Monday, 29 December 2014

Flash Fiction: "Pieces of Cake"

A short tale of only 625 words, inspired by an image my wife gave me.


Pieces of Cake

By Mark Cassell
(625 words)
       
       
A glistening dome, pink and soft, pushed up through the layer of sugar icing. Jeremy stopped chewing. Sponge crumbled and slivers of fondant heaved as a bloodshot eyeball stared at him. He screamed, still gripping the paper plate, and staggered backwards. His elbow whacked a dining-room chair.
        Mummy’s hands grabbed his shoulders. She shouted something but he couldn’t hear—too much noise in his head. His stomach writhed like he’d swallowed a billion worms. The plate became heavy in numb fingers. He’d demanded to eat the eye-patch. He was seven and it was his pirate cake.
        He spat. Sponge and icing crumbled over his lips and stuck to his chin; bitter, foul, reminding him of that time he’d eaten mud.
        His wide-eyed friends, Sam and Tom, stood clutching their own pieces of cake. Sam’s gapped-tooth grin melted and he spat out his mouthful.
        Jeremy threw his plate, filling the air with crumbs and lumps of sponge. The eyeball bounced across the table like a ping-pong ball, leaving red splats between the bowls of crisps and plates of sandwiches.
        Mummy screamed and dragged him into her arms. Perfume, the one that was like too many flowers, poured over him.
        The plate rolled off the table.
        And the eye twitched, looking at each of them in turn.
        Amid the shouts, the yelling, the crying, came a thump—a crash—on the back door. It rattled shelves. Something fell and cracked.
        Thump-thump-thump.
        Wood splintered as the door flew inwards and slammed into the wall. Glass broke and shards dropped, reflecting a fading light. The summer afternoon vanished in a wash of black smudges. This darkness separated…and Jeremy’s heart bobbed into his throat.
        The stink of the sea and fish, of rotten vegetables and farts, rushed in with the gloom.
        Sam puked. It splashed the table in a sound similar to when Jeremy left his cereal too long and had to pour the soggy mess into the bin.
        Tom, tears streaming down red cheeks, darted from the room.
        From the unfolding darkness came three men dressed in rags and wearing masks. The pair at the front wore sodden bandanas, and the one at the back wore a pirate hat, askew and slimy. Rusted scabbards swung from belts with equally-rusted buckles. As one, they staggered and reached with skeleton fingers. Flaps of stained cloth hung in clumps from jittery limbs as the men pushed into the room. Sand and smoke and shadow billowed around them in waves. Clumps of filth dropped to the floor and scattered things that wriggled.
        Jeremy coughed and choked. He still tasted the cake.
        In the centre of the table, framed between plastic cutlery and napkins, the eyeball’s gaze now fixed on the approaching men.
        They were not wearing masks.
        Their faces drooped, slanted and twisted. The skin, wrinkled and green as cabbage, flapped where it had slid from the skull. Sores and wounds oozed yellow stuff that dripped from slack jaws. Missing teeth, scabbed ears, curled flesh hanging. Wisps of hair tangled with seaweed flopped over their gazes. And their eyes…it was their eyes…or lack of…
        Just dark, sunken sockets. Twin holes as black as the darkness only something dead could walk with.
        Jeremy couldn’t be sure, but maybe he kept saying “Mummy” over and over and over. But she’d released him, fainted. It was as though she now slept between overturned chairs.
        Still the men came.
        A strange silence had entered with these visitors. It seemed to pulse with the roar in his ears. His heartbeat, loud, throbbed in his head.
        The man in front pointed at the eyeball. Mud and filth and maggots dripped from the end of that hooked finger.
        In a voice of gargled water, the dead pirate said, “Eye, Cap’n.”

       

Did you enjoy the flash fiction?

Here are the opening pages of The Shadow Fabric


Unable to blink, I shot a quick glance around the dining room. My heartbeat stormed my head. I had to get out of there, I had to leave the other men to it. These brothers had a lot of hate to throw around.
       The black fabric draped across the table and chair, tracing every contour. It flowed over the wood like liquid. Hugging tight whatever it touched, it turned everything into a shadow, a silhouette, a featureless dark blot of its former self. The way it moved defied physics.
       My throat clamped around a cry that came out a whimper.
       I had no idea what Stanley intended. The strange fabric didn’t travel far from his hand, and where the material ended, it rippled and pulsed, pulling further away, yet unable to claim more of its surroundings. The more it unfolded, the dimmer the room became. My skin itched as it sapped the light.
       Victor and Stanley stood facing each other: Victor, with his eyebrows pushed together, the ornate blade clenched in a fist, and Stanley, with his jaw tight and a twitch at the edge of his mouth. In Stanley’s grasp the fabric quivered, its material reminding me of the way midday sunlight reflects from the surface of a swimming pool, the ripples a criss-crossing of movement. It was peaceful to behold, hypnotic almost. But this thing was dark and stifling to observe.
       There was nothing remotely tranquil about this.
       I wanted to leave them to whatever absurd game this was…yet my feet refused to move. The familiar ache in my knee rushed through my body, drumming in my skull, telling me I was useless. Since the car accident the knee often was useless. I couldn’t leave Victor, I knew that. The man looked as terrified as I felt.
       “I hate you, Victor.” Stanley’s nose was no more than a thumb’s width from his brother’s.
       “No,” Victor gasped. His hand shook, his knuckles whitening around the knife. “Don’t!”
       I didn’t know who or what Victor spoke to. Was it Stanley? The shadows? The knife?
       In a blur of darkness, shadows coiling his arm, the blade slammed into Stanley’s chest. Blood spread and he staggered back.
       Victor’s eyes widened. Clutching the weapon, he stumbled from the fireplace, away from his brother. The knife slid out, sucking at the wound. A jet of scarlet misted the air, and then oozed.
       I could only see darkness…so much darkness, and my lungs went tight.
       The fabric—the Shadow Fabric—closed around Stanley’s buckling legs.
       The remaining material swept from the table, away from the violin case. Black tentacles whipped and grabbed Stanley. The darkness enfolded him as his eyes glazed over. It dragged his body along the carpet a short distance and tightened its grip.
       My jaw muscles twitched as I clenched my teeth.
       The Fabric began to shrink. Still in its embrace, the last I saw of Stanley was his dead stare.
       “Vic…” I whispered, and gripped the back of the sofa.
       My boss dragged his eyes away from the retreating shadows and stared at the knife. Behind him, the mantel clock hammered out several seconds before the weapon slipped from his hand onto the carpet, where it bounced with a red splash.
       He fell to his knees. “Oh God.”
       The Fabric vanished.
       I dashed across the room as much as my leg would allow and staggered to a halt beside him. Sobs wracked his frame as I grasped his bony shoulder.
       On the table next to where Stanley had been standing was the violin case, still open like a crooked yawn.
       A million thoughts tumbled through my head, but I couldn’t find the words. I’d been Victor’s chauffeur for no more than a day, and already I’d witnessed him stab his own brother. What the hell?
       I don’t know how long I remained like that, holding him, with light creeping reluctantly back into the room. Victor shouldn’t have been surprised that the shadows had taken his brother. After all, those shadows—the darkness—are associated with all that is dead…or should be dead.
       Silence clogged the air like we were buried in a tomb.
       For some of us, there is a moment in our lives where all we’ve believed real is whipped out from under us and we’re left to survive in a world that’s a lie. All the things in life we’ve taken for granted are sheathed in a weak veneer, behind which stands the shadows.
       For me, this was one of those moments.



Mark Cassell's dark fantasy novel is available
from all bookshops and also Amazon.

    

Author photo (c)Christopher Shoebridge
Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines.

His debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is a supernatural story and is available from Amazon.

        

4 comments:

  1. Without realizing you'd posted a new flash, I linked this blog to some friends. Pretty sure they think you're a mad genius, Mark. xD They giggled with malicious glee. The best kind of giggle there is.

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    1. Well, I've never been called a mad genius before! I best not argue. :-)

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  2. Works. And without more than one line of dialogue. Why discuss if pirates > zombies when you can have pirates + zombies!

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    1. Thanks. I'd always wanted to write about zombie pirates, so I did. Glad you enjoyed it. :-)

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