Annie On Writing

June 23, 2016

Plasma Rifle Etiquette By Heather Harris McFarlane

Filed under: Twisted Tales,Writing Tools — Annie Evett @ 5:58 pm

I wanted to go to a lecture at the university. I’ve never really thought of myself as an especially smart guy, but I like to learn new stuff, you know? I thought it’d be pretty cool to see what it was like in school on the alien moon, test out how well I’d picked up the language and all that. If I’d just gone and done that, I might not be sitting here, waiting to hear if my life’s over from some guy whose title is “Agent.” My friend Tsuki was determined to go and see the big solar array, though, and she’s the one who paid attention in all the cultural sensitivity seminars and got me to apply for the trip in the first place, so I figured, whatever. It’s cool. We’ll go. We’ll look at it. We’ll write a paper about it.

So, we went, and man, it put any military bases I’ve seen to shame. You know those guards in London – the ones that aren’t even allowed to smile? It’s like that, but so many of them. You can’t breathe without bumping into one, and then there’s more walking around, aiming these big-ass rifles around. There was some engineer who gave a presentation about the solar array and how it worked and what it did, but I was too jumpy to pay attention. I’d noticed a button had fallen off my backpack, because of course it did, and after all those lectures about how to represent our planet and the excessively harsh penalties for any infractions, I figured I couldn’t just leave it there. Plus, it was a Captain Marvel button, and Earth’s Mightiest Hero just might be a clue that it was one of us who’d littered. I tried to be smooth about it, but I could feel the sweat making my shirt stick to me while I sort of just drifted back through the group ‘til I could reach the damn thing. I knew it was just a matter of time before someone figured out I was the screw-up.

Sure enough, I got to the edge of the crowd, and as soon as I went to take one step out of bounds, I turned around and suddenly I’m nose to nose with whatever bayonet thing was on the end of this guy’s gun. I screamed. You’re damn right, I screamed. You would too if you saw that thing coming at your face. Damn near peed my pants.

That got some attention, and before I knew it, there was more guns, and more people yelling, and not only was I a disgrace to my planet, but I was gonna be in jail, too. I was freaking out, but the guy whose gun was in my face – he just cracked up! Laughed his ass off. I guess I was in shock, ‘cause all of a sudden, all I could think was, damn, that is a great laugh. Pretty great rest of him, too, if I’m being honest. I can’t help it; I have a type. I like a guy who’s built enough to go rock climbing or surf with me, and well, he was definitely that.

Come to find out it was his first day, and he was nervous after getting all these lectures on dealing with the Earth people, so he had just as much explaining to do as I did. Just as well I liked the look of him, ‘cause we both spent the rest of the day telling all the people in charge of both our groups all the details about how nothing had actually happened. Sitting through all that, we got to know each other a little, and turns out he wasn’t just good-looking; he was funny, too. He’d picked up enough English to not need a translator, and if I wasn’t in the biggest trouble I’d ever been in, in my whole life, I’d have been cracking up. Bless his heart, he kept trying, though, while I just kept freaking out. We swapped contact info, just in case there was any follow up to the incident, and, well, here I am – sitting in yet another bright, freezing cold government waiting room, surrounded by more big dudes with big guns, about to lose my damn mind. And this time, I don’t have a hot guy to tell me dumb-ass jokes to get me through it. So, thanks. Once this agent approves his visa, you come and dance at our wedding?

Dedicated to the 49 precious lives lost at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2016. Amor vincit omnia.

June 22, 2016

Norfolk by Christopher Stanley

Filed under: Twisted Tales,Writing Tools — Annie Evett @ 11:30 pm
We arrive at the bungalow after midnight, Eddie snoring in his booster seat and Happisburgh lighthouse winking in the distance. It’s exactly as I remember it from my childhood, with waves crunching beyond the dunes and the salty tang of the sea breeze. This is it, I think, as I unpack my travel-weary limbs from the car. Eccles-on-Sea, on the North Norfolk coast, is where I’m going to find the horror story that resurrects my career.

I’m supposed to be an author but I haven’t sold a book in half a decade, not since my wife, Rosemary, gave birth to a boy-flavoured bundle of toothless smiles and Godless nappies. Eddie wasn’t planned and it’s hard not to blame him for my aborted career. The only reason I brought him with me is because Rosemary insisted I learn to write with him in the room. I tried to argue, pleading the need for authorial solitude, but he’s here and she’s not.

Half of Eccles was stolen by the sea some centuries ago and what’s left is barely a ghost town. They say a storm once shifted so much sand from the beach it uncovered the old graveyard, tearing open coffins and scattering skeletons up the coast. ‘With history like that,’ said Rosemary, ‘who needs horror?’

I fall asleep listening to the wind tugging at the dunes. In my dreams, the spirits of the dead crawl from the water to steal Eddie away, their fleshless fingers prising him from my grasp. I’m glad they’re taking him but I’m compelled to ask why. One word comes hissing back:

‘Innocent.’

I’m startled into consciousness by something clawing at my face. When I switch on the bedside light, Eddie’s on top of me, saying he had a nightmare in which hollow-eyed ghosts crossed the dunes and descended on our bungalow. ‘They took me away from you,’ he whispers, unaware of how similar our dreams were.

Outside, the shed creaks in the wind while rain pelts the windows. And there’s something else, something more deliberate. I hold Eddie tight, telling him there are no ghosts, only stories, but something is thumping the walls of the bungalow. The look on Eddie’s face says it all. The spirits have come for him; our dreams are coming true.

‘I’ll try not to let them get you, Eddie.’

‘You have to!’

For a moment, I’m confused, but then I remember that Eddie woke me up mid-dream. ‘In your nightmare,’ I say, ‘where did the ghosts take you?’

‘To the safe place.’

It isn’t rain hitting the windows; it’s spray from the rising sea. And the thumping sound is water. Somewhere in the bungalow a window shatters, and then another. The two halves of Eccles are going to be reunited, tonight. I cling desperately to Eddie, promising him I’ll never let go.

‘I’ll really miss you, Daddy,’ he says, pushing me away. ‘But I’ll tell everyone what happened and I’m sure they’ll buy your books again.’

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