Category: Featured

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

I Only Cheat For Chocolate

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I only cheat for chocolate, said the diabetic dryly.
At times I pinch leftover treats from off the children’s plates.
I like my crisps, of course I do, but I don’t eat them daily.
I show restraint, especially on the school run, when I wait.

I only take a candy bar or two.
An Allsort here, a Humbug there.
I’ll only have a very few.

I only cheat for chocolate, and I only cheat a little.
I only cheat when I can cheat in secret, bite by bite.
I only cheat for chocolate, and I only cheat at weekends.
The cheating is my secret, I’m most secretive at night.

I only cheat for chocolate, and I munch enthusiastically.
Its cocoa dribbles run right down my chin and to my shirt.
A cream egg yolk is what I craved, I stuffed them in quite drastically.
I bought a pack of six, and just one more aint going to hurt.

Its only there a moment on my tongue.
It’s worth it, though. It’s so deelish.
It never lasts for long.

I only cheat for chocolate, and I only cheat a little.
I only cheat when I can cheat in secret, bite by bite.
I only cheat for chocolate, and I only cheat at weekends.
The cheating is my secret, I’m most secretive at night.

#meredithschumann #author #authors #poem #poetry #food #chocolate #dietcheat

Queen of Hearts

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‘Love you, angel,’ I said and kissed my darling baby girl on her left cheek as her father kissed her on the right. One photographer clicked and took a step, squatted down, clicked and moved further around the hospital bed giving us instructions on where and how to stand. Others stood and clicked lazily.

No, she’s not the first baby to have been born that new year, or a child who fought a terrible illness or accident and survived, but she was special nonetheless. Hence the swathes of reporters and photographers and the overly smiling faces in a room full of media savvy medical staff.

My husband and I had the dubious honour of having brought into the world a child who was special in two connected ways. She was the first baby ever to have been born in the hospital on the 14th of February, who was also born at 2:14 am. I hadn’t thought anything of it until the midwife giggled when completing our paperwork, and told me the news. My daughter had been born on the fourteenth day of the second month. She had also been born at the fourteenth minute of the second hour.

Obsessed as they were with the trivialities of life, and looking as they did for any excuse to not deal with local politics, the papers were already interested, but they became totally and utterly insane when they were informed about something even more amazing.

My daughter was born with a birthmark on the left side of her chest. A perfect, 2 inch diameter heart with clear and smooth edges.

It, apart from my baby, was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

The reporters demanded that we call our little girl ‘Love’ or ‘Valentine’ or ‘Cherub’, but we had already set our heart on another less gimmicky name – Sarah. Photos and an article appeared in the local Courier a few days after her birth, and as a result we were besieged with calls from crackpots, national reporters and friends and family who wanted to cash in on Sarah’s amazing accident of nature. We even had a call from a young man who had divined that my baby daughter was herself divine. He claimed she had clearly been placed onto the earth as the new messiah who would grow to infuse the world with love.

Our poor Sarah spent the first fifteen years of her life as a very reluctant local celebrity, and in her eyes, her birthmark had little to commend it. So finally, at age sixteen, my beloved child made the biggest decision of her life: to get her second heart removed.

That was why we’d been taken from the hospital’s waiting area and put into a side room already full of reporters and photographers. The police were called, because the man who’d believed my Sarah was the new messiah had brought his fellow devotees to picket outside the hospital. Their mission was to tell the world that Satan had infected Sarah and that he was working his way through to her soul via a birthmark-removing laser gun.

Sarah was devastated, and my own poor heart was breaking in response. She sought anonymity, she sought peace and sought a skin clear of special markings, but in beginning the process, she had inadvertently encouraged the fame she despised.

Our compromise – a half hour press conference then the promise of future anonymity – was the best we could negotiate.

Once the photos were taken, the questions were asked and the video was shot, three members of the hospital’s security staff escorted us to Sarah’s laser session.

Sarah was feeling positive as she’d made her first step towards a happier future, and typically, her dad was ranting about the invasive nature of the press. I, on the other hand, was a blank face atop a world-weary body.
I had reasons of my own for this ambivalence.

Sarah and I had quite a bit in common, as I was also special. Not only had I been born on the 25th day of the twelfth month, but I had also been born at the 25th minute after the twelfth hour. And, more than that, my own chest displayed a clear, angular birthmark in the shape of a crucifix. That was how I knew the cult guy was wrong. My daughter was no messiah. But I was keeping my own messiah status well and truly hidden. I was playing my own cards close to my chest.

#meredithschumann #author #authors #fiction #shortstory #shortstories #queenofhearts #birthmark #valentines #birthmark #indieauthor #writers #writinglife #writingcommunity

Postcard to the Dead

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I thought I’d write a verse, my dear, explain just why you’d like it here.
This beach is one I know you’d like. It’s shingle, mainly. Still, its nice.
An ice cream stall squats near the pier, but you can’t get rum and raisin here.
Cracked steps lead wobbly to the beach, with deckchairs stacked just out of reach.
I know you’d love the irony, you’d lap it up quite happily.
Perversely, too, you’d love the beach. It’s wide, with sea just out of reach.
And the ocean’s also not much cop, just toxic bubbling, grey-green pop.
The rockpool’s bleak, with not a sign, of life, apart from mirrored mine.
Escape to town is harder still. The path back is a long, steep hill.
And back in town, there’s just one caffie, one that’s dirty, bleak and scruffy!
I’ve been here lots without you, dear. You never wanted to come near.
But, can you see just why I claim. You’ll like it here, you’d lay no blame.
You’d get such a chance to moan. Complain and threaten to go home.
Then once back home you’ll tell our friends, you wished our break would never end.
So here’s my little verse, my dear, I really think you’ll like it here.

#meredithschumann #author #authors #poem #poetry #postcard #holiday #beach #badholiday #ukseaside #seasideuk #seaside #coast #beachbreakuk #britishseaside