Archive for ‘story’

April 8, 2013

Victoria and the Birthday Gift – Part 6

She estimated it would take two or three minutes for the flame from the torch to ignite the canister. She located a place she could get to that provided as much cover from the blast as possible. With the butane canister and torch in place she crept back towards the men. They were in their same positions and she heard Wilkins calling on the radio. She went back, ignited the torch, and positioned the flame directly at the canister. She sneaked towards the men, fired several shots in their direction then ran back to her hiding place.

        The resulting blast was much more than she had imagined. Several things happened at once. The remaining men moved in her direction looking for her. They were about half way when the canister exploded sending up a huge fireball and concussive wave that shattered the glass in all the display cases and setting a number of things on fire. The men were stunned and tossed back by the blast to land hard against the counters and floor. The flames reached her position and singed her hair. Men and women screamed in fright and then the automatic sprinklers came on drowning out the flames and screams. She jumped to her feet and gathered the men’s guns then hustled them back towards the center.

        Several hours later the police had taken her statement and they let her go. The men were in custody and she went back home.

        When she walked through the door Sam saw her clothes were burnt and ripped and her hair was a mess. She rushed over and started asking what happened when Victoria handed her the gift. It was burnt, crushed and wet but the box protected the watch inside.

        Sam took the gift then opened it.

        “It’s beautiful,” she said looking at the watch. Then she read the card and a confused look crossed her face then she asked, “Baby, whose birthday is it?”

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March 11, 2013

Victoria and the Birthday Gift – Part 2

Victoria and the Birthday Gift

A Short Story

Part 2

Emergency lights came on, the clerk looked confused in the semidarkness and a little nervous. She apologized to Victoria then picked up the phone, pressed a few buttons and looked even more confused.

The store manager came out and speaking quietly,  instructed everyone to remain calm while they sorted out the situation. Not to be deterred, Victoria thanked the clerk and took the proffered bag with the gift.

The distinct sound of gunshots echoed throughout the store shattering the quiet. In the distance came screams and raised voices.

She shoved the gift into her shirt and ducked down in a crouch. A scene of chaos awaited her as armed men forced shoppers towards the center of the store. It was clear whoever they were, were taking hostages.

The dim lighting allowed her to sneak deeper into the store without being noticed. Thinking quickly, she decided to find an exit. She hoped someone had the sense of mind to call the police and reinforcements were on their way. Staying low, she moved through the shadows and behind displays, anywhere that afforded her cover. She found the exit but the men had blocked it off and it would be too risky to clear the door. She turned towards the rear of the main floor looking for an employee only door.

One man’s voice rose above the others.

        “No one play hero and everyone goes home,” he said. The accent was English but that’s all she could tell. She chanced a look back in their direction just as one of them spotted her.

        “Hey, there’s one,” he yelled. A shot rang out and the sound of a bullet whizzed by her.

She scrambled towards the rear of the store and found the employee-only door. It was locked. The thug had lost sight of her as she watched him come within 20 meters of her location. He moved slowly in her direction.

Victoria picked up a perfume bottle from the counter and hurled it in the opposite direction. The sudden sound of breaking glass split the silence. The man took the bait and ran towards the sound. Victoria searched for a place to hide but found none. To her left about halfway between, her and the direction the thug had run off were the elevators.

Knowing the escalators were near the center of the store and too risky, she decided to chance the elevator. She sneaked toward them. The doors were open and stuck that way when they lost power. If she could get away from them she could make a plan and maybe find a weapon.

The best option was to get to the kitchen and find a knife, but that was on the fifth floor and with the elevators off and the escalators watched it might as well be in the next building. . Women’s wear was on the floor above, and she wondered just how organized the guys were. She kept the man in her sights and picked up another object and threw it back towards the center of the store. He moved to investigate.

“Come out,” he demanded. “You won’t be hurt if you come out now.”

Inside the elevator, she found the service hatch leading into the shaft.. She checked for the thug but didn’t see him. Seeing the chance, she braced herself on the wall and used the railing to push herself and onto the roof. The hatch closed with a soft thump as the panel reseated into the ceiling.. It was pitch black and the only sound was her own breathing.. She felt around the wall until she found the service ladder and started her slow climb upwards.

Every few minutes she checked for the entrance to the next floor. Eventually she felt the lip of the door and engaged the release mechanism. Keeping both hands and a foot on the rung she managed after several tries to move the door slightly. She felt around until she found the edge of the door and used the leverage of the ladder to pull the door open.

Faint light entered the shaft from the store and she could see well enough to put her foot on the other side of the door. She forced it open even more. Holding on to the door mechanism Victoria stepped carefully onto the ledge.

Inside all was quiet from her vantage point and she listened for a few minutes before squeezing through the narrow opening. Once safely back on solid ground she looked around her surroundings. She found herself in the designer shoe section. A thought crossed her mind and she wondered if she should have gotten Samantha shoes.

        The sound of a man swearing came to her. Crouching, she moved slowly towards the direction of the voice. She moved along the outside of the floor and crept into the clothing section. Several mannequins faced her and she got an idea.

March 4, 2013

Victoria and the Birthday Gift Part 1

Victoria and the Birthday Gift

A Short Story

Part 1

Victoria woke with a start. She studied the room and listened for any sounds from within the house. Everything was quiet. She heard Sam’s soft breathing next to her and felt her weight on her arm. Suddenly, she remembered why she woke so early. Today is Sam’s birthday and she hadn’t gotten a gift.

The realization woke her fully and she knew she had to get a gift before the day was out. She carefully slid her arm from under Sam then stalked around their bedroom and found her pants and got dressed. She grabbed her money and gently closed the door behind her.

The cool morning air of the English countryside smelled wonderful. She got in her car and was about to start it when she realized the sound might wake Samantha. She put the car in neutral, got out and pushed it back down the driveway. When she reached the road she looked down to see her boots were now muddy from the rain the previous evening. She cursed under her breath as she drove off.

Sometime later she arrived at Harvey Nichols, a well-known department store in London, and only when she got out of the car did she realize she forgot her phone and gun. She cursed under her breath.

The store was already open and had a few customers browsing and shopping. She had one thing on her mind and that was to find the perfect gift for Sam. What that would be was not yet known. She wanted to get something that was uniquely Samantha and yet something practical. She went to each department and nothing interested her. Around noon she figured Sam would know she had left and she knew she should hurry to get back. She at last went the jewelry counter and found a beautiful sport wrist watch for her. She thought this would be the perfect gift because Samantha had mentioned she wanted to get a new watch. In addition to being stylish and fashionable enough for Sam’s tastes the watch also had several interesting functions including an internal compass.

The clerk took the watch and placed it inside a decorative box. Victoria slid her credit card through the reader and paid for the gift.

“Thank-” the woman’s words were cut off as the lights flickered and then went off.

April 12, 2011

A Lesson In History Part 2

Part 2

“We make for the ruins, we can hide from them– it’s our only chance!” We sent our horses into a hard run, as soon as we bolted the bandits pursued . Luck was with us as we were ahead of them and rode hard, our horses were fresh and ready for the run. When we no longer saw them we slowed the horses to a trot giving them a chance to rest and keeping a constant eye on the horizon. At last we rounded a dune and looked upon the ruins of the city of Ur.

Exhausted from the hard run we dismounted and walked, leading our horses into a labyrinth-like walled city, laying partially buried beneath the scorching sands.

The midday heat waned as the sun began its slow descent towards the distant horizon, we welcomed the cool of the desert night. We wandered for some time with without any sort of strategy. There seemed little here but old crumbling stones and sand, occasionally a small reptile scurried past. We walked for an hour before we found something stopped us cold. A statue towered into the sky, worn and weathered by time. It stood in the middle of the road on a dais about a meter in height. The statue had the body of a man but the head was misshapen, where there should have been a mouth appeared tentacles. The look of it sent a cold shiver through me, Gerald felt it as well, and in my darkest imaginings I’ve not seen its likeness.

“What is that?!!” I whispered nervously, as if my words would disturb and awaken the terror. He looked at me and shook his head wordless.

With legs of stone we crept closer and a foul wind blew upon us, carrying with it the stench of rot and something metallic like copper. The smell grew worse as we got closer and there was something at the base of the statue, lying on the dais. I covered my nose and mouth with a handkerchief, the smell of three days ride barely masked what was there. The remains of what I can only guess was an animal of some kind lay on the dais, its underside cut opened in a jagged dark red line its entrails laid upon the statue’s feet like an unholy offering.

“Looks like something ate it,” I said, pointing at the remains. Gerald said nothing and moved onward, an odd feeling fell over me when I ran from the gruesome remains.

We continued walking for some time but the place looked as if we were the first to be here in a long time.

“Did your uncle say where he was? This is a rather large place.”

“He mentioned he was near the main palace in his last letter. But that was months ago.”

“Any idea where that may be?”

“My guess is that the main palace should be the tallest building in the city, but these buildings seem to be about the same height as far as I can see.”

The setting sun fell behind the buildings casting long shadows along the empty streets like a dozen skeletal fingers reaching out for us from antiquity. We continued in silence until we came across the remains of a small campfire. Gerald poked the coals and debris and took a piece of burnt wood in his hand.

“These are cold, but, it couldn’t have been here long since the sand and dust would have covered it,” he said examining it closer. “At least in part.”

The sun was nearly gone now and the frenzied winds whipped the sand into small clouds of dust.

“We shouldn’t make a fire in case the bandits are still looking for us.”

“Let’s take shelter in one of these small buildings then,” I said pointing.

Gerald nodded in agreement, “Let’s secure the horses there, then try to get on one of the roofs– if your uncle has a campfire we may see it.”

“Hopefully we are the only ones.”

We found a structure that seemed mostly intact and secured the horses. He took a holstered pistol from his backpack withdrew a second one, “Do you know how to use this?” he asked pushing it toward me.

I nodded, “I’m afraid that I’m a lousy shot though.” He laughed as he handed it to me and attached another to his belt, I did the same. He pulled out two small lanterns from another bag, lit candles and placed them inside each and handed one to me saying, “We’ll need these when we get inside.” “Careful, this top will get hot quickly,” he warned pointing at the top of the lantern.

He then produced a length of rope and what appeared to be a small grappling hook. Then he secured a knife in his boot. I regarded him for a moment, “What kind of explorer did you say you were?”

“The adventurous kind,” he said with a smirk. I eyed him a moment longer and we were off.

The stars were very bright and we picked our way through the gloom. We moved slowly keeping an eye on where we were so we wouldn’t get lost.

In a low voice, he said, “That seems to be one of the taller buildings.”

I nodded following his lead. As we walked I thought for a moment I heard a voice on the wind. “Do you hear that?” I whispered. He paused and held his head up and listened, then shook his head that he didn’t.

We inched closer and I heard something move ahead of us, a chill ran down my spine like ice water. He had heard it too and we both froze and searched the gloom and waited with raw nerves. He drew his pistol and I did the same. For some moments we heard nothing, and then we heard it again this time behind us! We both spun around as something ran towards us I shrieked and jumped aside as a large reptile ran past us and disappeared in between the buildings. I looked at Gerald, and he turned away quickly, I thought I heard him stifle a laugh.

We continued to make our way towards the building in the dark and arrived without further event. The building was made of the same sand colored stone that the ruins, everything about it seemed old and decayed. Above us there were holes in the walls where the bricks had weathered away and leaving black holes like dead eyes watching over us. We found an opening in a wall near a door. We tried the door but it didn’t budge so we stepped cautiously through the opening.

April 5, 2011

A Lesson In History Part 1

A Lesson In History

Part 1

By Edward Tennyson

I heard the knock on my door early Monday morning. I set down my cup of tea and made my way to the door, pushing past the unpacked boxes from the move. You see, I recently moved to this new flat after selling the family home due to some recent events, well, recent to me I suppose. At the door stood a young man in his early thirties, wearing a gray business suit and a gentleman’s hat.

“Morning Sir, are you Mr Hales?” he inquired, tipping his hat in a smart way.

“I am, are you Kenneth?” I asked stepping into the doorway.

“Yes, sir, from Strange Times magazine.”

In one smooth movement he reached into his jacket pocket and produced a small business card and extended it to me.

I took it,glancing at it, “Kenneth MacNeil, Reporter, Strange Times Magazine, 1 Pennington Street, London E98 1XY.”

I motioned him to follow me, “Kindly close the door behind you Kenneth.”

“Yes, Sir,” he said, closing the door behind him.

“You’ll pardon the appearance, as I said over the phone I’ve just moved.”

“No worries at all, Sir.”

Kenneth followed me into the kitchen being careful not to knock over any of the boxes and sat in the chair I offered.

“I just poured some tea, would you care for some?”

“Ah, yes please,” he said placing a notepad on the table, his hat in his lap.

I set his tea down before him and took the chair opposite his and motioned to the milk and sugar on the table. He made his tea then opened the notebook and brought out two pencils and a small sharpener. I watched him for a moment as he readied himself for the interview.

I thought back to how we arrived here, how the recent events with my uncle’s demise and my being scorned by the academic community after they suspected me of his disappearance and then made laughing stock when I tried to tell them the truth. Fools.

If I didn’t need the money Mr. Kenneth MacNeil wouldn’t be here this morning, but the money would help pay the rent.

“Where shall I start? I asked.

“Well, how about what made you go to Iraq”

And so, I told him this tale as I tell you now. “Well, it all began a year ago….”

I was on vacation to meet my great uncle Charles Hales III, the eminent archeologist. My uncle was well known for his knowledge as reclusiveness. For years he journeyed far and wide across the world, traveling in the deserts of Egypt and Iraq.

There he came upon the ruins of the ancient city of Babylon, near what is now called Al Hillah. Some say he was drawn there for he became fascinated with the ancient city when while working in Egypt. His fascination soon turned into obsession and he began spending more and more time there. “The desert,” he would say. “is my home.” He spent the next four years there, each day and night exploring the ruins. Searching, searching for something.

During this time, the local villagers reported many strange things happening. The simple folk said they heard him late at night chanting in some unknown language and told long stories of seeing strange shadows and movement in the ruins. I dismissed all of this, and thought it was nothing more than the local superstition of an unsophisticated people. Tall tales told by adults to frighten their children.

It was during this time that I joined him. He knew that I was a budding archeologist myself, enchanted with his tales of the discoveries in Egypt that eventually led him to Babylon. I wrote him many letters about his work and my studies, on occasion he’d answer. I remember reading a passage from one of his letters that really lit my imagination and made me want to visit and work with him.

“Jonah my boy, what great things I’ve discovered here in the desert, things that I can barely put into words. Knowledge, long forgotten and lay slumbering just below the sands of time, waiting to awaken a whole new era in mankind…”

I hurriedly replied to his letter but it was many months before I got a response. His reply was cryptic and he seemed distracted in his writing but his words were clear that I should join him, that the greatest discoveries were yet to be made and he wanted me to experience them with him. He’d been in the desert nearly six years. I made travel by boat from our family home in Maidstone, that’s in Kent, and traveled many months by train and horse till at last I arrived in Istanbul, Turkey.

From here I traveled by camel with merchant caravans across the great mountains and deserts until I reached Iraq where I traveled with still more caravans. Though I spoke only a few words of Arabic I managed to convey my destination. Often whenever I said Al Hillah the superstitious natives whispered amongst themselves in harsh tones.

I traveled with a merchant and his family and each day they taught me their language and I tried to teach them mine. Over the course of our travels I learned enough to convey some basic thoughts, “I want to sleep”, “I am hungry”, and “where can I find water?” I remember them as a friendly and helpful people but any mention of the ruins of Al Hillah and they would look away from me and not speak about it even after my repeated request.

Eventually, I arrived at the final leg of my journey, the ruins of Al Hillah were only a short three days ride from here. I tried in vain to hire local guides but after several attempts I couldn’t find one to bring me there. At last, when I was out of ideas, I stumbled upon a fellow Englishmen named Gerald Massey, an explorer and writer.

He was maybe my age but the harsh sun and sand had turned his skin a dark leather. He explained that the locals were afraid of the ruins, believing that they are haunted by ancient devils. After a while of talking with and telling him my story he agreed to take me to the ruins as he was headed to a city a few days south of there.

We purchased horses and provisions and left the very next morning. Along the way he told me much about his travels and the people that he’d met, they were much like my own experiences with the kind people of this land. But he also spoke of dangers in the desert of bandits that would rob and often kill anyone they came across.

We kept a weary eye on the sun drenched horizon as we traveled. On the last day, we were several hours away from the ruins when looking behind us I spotted two riders that appeared as black dots on the horizon at first I’d though it nothing but as we rode and watched soon two became three and three became six. I looked at Gerald and the blood ran out of his deeply tanned face. He said a single word that sent a chill down my spine, “Bandits!”