Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

I was walking below the towering sea cliffs, deep in my customary habit of scrutinising the artistic qualities of my environment, when a peculiar rock, no bigger than a tennis ball demanded my attention.   The rock was wedged in the cliff’s foot, its surface the blackest black I had even seen, it was as if I were looking into nothingness, a void.

Instinctively I reached down to retrieve it, when an unexpected voice spoke within me, “leave it where it rests, the rock is where it needs to be, dislodge it and the cliff might fall.”  The cliff remained standing.

 

© Paul Nichol    January 2017

“Excuse me, there appears to be a dead fly in my fruit salad”, the woman in blue dress protested.  The temptation to ask her how she knew it was dead was overwhelming, however I professionally suppressed the invitation to mock and instantly placed an expression of utter revulsion upon my tortured face.

“A fly Madam!  Dead!  In your fruit salad.  My apologises, please let me replace it at once.” I earnestly insisted whilst moving forward to retrieve the untouched plate from the table.  “I can assure you the fly was most definitely alive when I brought it from the kitchen.”

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© Paul Nichol.  2017

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Rejuvenation

Winters skeleton shimmers

Warm flesh of Spring stirs

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© Paul Nichol.  2015

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It was a simple act of kindness, which amounted to nothing more than a few unexpected words, shared between two middle aged men on a crisp December morning upon a pavement, as the sun began its long ardours ascent into the cold, steely grey sky.     

 

To any onlooker the events of that moment have seemed unremarkable and they would have rightly dismissed the encounter as nothing more than the sharing of social pleasantries between old acquaintances.  However, they would have been wrong.

 

What transpired was far from normal for one of those men, although he would never admit it.

 

© Paul Nichol. 2014

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My pace was slow as I climbed the slippery slopes of the fatiguing fell.   The heavy black cloud had ceased in its downpour, but its oppressive bulk still hung above me, as though I were its anchor.  The tantalising tricking of the many invisible streams sang out upon the damp mountain air as they danced fully replenished into the valley far below.  The sharp snapping of brittle slate under my heavy footsteps pieced the beauty of this natural symphony, but on I climbed, in awe of the wondrous bleak beauty of my desolate surroundings.

I rounded the endless summit, its barren windswept baldness a statement to the ferocity of nature.  My footsteps were precarious as I stumbled over the moss-covered terrain, but then my eyes fell upon the small abandoned stone farmhouse, which was nestled in the steep, narrow valley which lay before me, its insignificance was magnified by the enormity of the endless black mountains, which climbed almost vertical about it, piecing the very heart of the overhanging cloud; it was an oasis where one should not exist.

Once my feet were free from the treachery of those slippery boulders, I slid shackled with excited fear down the torrent of scree, which avalanched away before me as a stone wave, before finally coming to rest on the soft valley floor.  I lavished on the safety of the bog like surface, which in places swallowed me up to my knees.  The array of water-logged roots and tall spindly grasses were a strange comfort after the torment of that bleak hard climb, but I found my path and the walking become surefooted.

The sombre silhouette of the tumbled dwelling mocked me from across the wilderness of the sodden paddock.  The deep granite grey of the twisted, ramshackle buildings were in conflict with the niceties of modern-day aesthetics; but their effect was pleasing, a cold dark if not brutal, unrelenting scar set against the oasis of coarse green vegetation which sat deep in the safety of this unexpected, hidden valley.  I stumbled over the remnants of the broken wall, which lay like a ring of broken bodies before the polished windswept stone of the farmhouse walls, my feet once again sinking deep into to sopping soil which had once been a garden, I marched undeterred towards my goal the elasticised earth pulling upon my fatigued legs in a relentless battle for dominance.

Finally I found myself standing in the silence of past lives, my troubled eyes running in distress over the viciousness of the lives of those long dead.  As I stared at all about me, I found it hard to believe that happiness had ever lodged here.  The mammoth mountains which, for an eternity had encircled this place, cutting all hope, cutting dreams of a better life had been victorious with their unrelenting might.

I parted the matted cobweb, which veiled my path and entered the ruin and the lost world of the decayed past.  The foul air was heavy with the damp aroma of rot, my chest tightened as I drew the tainted blackness deep into my lungs.  The doorway was shallow, and allowed only the minimal of darkness to escape its forgotten prison.  My eyes slowly dilated to suit the harsh surroundings, but I knew instantly that I had violated the sanctity of the uninterrupted past.   A cold, unnatural breeze brushed over me; turning quickly I stared at the open doorway:  I looked into a different world, a world of light and happiness.  I felt uncharacteristically scared, scared not of the darkness which now gripped me, but of what awaited my departure of this timeless place, but of what I would take with me, although I felt compelled to loiter, to remain as part of blackness; to wear the cloak which had been laid about me, to absorb as much of this place as it would allow me to do and to comfort me in a way I knew it shouldn’t.  Stay a few moments longer I told myself, know this place so that you can live it again in the dark moments of our future, but I ran, for what I felt frightened me.  I ran quickly from that place as fast as my weary legs could carry me, over the fallen wall, across the wet paddock with its restraining grasses clutching at my feet, around the deep bog until I crashed onto the surety of that black, brittle scree.

I began my relentless climb almost at once, up the liquid face of that devilish hill, but with each step the stones gave way and I slid back, towards to the bottom of the steep slope.  I tried time and time again, but my efforts were in vain.  In my battle to escape, I had been oblivious to the regathering storm.  The valley plunged silently into darkness; a massive cape of thick turbulent cloud shrouded my world, and the light of my day was defeated.  Nature mocked my human frailty as I ran like a scared child once again towards the sanctuary of that deserted farm.  Lashings of lightening snapped and whipped all about me, driving me ever faster towards my refuge.  Torrents of brutal rain crashed down, beating upon me with a deliberate viciousness; driving me, driving me ever faster, and ever colder, ever weaker back to that dark place.  My return was unsightly; I stumbled and crashed unceremoniously through that black doorway, landing with a deadening thud upon the solid stone floor of my tomb.

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I have to find him!  The sharp ringing of my heavy footsteps echoes through the empty streets.   I know he is there, somewhere, watching, stalking in his predatory way, toying playing with my fear.  I pause to regain my breath; I held by the silence, which bellows around me.  The light from the lamppost fails to remove my uncertainty of the darkness.  I move away from under the lamps visible domain.  I walk slowly through the darkness of that timeless street, with only the rhythm of my footsteps for company.

Suddenly I hear voices, laughter from behind me.  I quickly turn, my eyes scanning the black desert for the source of my fear.  I see them, two figures wavering snake-like across the road.  Luckily, they are oblivious to my presence; I turn and quickly hurry through the cold crisp air.

I approach the brightly lit arcade where the mannequins stare complacently at me from the safety of their smug warm world.  I refuse to weaken my resolve, and ignore their demand for attention; I cast my eyes towards the darker regions of my surroundings.  An alley looms from between the brightly lit department stores.  I stand motionless at the entrance, my mind weighing up the possibilities.  I look around the empty arcade: only the mannequins witness my descent into the alley.

I walk slowly, feeling my way with each step, my ears pricked for the slightest sound.  The silence surrounds me.  I venture deeper into the unsavoury cavern, and with each step, my apprehension grows.  I turn and glance at the fluorescent world, which now appears so small, framed by the high lifeless walls of the alley.  The clattering of a dustbin lid deeper down the tunnel startles me, paralysing me with fear.  I want to run, to go back to the safety of the fluorescent world, but as the metallic clattering washes over me once again, and I know I have no choice but to continue.  Drawing a deep breath, I gather my flaking courage.  My eyes are straining against the blackness; my footsteps are slow and deliberate, as I continue at a cautious pace.

Then I see him! The outline of his figure filters through the darkness.  Sensing my presences, he pauses, looks in my direction, then silently, he slides from my sight.  I stand still, my eyes desperately searching his ebony world.  I hear him.  He is calling me, playing with me, teasing my vulnerability in this his world.  I call out.  He pounces from the shadows.  Hysteria sweeps over me.  He is touching me, stroking his rigid body against my lower leg.  I dare not move in fear I might startle him, finally I lower my eyes upon him.  It is Duke, my tomcat.

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© Paul Nichol   November 2013

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‘Build an Ark!  Why on Earth?’  Paul’s wife scoffed as he told her about his dream.

The Church congregation stared in bemused silence as Paul proclaimed that God had spoken to him.  ‘He has instructed me to build an Ark.  Will you help me’? He pleaded.

‘Why would God speak to you? You, a non-believer?’ the Priest asked indignantly, as they waited in the wet street for the police to arrive.

The Psychiatrist was unavailable, as the rain was torrential and his house waterlogged.  I have lost everything he told the Custody Sergeant.

Paul knelt in his cell and prayed.

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© Paul Nichol 2013