A.J. Walker


June 2021

A Slice of Time

Mid Week Flash #205 - 23.06.21

A Slice of Time

William was a CID Officer with over ten years experience and his gut was having kittens about the case of Mrs Flannery from the high street baker’s. When she’d been found in the shop on Monday morning there were no real clues that forensic could find. Somehow even with all the fine flour dust in the bakery at the back of the shop, which had settled like a dusting of snow, provided no telling footprints from an intruder, just some faint scuff marks from Flannery’s own slippers. It looked like she had skated around the shop rather than walked. It reminded Williams of his daughter when she’d gone through a phase of not lifting her feet to walk. How he’d shouted at her about that. He recalled her smiling at his frustration.

He had to bring himself back around to the present. All the photos from the crime scene showed the trail of the skating baker, the tell tale missing bread knife from the rack and the wound in her body. Just why had anyone murdered the old woman. She was loved in the town and hadn’t any enemies as far as the police had discovered so far. But everyone had secrets, he’d learnt that a long time ago.

The only other evidence was the broken clock on the floor near the door. The traditional round clock had evidently broken during whatever struggle had occurred and left the time indelible for them as evidence. Of course even a clock is right twice a day. So was it 12:40am or pm? The ovens had been on when he’d arrived at the scene and the place had been roasting. It had plaved havoc with the coroner’s assessment on the time of death. In the end they had to bracket it by when she was last seen: on Saturday evening to when she found on Monday. That left three possible 12:40s. As the bakery was closed to sales on Sunday it was deemed there was no reason for her to be there as 12:40 in the morning on Sunday, but Monday morning was still a possibility. So there were evidently two times when she could have been killed. Lunchtime Sunday or the early hours of Monday.

Williams had questioned Rob Pessell, a guy from a few roads away as it was always good to have one suspect for the files. Rob had been an argument on the Friday with Mrs Flannery, viewed by a few local regulars at the bakers, about how the loaf he’d had last time had been too thinly sliced. This was the closest thing to a motive the police could find. According to the investigation he had an alibi for the lunchtime window as he’d been on a Zoom call with mates, which had been verified and even recorded by one girl, and he’d then been round staying overnight at his parents thirty miles away in the evening.

No motive. No footprints or fingerprints. No murder weapon. It was going to be tough. It wasn’t long before the case was put in the ‘never likely to be solved’ filing cabinet (which was soon to be expanded to two filing cabinets) and forgotten about. Had he noticed the faded patch of paint where a clock had been in Rob’s back room it may have been different. They could equally have realised that the clock had no obvious site for itself in the bakery. This forensic genius had watched a couple of episodes of
The Bill and CSI and pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes. The murder had actually een on Sunday afternoon on the way to his mum’s.

In the weeks that followed the woman who took over the bakery thankfully sliced the loaf a little thicker than the previous occupant. Rob reasoned he had used his loaf to get away with murder and he wondered about going after George Clooney next, as he was of the opinion that the Toastie loaf was the only one suitable for sandwiches these days and the standard ‘thick sliced’ was like the thin sliced from years gone by.

It was crazy; as he didn’t even like sandwiches. But hell, he was crazy too.

WC: 702

Corridors and Doorways

Mid Week Flash #204 - 16.06.21

Corridors and Doorways

Have you ever seen the corridors of the forest? Not those slender links of woodland to woodland; those ecological corridors we’ve attempted to help the environment with. No, the corridors of light and dark hidden in plain site deep in the woodlands and forests and built out of the fabric of time itself. These are more common than you may think. Indeed you may never have seen one even if you walk past them every day. They meld into that background. Fooling you through the bending of light and the building of darkness. They can look like nothing more than warped trees, but their essence is of time itself. They are the best thing in the world if you can find them: and more importantly know how to use them. Incorrect or accidental use may result in little observable result. You may not notice if you’ve gone through one and it operated. You could move moments or metres in time and place. But what’s a few seconds or minutes in a forest dappled with light and dark? Would you notice?

But you’d notice if you went through one end of the corridor and out through another and days had gone, if time had gone backwards - or forwards: on the other side of the mountains. You’d know then. And once you could learn to operate it like a professional you could travel miles - and decades. It’s the only way to travel. I’ve been everywhere and every-when through these ancient portals. I call them Ancient Portals, but I don’t know if they are ancient, maybe they are some alien artefact to help visitors to the planet travel around. It’s not like they are stamped as Made in Sheffield, or Hecho En Mexico. The materials all seem natural. Warped by design maybe, but natural.

I’m trying to learn all I can about them: to become a master of them. I’m not there yet. Though I’ve gone back further and forward less than intended on occasion the accidental big lunges through the decades or centuries are getting rarer. I’ve come out in places far removed from the forest I started in and I’ve met animals that have probably been long extinct – and I’ve seen men & women dressed as if from another planet: though I’ve never been one for following fashion.

I’m becoming a man of no fixed abode or fixed time. Suddenly long extinct animals aren’t extinct at all as I can go and see them in their natural habitat. These things that are gone aren’t gone at all. It’s just a different route to find them.

Once I’ve learned all I can I will pass the knowledge on: become a teacher. Well, that’s what I’d been thinking. Now I am not sure. I’ve been to so many bad times and seen some awful things that man can do - to the environment, and to his fellow man. I travel as a tourist through time and space on this planet now, “Leaving Only Footprints” as the travel guides in my original time suggested. Seeing things that not many men could have seen within one lifetime.

These portals are truly remarkable. Sometimes - not often - I’ve seen people nearby and I wonder if they have travelled like me. But I’ve never observed people actually use it. Not that there’s much to see. Someone disappearing in the dark shadows of the forest, or appearing into the light. Eyes play tricks. Most people wouldn’t truly see it even if they saw it; if you catch my drift.

Now I’m having doubts. What if I pass the information on to the wrong person or people? What if it gets written down, passed around and used by those that would abuse their fellows and this world? I wouldn’t want the responsibility or blame for any time travelling mayhem. Perhaps these portals prevent the undesirable people and items getting through; I’ve not tried taking weapons or technology through them so I don’t know. Perhaps I should try, just to learn if it has such rules. But what if I tried it and then it never let me use these corridors again? No. At the moment I am minded to travel all I can and learn as much as I can about these hauntingly beautiful edifices and the time & space I can explore. I’ll become an unknown Master of the Portals, and perhaps their secrets will pass into dust along with me when my time comes. Wherever and whenever that may be.


WC: 749

Flight of Fancy

Mid Week Flash #203 - 09.06.21

Flight of Fancy

The roads in the town had all been narrow slightly rutted affairs. There were signs that they were occasionally used by 4x4s but I’d barely seen any. Most people walked where they needed to go, or maybe used scooters or small motorcycles. Vehicles were used for hauling produce, or the odd generator, in or out of the village; they’d be expensive to own at the best of times. So despite being within the area of the rain forest and paddy fields the roads within the town were pretty fine for getting around. Exiting the town to head on my walk to see the butterflies at the salt lick the roads quickly changed. As I got into more wilderness the roads paradoxically got wider and more used than within the town. These were the roads of the foresters. They were as wide as a dual carriageway but there was no tarmac, they were formed of white craggy mud, splattered and hardened into baked scars.

I watched enthralled as a girl struggled past me on a 100cc bike, lunging from one pothole to another, over baked clay into soft mud and out again. Her arms pumping one way then another as she fought the ground beneath, her legs tried to work as makeshift stabilisers. It looked harder than walking. She didn’t appear to be carrying anything I guessed that she had a long way to go and better roads must lie ahead, or there was something - or someone - to come back with. It looked tortuous - and couldn’t be doing the bike any good. It was hard enough on foot but I was glad to be walking.

The heat was soon beginning to tell on me though and my thighs were battered by the constant climbing up and down over the gigantic ruts. I wondered how massive the forestry vehicles must be that plough these furrows through the once pristine forest. I’d be intrigued to see, but at the same time it would doubtlessly depress me. I wasn’t sure if the wood was used for some tat western furniture or whether the forest was being cleared for palm plantations; probably both.

Dehydration was making me dizzy so I headed over the biggest mound of hardened mud at the left hand side of the road - there was a matching wall on the right hand side. I thought the shade was closer on the left; and that is the only reason I went that way. Looking back perhaps this was a sliding door moments.

I sat on a fallen tree knocked down as part of the road construction: the road evidently hadn’t involved any consideration of minimising impacts. It gave me a place to sit, but that was depressing in itself.

I leant back on the tree leaning into one that seemed to have somehow survived the construction. It gave me a back like a chair. Though with tiredness eating into me I’d have probably have found a nest of ants comfortable. I sucked back on my second Gatorade of the day and hoped I’d packed enough drinks to see me to the salt lick and back. It was thirsty work this close to the equator.

As I got towards the end of the bottle and the orange liquid sloshed around I saw another flash of the same orange in the darkness of the forest shade: seemingly a butterfly. I was heading out of town to the salt works to see the butterflies. Maybe I didn’t need to get out that far. I finished the drink and put the bottle back in my rucksack before returning my eyes to where the butterfly had been. I couldn’t see it in the distance. Suddenly there was something before me. Fluttering less than a metre from my face. I couldn’t make it out properly. I could sense wings beating rapidly but couldn’t see them, just a slender body before me. As I moved my head left and right trying to grasp its reality I found that it followed my head precisely, rocking from side to side against the trees in the dark. In my head I was suddenly sure that this was no butterfly, this was a faerie. I could definitely make out legs, arms and a face. This damn road had cut through ancients trees, rare orchids, multifarious environmental habitats: and the home of the faeries. I was getting angrier by the moment at the destruction. Then again, perhaps I was just really, really disorientated and dehydrated.


WC: 750

The House On Seventh Street

Upside Down Chair
#MidWeekFlash 202 - 02.06.21

The House On Seventh Street

It’s funny the things that haunted you as a child that you forget once life gets in the way. For me it was the House on Seventh Street where we regularly dared each other to go into on the way home from school, at weekends or during holidays. It was a typical house for the town, nothing stood out about it other than the vastly overgrown garden. To us kids this meant it was either vacant & haunted, or had some old weirdo living in it.

There were stories of course: it’s what kids do. A child’s head is a factory for grand imaginings. It’s a shame we grow out of it. The worlds we create as a child are never less than interesting. When we grow up the removal of our childhood imagination and wonder kills every thing. This regression to the mean kills our hope and dreams too. Perhaps when we realise there are no monsters under the bed or bogey men hiding in the closet we have to accept the flip side: there’s no magic here either.

Some of these long forgotten memories are coming back to me in this instant. It was the smell in the basement at my aunt’s house: a combination of damp and cat piss. I’m right back in the infamous House on Seventh Avenue. I haven’t thought about it for thirty years, but in my head I’m right there now.

One summer evening our young gang agreed to go into the House together. I found myself leading the group up the path and as the door closed behind me I heard the others run away. I was never sure whether that had been a plan or if they’d all become scared. Either way I was alone.

In my head I’d done the difficult part by passing the threshold. I was in: I was going to investigate. I’d have a story to tell not just from my imagination, but from an adventure that no one else had the guts to do. And that’s how I found the room. Only about three metres square with the one door I’d walked in through and no windows despite being on the ground floor. The whole house had smelled of damp but it was much stronger here because of the lack of ventilation. Worse than the smell of damp was the pervading odour of cat piss. The whole concoction made my eyes water. In the low light that made it through the doorway I could make out a dark grey raggedy cat, which periodically hissed at nothing in particular. But the thing that haunted my dreams for several years afterward, and became part of the school folklore on the House on Seventh Street, was the single wooden chair. It was nothing out of the ordinary; a slatted back chair as seen in many in a house. But what made this chair unusual - unique even - was that it was suspended upside down in the centre of the room. Suspended with nothing holding it up. Fully 18 inches off the ground. It looked like it had been overturned and then stuck like a film frame that had stuttered to a stop.

Once I got my composure I took my time walking around the room. I looked for wires or poles holding it up. There were none. I touched the chair to make sure it was real and not a projection. It was. I even approached the cat until it hissed aggressively to make it clear that any touch would have consequences. The room made me feel incredibly uncomfortable and I knew I had to leave. The house had given me something. Something I could use with my friends. But it would haunt me too.

The story got embellished - of course it did. But the chair and the cat were as real as my overdraft and hypertension is now. Other people told it too in their own way. None of my gang ever tried to repeat the visit. It was later said that someone had hung themselves in that room and that was the chair that had spilled over. There was nothing to support that, but the story stuck for years: to me it felt plausible – likely even. But I’d eventually forgotten all about it until my aunt’s house. I decided I’d google it later. We didn’t have that in our day. Stories were simply told to each other, embellished and passed on. These days there would be blogs.