Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Curious Case of the Conundrum of Christmas

This story was written for Tales by the Tree  - a Christmas Flash Fiction Anthology

Title: The Curious Case of the Conundrum of Christmas
Author: Nick Johns
Genre: Holiday Humour (?)
E-Book: Yes
Dedication: For dreamers everywhere, who help preserve a sense of wonder in the world.


These journal notes were found amongst the personal effects of the late Doctor John Watson. The precise reason for the lack of publication of this episode in the escapades of his long-time companion are, as yet, still unclear, but the possibility that a childish appeal of some sort may have been made, or perhaps even that the good doctor's own innate sense of wonder prevailed, cannot be discounted.

The Curious Case of the Conundrum of Christmas

Lounging amidst the scarcely creditable chaos of what had once been our shared rooms, I impatiently awaited the return of the Great Detective.
Presently, the peace was abruptly disturbed by the rush of footfalls on the stairs as Holmes burst into the Front Room, flushed with manic energy and beaming with the inner glow that I could only ascribe to yet another deductive conclusion.
“Ah Watson, you have been waiting only a short while, I perceive, so apologies for my tardiness are not yet required.” He busied himself with the construction of his latest fad cocktail and raised a quizzical eye in the direction of my retort.
“Damn me Holmes, how do you know how long I have been here? Have you been loitering at the door in disguise again? Were you the washer woman that I passed in the alley before entering?
A sardonic grin twisted his aristocratic features.
“Nothing so mundane, my dear Doctor. Deduction alone is my tool of choice on this occasion. The rain, that fell in a brief Yuletide shower earlier, ceased only some five minutes ago, and I observe that the droplets from it are still visible, having not yet soaked into the weave of your fine worsted overcoat that lies on the hall stand. Ergo, you could not have been waiting many minutes.”
“As always Holmes, simple, logical and supremely obvious when accompanied by your explanation. So then I, for my part, deduce that you have solved another case, such is your high good humour and lightness of step. Will you tell me of it?”
“Another little morsel for the pages of your journal? Very well. This tale is one of which you will be well aware, having been the centre of frenzied international speculation for many years. I have finally turned my attentions to its solution”
“You don't mean that you have solved the conundrum? I gasped.
“Just so, Watson. Or, more accurately the conundrum in so far as it relates to the deed itself.” He twirled dramatically, raising his glass in salute to his own accomplishment.
“I, Sherlock Holmes,” he continued “have succeeded once again where the assembled critical faculties of Scotland Yard's finest minds, if that is not a contradiction in terms,” he grinned at his aside, “had signally failed.”
“Mark you,” he continued with a rather more subdued air, “they will not credit my exposition of the true origin of the events and are still hunting high and low for some more convoluted answer. They may eventually find something more to their taste, but it does not change the fact that it will be based upon fallacious reasoning. I have explained all of this to them, as one would to a child of six, but they continue in their vain and wrong-headed pursuit of a complex answer to what they perceive to be a complex question. They are, as they ever were, deluded.” He took a long swallow of his drink and paced the floor restlessly.
“Well Holmes,” I asked rather more tartly than I had intended, “are you going to entrust me with the outcome of your investigations, or will you merely continue to approach the solution incrementally like an Indian vulture circling a mortally wounded animal?”
“Ah Watson, your reproof is well aimed; since your matrimony and removal from these premises, I have grown accustomed to solitude and have lapsed into the habit of protracted monologue as a substitute for the civilised conversations in which we were wont to engage.”
He moved to the window and stared silently into the afternoon bustle of Baker Street. Such was the length of his reverie that I feared myself forgotten. Abruptly he pointed through the window.
“The wonder of life is ever decreasing in our modern world and I fear that it may be the unwitting cause of many catastrophes before some equilibrium is finally arrived at. Such was the origin of the matter at hand, Watson. But the telling clue to this case was there for all to see in our own lodging house. Here, peruse the vital evidence yourself.” He paused and produced from his waist-coat pocket a white ornamental card, larger than a business card, yet smaller than a menu. He waved it contemplatively, but did not hand it over for my review. Rather, he regarded the offending card with all the hawk-like concentration for which he is justly renowned.
“This poor exemplar of the printer's art is the keystone to this entire affair Watson.”
“I don't follow, Holmes. It is but one of the newly fashionable so called Christmas Cards. What bearing does this have upon the mystery? We observe these items delivered each day. Do the other geegaws and trinkets not have a similarly mundane origin?”
He shook his head slowly and, I thought, a trifle wearily.
“No, Old Friend you have the crux of it. Occam’s razor. The simplest explanation, all others being discounted, must be the correct one. But I can scarcely credit it...” he paused, all of his previous exuberance crushed out of him. He stood there reeling, like Atlas with the weight of the sky upon his very shoulders.
“I have mounted a surveillance operation such as was only previously required against Professor Moriarty. I have deployed all my resources, including my Baker Street irregulars, and have drawn a blank. I have bent my not inconsiderable talents entirely to the task of unmasking the means of delivery of the presents that are deposited with such speed and regularity in the room of every child in the land, and have reached an impasse. Therefore, I am forced to conclude, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that Saint Nicholas does, indeed exist.”

This story appears in 'Tales by the Tree' an anthology of flash fiction - 75 stories from over 40 authors
It is available to purchase at Amazon in print or for Kindle (these are Amazon Uk links but it is available at .com

Monday, 28 October 2013

Christmas at Carol’s by Victoria Parsons

This story was written for the Tales by the Tree - a Flash Fiction Anthology, written by Victoria Parsons and I am hosting it on her behalf.

                                                Christmas at Carol’s by Victoria Parsons
                                                            E-Book - Yes

   Floating not falling, the moons making magic with the snowflakes. Perfect. I open the patio doors to let the sprinkles swim in. The silk tablecloth, all the best crystal tiered down the middle, you got to go that extra mile, I mean they’re coming a long way to get here. There’s always the stragglers, uninvited, got to welcome them too. Bing croons about Christmas’s before and the candles bluster with his velvety breath.
   “Good Girl!” Aunt Maggie ruffles in from the hallway, lifts a martini glass and winks.
   “Port, you always forget the port.” Bampy Jack wiggles his ginger moustache.
   “No fool like an old fool, right in front of your mince pies.” Cousin May nips his cheek. “Now pour me the bubbles.”
   “No Dancing?” Uncle Joe pulls Betty May by her feather bower and they glide.
   “Forever Dancing.” She sighs dreamily over his shoulder.
   “Such a treat.” My dear sister curls catlike into the sofa.
   “Treats! We love treats!” The twins come scampering out from under the table.
  “Cherries Carol?  Cherries, bowl of, life and all.” Nanny Meg shouts over the din.
   I open the fridge door and find Houdini hiding on top of the turkey, smoking a cigar. “Sssshhh” He passes the cherries out.
   A Peruvian snake charmer pops up from behind the sofa. His flute seduces the fairy lights into a tightrope across the table. Charlie Chaplin’s up there balancing with his cane whilst Dean Martin and James Brown try to outdo Bing at the piano. 
   Sally Jane’s juggling satsumas. Two, three, eight, twelve turning orange orbs that stay in orbit when she moves away, pulls a cracker with Billy Ray.
    “Turn on the TV, Luna 13 is landing on the moon.” A mouth in a mistletoe topped trilby yells.
  “You’re so behind the times.” Cousin May dances the Charleston around the bobbing hat.
  “Cake cake cake.” A toothless woman chuckles, hiccups, hitches down her red tutu and disappears through the wall.
 We dance, we drink, we toast all the dear dead ones that haven’t made it and we laugh like life never runs out. The phone rings, glasses halt mid air, eyes flit, toes tip and legs lean to leaving.
   Ring. Chaplin’s out into the night stepping across the stars.
   Ring. Aunt Maggie swallows her olive and dives away into her Martini.
   Ring. The twins turn bunny and borough out through the carpet.
   Ring. The Piano stops playing.
   Ring. Satsumas thud to the floor.
   Ring. The snow’s falling not floating now.
  My daughters voice comes out of the answer machine, there’s giggling and drunken voices sing Jingle Bells at me from the black box. “Come round Mum, come now, we hate to think of you on your own.”
   From behind the silver curl of her cigarette smoke Garbo raises an eyebrow at me. “You want to be alone?”
  “I never am.” 

This story appears in 'Tales by the Tree' an anthology of flash fiction - 75 stories from over 40 authors
It is available to purchase at Amazon in print or for Kindle (these are Amazon Uk links but it is available at .com

Friday, 18 October 2013

The Last Flag

Ice Cube Aurora. Photo by Carlos Pobes.
Image Copyright Carlos Pobes

The Last Flag
“Come on, Dave. Let’s get you inside Fella. What the hell were you thinking? You know how this works. You trained me. Trained us all. Jeez, you wrote the book on this. Pepe woulda laughed, seeing me dragging your sorry ass. Poor Pepe. ‘Don’t go out alone – ever’ That’s what you said, and then you get tagged planting Pepe’s flag. And where’s your gun? ‘Eat with your gun, sleep with your gun’ you even told the scientists, am I right? ‘That’s how we make it through this’ you said. I was at the meeting. You were great that night, after the first attack. Picked us all up, slapped us in the chops, gave us purpose. You really inspired us, I ever tell you that? Come on Man. That’s the twenty yard flag, Jimmy’s flag, not far now. Tell me, were the flags your idea? Sure, they’re useful, range markers, helps preserve ammo, but is that all? Know what Jimmy said? Right before they... anyhow, he said you planted flags to intimidate them, marking where they fell, but that’s crazy. And why have two colours? Black flags for them, red flags for us. I look across this God forsaken ice and I can name every damned red flag. They can’t be scared, only killed. They don’t know nothing, just follow a scent, like wolves. I mean, if intimidation worked, they wouldn’t just keep coming. Dave? Dave? Shit! Guess I plant yours here by the steps. No flag for me. I’ll just torch the place when they break the door down.

259 words

This story was written for Rebekah Postupak's Flash!Friday Challenge #46

The Dying of the Light

“My Lord, here are your guardsmen. Each is worthy of your trust and love. Every man here bears a champion’s name and tales are told of their great renown. Families across the land have welcomed them and feasted them on the hero’s portion. Our enemy’s men tremble and their women frighten children with the mere mention of their names.
Here is Einon ap Geraint, called the Anvil. He stood against their vanguard in the first rush of their charge. They swarmed and swooped in numbers like starlings roosting on a summer evening, but they broke against him as waves against a rocky shore.
Here is Brynmor ap Idris, the Mountain. He slew the enemy’s champion, Grimm the Kinslayer, who boasted that his spear was a gift from their Gods. In that mighty struggle Brynmor took the first thrust from the spear in order to lay hands upon the warrior.  With arms rippling like oaken boughs, he lifted the enemy high above his head then threw him down, breaking his back as the earth trembled and shook with the impact. He cut off the Kinslayer’s head and broke the spear across his knee.
Here is your captain Cadfan, the Battle Raven. In the heat of the fight, his flame shone and dazzled like the setting Sun. He carved a path of blood to their Prince and none could stand against him. Alone at last he faced the royal guard, who fell to his fell sword like ripe corn falls before a scythe, and great was the slaughter of his passing and worthy of song.
The last man here is best known to you. Maldwyn, named Brave Friend, whose butchered body we found shielding yours, broken sword in hand, faithful even to his last breath.
These warriors are the brightest and the best of our people. Each of these mighty men, sworn to defend you, and oath breakers none, now travels with you, in death as they did in life, as you begin your next journey. The wood of your pyre burns fitfully, gathered at night from land still wet with the blood of your enemies. Broken weapons surround you, Arthmael, last Lord of the Cymru, but your hand still holds your royal sword.
Your people have dire need of you, and your champions, against an enemy that lays waste to our homes and families. May your coming be as swift as the next Sun’s rising. The smoke bearing your spirit rises and turns toward the setting Sun. So, until your return, we will sing our songs and look to the West.

430 words

This story was written for Jeff Tsuruoka's Mid-Week Blues Buster #35 and was inspired by this week's song - 'I Am Going To The West' by Connie Dover
It was awarded second place in the contest.
Judge Anna Loy (@ruanna3) said:-
2nd place: Nick Johns
I loved the voice in this piece – it was strong and evoked a very mythic mood. I also enjoyed the Welsh flavour with the names and the storytelling. I really wanted to know about this world. It had a definite “Morte D’Arthur” feel.