Short Stories Series. Someone reached out and said they were having trouble finding a short story. I thought I’d put them in one place.
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Short Stories Series: A compendium (6 Short Stories)
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A blunt sword isn’t the most useful object to have, but for Sir Capra, it did the job.
Sir Capra used it more as a teaching aid and was going to do so in this instance. Capra had inherited a group of peasants for his flank. Capra could see that they were a sorry lot. They had as many words in their vocabulary as teeth in their head.
Capra had them gather around him as best as he could. There was a hundred of them, a few more, and he had to address them all simultaneously.
Sir Capra also understood that he would have to simplify his language as best he could. Few of them had even seen a quill, let alone held one.
Sir Capra would often be on the receiving end of mockery from his fellow knights. All for engaging the inferiors in such away.
Capra didn’t know any other way than to get off his high horse and to meet them at their level. Sir Capra was hoping that it might boost the bonds of brotherhood. They may believe that he was willing to die with them in the hope that they would die for him.
Capra produced the sword.
The sword was rusted as well as dull. Looking round to his captive audience, there eyes vacant and unblinking.
“This sword lacks the sharpness for incision but welded with enough might it can do as much damage,”. He said this. Looked around. He wanted to address them as equals. It was in the hope the seed of the lesson would sprout towards what little light there was in their skulls.
Ideas required stillness to formulate. Had he penetrated the thick fog that clouded their intelligence?
The knight doubted that he got through to them. There was more terror in the silence that accompanies a speech meant to lift weary spirits. It was not the hush that falls before bloodshed.
“Those who are approaching mean not only to kill us but our women and children. Our very way of life.” Silence again, Capra’s soul despaired.
A voice from within the group, “You should see our way of life kind sir it is wretched.”
“Yes, but we must fight back to preserve the little that we have.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that, Sir, some of us seem to have more little than others,” said the voice from within the crowd.
Capra scanned the crowd.
He scanned the peasants in the hope that he would see the speaker. The voice came from everywhere and nowhere. Capra spent so little time with the ordinary people that he did not know if it was one speaker or several.
“Yes, but it is ours together. It is together that we must come to vanquish the enemy who marches on us all this very moment.” Capra responded he lowered his head to tighten his vocal cords. This was to stifle the panic that was creeping into his speech.
“Maybe we are the enemy and should be rooted out. The preacher tells us that we are wicked. This enemy you call them, who have done us far less wrong than you and your brothers ever have. Death would be sweet relief for the wretched such as ourselves.” The voice said it’s source invisible.
As he peered among the ranks; there was nothing. The unmoving mouths. The absence of movement. Capra believed that it could be the voice of the Lord himself. The Lord stopping time telling him that the time of reckoning had come. “But do tell us again about the unsharpened sword, we are too dull to comprehend such metaphors most wise sir.”
Happy to Help
Burrel was only ever too happy to help. He was always trying to help. Burrel would even help when he didn’t have to and in many ways that were his downfall. His helping and his grinning are what put some people off Burrel.
Burrel tried to help everyone, and it was because of that willingness to help that people didn’t like him.
Thing is he helped people he shouldn’t have. One of those people that he should not have helped was Sutter McGraw.
One thing you got to understand about Burrel.
Now you have to see that Burrel wasn’t much of a drinker although he had a whisky every time he got paid. He’d be straight down that saloon on a Friday. There he would sit with his drink and right as they were to kick him out for closing he’d get the courage to drink.
On one of those such days, the height of summer see, Sutter came into town. When Sutter comes rolling into town, any town, everyone stops. Everyone kept still, everyone except you know who.
There are some stories.
Those stories say that I heard saying that Burr caught word of him coming. He was practically rolling out the carpets for Sutter. I don’t care much to believe in that. Why? Because I don’t like to think Burrel was mean like that. Burrel was a stupid kid, but I don’t want to consider he was putting on an act for us, you know that he had hatred underneath.
Don’t change what he did but still. The way I was told, the way that I want to think it happened is this. Burrel was sitting at the bar, and then Sutter comes in and sits down beside him.
Sutter looks over to the man. Burrel is kind of dancing with his whisky, as per usual. Like I said, Burrel was not a drinker. Sutter then starts giving his speech about how he is a wronged man. You know he’s out for vengeance and how he’s looking for Boss Grissom. Well didn’t Burrel’s ears practically jump off his head? Say I know that guy, the dumb cluck I can just see that big grin on his face. That was Burrel always happy to help.
People say that Sutter was taken back by how willing Burrel was to get going. I don’t know how true it is, you know the more I think about maybe, I don’t know.
Burrel wasn’t that bright if he was, well may the devil take me. Anyways, Sutter wanted to have a drink. First, he’d been on the trail a long time and was parched. It was the height of summer in Louisiana, and things would get sticky as the saying goes.
Burrel, of course, wasn’t for having any hanging around, took Sutter by the cuff and led him out the door.
He led Sutter up to the ranch.
What happened after that, everyone knows. What happened that day at the ranch, that’s the part doesn’t need any more detail. Even if you did, there are people still walking that tell the story better than I ever could anyway.
I was swamping out the main bunkhouse when it all went down. Didn’t even know what happened when it did, thought the boss was drinking again acting the fool.
After all of us at the ranch realised what happened it dawned on us. Load of us who worked on the ranch didn’t like each other, but there was no one else to take care of us, so we became a family. Some of us suspected Burrel having more to do with it than he let on. Not me, I just thought he was buck simple.
Miss Gene, she was the one who started the whisperings. Miss Gene telling us that a man no matter how smart or how stupid has to live with his actions.
When we told him what we were going to do, he just kept on grinning. Carl walked him up to the tree. Even as the noose was going over the neck, he turned to Carl. All he could say was that he was happy to help.
Please Give Responsibly
“I couldn’t bring myself to do it,” Paul said to Reese.
“I’m sure that I have no idea what you are talking about,” Reese said, not even looking up from his computer. Reese could see Paul above him in the periphery of his vision.
Paul was slouched over the partition of Reese’s workspace. Paul was in danger of knocking over a picture of Reese’s daughter. Reese pursed his lips.
“The beggar, the one by the ATM at the plaza. I mean this time was different, last night I went out specifically to get cash. Had the cash in my hand and was walking over to her and then she had to ruin it by looking up at me”. Paul said.
Reese slowly nodded, still looking at the monitor in front of him.
“Oh my goodness, how traumatic for you. I’m amazed that you are still here. You could take the day off on stress leave if you wanted.” Reese said.
Paul wiped his mouth. He looked down and remained quiet for a few seconds longer before letting out a long, loud sigh.
“It’s funny for you. I understand that you’ve been the one saying the whole time that if I want to do it, then I should just go ahead and do it. I know that I should, but it’s not that simple. It’s the intent behind the giving. I’m giving this girl because I want to balance out my karma.”
“If it makes you feel any better most people don’t give to beggars because they want to help them. It’s because they want to make themselves feel less guilty. A few pennies here a pound there, it’s not going to make much of a difference. I mean even if someone were going to give them say one hundred or something. They’re hardly going to put it towards a wall unit.” Reese said, finally looking up at Paul.
The two men held eye contact for a second or two before breaking off. Paul nodded and smiled.
“I guess it’s trying to carry out an unselfish action. In the back of my mind, all I can think of is this promotion coming up. I don’t want the universe thinking that I am kissing its ass or anything like that,” said Paul.
“Look getting a promotion depends on the criteria met. No one looks through someone’s file and goes, dependable, good, loyal, that’s what we would expect. Hard-working sounds great. Hold on here we go, gave money to a tramp five years ago.” Reese said.
“Yeah, you’re right, I know they don’t care about that, but there are other forces at work,” said Paul.
“I’d be more worried about the sexism. The universe doesn’t look too kindly on that sort of attitude,” said Reese.
“I’m not sexist.”
“Oh come on you wouldn’t be giving her the money if she was a man.”
“I haven’t given her the money.”
“That’s also sexist.”
“I’ve got to do something I can’t just stand by and do nothing.”
“You’ve been doing nothing consistently about the homeless situation. Another day isn’t going to change how the universe views you. The universe doesn’t care about you, and it doesn’t care about anyone. Whatever you do, it doesn’t matter. I hope that gives you some hope and it is just a promotion, a minor one, you won’t even be getting paid more”
“It’s not about the pay it’s about the responsibility,” said Paul.
“Well, I hope you get the responsibility,” said Reese.
The office receptionist came walking towards the two of them. She looked directly at Paul and said, “Paul, would you head back to your desk and check your email”.
“Thank you, will do,” Paul said. Paul looked at Reese. Reese shrugged and turned his gaze back to the monitor.
Paul returned to his workstation and sat down. Paul turned on his monitor and opened his email.
The subject line read: Please Give Responsibly, Please Give Responsibly.
The Journey Inward
Malvarlo could make out the path ahead. He could see it stretching out in front of him, but he proceeded with caution.
Malvarlo had discarded the map the old hag had given him; there was only one direction to travel. Malvarlo had to be careful with the flame of his torch.
Tree roots reached through the path of the narrow tunnel. Malvarlo didn’t want to light the fire, this close to the end of his journey.
Malvarlo didn’t want to play a part in the destruction of the world. That was why he undertook the journey.
Malvarlo knew that he had gathered followers on his quest. All the other villages and townships were fleeing towards the citadel.
Malvarlo marched against the tide of the majority. Within that majority, there was a minority that took an interest in Malvarlo. Some followed him on his journey. Those people kept their distance, more like casual observers than members of a cult.
Malvarlo had not seen anyone in a long time ahead or behind him, but he knew that there was one who followed still.
Malvarlo didn’t care because he knew that he was close to the end of his journey.
The heat rose the further he descended. Malvarlo stopped and knelt. He took care to set the torch down carefully if it went out, he would still be able to progress only more slowly. Malvarlo managed to wedge amongst some loose stones.
Malvarlo worked quickly to remove anything he would no longer need. The heat made his armour insufferable to wear, so he took it off.
Malvarlo immediately felt lighter. He dropped his shield, he had not needed it so far and at this point though that he would not need it again. He would keep his sword by his side but left his Cyph knife on the ground.
Malvarlo rose to his feet. Ran his hand along his neck and chest, pushing beads of sweat towards his trousers. He picked up the torch and ventured on.
Malvarlo thought of the world above being reduced to ash. Malvarlo realised that people were justified in thinking he was mad. Mad for believing the First Tomb existed, but much of the legend had already been confirmed. The Blind Giant of Ocrefall that Malvarlo had tricked into running off a cliff. The rat-men of the Kilrokax Asylum. All the stories told to him as a child were true. The Great Fire and the First Tomb would not be an exception. Malvarlo’s faith was as steel where others had broken under the pressure of the oncoming doom.
Malvarlo thought about what would happen after the Great Burning took place. He would emerge from the tomb, make the journey to the surface to what, to rebuild, to start again, alone. Mal did not like the thought of what awaited after the fire. All he had to do was get to the Great Tomb. Once he got there, he would see if the endless supplies existed. Who had made the food, who left it there? Even though many of the other tales had been confirmed. There was always the chance that if the last part would be false. If there were no food, no sustenance then none of it would matter.
As Malvarlo rounded a curve in the tunnel, he could feel a wind blowing from behind him. It caused his torch to flicker further. The tunnel widened and opened up before him. Malvarlo looked to see a dark shore, waves slowly lapping up. He looked up to see a small crack in the ceiling of the cavern. Malvarlo realised that the small gap was two miles long, but his distance from it made seem small. Shapes were visible thanks to a sliver of light that pierced through the ceiling of the cavern. The dark sea that lapped at a grey shore and on the other side of the crescent Malvarlo was able to see the roof of a hut. The First Tomb was right in front of him, his journey was almost over, and he would not have to burn with the rest of the world.
Malvarlo started to walk forward.
The air was thick, and he realised that he was thirsty. His follower must have lost their footing as he could hear stones bounce down the path behind him.
Malvarlo approached the shoreline torch in hand. Malvarlo dropped to his knees. Cupped his free hand, he dipped it into the liquid, raised it to his mouth and took a deep gulp.
Immediately Malvarlo knew that there was something wrong. He choked up on the liquid and spat it out, he gasped, wiped his mouth and spat out what was left of the sticky substance.
Behind him, Malvarlo heard the sound of running on rocks. The follower moved behind him with such ferocity. Some of the small stones hit off Malvarlo’s back. Malvarlo, still gasping, went to turn his head but the follower was behind him. Grabbed his hair and holding Malvarlo’s head upright.
Malvarlo had no choice but to look to the dark sea’s horizon. The blackness, shapeless caused him to imagine shapes emerging forth. Malvarlo felt the sharp edge of his Cyph knife tearing his throat open. The follower let him go. As life poured out from Malvarlo’s neck, he fell forward into the sea. With his waning strength, Malvarlo crawled towards the First Tomb. Malvarlo did not get far. Out of the periphery of his vision, he saw his torch hitting the waves of the black ocean. It started slowly, but then the entire ocean ignited. The Great Burning had begun.
James the mercenary
There it was. As soon as James heard it, he knew that the information would dominate his thoughts. James hoped that these ideas were not registering on his face. He didn’t want to be so obvious, he felt his lip twitching at the corners. James breathed in deeply through his nose and consciously relaxed his body.
James’ head felt heavy; he nodded it slowly.
“That’s completely new information, very interesting,” James said. James scolded himself for over talking, mentioning more than was necessary. James battled with his eyebrows.
“Just thought that I would tell you, I mean it concerns you, to a degree. Uncle Peter told me not to tell you, told me not to tell anyone. So what, he isn’t in control of me anymore, need to keep reminding myself. He’s not my boss; he’s my younger brother who hasn’t bothered with me for years, whereas you are my son.” his mother said.
There was a moment of silence between the two of them. James looked at his mother; she looked down at her quarter full cup of coffee. They had been talking so long that it had gone cold. James, who had sat still for a long time, animated his body. He looked out through the glass window of the kitchen patio doors. James stared out into the night. Visions from James’ imagination filled the darkness that covered the back garden. James would finally get a chance.
James could feel a smile creeping onto his face. He stopped the grin and rescinded it before could spread further. James turned his head towards his mother.
“She’s old James; she has even been saying to us that she’s a burden, whenever she says that I agree with her. Maybe I should, but she is. She says that she didn’t expect to live as long as she has. Really who could argue, all she does is watch TV and not leave the house. Without judging.”
“I know what you mean,” James said but was immediately cut off by his mother.
“At the end, I mean she is my mother, and I love her a lot but really what kind of life is that hanging around waiting to die. I don’t want that to happen to me. Put me in a home or better yet put the pillow over my face when it comes to that. “James’ mother said.
James looked down at the table. He thought that since they were candid, there was something that he wanted to add to the conversation.
“There is a part of me that thinks, you know, no matter what we are still related, we are still family. I’m too harsh. I should give her some sympathy. Reach out and try to connect with her before she is gone,” James said. He immediately launching back in “On the other hand, why bother? It’s too late. When she was at the top of her game grandma wise, she gave me the distinct impression that she didn’t even like me. As harsh as this sounds, just because she is dying, it doesn’t change anything. Uncle Peter isn’t making things any easier either.” James said.
“I don’t expect you to be a perfect grandson. Her memories gone, and when she did have the memory. She didn’t have a relationship with you,” said James’ mother.
“The least that we can hope for is that she doesn’t suffer,” said James.
James looked out into the darkness of the back garden again. He hoped that she didn’t suffer. James didn’t want her to die too early, but at the same time, he did want her to die sooner rather than later. James had some credit cards that needed to pay. There was car insurance too, he almost forgot about that debt.
Julia and the aspect ratio
Julia squeezed his hand, awaiting a squeeze back. The squeeze never came. Julia had first got together a month ago. Phil was just out of a long term relationship and had been talking about wanting to take things slow. Julia found that the proceedings were glacial. Julia didn’t mind; she was just glad to be with him. They both lived in a small town. They knew of each other but not directly. It was still in the beginning stages of getting to know one another.
Julia and Phil had been on a couple of dates. She remembered him laughing when she told him that she considered him a gentleman. Why? Well because he held the door open to some greasy spoon.
Phil was cold and distant. Whenever Julia tried to confront him about that he told her that it was just the way that he was. He couldn’t do anything. Phil was too old to change his practices.
Julia and Phil stood outside the front of the church awaiting the next phase. Julia found the whole thing strange. She wasn’t Catholic, and she hadn’t been to a standard mass, let alone a funeral. Julia believed that the priest had been tugging at the heartstrings. The deception made her withdraw. Julia had never met this woman, and she would shed a tear because she felt obligated.
Phil was close to his grandmother, and even though he did not show it, Julia could tell that he was in deep pain. The coffin went into the back of the hearse. The gathered crowd shared cliches with one another. Phil broke away from Julia and moved through the people. People who were chattering away to one another on the cold January morning. Julia didn’t follow, but she watched Phil as he walked through the assembled people.
Phil was talking to a woman, short hair with sharp features. Julia knew the woman. Julia turned away and looked for someone who she could speak to. Only they were all strangers, and she could not bring herself to make idle chit-chat. Julia knew it was a distraction for herself.
Julia looked over to the hearse and focused her attention. The vehicle contained the coffin. The coffin held the body that once carried the soul of Phil’s grandmother. Julia looked at it and thought about herself. Thought about how there would come a time for her when she would be parcelled up. Shoved inside a box in the back of the van only to have her body dumped somewhere.
Julia thought about this. She could feel her body forcing her to face towards Phil and the conversation that he was having. Julia heard the sound of Phil’s laughter. She didn’t know that Phil was capable of such actions let alone that they were allowed at a funeral. Julia looked at Phil. It looked like him. It was not him. Phil was animated, his face alive and his eyes wide. Julia’s gaze was transfixed. She noticed that her body was moving her away so that she could not witness any more of the interaction.
One of the funeral directors gave a signal. The funeral procession started to commence it’s walk to the graveyard. Phil rejoined Julia and took her hand. Julia squeezed Phil’s hand, awaiting a squeeze back.
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