Look.’ I said. ‘Have a try. Just take a little piece of me and tell me I’m not a donut but a pancake.’
Tommy liked the idea and being a mini chocolate roll it was easy to move my way and have a taste.
‘What do you say Tommy?’ the square, sliced white bread Joey shouted from his shelf.
‘Uhmmm… I think Fenny is right; he does taste more “donuty” than pancake-like.’
Jimmy was satisfied and with that he decided: ‘Right then, you can be spared during breakfast time but you are gone in the afternoon tea.’
That was all I wanted – a few more hours of glorious, vibrant life.
I was so happy I could have jiggled if I was not so flat. I did manage to ‘slop-slop’ my edges to show my delight.
It was already 5.30 in the morning. We were all freshly baked and ready for the day ahead. Jimmy and Joye would be eaten up first at breakfast time. Tommy and I, it was certain now, would be gobbled up during the afternoon tea.
Life is great!
I can sit here and savour another 12 hours or so of perfect joy.
I am so lucky to be alive.
Nothing Keeps, by Stephen Pellow
Every evening it’s the same. Home from work and it’s been a long day, I know, but there’s never a plan. No organisation. No structure. One by one each and every cupboard is opened and I peer inside to see if there is something – anything – that takes my fancy. Something different. We can’t keep having the same stuff week in, week out. Times are hard and the budget is tight, yes, but a bit of variety wouldn’t hurt.
Right, let’s start again from the beginning. I was looking but not seeing before perhaps. There has to be something more here. Could this be something promising? Store in a cool, dry place. That hasn’t really been an option. Cool is a phrase rarely attributed to this place. The expiry date has long passed. Nothing lasts forever no matter how many preservatives you inject into it. Never say forever. Nothing keeps.
And this? This has been here longer than I have and would probably kill me given half the opportunity. Can’t bin it really though, can I? It’s not part of the diet anymore… shouldn’t really need any physical reminder. In the bin it goes.
Something from somewhere I can’t even pronounce. There wasn’t any harm in experimenting, I suppose, but nothing good came of it either.
Well this is may be worth further investigation. A tin with no labels. Keeps things interesting. But after this long you need labels. Even if you ultimately aren’t going to enjoy what’s inside the can and especially if what’s inside has expired after leaving it so long. Without putting a label on it. Don’t even. Just sweep it off the shelf and straight into the bin. If it’s not good enough for me, I don’t want anyone else having it either.
Maybe check the fridge.
Ah, fruit. Strawberries no less. Their seeds are on the outside. They’re exposed to everything. I’d rather be the seeds of its neighbour in here, the tomato. Cushy and protected inside, shielded from the elements. From feeling.
I fear I may end up popcorn. It’s like I’ve been this little hard kernel. Small and insignificant, in a bag with hundreds of others just like me. Then I have my moment. I finally reach temperature. Maybe I even get there first and I pop and suddenly I’m twice or three times my size, and oh, so sweet. But then so is everyone else. They have their moments too and we are all the same again. The playing field levelled. Most likely I’m the one piece of popcorn that’s stuck to the bottom of the bag, going stale, or ends up on the floor and gets eaten by the dog. Worse still, I remain a kernel. I never had my moment. I never popped.
Or an egg yolk. It would be better to be one of those. A yolk rests within the membrane of the egg, that itself surrounded by a shell. But not a hard shell. It is fragile. It can be cracked all too easily, spilling the gold and the white out and mixing with milk and flour to make a perfect batter.
These cupboards depress me. Pancakes for tea again and then I really must go shopping. Never any bloody food in this house.
The Greatest Possession, by Becky Bye
He sat and stared fixedly at the woman talking in front of him, watching the red curves of her lips warp into different positions. He heard sounds, but the words wafted over him like a dream.
Sit still. DON’T panic.
He shifted his position slightly, feigning interest as best he could, crossing his left leg over his right knee, then swapping them over.
He felt his foot begin tapping uncontrollably and he focussed all of his energy onto it, willing it to stop. He linked his hands on his lap and squeezed until his knuckles bleached white. He bit his lip until he could taste metal.
The woman behind the desk was handing out a sheet of paper to him. He smiled, reaching out a trembling hand to take it from her and peered down at the paper. It fluttered in his grasp and he squinted, trying to stop the words from bleeding into one on the page.
Focus. You’re absolutely fine.
He realised that the woman had stopped talking and he looked up at her quickly, nodding his head and making noises in the affirmative, hoping that it was the right response. She stretched out her hands in front of her, the painted nails shiny on the pockmarked desk top.
He swallowed hard and placed the paper onto the desk as the woman resumed talking. He scratched his chin, though it didn’t itch.
He uncrossed his legs and shifted slightly on the chair, rubbing his palms down his thighs to remove some of the moisture that he could feel seeping through his pores.
Nothing is going to happen, just pay attention.
After a moment, the woman stood up, straightening out her pencil skirt over her thighs and extending her hand.
“Well, that will be all, thank you, we’ll be in touch.”
As their palms met, he felt the woman’s hand tense within his clammy fingers and she hastily withdrew her arm. His lips trembled at the corners as he contorted them into something of a smile.
As he left the room his ears buzzed, his legs and feet clumsy as he tripped out of the woman’s office and into the hallway. The clinical smell of office equipment made him feel sick and he bustled outside.
The coolness of the air outside calmed him and he inhaled deeply. He sighed, knowing that they wouldn’t be in touch.
Messed that up didn’t you.
Panic attack 1, interview 0.