Roma Gray’s 2015

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Name…………Roma Gray………………………………….

What has 2015 meant to you as a writer?
2015 has turned into my break out year! I’ve sold 11 short stories, self-published a collection of my work (Gray Shadows Under a Harvest Moon), AND I had a novel (The Hunted Tribe: Declaration of War) picked up by a publisher. I was also picked up as a staff editor at the same publishing house. This year has been pure gold for me.

What world events in 2015 moved you?
Wow. So many things. The Paris attack makes the top of the list.

Were there any leading events in your life in 2015?
I was just sick of my job and not living the life I wanted to live.

What great films did you see in 2015? Did they have any influence on your work?
Jurassic World tops the list. Scared me to death and reminded me that dinos are still scary. I have several dinosaur stories this year, so it did help.

Is it good riddance to 2015 or more au revoir?
au revoir

What are your hopes for 2016 as a writer?
To continue or exceed this trend.

Do you have any regrets concerning 2015?
I would have not spent money on a professional promotional company. My efforts were far more effective than their efforts.

Tell us about anything funny that happened to you/or friend/family during 2015
I received a book for xmas last year called “Apex Predator: The Chain” by S.A. McKernan. A few months later I met this author on Facebook (used her real name) and we become good friends. It wasn’t until later that I realized I had her book.

Give us a prediction for 2016 that will amaze us…(Donald Trump is going to morph into a Buddhist monk)
We will finally have proof that ET exists (a planet that is capable of supporting life was discovered this year. It is only 14 light years away.)

 

How Christmas features in Flight of Destiny

Little Mite 2014

Christmas features briefly in one of my short stories. However it offers a poignant end to “Little Mite”. Little Mite  is a young girl, who has done a very wicked thing and is being punished. The story starts off with a lawn lunch party. Little Mite’s sister is to marry the man of her dreams. Both set of families are meeting to organize what will be a lavish wedding. Little Mite however intercedes, taking the younger brother of the future groom to her father’s carpentry shed, then gluing his hand to a coffee table. She then lashes him with stinging nettles.

Here is an exert…

Carpentry was her father’s passion. He loved the feel of the
different kinds of wood, and whenever he got the chance, enjoyed
working the various woods into useful furniture, which, when
complete, were placed in conspicuous places of honor around the
house.

Little Mite called out Jed’s name in a luring sing-song voice, and
he shuffled nervously closer to her, not knowing what to expect. “Give
me your hand again,” she commanded.
Jed was unsure whether to do so. Still, he’d enjoyed the feeling of
her soft hand in his while running together from the lawn party to the
shed. She was the first girl who had ever really shown interest in him.
Though he continued vacillating between obeying this intoxicating girl
and running to his family, he finally gave in to her and bashfully
extended his hand.

The moment he did, Little Mite grabbed it and slapped it into the
middle of the glue, holding his hand there with all her might with both
her hands.

Jed, shocked by the abruptness and the unexpectedness of the act,
stood paralyzed, mouth open, staring at his hand while the glue
quickly hardened. By the time he’d gathered back his wits, protested,
and attempted to withdraw his hand, it was too late. After a hopeless
struggle, he resigned himself to waiting to see what the little vixen had
further in mind.

When the young girl’s gaffe comes to light, the wedding is soon thrown into turmoil. The young future groom soon turns his attention to an old flame, having been put off marrying a Dashville, following Mitzi Dashville’s prank. Her older sister is bitter towards her younger sister for destroying her dream of marrying Connor Johnson.

Little Mite is punished, but vows to win back her parent’s favor. This is where Christmas comes in. The Dashvilles, less Little Mite, who is grounded go to buy their Christmas presents.

Later that year, at Christmas, when the whole event should have
finally passed into ignominy, Hannah and her parents left for town to
do some last-minute shopping, leaving Little Mite behind. To Little
Mite it all seemed so unfair, but then, she was still grounded.
The time alone got her to thinking. She went downstairs and
opened the family dressing up box, tossing clothes all over the place,
until she found a bright and colorful dress from her mother’s short-lived
hippie days (her father had often ribbed her mother about it,
saying it resembled a clown outfit more than a dress). Slipping into it,
she looked in the mirror. It made her look totally ridiculous. Her plan
wasn’t her best or most original, but without a better idea, she decided
she to hide in her parent’s upstairs clothes closet, and, when they came
home and couldn’t find her, she would jump out and surprise them.

When her parents return, Little Mite’s prank goes horribly wrong…Little Mite’s parents believe they are victims of a burglary. However her older sister knows that the ongoing situation has all the hallmarks of a Little Mite prank and sees a gaping opportunity of gaining revenge on her sister…

 

Births and Dispatches on Christmas Day…

jesus-birth

We have no choice (normally) the day we die….William Shakespeare died on his 52nd birthday…There are certain days you wouldn’t wish to die on…one such being Christmas day.

Did you know the great Charlie Chaplain passed away on Christmas Day?
Joan Miro, the Spanish surrealist painter, died at his home in Majorca after a substantial life, aged 90.

Go back many years and you will find Adrian I, Italian Pope (772-95), who also enjoyed longevity dying aged 95.

In more recent times you find in 2004 – Gennady Strekalov, Russian cosmonaut left earth for the afterlife.

In 1995, Rat Pack member Dean Martin died on Christmas Day, at the age of 78.

In 2006 – the legendary James Brown, rhythm & blues, gospel, jazz, soul and funk singer dubbed The Godfather of Soul passed away following a heart attack.

Eartha Kitt, American actress and singer, (she has that instantly recognizable voice) died in 2008.

There are those equally unlucky in a way who are born on Christmas day. Christmas birthdays are so rare: according to a 2006 Harvard University study, December 25 is least common day for births (after February 29)
One such person is Shane MacGowan, lead singer of The Pogues, also a man who must lick his lips around Christmas, as he must look forward to royalties for a well-known Christmas hit, The Fairytale of New York.

One of Hollywood’s leading men during the 20th Century, Humphrey Bogart also celebrated his birthday day on December 25th every year until his demise in 1957

Annie Lennox, that singer with the fantastic voice, one time lead singer of the Eurythmics was also born on Christmas day.

A brilliant influential musician Cab Calloway, celebrated as one of the undisputed giants of jazz, scat pioneer Cabell “Cab” Calloway came to define the Harlem sound, is another born on Christmas day. Cab Calloway is noted for his barnstorming performance of Minnie the Moocher, which received a lot of attention as it was included in the much celebrated “Blue Brothers” film.

Sir Isaac Newton One of the most influential scientists of all time who formulated the laws of Gravity. Sir Isaac Newton was born on Christmas Day in 1642.  The  legend goes he was sitting under an apple tree when an apple fell and hit him on the head, thus giving him the idea for gravity…maybe the reality was different.

I happened to see Quentin Crisp give a talk in Vienna many years ago. Quentin is another born on Christmas day. His life was subject to a film, “The Naked Civil Servant” which starred John Hurt. Quentin Crisp was a kind of 60s version of Oscar Wilde.

Have you ever seen Stephen King’s Carrie, then you would know the actress Sissy Spacek. She spent her late teenage years hanging out at Andy Warhol’s infamous Factory

 

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Francis H Powell, author of Flight of Destiny, 22 quirky short stories…

I enjoyed these tales as they gave me a fantastic break from my daily routine and I enjoyed remembering them and day dreaming about them afterwards. They’re a little Ray Bradbury, a little Stephen King, but with Powell’s own unique twists. Very interesting read.

2015 good or bad

2015, what can we say, good year or bad year?

The start of the year for me was marked by a terrorist attack. The first wave on the Wednesday was the attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine. So followed two more days of terror. On the Thursday I was giving my students an exam but obviously what had happened the day before was very much in the minds of everyone…one student even remarked with words to the effect… “why are we doing this?”. It was true there was this palpable fraught prevailing atmosphere. Sirens were wailing as we persisted doggedly with the exam, which seemed irrelevant in light of what was going on. Walking home, I saw three ambulances racing past. One thing that happens in these kind of circumstances is that you become addicted to the news, feeding off whatever information and updates that come available. The terrorists were still at large at this time and so you really feel a need to baton down the hatches. The Porte de Vincennes siege at a Hypercacher kosher superette in Porte de Vincennes, is a bit too close for comfort, and explains the ambulances. We decide going to large shopping centers or doing unnecessary visits to Paris, is not possible, with our young son in mind. His crèche, perhaps due to the fact that we live in area with a Jewish population, has armed police near at hand, when we take him in the morning. Dismay turns to anger and the cry to preserve freedom of speech. Suddenly “Je suis Charlie” is the slogan posted everywhere. Leaders from all over the world arrive in solidarity, a large march takes place. Car chases and a shootout see the demise of the terrorist. A hero emerges from the Jewish supermarket siege, a man employed by the supermarket hides shoppers in a freezer, saving lives. The dust settles, Paris drifts out of the news…or at least so we thought…

Flamingos

My book “Flight of Destiny” has been an ongoing project for over three years…then on April the 7th it is finally published, with a mixture of relief and excitement. Before this momentous event, I had no idea I would also be responsible for the marketing process, hunting down interviews, spotlights, trying to gain any kind of visibility. I am entering a new world, I become a disciple of Goodreads, I post like crazy on facebook, I build up followers on Twitter. I join tweet teams. I start a blog. I learn quickly about things I was completely blind to, like what hashtag # is…My book seems to lack reviews…but friends and acquaintances seem intrigued enough to buy my book. I was told by publisher this was a book for an American audience…but there is no evidence of this. Reviews I discover are generally gained by exchanges with other authors…readers don’t write reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. I am now a social media junky. I discover more and more things don’t come easy for new authors. My book is a paperback, it is not cheap, promoting it proves like rolling a very sizable boulder up a very steep hill, it demands time and skills that other authors seem far more equipped with.

However…I can at least look book at two “reading I did with pleasure…The first reading was with two other authors… David Burke who wrote Writers in Paris, Literary Lives in the City of Light and
Randall Price, private chef and author of Chroniques Caustiques, his adventures in French kitchens.

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Good reduced

The second reading I did was a few days after terrorists struck Paris again. This attack saw countless young lives senselessly wasted. There were even people who were connected to an Architecture school where I work, who lost their lives. Many people were touched by this terrible event. The world seemed to unite in their condemnation. Months before I had been invited to do a reading for “Paris Lit up”. Though some people might be naturally anxious about going out in Paris, the event still attracted quite a rowdy boisterous crowd. I was the guest reader but there were people reciting poetry, singers, a film maker. Some chose to refer to the devastating events that were still fresh in the mind.

There were some good films that came out in 2015, films I enjoyed…
Birdman…great performance by Michael Keaton. Some memorable scenes. Should actors who have played superheroes try and venture into Broadway?

Foxcatcher…based (unbelievably) on a true story. What a great performance by Steve Carell, as an eccentric then ultimately dangerous millionaire John Eleuthère du Pont, whose passion is wrestling.

Whiplash…the film is dominated by a psychotic overly passionate drum teacher played by JK Simmons. I still have vivid memories from school of a maths teacher who totally “lost it” and would let loose his aggression on those (like myself) incapable of following his class. I had a tutor at art college, who was not aggressive physically, but who was more psychological, freaking us out.

Still Alive, as ever produced a great performance Julianne Moore, who at a young age develops Alzheimer’s disease.

Amy

A film that I found fascinating was “Amy” a documentary about Amy Winehouse. I wrote an article about this film, below is an exert.

It’s no surprise that so many talented musicians, die before they reach thirty (there is of course the 27 club, featuring Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. Amy Winehouse, also died age 27 and is subject to a controversial film. Even if you are not inspired by her music, this film makes fascinating watching, as well as being heart rendering. I wonder what was going through many people’s mind at her funeral? Had some people contributed to her downfall and death? There must have been some guilty consciences…
Like many people she had this destructive streak. If she wasn’t plying herself with drugs, it was alcohol, and her death was put down to alcohol poisoning. Why should we be sad? Every so many generations comes a singer that is exceptional, outstanding or which adjective you choose to use…Amy was one such singer. By the end her life was a circus, she had lost control.
Even in semi-conscious states Amy was put on a plane and sent out to do concerts. There is a slight “Syd and Nancy” feel about Amy and her husband Blake Fielder-Civil. In the film Blake does not across very favorably, with druggy sounding drawl. It was he, who introduced Amy to harder drugs.
Blake is Amy’s partner in this spiraling down to oblivion. Both tortured souls, both kindred spirits…
All the pain Amy has gathered in her mind also adds to her incredible creativity. There is that amazing captivating voice of hers, up with the jazz greats…but there is also the fact that she puts so much of herself into her songs.

The year was also marked by abhorrent images of ISIS slaughtering, abusing, torturing men and women alike, as well as destroying historical artifacts. They seem to be intent on conjuring up the cruelest ways to torture and kill people, they are simply pure evil. However politicians, apart from trying to extinguish them by dropping bombs seem to have no pro-active proposals to destroy this evil. The world seems to have slipped into one almighty mess. I can’t be too optimistic for 2016, there just seems to be more terrifying prospects in store unless we put an end to this never ending cycle of hatred.

This article was part of a Festive blog hop, to read other articles by authors and bloggers, click

 

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Justin Bienvenue’s year

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Name: Justin Bienvenue
What has 2015 meant to you as a writer?
It’s been a great year and I feel I’ve developed and grown more as a writer. There were ups and downs but both have made me more aware and more inept as a writer. It’s given me a new perspective on certain aspects of my writing and promoting that I have otherwise ignored or wouldn’t have considered until this year. The best part is it’s helped me shape a fine outlook and promising future for next year.
What world events in 2015 moved you?
In all honesty I don’t really pay attention to the news or world happenings and if I do while I may feel bad for them I wouldn’t say they move me or impact me. There were a lot of events that took place and they’ve all been either upsetting or heartfelt.
Were there any leading events in your life in 2015?
The completion of my fourth novel was probably my biggest event. I really worked hard perhaps harder than I have worked for previous novels and I think it definitely speaks volumes as a leading event for the year.
What great films did you see in 2015? Did they have any influence on your work?
I saw quite a bit of films this year but I can’t remember them all or one that stands out. I’ve also started watching a lot of new shows. I’d say bits and pieces of the films and shows have played a small impact of inspiration on my works.
Is it good riddance to 2015 or more au revoir?
Au revoir, it was a good year and I’m sad to see it go so definitely not good riddance.
What are your hopes for 2016 as a writer?
Good question. I hope to really implement some promotion and marketing tactics that I’ve picked up along the way of 2015. There’s been so much that I’ve learned that I haven’t really known when to look into it so there’s some tips and tricks and ideas I’m saving until next year to try such as promoting with Facebook Ads, Fiverr, trying to build a more established e-mail list, be more blog-happy. Basically just do what I’ve either already done better or try new things to build my name as an author. I hope to release two more books but am aiming toward at least one as one never knows how busy one will become during the new year.
Do you have any regrets concerning 2015?
If anything I regret not getting out more and socializing or even promoting my book around town. I told myself I’d try both but I felt as though I had so much to get done and time and other things got in the way. So I’d say overall my biggest regret of this year would be not using my time wisely.
Tell us about anything funny that happened to you/or friend/family during 2015
Well a few months back I kept getting phone calls saying my computer had many errors on it. It was always the same guy and he talked in a thick indian accent and so fast that I never really got what he said or believed him. Especially since I bought this computer this year. Well one day I finally decided to see what he was talking about. I asked him if he knew who I was and he said yes and said my mother’s name to which I said no thats not who I am. I then said, how are you gonna tell me somethings wrong with my computer when you don’t even know who I am? you don’t know who the hell I am do you? And the guy said back, who the hell are you in a bewildered voice and hung up. I thought it was hilarious.
Apparently he had my old computer on file from like 2004 which I haven’t used in years. It was quite a funny moment.
Give us a prediction for 2016 that will amaze us…(Donald Trump is going to morph into a Buddhist monk)
There will be flying cars taking off at some point during the year, more cars driving by themselves, Uber drivers will equal or eclipse taxi services and there will be a football team back in Los Angeles for the first time since 1994.

Why do we tell ghost stories at Christmas?

Christmas story reading

 

Christmas has a binding association with ghosts, going back in time just before Christmas 1642, for instance, shepherds were said to have seen ghostly civil war soldiers battling in the skies. Ghosts have long been in people’s minds. In The Egyptian Book of the Dead, departed people are shown to return, not merely looking as they did in life, but dressed in similar garments.

Christmas has different memories for different people. One memory I hold is there was always a “ghost story” on TV as well the fact that Charles Dickens also often featured. It seems a strange combination, “ghost stories” and” Christmas” so where does this union come from?
The answer is commonly assumed would probably be Victorian times. This period which is usually seen as being rather staid, prim and proper, but also was characterized by those who wanted their share of thrills.
Charles Dickens is heralded as perpetuating this desire to be captivated by chilling tales at Christmas. There is little evidence prior to Dickens that authors wrote ghost stories for Christmas in mind, but some have their own points of view.

The writer Peter Haining, in the introduction to his collection of festive chillers Christmas Spirits says about Dickens. “Yet despite the seeming timelessness of this tradition, it has to be admitted that the idea of creating ghosts stories especially for telling at Christmas goes back no further… than the time of Charles Dickens.”

Dig further back into the past quite a while before Dickens and you have a famous bard who might also lay claim to originating this fascination with spine chilling stories. One of William Shakespeare’s most famous works Hamlet can be considered as being a ghost story. He also includes many traits of Ghost Stories with his Winter’s Tale.
The tale which begins ‘There was a man dwelt by a churchyard…which leads us to believe it is going to be a ghost story. Winter tales were similar, if not identical to Christmas ghost stories.

Dickens writes in Telling Winter Stories, from The Christmas Tree in 1859, “There is probably a smell of roasted chesnuts and other good comfortable things all the time, for we are telling Winter Stories – Ghost Stories, or more shame for us – round the Christmas fire.” Shakespeare used the phrase in A Winter’s Tale, “A sad tale’s best for winter: I have one. Of sprites and goblins.” And a hundred years before that in 1589, in the Jew of Malta, Christopher Marlowe writes:
“Now I remember those old women’s words,
Who in my wealth would tell me winter’s tales,
And speak of spirits and ghosts that glide by night”

Shakespearian scholar Catherine Belsey writes of Shakespeare.
Among the terms in circulation in the period for far-fetched narratives and improbable fables, one favorite was “a winter’s tale.” In the long, cold evenings, when the soil had been tilled to the extent that climatic conditions permitted, the still predominantly agricultural community of early modern England would sit and while away the hours of darkness with fireside pastimes, among them old wives’ tales designed to enthrall young and old alike.

We can trace the telling of ghost stories as a popular winter craze to the 16th century and that it was an integral part of the Elizabethan Christmas festivities. A ‘winter’s tale’ has become synonymous with weird stories of the fantastic and phantasmagoric, however the tradition most likely goes back at least a century further…

While I used to cower behind the sofa watching a riveting ghost story on TV, prior to television, my ancestors would be gathered around a roaring fire, some might say much more atmospheric.
Inherent in Christmas are many ancient supernatural aspects. I remember while living Austria, being told of the ritual of Krampus, which is still followed in modern times in rural areas. While Saint Nicholas may bestow gifts to good boys and girls, ancient folklore in Europe’s Alpine region also tells of Krampus, a frightening beast-like creature who emerges during the Yule season, looking for naughty children to punish in horrible ways — or possibly to drag back to his lair in a sack. I heard stories of people dressed as Krampus running amok in Austrian villages.

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The work of Henry James often features as a TV adaptation. James’s work helped bring back the tradition from obscurity, as the formed the basis of the BBC’s A Ghost Story for Christmas, which was a yearly Christmas offering dating back to 1971.
M R James is recognized as the undisputed master of the Christmas Ghost story. His stories, were written to be read around Christmas to a select group of friends. His work encompassed the dual nature of the season – the cosiness of sitting round the fire, but at the same time the need to banish the dark.
Can you pass through Christmas without watching Scrooge, the antithesis of the Christmas spirit? Or curling up in front of a roaring fire, with a good ghost story in hand?

This article was part of a Festive blog hop, to read other articles by authors and bloggers, click

 

FOLLOW Francis H Powell, on Twitter

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Francis H Powell, author of Flight of Destiny, 22 quirky short stories…

I enjoyed these tales as they gave me a fantastic break from my daily routine and I enjoyed remembering them and day dreaming about them afterwards. They’re a little Ray Bradbury, a little Stephen King, but with Powell’s own unique twists. Very interesting read.

A short story for Christmas, “Angel Child”

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Angel child
I had been woken up, by the sound of wailing. Such sorrow. emanating from next door. It was my neighbor I presumed. The sound of such melancholy prevailed in my head, relentlessly. I had only seen my neighbor from afar, she was a blurred image of beauty and turbulence. Added to this terrible noise, I began to be aware of smell of burning wafting into my room. I bolted upright. I wrestled with putting on some clothes. I frantically banged on my neighbors door. With all my force I kicked open the door. I was confronted with a thick blanket of smoke. I wrapped my shirt around my face, as a meager form of protection. The sound of hysterical crying was coming from behind another door. I foolishly tried to open this door. I reeled in agony on contact with the door handle, my hand severely burnt. I managed to catch the vague sight of a figure in white, consumed in thick white smoke. The wailing sound was curtailed and tranquility prevailed. Defeated by the smoke, I left the apartment. I took time to compose myself. There was a mounting sorrow welling up, at failing to save this woman, as well as a sense of urgency to alert others of the urgency of the situation. “Fire” I screamed in a hoarse fraught voice. I heard a few doors opening, a few exasperated sighs. An old woman shuffled out of her apartment, looking dazed and confused. As the realization of the situation began to take hold. parents desperately ushered their bleary eyed children towards the stairs. Panic started to grip the building. I grabbed a bag from my apartment.

The stairwell was starting to get clogged up, with families frantically trying to get out of the building. I heard a voice. It might have been telepathic, a voice in my head, it was ticklish and soft, the voice of a child. “Water” the voice said in this temperate tone. I turned round. The child was dressed in blindingly white dress. Her hair was curled and blond, her eyes sparkling blue azure. For a moment the excruciating pain of my hand disappeared. I reached into my bag. I happened to always carry a bottle of water. It was probably a few days old. It didn’t matter, she let out this delicious smile and cupped the bottle in her gentle hands. “Where are your parents”? I demanded. She looked like a child that was on her own, forgotten by the rest of the world, on her own in this time of need. She didn’t answer, her face remained inanimate and serene. Suddenly I was jerked forward. A large man with a ruddy face, snorting, jostling to make it down the steps. “We want to get out of here mister,” he bellowed. His wife nodded in accord, reinforcing his statement. They both looked dehumanized, their faces white and severe, crazed looking. A melee of other people swept me further forward. The child was lost from my vision, but not from my thoughts.

Fire fighters were on the scene. A man with a hose trying to make his way in the opposite direction of the crowd. “Let me through” he shouted in gruff officious voice, to the residents so intent on getting out. I reached outside. The cold night air hit my face. The street was awash with activity, parents huddled closely to their children. I searched intently for the young girl, but she was nowhere to be seen and nobody knew of her whereabouts or indeed who she was. I was shepherded into an ambulance. My time in hospital was long and arduous, my hand injury horrific, my hand now horribly disfigured. The pain was significant, coupled with the fact that in a matter of days I was due to get married. My future wife was away, visiting some relations. She was now due to marry a man with a grotesque looking hand. How she would react? This would surely test our love. My moment of attempted heroics or perhaps folly had meant
my hand would never be fully functional, even withstanding many operations and physiotherapy, the doctor had painted, such a gloomy picture. As I was making my way home, I was fearful and indeed despondent. I had been pumped with drugs to alleviate the pain. I had no inclinations about what I would find when I finally got home. The building seemed to be back to normality. People sleeping soundly, after their broken sleep. I trudged upstairs. My neighbors door had been boarded up. There was a distinct smell of smoke, but the fire had been put out abruptly and proficiently.

I went into my apartment, managed to take off my clothes, with my one able hand, wincing with the occasional shots of pain. I finally put my weary head down. After a short while, I was drifting off asleep. When I woke up, my mind was filled with images of the previous night. It was the face of the young girl, that dominated. My phone rang, it was my fiancé, I had almost obliterated her from my mind, less thoughts of my disfigured hand, and how she would react. She spoke with great enthusiasm, up to the point, she detected, there was a big problem my end. Her voice dropped. “What’s the matter”? she demanded. I had to explain all the events of the previous night. “Oh my God” she spluttered. I explained that my hand was now bandaged up and was not in a good condition. She had cooed at my attempts of rescuing my neighbor, heralding my bravery, but mention of my hand had taken the shine off the conversation. Walking down the aisle, to a man with a bandaged hand, on what was to be the greatest day in her life, had limited appeal. “Won’t it heal” she asked in a displeased voice. “I am afraid not” I said philosophically, with a voice of stark resignation. I put the phone down feeling somewhat let down. The wedding seemed of weightier importance, to the fact that I had a horrifically burnt hand. I called work to say I would not be in, explaining the severity of my injury.

I then drifted in and out of an uneasy sleep. I woke up finally to the sound of muffled voices. As slowly came round, my interest mounted. It was apparent that the conversation was between a fire officer and a policeman. I managed to get some clothes on, withstanding some pain. I opened my door. “I am her neighbor” I said. “Her neighbor” muttered the policeman incredulously, lifting an eyebrow. “The woman who died, I was her neighbor”. “We found no body” said the fire fighter, with a flippant voice. “What are you saying” I demanded, “I saw her in the smoke, I tried to rescue her.” The two men laughed mockingly. “This apartment has been empty and derelict for years, there was a small fire, but nothing too significant, probably some old wiring, our boys had things under control in no time.” I felt indignant , as well as confused. “So you found no body”, I reiterated in desperation. The Policeman, who had a huge snout of a nose, and a derogatory demeanor, ridiculed “what a dark mind you have. sir” He followed his comment with a scornful laugh, which was accompanied by the fire fighter, whose face was lit up with mirth. It was like the two were in collusion, undermining anything I said,

I returned to my apartment, slamming my door with venom. After a while the voices from outside, drifted away. The two men sauntered down the long flight of stairs, still ridiculing, sardonic cackles interspersed. I felt angry. I spent the day recovering and trying to take my mind off the pain of my hand. I asked some of the other residents, if they knew of the young girl. Nobody seemed to know anything, I was met with blank looks. Even though I tried to give as full a description, as I could, I got nowhere. Nobody equally told me anything of the apartment and my “neighbor”. “The apartments been empty for as long as I can remember” said one old lady. “But I saw this woman on a number of occasions, just through the door” I protested, “I saw her last night.”. The old woman moved shakily away, muttering, probably deeming I was insane and deluded. I watched some mindless television, but my mind was too agitated, to digest anything. I tried to sleep, it was impossible. I had curiosity dictating my thoughts, never relinquishing. I got up, almost mechanically, unsure what I was about to do. The answers to this mystery, lay next door. I slung on some clothes and went out of my apartment. Momentarily I looked at the apartment, that had a notice “Police notice keep out”. As with my folly of the previous night, I decided to make a bold move. I re-entered my apartment and picked up a crowbar. With my one decent working hand, I managed to prize open the door.

The apartment seemed empty, cold and vapid. I held my arms close to my chest and shivered. I felt like an intruder. I began to question my own actions. What I wondered had led me to break in to this latent
apartment, which seemingly had nothing for me. I was about to turn on my heals, when I felt a presence.
She appeared so suddenly and deftly . She looked miniscule in the vastness of the apartment. She glided towards me, she had a blithe look on her face. She was wearing the same immaculate white dress. She did not speak, I would not have expected her to, her face expressed it all. I pitifully tried to communicate with her. “What’s your name” I asked in a soft voice, worried I might alarm her. She looked right through me. A smile reached her face and she seemed to enact a dance movement, she twirled and then giggled, her arms cutting an arc shape through the air. Any question I asked was met with total insouciance and disregard. Her dancing became emphatic, she began to circle me, dancing round and around, to the point where I began to be mesmerized. My legs began to give way. I was blinded, a bright light seemed to illuminate the room. I was now a crumpled heap on the floor, my body immobilized. Something miraculous was happening and I was the beneficiary of this magic.
The young girl lent over me and unraveled the bandage on my hand. I did not protest. She was so gentle, and proficient in the way she went about things. She was still smiling and joyful. Once the bandage had been unraveled, she held my hand. There was no pain however. Indeed any pain I’d had previously was now alleviated. I drifted off and went into a deep sleep. When I came round I was alone. I felt a bit groggy, but as the grogginess began to wane, it became apparent a big change had happened.

My hand was as it was before the fire, perfect without a single blemish. I gave the apartment a closer inspection. It was now back to this imposing emptiness, the child having disappeared. There seemed nothing of value. Under a dense film of dust on the mantelpiece, there was a photograph. It had faded in time, but the resemblance was most apparent. The photograph was of a young woman, it was obviously the young child, some years on., having matured as an adult There was still the discernible beauty , but there was also some sadness engrained in her face. The young child was joyful and optimistic, the adult version, tainted by angst. I had encountered the optimistic one. Something significant had taken place, in her life, the bright glowing child had been lost to the world, or had it? It seemed like the glowing child had the capacity to rematerialize.

I took the photograph and went back to my apartment. I took stock of events, made some telling decisions. I put my impending marriage into perspective. I came to the decision I could not commit to a marriage, where I as unsure I would be loved. My confidence in the union had been broken, her love for me superficial, her reaction to my disfigured hand, had proved as much. I was cowardly in the way I broke the news. The fact that my hands were both in a perfect state, also besmirched me further. I skirted around all explanations, I would never have been believed anyway. I had left my now ex-fiancé weeping, great sobs, her head in her hands. I felt terrible, maybe there had been some love between us, I had underestimated her. I lived in almost solitude. I was trapped, unable to think beyond those events and the angel child, as I had named her.

What had happened previously in the apartment, was hidden in a veil of secrecy and I imagined deceit, none of the residents would let me in on the secret. I even had to question myself about the events of the fire and the days that followed. After all my hand was now in a perfect condition, with burns or marks to show, evidence that I had entered a burning apartment. I had no name, just images in my mind, images that would diminish in time. The residents of the building ostracized me for daring to question them, to probe into the deep mystery of what had passed in the apartment next to mine. There would never be any explanation, my mind would be in darkness.

A few years on and with the value of local property escalating, the boarding around the door were taken away. Some property developer, had purchased the property and was investing money into it. In time so doubt rich owners were installed. They seemed friendly enough. One day the door to the apartment, was slightly ajar. I was sure I could make out the image of a young girl with a mop of thick curly blonde hair dancing with a scintillating smile of contentment, on her angelic face, it must be the angel child, but then again…

 

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Francis H Powell, author of Flight of Destiny, 22 quirky short stories…

I enjoyed these tales as they gave me a fantastic break from my daily routine and I enjoyed remembering them and day dreaming about them afterwards. They’re a little Ray Bradbury, a little Stephen King, but with Powell’s own unique twists. Very interesting read.