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Green Was The Sky

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‘No thicker than turkey foil,’ he said, remembering the crinkling sound as he’d smooth it over mounts of meat and baking sheets. How they used to spend carefree hours in their unspectacular but divinely functional kitchen, whipping up something from virtually nothing, giggling inanely over the even more inane writings on the wine’s label, and referencing uncool of cookery books, to produce the most retro of meals.

Cal continued his staring for a short while, then a longer while, till his hunger pushed him in the direction of his food stash. His selection: a tin of stewed rhubarb pieces, or a tin of creamed chicken soup. Both watery, nutrient-deficient, and foods that would never have made it anywhere near his usual shopping trolley. But the trolleys were as irrelevant to life now, as the concept of food preferences were. He reluctantly selected the rhubarb. It would see him through till the following morning. He’d then hope for a break in the luminous skyfall, would breakfast on the cold soup, and would be forced to leave the shack. It had been a welcome shelter from the piercing, burning cold, but, food supplies exhausted, he had no choice but to say goodbye and to make his way to forage for supplies.

And that was precisely what he did with head cowed and heart just the same. The skyfall was stopped but had left behind oily blue-green puddles, and Cal ensured he avoided each and every one. Even welded protetive metal footwear offered little protection from the skyfall’s caustic nature.
Cal counted each step, though he’d no reason to do so. He was sane enough to question why he did it, but no longer sentient enough to be aware of the answers.

The plain through which he walked had once been a field of potatoes, but the acid had cracked and eroded and warped and pitted the surfaces, removing and destroying organic matter. Each of Cal’s steps uneasily taken, and he manouvered with great care, so his going was slow and methodical. It didn’t matter. There was nowhere he needed to be, nobody he needed to see.

He’d barely counted to 30, and was still well within access of the shack where he’d spent the last two days and nights, when the surface under his foot gave way slightly, and Cal’s right ankle wobbled. In panic, and acting purely on instinct rather than sensibility, he reached down to steady himself. He retracted in agony as both hands, his right thigh, knee and buttock, his lower back and then his elbow, his shoulder, and his head fell onto and into the seeping, caustic surface.

But no soul heard his cries. No comrades would rush to his assistance. No wild animals would feed on his emaciated, fried carcass. No bacteria would reduce his bodily remains, to leave no trace. Nobody would mourn. Nobody would cry for him and miss him.

Cal would, at least die quickly, and was relieved to be removed from the agonies of this life. His final thought was of how things used to be and of coming here, the worst decision he had ever made. He’d been excited when, after a long and rigorous process, he’d been selected as Captain of the Pioneer Crew. The crew’s mission had been the colonisation of a beautiful, brightly coloured planet. It had been proved to have a perfect earth-like atmosphere of an almost perfumed quality, and so materials for shelter and agriculture had been deposited during the training process of Cal and his 149 colleagues. And yes, it was a beautiful planet. It was perfect, in fact, and shelters were erected, relationships were solidified, and female crew quickly became pregnant, as was always the intention.

But, in the planet’s cycle, and the one thing the colonisers didn’t know, came the irregular and sudden skyfall. It explained the soil’s infertility, and the lack of mature greenery. It explained the lack of settlers, of wildlife and even of insects, despite the apparent perfection of the place. With no way of return, the twenty young colonisers were reduced and destroyed one by one by the inhospitable skyfall. Cal was the last. He was the captain going down with the ship, just as had his chosen wife, their unborn child, and all the others. His life DID flash before him as his frail frame melded with the planet’s surface. And all was over.

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

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

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

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

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