A.J. Walker


Signal Issues

Signal Issues

Silvia stumbled through the woods just wanting to get out and get home. She’d hit her target of 20,000 steps sometime back, but now she was disoriented and tired. She deserved to put her feet up now with a gin.

She looked at her phone and saw she was in the middle of the wood; if the GPS was right. As she watched the screen the position marker kept moving her around. It was not what was needed. She swore at herself for going off the paths in an unfamiliar place. She wasn’t going to recognise anything until she hit the road, but which way was it? Retracing her steps was an option, but the road must be close. Though she couldn’t hear any traffic.

Sitting down on a fallen tree she lifted herself up to dangle her legs above the carpeted floor. It was good to take the weight off though her hands were now smeared with soil and moss; and her leggings would be a state. She knew she’d feel better when home and hosed - maybe literally. The keep fit lark was an addictive hobby. But she did wish she could teleport home once she’d hit her goals.

She looked back at the phone for a clue to which way to go. Still the position marker danced around the blank green space. ‘Shit! What the hell’s this about?’

She put her hands down to try and get more comfortable and felt her right hand slip down a crevice before coming to rest on something solid and cold.

She jumped down to inspect what it was, only to find a beautiful crystal ball jammed in a hole. It looked perfect. The reflection of the woodland was clear - if upside down. ‘Oh, I like that.’ She said to no one, whilst looking to see if anyone was around. There hadn’t been a soul for ages but finding something unnatural meant that suddenly people must be around.

There was no-one. Of course it could have been there for ages. It had just changed her perception of being alone.

As she circled the tree she kept returning her eyes to the phone for her position, expecting it to suddenly stabilise. It didn’t. But she noticed it did seem to move around less the further she got from the tree. Eventually she put it back in her pocket wanting to prioritise the crystal ball. It had been discarded there and there was no evidence anyone had walked through the area recently. That made it hers if she wanted it. Finders keepers.

Sylvia crouched down to inspect the ball - and to see how best to rescue it. It didn’t look jammed in hard, and some bits of wood on the floor suggested that maybe it had been hidden within a smaller hole rather than in its current partially exposed position. In fact looking at how fresh the fragments were she decided she’d probably broken the wood herself whilst sat up there. So someone had hidden it. How strange.

She went back to her phone keen to take some photos of the ball before moving it. It would be good for a blog or at least her Instagram. The woodland reflected in it was so clear and endearing. After taking a few shots she checked Maps again and found her position either madly darting around or else disappearing completely. She wondered if crystal balls could interfere with phone signals. It seemed unlikely. Besides surely it was just glass and the screens were made of glass. It was probably just a bad Vodafone signal again. Sure enough there were no bars on the phone either; probably a signal black spot.

Her feet were rested now, she could retrace her steps if need be. It was time to rescue the prize. She leant forward planting her feet firmly in the ground, bracing herself in case it was stuck. But when she grabbed the crystal she felt a buzz, as if she had turned something on. In her head she heard sounds like people moving around and conversation. But should couldn’t make anything out. She looked around the wood: there was no one there. Of course there wasn’t. The timing, the clarity: the sound was coming through the ball. It was some kind of communication device and it wasn’t suffering signal issues.

That was when she first heard the aliens speak to her. This keep fit lark was going to take her to all sorts of places.

WC: 749

Storytelling Truths

Storytelling Truths

Becky lived for facts. She had no time for reading novels or watching dramas on the TV. She’d get her head in a biography or a history book for evening after evening, or watch a documentary on the
History Channel or Discovery. The merest whiff of a fictional splash or woolly reconstruction got her reaching for the remote. Facts were facts and all else was frippery - a waste of time.

It wasn’t always the way. She could trace her animosity to fictions back to her dad in 1976. She’d always loved writing stories at school and won some prizes and lots of praise from friends and teachers. She was always scribbling something in her notebooks. Ideas and characters dripped from every page, even her maths exercise books.

But in the hot summer of '76 her dad had ripped through a book she was writing in and snapped her pens. He’d shouted at her so long and loud, and his face was red with rage. He demanded that she must never write a story again. That she was too damaging. That her sister believed what she wrote was true. She was ten years old and her dad hated her. It cut like nothing else ever had.

It took weeks to find out what had precipitated such ire. Lucy had told him one night that Becky had read a story to her one evening about a prince and princess and an undying love that would ultimately be ended by a school bus running over the prince.

Her sister confessed that in her head she was the princess and the prince was Neil who she loved from afar in her class. Neil did get run over later that week, not by a bus but by a Range Rover outside of the school. A week later Becky had read a story about Mrs Channing from the English class having a secret life as a spy and being taken away unexpectedly by the events and a horrible temporary teacher replacing her. Mrs Channing did leave the school suddenly, and no one at the time knew why, but Lucy knew it was something to do with National Security.

Being so close together the stories stuck in her head - and the fact that her little sister had written them. She felt sure that if Neil hadn’t have been run over that they’d be together. Because the story had been written it was Becky’s fault. She had cried herself to sleep for there nights before her dad got the facts out. Lucy said she was a witch and whatever she wrote became true.

Her dad didn’t believe in witches, but she saw the hurt of Lucy. And if Becky continued to write her little stories they could end up causing more damage. It was the next day when her dad had got angry like never before and scared Becky to the core. That was the day stories died for her. She didn’t want to hurt her dad or her sister - or anyone. Facts were all that mattered ever since.

Now, in her fifties, her sister lay in the hospital bed with cancer. Their dad was long gone but their memories of family holidays and good times lived on. Becky held her cold frail hand and could feel her shaking gently under the covers. Her voice was weak yet somehow strong and insistent.

‘Do you remember when you used to write stories and they all came true?’

Becky nodded. ‘I remember you didn’t like them, - and poor dad. I never saw him that angry again.’

‘Do you think you try again? Write a story where I miraculously get better in a few days time. And maybe make it that the young doctor, the one with the floppy hair, falls for me?’

Becky smiled. ‘They say sometimes fact is stranger than fiction, maybe with an idea and a pen I can do something, turn the fiction into fact . ’

She watched as the grin spread slowly across Lucy’s face and her eyes closed. She looked happy. ‘I’ll write it as soon as I get home. Do you know the doctor’s name?’

A quiet breath indicated that Lucy was asleep.

On the way home Becky bought a pad and a nice pen; like the one her dad had broken. But by the time she left the shop her phone was ringing. The doctor with the floppy hair told her that Lucy had passed away. Later she found out his name was Prince.

AJ Walker
#MidWeekFlash - Week 191
WC: 250

These Walls

These Walls

I built these walls for a purpose. Using big thick slabs. Granite. Limestone. An impenetrable fortress. You are not getting past these walls. Through to me. I’ll bite your head off. If you so much as try.
You say you’ve heard of someone finding a way in. There is no secret passage. No hidden door. The walls are on deep foundations, towering to the sky. You are not getting in. You say you’ve met me truly once. A beautiful aberration. A delicate wonderful butterfly, or was it a flower?
It’s a lie, that never happened. The walls are impenetrable. I’ve told you. They’ve stood always.
Step away. Walk on past there’s nothing to see. I’ll take the drink. ‘Cheers!’ As much as you’ll get from me.
You’re a nice guy. Gentle. Intelligent. Good looking. In another world I’d give you every chance. I may even have chased you myself. Here and now though these walls are protecting you as much as me. Probably more. There are other people here. People you know. Fuck off and spoil their night.
There’s no way in. If these walls ever fell the world would regret it. That would be you first, dickhead! Another drink. ‘Bottoms up!’ ‘Haven’t seen you about for an age,’ he said, ‘Where you been?’ Think I answered; his face suggested I did. Something innocuous. I don’t do conversation. You are not going to find me. These walls, you know.
I built them for a purpose. There was indeed a time when people could get in. There were doors. Locked, but there was a key. There could be a way through. But I became more damaged. A quantum menace. Simultaneously a rose frozen with dry ice and a humungous bomb on a hair trigger. Dry ice. Rocks. Whisky. ‘Salud!’
You can do better, what can I give you, but headaches and heartaches? If there was a door. Just say, there was. If there was a door, what would happen? You’d smash the rose into a million pieces with a simple touch. That could happen. Or I could explode and scatter you and me throughout the hemisphere.
Either way I’d be broken. I’m damaged goods. I’ve become a bio-hazard. A chemical hazard. Bubbling away on the edge of oblivion.
I don’t do people. Not any more. The only damage I’m going to suffer will be self inflicted. ‘Cheers big ears!’
There is no way in. The walls are solid to the sky. On deep deep foundations. You were feeling for the door. A secret way in. Did you find it? No. It’s not there.
You’re safe. I’m safe. The walls have held.
Now fuck off.

(444 words) MWBB Week 24 - Prompt: “You Know I’m No Good’ by Amy Winehouse

The Pudding Ban

The Pudding Ban

There are always unexpected consequences to change, but the side effect of the 2013 Black Pudding Ban was to prove severe.

In northwest England since the 60s and the advent of the pill and free love, the resultant difficulty in locating virgins had become a major concern for many vampires. It coincided with a time when many of them were becoming humanists though. So, as the age of Aquarius was welcomed through a drug induced haze, the vampires were also led into their new age of humanism with their own alternative life style.

In contrast to the bright psychedelia of California the new beginnings for the ancient communities of Lancashire came out of Lesley Bradshaw’s butcher shop in damp Oswaldtwistle. His black puddings became a way of consuming blood without resorting to unfortunate incidents with friends, neighbours or livestock. Black puddings were literally to become the lifeblood for many in his community.

By 2013 after four decades of living with their human friends simply going back to the former way of life was distasteful to most. After black puddings were outlawed, for some spurious moral reason dressed as health & safety, the butcher's shelves emptied and there was an inevitable rapid climb in recorded disappearances of young people throughout the northwest.

Elizabeth was a fervent vegetarian though everyone knew she had a quirky love for black pudding as well as for John. A mortal, John had never had a preference for older women, but despite her 600 years Elizabeth had always looked younger and more vital than him, especially after a good helping of pudding. He had eventually been made aware of Elizabeth’s predilection for blood and why, and confessed he found it quite arousing.

When the ban came she felt she had wanted to fight it, she didn’t want to go back to the old days of stakes, fear and hiding. And she feared for her love. Unfortunately the majority in England could easily live without the black pudding delicacy. There was no chance of a groundswell of support to overturn the ban. It was not clear how long it would take for a reliable underground supply of pudding to fill the void.

Elizabeth quickly started to suffer without her dose of pud. Her rosy cheeks went first and wrinkles spread across her face like a rapidly shriveling prune under a time lapse camera. As for the bingo wings, less said.

TV and tabloid news was full of chupacabra attacks on cattle and disappearances of young people. Mostly these were accepted as nonsense and teenagers being teenagers, but John and Elizabeth knew the truth, and worried.

John would do anything for Elizabeth; they were soul mates, if not cell mates. He knew if he gave it time nature would take its course.

One night he cradled Elizabeth in his arms as she lay across his lap breathing the shallow breath of the dying. She looked more like his grandmother than his young love. Closing his eyes, he lifted her head to his shoulder and moved his head aside.

He waited.


A Rose By Any Other Name

Sidney and Arabella Thornberry lived for their family - and their garden. When they had work they dreamed only of being in the garden tending it, nurturing the future direction of its being. They’d won countless awards at garden festivals for their flowers. Their roses in particular were a sight to see and an aroma to savour. “The Thornberrys Win Again” was an annual headline in the local press when the Addlington Festival came around.

It was a close run thing as to whether the garden or their children was the love of their lives. It was best not to ask unless you enjoyed awkward silences.

Rose was their eldest. She was an accountant. Their second was Marigold a personal trainer for the C class stars of YouTube and Instagram. Petal was the second youngest, a driving instructor living far away; in less than exotic Northampton. They each hated gardening with a passion. In family get togethers they would muse whether their names were the reason for the animosity towards all things gardening. Rose said they had reverse nominative determinism.

The only exception was the youngest, Brenda. She loved the garden and worked in a florist on the high street. Petal said it proved Rose’s assertion that all the children had reverse determinism and argue it must be a genetic condition. Petal, Rose, and Marigold were jealous of Brenda’s name and she of theirs.

Brenda got married in a dress that looked like it had been made by fairies from the petals of wild white and pink flowers picked fresh from the forest. It was the essence of summer for her; although she married her sweetheart, Benjamin, on a cold and wet day in November.

All the Thornberrys were sure Brenda had chosen Benjamin for his surname. Brenda Bloom would never admit it, but of course she did.


WC: 306
Mid Week Flash. Week 190

Toying With Gravity

Gareth put down his coffee and smiled his wide grin before ploughing back into the conversation. ‘Gravity is the weakest of weak forces. I mean it holds us to the ground, but that is something the size of Planet Earth pulling us with all its might. And if you want to pick up your leg, even when feeling a little below the weather, you can fight and beat gravity. Do you even feel gravity pulling it back?’

‘It’s weak, yeah. But it’s constant and that leg of yours is gonna lose the fight in the end. Anyway, we were talking about last night’s television weren’t we?’ Sean said.

Selma shrugged. She’d heard it all before.

Gareth drummed his fingers against his mug. His brows suggested he had thoughts to let free.

‘Did you even watch the telly last night?’ Sean asked. ‘That last episode left us on a right twist and a cliffhanger.’

Selma snorted so that tea almost came out of her nostrils. ‘Don’t talk about it if he hasn’t seen it. Spoilers are the devil’s work.’ She wiped the tea from her nose with her sleeve. ‘Gareth, if you didn’t watch it, what were you doing?’

Selma and Sean saw Gareth’s gravity defying eyebrows pass to and beyond his hairline; a clear sign a decision had been made.

‘Right, you’ve got to promise not to tell anyone. Not a pinky promise, a full on "
on the life of my parents" promise.’

His always less than serious face looked surprisingly serious. Selma thought it made him look relatively normal.

Ultimately they promised on various family members lives, and a couple of pets to be sure.

‘Great. Well you know the gravity problem I’ve been working on. I’ve solved it.’

With other people this may sound like an interesting essay or philosophical treatise, but not with Gareth. They’d seen him cross a tomato plant with Japanese Knotweed last year to produce giant super fast growing tomatoes that were already available in shops. And many an allotment had been taken over by this student experiment. So hearing Gareth talk about the ‘gravity problem’ was, at the very least, a bit intriguing.

‘Do you want to see something cool? All the kids will want them.’

Gareth proceeded to pull out a pair of trainers out of his rucksack - a pair with homemade amendments. ‘They’re not finished yet. We’ll need a logo to make them look cooler. But for now I’ve just drawn on a go-faster stripe with a Sharpie.’

Sean looked at Selma and was glad to see she looked as non-plussed as he felt.

Ten minutes later Selma was a flying around the room in the boots trying carefully not to hit her head on the light fittings, whilst keeping away from the window in case she was spotted. But she so wanted to open the window and fly outside too.

It took some patience for Sean to get his turn, but he duly did.

‘Gareth, you are a fucking genius. I don’t care about your projected millions from your Knotweed Tomato hybrid monstrosity: these are going to make you the richest man on the planet.’

Selma squealed with excitement and clapped. ‘Or off the planet. Musky baby, eat your heart out!’

Gareth nodded. ‘I know. But you haven’t seen the best bit yet.’

‘What the hell can be better than anti gravity boots and flying everywhere?’

Reaching back into the rucksack Gareth pulled out a tote bag, which had a picture of his monster tomatoes on it.

‘This.’ He said, sliding out a plastic gun. ‘The gravity gun!’

‘The G-Gun! Cool.’ Said Sean. ‘How does it work?’

‘I’ll show you tonight. You’re right, it is way cool.’

That evening the three of them played with the gun on the peatland behind the motorway fence. Great swathes of peat were strafed by Sean and Selma with the sky partly speckled by organic matter that was never supposed to leave the planet going for a brief flyby. The highlight was when Gareth shot some glacial boulders behind the old quarry and both Selma and Patch, her bemused dog, floated on them some 15ft in the air.

Sean asked how he’d developed this in just a weekend.

‘It’s taken me decades this.’ Said the fifteen year old, pulling out what looked like a wristwatch. ‘This is my time travel device, could sell well too.’
Gareth swivelled a couple of bezels around then clicked a button on the side. "Shit!" he exclaimed. Then he was gone - and never seen again.

WC: 750
#MidWeekFlash - 03.03.21

Them Apples

Them Apples

Dan was jumping around like a Mexican bean. Chasing the waves down the beach and then running away as they came back. His mouth was a slobbering mess, his tongue looked two feet long out the side of his mouth; ugly beast.

Bounding up he sent slobber onto my jeans and then shook himself showering me in brine.

I picked up the stick and made to throw. Dan stood fast waiting for me to let go. I threw it along the beach and he bolted of to fetch it. He dropped it at my feet; those pathetic eyes.

No messing. I flung it as far as I could into the sea. Dan set off adjusting his stride to get through the water. He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.

It was a shame. That’s what I’d say. A horrible accident. Undertow. I tried everything.

Why had she named the dog after the love of her life? How was I ever to bond with that mutt? Reminding me how I was a replacement. She loved Dan: the dog, and the man.

Well, now both Dan’s were gone. Let’s see how she likes them apples.

WC: 200 words
Last Line First, January 2015

Shooting Unicorns is Bad Form

Shooting Unicorns is Bad Form
George was an addict – if it moved he shot it. No qualms at all. He’d been taken to court many times, mainly for shooting seals. You can’t shoot seals, they said. Protected and cute. But he always got off. Men you see; guns and the American way. Bang bang.
George knew he had a problem though and began to limit his shooting to one animal a day. Preferably something not protected, but sometimes… well, you can only shoot what presents itself.
He shot the unicorn right through the temple. He’d never seen one before. He’d been fairly sure that they were only in fairytales. But there it was; a perfect, bleach white unicorn, flowing mane and a proud single golden horn. Sublime: and in his sights.
Of course the media frenzy was distasteful afterwards. How was he to know they’d been shooting a film on the beach? He hadn’t noticed the starlet riding the unicorn. George had been surprised when the papier-mache horn crumpled as the horse fell dead to the sand.
He probably wouldn’t have shot it, if he’d known it was just a horse.
He definitely wouldn’t have shot it if he’d known he was to face an all woman jury. The gavel fell twice. Bang bang!

WC: 210 words
Flash Friday