Month: Mar 2020

2050

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Concrete loomed overhead, offering nothing other than relief from the endless burning rays of the sun. It was one of many vertical slabs, inconceivably unsupported yet unwavering, which sprouted from the sand and paving stones like geometric lifeless trees.

Four young people walked towards the nearest monolith. In contrast with others around them, they did not walk independent of each other, but walked as as a group.

Esme knew this particular monolith well. Her father had told her many times of skyscrapers from his youth, and how this construction was bigger than even the tallest he had before experienced. This nameless block of grey had been the first to be constructed in their city.

Esme turned to look at her three companions.

‘Are we ready, people?’

Three faces stared back at her, their words unrequired and the acquiesence confirmed simply by three nods of three well-loved heads.

‘You know we won’t get away with it? That this likely means the end?’

Again, another three nods.

‘Right then. Let’s do it.’

Esme’s three companions left her to take their carefully pre-planned positions, one at each corner of the concrete structure. Though communication wasn’t possible owing to the distance and due to the impregnated concrete’s role as blocker of all distance related sound waves, there was no reason for Esme to believe that their pre-prepared mission wasn’t being carried out. Each young person had traced their path independently on many occasions, and Esme knew that within a count of 800, all four would be in position and ready to take their agreed action.

She took a deep breath and delved into her pocket. How she longed to know what it had been like in her dad’s day, when every person, near enough, was connected with the world via a small rectangular device they’d keep in their pocket or bag. Since the concrete cataclysm, no connection was possible, owing to the masts being ripped away and to the new federal crime of owning a mass communication device.

In her pocket she kept one forbidden item – and her fingers wrapped round the smooth, flat stone. She couldn’t see it, but knew it was painted with the words ‘To my Daughter With Love’.

‘I love you,’ she said out loud, and she knew that the concrete would be listening to the same words from each person in her group as each one stood at the structure’s four corners.

She spoke the words again, and again. No louder, no quieter, no more sure and no more unsteady. Unwavering. Unabashed.

Esme and her companions independently articulated their abstract love despite knowing that to do so was the ultimate federal crime.

The declaration of love had been outlawed even before her birth, following a series of insane 21st century electoral frauds and government leadership disasters. A Prime Minister’s insistence that the world be reconstructed according to his own incomprehensible principles had led to the vilification of the genuine, the good, the caring, the empathic, the ethical…
And within just twenty five short years, it had led to this.

Love was unallowed. Marriage unallowed. Affection between friends unallowed. Love of God unallowed. Love of nature aunallowed.

What had been denoted as the ‘hate crime’ of declaring love was legally indicative that there must be a flipside – an unloved – and this led to the new statutory crime of discrimination and prejudice against the unloved and non-tribe members. A logical follow up to this was that all declarations of alignment, affection or support were outlawed.

All that was allowed was obedience to the billionaire mindmakers, and most citizens complied.

But Esme loved Melanie, and was loved in return. Freya loved Dan, and received back his love in spades full.

Being the people they were, and Esme being her father’s daughter, the quartet could not accept the law as it was.

Love had always been legally sanctioned, that’s what her dad had said. He’d said it out loud too, and that was why he was no longer able to join Esme and her friends in their protest against the societal restrictions.

Not one of the four young people were sure of what would come of their protest, but each and every one knew that they had no choice but to stand, to face into the corner of the monolith, and to declare their love for each other, for their kinsmen, for the city, the country, the planet…

Who knew what would happen next. What knew what their punishments would be.

These were questions that could not be answered, but as the miniature cameras positioned within the concrete monolith registered their criminality, the four young people knew they had no choice but to make their protest and show their love. And behind Esme a small crowd gathered. She turned to see Joe, an elderly neighbour, with shoulders shaking and tears running down his cheeks, whisper over and over, ‘I loved you, Edith. I really did love you. I still love you. I will always love you’.

And Esme continued speaking. Her schoolfriend, Jay, slipped her hand into Esme’s. ‘You’ve got some balls, kid,’ she said, then ‘I love you. I love you. I love you’.

It was only an hour later when the authorities arrived to arrest Esme, her lover and friends, and four expanding crowds of brave supporters and onlookers.

She submitted willingly, knowing that Melanie, Dan and Freya would do just the same.

For her father had taught her how sometimes worlds progress in the right direction, but that sometimes they don’t, and it takes the actions of someone strong to put things right along the way. Esme was happy to be one such person and to have led the latest love-based mass protest.

‘I love you,’ she said to the guard who fastened her handcuffs, but as expected the guard only smirked through his facial visor before leading her away.

#meredithschumann #author #authors #fiction #shortstory #shortstories #dystopia #love

Antihero

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‘So, what do I call you?’ Tony asked, his hand quivering as he offered it to shake. Her refusal disturbed him not at all.

‘I’m Kate, Mr Evans.’

‘Call me Tony.’

He scratched his ear and watched as the shaky skin he disturbed dropped slowly onto the brown of his jacket. Snow on earth. Perhaps snowdrops and crocuses would emerge soon, to pierce the fabric with their speared-sharp shoots.

‘So, Kate… do you do this kind of thing often?’ He used the back of his right hand, and then his left, to smooth out the sweat droplets that were gathering and being absorbed into the bushy mat of his eyebrows.
‘You’d be surprised just how often. It is a strong demand chain. Tell me what you need.’

Tony rubbed his eye and cursed the roughness of his fingers and their tips. He cursed the labouring and the constant scratches of the gardener’s life. He was sure he’d scratched his own eyeball, and rummaged in his bag self-consciously.

‘My wife,’ he said as he passed a photo to Kate. It showed the couple surrounded by lupins, both man and wife smiling joyfully at the icecreams they licked.

‘I’ve put our address on the back, with a list of the times when she’s at home and I’m at work.’

‘I’ll be in touch when it’s done,’ Katie said, and left without another word. She hadn’t been as he’d expected – a young, vibrant woman with short, bobbed hair, a woman who was sleek and agile with wealth and who was tough, almost psychopathic in character. Kate must have been in her sixties at least. Ordinary. Attractive, even. And he’d liked her no-nonsense approach enormously.

Deciding against another drink after having watched the barwoman tip out the drip trays, it was time to return home. He knew that Tina would be waiting, and she’d doubtless have a barrage of questions for him.

Tony opened the door of their living room, a room they’d decorated only a couple of years ago. He remembered their giggles as the wallpaper crinkled and fell, and sighed. He found his wife asleep in her favoured armchair, with the fire on full blast. He turned down the heat, then turned down the television’s volume.

‘Well?’ Tina said, waking groggily and looking at him straight in the eyes. ‘Is everything on?’

‘Yes, darling. I met Kate. She was lovely. I gave her your specific requirements, I told her we’d already said our goodbyes. We need to leave the safe open and empty, and trash the living room and home office before she arrives. She’ll be in and out. Quickly.’

Tina smiled gratefully. She knew that the Euthenasia Hitwoman would be discreet and gentle, and that all her pain would soon be no more. Kate had been hard to find, even with the assistance of her son, and with hours of scouring them all Dark Web, but for Tina, her services would be well worth the expenditure. At any rate, all of Kate’s earnings would be paid as charitable donations for hospice care, cancer research, heart disease research and much more.

‘Kate said you can still change your mind up to five minutes before the event,’ Tony said, begging her to have a change of heart.

‘I’m sorry, darling, but we both know I won’t.’ Tony stroked his wife on her head and she winced in agony. ‘Not long now,’ she whispered, and for the first time in months, she looked content.

There's More Than One Way To Bin Your Kin

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Daphne was driven. The life she’d been given
Was clearly no better than bad.
Her husband, a user, a nightmare, a loser.
And she knew that she’d surely been had.

What reason was there, for his ripped underwear?
For his stubble, his hairpiece, his scowl?
And how might he explain his pretences of pain
When presented with spade or with trowel?

If his body was lazy, his mind it was too,
He lived in a permanent mist
Of smoking and drinking and drug-addled thinking.
Of his vices… she’d written a list!

Of how he would curse, in the car it was worst,
Of how he would hate and berate her.
And then he would calm, say ‘I’m sorry, no harm’
And take it all out on her later.

Oh, but how he relied. And how she had cried,
When again he demanded her wages.
She screamed ‘It’s abuse’, but still couldn’t refuse,
For fear of his terrible rages.

On Friday she planted a kiss on his cheek.
She said, ‘See you later, okay?’.
‘Whatever,’ he said. That’s when she wished him dead.
Cos he didn’t care, he had nothing to say and she knew that he’d always
Keep acting that way.

It was all about him, how he’d gain, how he’d win.
It was all about what he could get.
He exploited her caring with his own brand of sharing
A minefield of doubt and of debt.

She lay in the bath, contemplating her wrath,
And thinking of what she might do.
She came up with a ruse for her crime without clues.
And was sure what she needed to do.

She would get her revenge, she would seek out new friends.
She’d prevent her life plunging to hell.
She would simply say ‘Bye’ to the hate of her life
And leave him to fend for himself.

Inspired by Paul Simon’s ’50 Ways to Leave Your Lover’

#meredithschumann #author #authors #poem #poetry #revenge #paulsimon

Silk Fairies

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Not so long ago, in a place not too far away, a young man found himself lost in a woodland copse. To the young traveller, Erik, it seemed like any other copse: a small clearing of tree stumps and daisies surrounded with a ring of bracken and bramble tangles.

But for those who knew the place as every place should be known (to its very core, to each and every inch of its surface, and with understandings also of its heights and magical depths) it was not like any other copse.
To Erik, it was simply an airy relief from under-tree dampness and the dark heaviness of the rotting undergrowth underfoot. But within this copse lived beings not found elsewhere in the wood, or even elsewhere in the world. They were the rarest species of Silk-Fairies.

Erik had found no joy in his weeks of travel. His search for employment as a journeyman carpenter had brought neither money nor shelter. It had brought only incessant pouring rain, and the perpetual discomfort of cold body and boots that leaked. It also had brought hunger, and an ever-decreasing supply of food for sustenance.

Erik almost fell onto the springy moss as he struggled to pull off his knapsack. It dropped to the mossy ground, and he followed it, his weary head on its pillow.

Cold and wet to his bones, he was ready to give up.

He sighed, almost cried, and closed his eyes for what he could have sworn was only a second or two. However, when he opened them again, it was to something he had not expected.

Hovering in front of his world-weary eyes had appeared a group of tiny creatures. They were fairy-like with transparent wings, and wore clothing fashioned from leaves and flowers and feathers.

‘You’re beautiful,’ said Erik, for he was a young man who was not afraid to speak of what he felt, despite his misery. ‘Who are you?’ he asked. ‘Am I dead? Is this heaven?’

The smallest of the tiny creatures perched upon his leg as Erik lay entranced on the sodden moss.

‘We are Silk-Fairies and appear only to those who need us: those who travel and struggle and those who seek shelter and rest. We require only three words. Once spoken, we will provide all you need.’

‘What are the words, kind fairy?’

‘Dark and Light. You must say Dark and Light.’

‘Dark and Light,’ Erik said immediately. ‘How appropriate are those words, for you are my only light in this terrible darkness.’

Delighted that he’d allowed them to proceed (for it was their life’s mission to provide succour to those in need) the Silk-Fairies hovered around Erik as a protective cloud. The gentle buzzing of their wings gave him calm as they wrapped him in their gossamer blankets. He was soon as warm and comforted as a swaddled baby, each blanket thread wicking the water from sodden garments and drying him more quickly than even the most hearty fireside could ever do.

‘Thank you,’ he whispered as the Silk-Fairies sprinkled his papoose with a silvery dust, and Erik fell into the deepest of sleeps.

He woke in front of a roaring fire, having no idea how long he’d been asleep. As the flames crackled, Erik sighed with contentment and relief and wiggled his feet within the knitted gossamer hose that his feet now wore, and realised that he was surrounded by thousands of same tiny creatures that had rescued him: creatures the size of dragonflies who possessed the dragonfly’s delicacy and grace as well as their bright colours and sparkling wings.

One Silk-Fairy came to rest on his forearm.

‘Thank you,’ Erik said, his waking words echoing his sleeping thoughts.
‘We live to help those who truly need. It is our mission and our pleasure and our joy. You must stay for as long as it takes your wounds to heal, your heart to warm, and your mind to clear.’

When his time came, a stronger Erik was returned to the middle of the copse and was presented with gifts to assist him on his journey: a garland of daisies and hawthorn flowers for protection against the darker forces of the world; a cloak woven from fairy gossamer and peachskin fuzz in which he would never be wet, or cold or fearful; and boots created from bark and vines and dried, knitted moss which would always lead him in the right direction.

As a final gift, four Silk-Fairies placed a small wooden box into his knapsack. It appeared empty, but if he was to open it at a time of true need, it would provide what was required. Perhaps a meal, a coin or potion… It was not an everlasting box of wishes that would prevent his need to work, make him greedy and encourage bad decisions, but a small and simple something that would give him aid and strength when times were hard. Not too much. Not too little.

‘What is this thing? What is this magic box? How can this exist?’

Another Silk-Fairy pipped up joyously.

‘It is the most magical thing on earth. It’s called… a Friend.’

Erik knew that, more than anything else, a friend was what he needed, and set off on his travels with renewed vigour.

For the rest of that Erik’s happy life, he wore his new clothes daily, he worked hard and assisted many countrymen and women who came to him in need. He, like his box, was a true Friend. He often traveled the country’s woodland and would search for the Silk-Fairies, as he wished to give them thanks. But the talents of those wonderful creatures were always required elsewhere.

He never spoke of his time with the Silk-Fairies so, when Erik’s time came to rejoin the earth, and his final words were whispered to his wife and family, they put them down to his advanced age. But his words summoned the Silk-Fairies who fluttered in to lead him towards the next stage of his existence.

‘Dark and Light,’ he said as his eyes closed for the final time. ‘Dark and Light’.

#meredithschumann #author #authors #fiction #shortstory #shortstories #adultfairytale #fairy

True Crime Detection

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Written for one of my writing groups…

This group is crammed with poets; accomplished and expressive writers who create in their preferred format, often carrying out the impossible task of producing more than one fantastic and competent piece per session. The talent and competence of these poets regularly takes my breath away, but I know I will never be able to join their ranks. As you will be aware from listening to my readings over the months, I am naturally wordy and longwinded, and therefore best suited to being a writer of prose. I have my skills and talents, but poetically succinct expression and short, sharp sentences don’t come easily.

So, I thought I’d share with you the sentiments of what my poem was hoping to express. My intention was to explore the dynamics of detective work in the dramas I watch the most. I wanted to explain that solving crimes is dependent on the work of skilled men and women and that the more experience these detectives have, the more chances there are of the crime being solved. This is where my problems begin. I wanted to begin my poem with the line ‘It all comes down to history. That’s how they solve the mystery’. It rhymes and says what I wanted it to say, but it’s clunky and juvenile, like a song lyric that 10 year olds might compose. Or it could even have been a rap. ‘It all comes down to history. That’s how they solve the mystery.’ Yes, that’s it. It’s a pathetic little rap lyric. Nothing more.

But I wanted to extend my explanation. I wanted to clarify that the mysteries were those ‘Of criminal urges. Intangible surges, Adrenaline rushes, and trilling wire pushes’. There’s a nice rhythm to the words, and I like the way they all sound together. But I couldn’t fit them in as they needed an explanatory first line which would serve the purpose of informing the listener that the lines related to forensic methods and inspiration.

I carried on by writing ‘Detectives think over the crime,’ and genuinely couldn’t find a good way of introducing the idea of fingerprint patterns, DNA testing, and many of the other chemical processes that prove or deny the presence of certain substances within a test sample. So I wrote ‘Detection test fizzes, the rages, the steams it fazes. Wire in the blood. Theoretical stuff. Genetic kinks. Unforseen links’. Not quite a clickety clack rhythm, but also neither flowing nor easily understood. I clearly am unable to master the skill of explaining without the provision of an introductory explanation. Which, of course, renders the entire subsequent poem pointless.

Also, in this poem I almost created, I wanted to explain how the detective drama, ‘Wire in the Blood’ uses as its title, a phrase from TS Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets’. As so… ‘The trilling wire in the blood / sings below inveterate scars / appeasing long-forgotten wars’. Apparently the star of this drama, Robson Green, believed it was intended to refer to a genetic kink. Such a kink was impure and unusual and of the kind that leads to the form of psychosis that the psychologist, Dr Tony Hill might deal with. Interesting, though Val McDermid believes something different – that the phrase ‘wire in the blood’ was ‘a metaphor for the thrill of adrenaline surging through the bloodstream’.

So, not only would my hoped-for poem, in tribute to many of the detective greats, have talked of ‘Partnership drinks. Encouragements to think,’ it would have ended, just because I liked it, with the line ‘Might, Flight, Sight and Spite’. I’m guessing that this must be a fairly standard poet’s problem, but how annoying when you come up with something that feels right and sounds right, but doesn’t fit at all. Especially when it is your entire poem that does this.

I do not write good poetry. I do not even write barely competent poetry. What I write is inexplicably shortened prose, and tiny strings of rhyming words.

So, I’m sorry that I couldn’t fulfil the homework mission set for us all this week, but felt the need to relate to you all my attempts at work in progress. I didn’t want to simply say that I had tried yet failed. But it was the truth. Anyway, at least I tried.

#author #truecrime #detective #crime #shortstory #shortstories #meredithschumann #fiction #authors

Review of Anne Berry’s ‘The Adoption’

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I am not sure if someone in my position is best suited to review this book. On the other hand, perhaps I am the best person. Let me explain. I have known all my life that I was adopted, and have borne that knowledge happily and without problems. I always believed that my parents were good people who wanted the best for me, and that my birth parents had felt the same.

This book told the tale of a simple Welsh girl, Bethan, who found herself pregnant in the years following the second world war. The father of her baby was an ex-prisoner of war who was working at her family’s farm. Their relationship was loving, though massively disapproved by the Bethan’s parents. Bethan is forced to give up her baby and Thorsten is forced to leave the farm.

I found the book to be initially confusing as I couldn’t always get my head around the characters. However, it didn’t take too long to understand the multiple viewpoints. It also didn’t come easily how Lucilla/Laura would narrate passages about herself in the third person.

Once I realised why this was happening, I relaxed into the book and couldn’t put it down.

The more I read of all the characters and their life difficulties, the better the book became.

I could write so much, but don’t want to give spoilers. All I will say is that most people might read this book assuming that a reconciliation between two lost souls (Lucilla and her birth mother, Bethan) would be the book’s inevitable heart-warming ending. However, the actual ending wasn’t expected, and the book was better as a result.

All I can say is that the book was beautifully written, gorgeous and poetic, particularly in the early chapters set in Wales. I felt such a strong sense of time and place.

‘The Adoption’s heart-wrenching themes are difficult and passion-inducing. So many times while I was reading this, I became angry at the treatment of victim characters.

Of course, Bethan and Thorsten shoudn’t have been forced to give up their baby to adoption, just as Harriet and Merfyn should not have been allowed to take the poor child and abuse her both emotionally and physically. I was adopted at about the same age, but my own experiences were wonderful. All I could think was Poor Lucilla.

Initially I wasn’t convinced that I would enjoy this book,. I felt it was either going to be too clinical (the name ‘The Adoption’ seemed to imply this) or that it would be saccharine-sweet and unpalatable. It was neither.
Searching for a birth parent doesn’t always bring the expected and desired results, either with relation to the people involved, or with relation to how we might feel about it.

I loved ‘The Adoption’. I loved it far more than expected.

I’ve looked at this subject in some depth in my novelette, ‘Changes’ which is now part of a collection called ‘Conflict Management’ by Meredith Schumann.

#meredithschumann #theadoption #anneberry #adoption #birthmother #changes #conflictmanagement

Resolution

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2020 is the year, for reaching goals and squelching fear.
There’s much to do, so I’ll command, prioritise, set up and plan.
Though short of time, I’m strong and wise. I’m talking time to organise.
I’ll schedule all the months ahead, with useful tasks, more work, less dread.

I resolve to eat less fat, to drink less wine, less this and that.
And use the food that I have got, not let it ooze nor let it rot.
Sugar will be much reduced, and I will thrive on cabbage soup.
And alcohol won’t be a crutch, more of a friend I don’t see that much.

I’ll make a start on leathercraft, I’ve got the gear so need to graft.
I’ve got my dremel, studs and stamps, needles, pins and frames for lamps.
Embossing and pyrography, enamelling, photography. Wooden sculpt, and painted tin, basketry to keep things in.
But aren’t they all a waste of time, these useless, pointless tasks of mine?
So…

I’ll work less hard and play much more. Try not to be a writing bore.
I’ll close my mind, spend time outdoors, I’ll learn to dance, to ride a horse.
Switch laptop off, take time to rest. There’s no need to be the best.
For who and what must I impress? There’s no exam, life is a quest!

I’ll love my life, I’ll light my way, and never dwell on yesterday
When things go bad, I’ll stand up strong, and trust that I’m not always wrong.
I’ll take more care, and get more sleep, I’ll look before I cross and leap.
I’ll rise and shine, enjoy my toil, though never burn the midnight oil.

But something doesn’t feel quite right.
Something keeps me up at night.
Selfish thoughts and selfish needs
Self-centred tasks and boastful deeds.
They swarm through me, those nightmares mount.
With crippling guilt, and dreadful doubt.

So, it’s best to take another heed of resolutions, wants and needs.
To turn things round, to start again, consider women, children, men.
And work for victims, help, assist. To make a difference, help, insist.

So that’s my resolution, now.
Do something useful. Make that vow.
Take time from life to help and serve.
Just hope I have the strength and nerve!

#meredithschumann #author #authors #poem #poetry #2020 #resolution #happynewyear