Grey Matter

IN THE thick of a mass murder investigation, a home specialising in the care of Alzheimers patients exudes a distinct aura of smoke and mirrors that somehow manages to escape the notice of the police. Exactly how many secrets is it trying to hide?
Full story here.

Grey Matter is an experimental short story from M K MacInnes, only available on Scribd for now due to formatting constraints and best downloaded as a PDF on a PC. Click pic for direct link to Scribd – free to download and you don’t have to be a Scribd member to view it.

Note:

1. This is a work of pure fiction that should not be confused with real fake news.

2. Grey Matter is a WORK IN PROGRESS. Constructive feedback ever so welcome.

3. I have published it to Scribd, as having a fixed format, I have no control over how it looks in other platforms such as Amazon.

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2017

 

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Le Piroquet

parrot

THE SEARING Marseilles heat was a welcome change from the clinging smell of autumnal mildew that permeated Paris of an evening. It was morning, dawn but a distant memory for the flora and the fauna encircling my bedroom window. The sun already seemed high and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. I had just opened the wooden shutter, invigorated by a subtle awareness of the cool air hugging the ground and the soft caress of sun on my face. Better than I had ever imagined life in the South of France to be, the moment could not be more perfect. I felt connected, at one with the whole of Creation.

Sitting on the branch of an orange tree about five feet from me was a beautiful winged creature, a glorious technicolour parrot straight from the pages of Treasure Island.

“Wow, you’re gorgeous!”, I exclaimed.

He blinked at me, as if to say “Yes, I know.”

I blinked too, in disbelief that such an audience had presented itself.

The parrot studied me. I studied back. Who was the more curious, me or him? I looked about to see if there was another soul around. Nope. Just me and the bird.

It flicked its head as if it had a nervous twitch. Just as it occurred to me that he wanted to scratch, he lifted his right claw and did the deed. He squawked in a self-satisfied manner and tilted his head the other way.

I tilted mine and squawked back.

It occurred to me that I should try to teach it to say something funny. How did one say “Who’s a pretty boy, then” or “Don’t get your knickers in a twist” in French? No, that would be beneath me and insult the parrot.

As if he knew what I was thinking, he cocked his head, strutted on the spot as if walking on hot coals, then began to whistle. He articulated three crisp clear notes.

I said nothing. I couldn’t whistle to save myself. All attempts by my father to teach me had failed.

He whistled the same three notes yet again. Still I uttered not a sound.

It was only when he whistled the third time that the penny dropped and I attempted to follow suit. My first efforts were in vain, for I blew like a flat tyre.

He repeated the same notes. I tried again. And again. And again. He persisted until I had mastered whistling all the notes in exactly the manner that he had done.
I couldn’t believe I was actually doing it. At long bloody last, I could whistle …

After a short pause, in which he almost seemed to make a little bow of approval, the maestro whistled again. Only this time, there were four notes. The first two were the same as before, but the third was different and the fourth was entirely new.

In the midst of my euphoria, it was not lost on me that the parrot knew exactly what it was doing. Everything about this strange and wonderful experience made me want to pinch myself. I half expected Richard Dreyfuss to come out of nowhere and a massive flying disk to appear above my head. Close Encounters of the Bird Kind … ha ha. I kept my imaginings simple and settled instead on Simon Says.

But Mister Feathered Smarty Pants was not satisfied that I had got the hang of four notes. Oh no, he piled it on and took it up to five. By the time he racked the level of difficulty up to six, my attention span was shot to pieces and I couldn’t handle all the notes.

He paced about like a disgruntled drill sergeant, then looked at me as if to say “Pfft, is that it?”

Mmm, I could smell breakfast. I shrugged my shoulders as if to say “Mais oui.”

In the blink of an eye my Teacher fluttered off into the big blue sky.

FIN

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2015-2017

The Skipper

foxy

IT WAS still there then. My cardboard mattress topped with musty carpet still intact, thank God nobody else had found my refuge. The corporate umbrella, concealed by thick bushes and at full mast to shield me from the elements, hadn’t moved since this morning. Under it, still rolled up, was my four-season sleeping bag.

The flattened boxes, damp and soft from five days of use, were dispensable. The ones I had just lifted from the nearby supermarket carpark were even better suited. Now with any luck there would be no snow and I would be guaranteed a good night’s sleep, just like the one I had had the night before. The very thought of lying cold and awake was too much to bear.

I finished the rolled up cigarette I had started yesterday, then fought with my sleeping bag until I lay half shut like a Swiss knife. Safe, warm and dry, what more could a homeless man ask for. Rock bottom wasn’t always so bad now, was it. Snuggled in a toasty sleeping bag, the stars upon you, it was easier to pretend that things could only get better. That is until you remembered you were alone, so so alone.

Just as I began to drift off, I felt something brush against the back of my knees.

“What the ****?”

I shuffled, thinking I it must have been a rat or a bird. Then I felt it again. There was no mistake, something large was pressing into me. I lifted my head to look over my shoulder only to find a wary pair of eyes and pointed ears looking back at me. Tucked between the back of my knees and a large stone was a small fox. We locked eyes, both as bemused as the other, until finally It ducked its head back behind my knees. The moon winked behind a cloud, just as I closed my eyes.

All was well.

“Night night, wee pal.”

 

Copyright (c) MK MacInnes 2017

Devil’s Pawn

fireplace

ACT I

A TEENAGE boy wakes from a deep sleep surrounded by a beautiful vista, a field of blue and red poppies in a sea of green. The sky is exquisite sapphire. An airship in the shape of a pointing hand flies overhead, emblazoned with red block letters that he cannot read.

A road appears to be going in the general direction of where the finger is pointed. Before the boy has a chance to follow the path, the hand swings in his direction. Thunderclouds form and the sky turns black. Now the hand is pointing squarely at the young man. In terror, he runs as fast as he can.

But the airship chases him across endless fields of dead poppies until, exhausted, he crumples into a heap. The last thing he sees is the ship bearing down on him and the words DEVIL SPAWN.


ACT II

Scene 1

A LOG cabin nestles in a blanket of hard-blowing snow, illuminated by a soft moon. The chimney coughs furballs of pinesmoke. The scene would be idyllic, as that of a Christmas card, were it not for the trio of wolves chewing on a moose carcass just by the treeline.

 Scene 2

THE interior of the cabin is fitted in plush Viking style. Rich tapestries, paintings and animal furs deck the walls. A leather wing-backed chair stands by the hearth of a walk-in open log fire. The date on the state-of-the-art TV unit flashes 01:17, 010197.

A MAN in his early thirties emerges from a well-camouflaged elevator to the back of the living area. Wearing a richly embroidered bathrobe, he pours himself a Jack Daniels on the rocks and falls into the leather chair.

Within a few moments, the sound of a helicopter is discernible. It gets louder and louder, until it finally stops. Seconds later, there is a loud knock at the door. MAN picks up a device, puts it to his ear, then points it at the door.

An OLDER MAN enters wearing heavy ski-ing gear. He pulls up his frost-covered goggles and pulls down his ski mask.

OLDER MAN: Happy New Year, sir.

MAN: Happy New Year. What do you want?

OLDER MAN hesitates and casts his eyes around the room.

MAN: We’re in the middle of the Arctic Circle, for chrissakes. What do you think?

OLDER MAN: I have every reason to be paranoid, sir. Right now the company’s leakier than the Titanic.  Half our phones are tapped.

MAN: It’s clean. Say what you have to say, then clear off. I’m in no mood for auld lang syne.

OLDER MAN: We have a problem at the lab.

MAN: There’s always a problem at the lab. Tell me something new.

OLDER MAN: But this time Austin’s threatening to go to the press. This could blow up in all our faces. What do you want me to do?

MAN: Just do what you’re paid to do. I don’t care how you do it.

OLDER MAN: But, with respect, sir, the public mood is turning. And the shareholders are getting nervous.  They feel you’re taking too many unnecessary risks. You might pull it off once but not twice.

MAN: Don’t be such a wimp. The shareholders have plenty else to worry about if I don’t. I know what I’m doing and what I’m asking of you is perfectly legal. It’ll be my neck on the line, anyway, not yours.

OLDER MAN: You’re out of your depth. You’re not your father.

MAN: No, I’m not. But I will not fail him. And I will exceed him.

MAN does not see OLDER MAN roll his eyes.

MAN: Any news of Hannah’s whereabouts?

OLDER MAN: Your sister?

MAN: Who else?

OLDER MAN: Oh, she’s doing same old same old.

MAN: She’s with the protesters then?

OLDER MAN: Yes, I’m afraid so, sir.

MAN: Yeah, that figures. Just my luck to have a treacherous tree-hugger in the family. You know your life won’t be worth living if you let her out of your sight, don’t you? What about Melanie and the kids?

OLDER MAN: They’re fine. Out of sight. Confused, of course, about what’s going on. Come to think of it, what is going on? If you want me to do my job, you need to tell me everything. I know this is only the tip of the iceberg.

MAN: You really don’t want to know. Just be thankful you have the luxury of deniability.

OLDER MAN: Yeah, you’re right, you’re so so right.

OLDER MAN puts his ski mask and goggles back on and turns towards the door.

MAN: See you when the dust settles then.

OLDER MAN: Yeah, see you. Thanks for the drink an’ all.

MAN: Yeah, whatever.

OLDER MAN opens the door to the sound of the harsh wind. Seconds later the door is shut. MAN is left in silence staring at the ice in the bottom of his whisky glass.


ACT III

Scene 1

TWO New York paramedics push a trolley along a busy hospital corridor at a brisk pace, accompanied by a junior doctor in surgical greens trying to keep up and carrying a clipboard. The patient lies on his side, attached to an IV drip and numerous electrodes connected to a monitor emitting rapid beeps. The digital clock on the wall reads 06:17 PM, Oct 6, 2015.

OLDER PARAMEDIC: Caucasian male, mid forties. Identity unknown. Suspected drug and alcohol overdose. Respiration forty to fifty, heart rate around one fifty. Pupils dilated. Core body temp thirty nine point six and rising.

DOCTOR: No ID at all?

ROOKIE PARAMEDIC: Nothing. The guy that made the call gave us a name but it turns out to be bogus. Whoever he was, he covered his tracks.

DOCTOR: Any evidence of habitual drug use?

OLDER PARAMEDIC: None that we can see. But then he wasn’t at home. We got the call from the director at the Waldorf Astoria, so maybe an occasional coke user, you never know. Only whatever he took, we don’t know what it is. He paid for his room in cash, so no credit card, nothing.

DOCTOR: So what do we know?

OLDER PARAMEDIC: Half a bottle of whisky and an unidentified drug, no label or bottle. We’ve sent four blister packs with the whisky bottle to the lab for analysis. Caution, product sample, not for use.  In case of emergency, please contact Something Laboratories followed by a phone number. The desk are on it now.

DOCTOR: How many then?

ROOKIE PARAMEDIC: Most likely the whole pack. Two thousand milligrams of God only knows what. Ingestion two, maybe three hours ago. It was lucky he was already in the recovery position when we arrived.

OLDER PARAMEDIC: I just hope for his sake this wasn’t a cry for help.

ROOKIE PARAMEDIC: What do you mean?

OLDER PARAMEDIC: He’s too far gone. He won’t make it.

ROOKIE PARAMEDIC: You can’t say that.

OLDER PARAMEDIC: Oh, grow up. I do know it’s too late to pump. Just pray to God that number’s not on answerphone.

Just as the trolley arrives at the surgical room, the beeping on the monitor gives way to a continuous tone. Mad dash. Full CPR.

Scene 2

MAN arrives at the Pearly Gates of Heaven. He is greeted by an impish figure dressed in a
white medical coat and carrying a clipboard.

IMP: Name.

MAN: Name? Sorry, where am I?

IMP: if you don’t know where you are, then you’re in bigger trouble than I thought. Name.

MAN: Rogan. Josh.

IMP: Ha ha. Very funny. Name.

MAN: My name is Josh Rogan. Now where the hell am I?

IMP: Ooh, close. Come this way, please.

IMP leads MAN away from the Gates and down a flight of stairs.

Scene 3

A door opens. MAN and IMP enter. The room resembles a domed greenhouse, glass and flora everywhere. In the middle of the dome is a massive ornate desk, with a leather top and quill and ink. Behind it is a shiny wing-backed leather chair facing away. The person sitting in it is on the phone.

IMP: Josh Rogan, sir. Or so he says.

The chair swings round and the occupant puts down the phone. An older man with a dark brown freckled complexion and fuzzy silver-grey hair beams a perfect set of pearly white teeth.

CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Grenville. Have some coffee. We might be some time.

JOSH’s eyes widen.

JOSH: You, you look like Morgan Freeman … You are Morgan Freeman. Then that means …

JOSH is white as a sheet.

CHAIRMAN: Yes, that’s right, son, you guessed it. You’d better sit down.

A chair materialises in front of the desk. JOSH sits and makes himself uncomfortable.

CHAIRMAN: Sooo, it’s been a while. Have you anything to say for yourself?

JOSH: Sorry?

CHAIRMAN: No, you don’t have to be sorry. I’m not here to judge you. I’m here to help you. Understand.

JOSH: Understand what?

CHAIRMAN: What happened. Why.

JOSH: I really don’t follow. You mean what did I do wrong?

CHAIRMAN: No, I never said that. I asked you to tell me what happened. No right. No wrong. I repeat, you are not being judged.

Long silence. CHAIRMAN remains cool. JOSH shifts in his seat.

CHAIRMAN: I’m waiting.

The colour rises in JOSH’s face. A flash of conflicting emotions.

JOSH: No. No, you’re not doing this. This isn’t part of the deal. There’s been some mistake. I should have gone straight to Hell. Why am I even here?

CHAIRMAN: No, that is where you’re wrong, Josh Rogan. This is by far the best part of the deal. Why would you think otherwise?

JOSH: But I am nothing to you. You gave up on me a long time ago. And I gave up on you.

CHAIRMAN: Ah, yes, you did. But which came first? The chicken or the egg?

JOSH: This is ridiculous. Will you please stop talking in riddles. You’re really pissing me off now.

CHAIRMAN pulls out a cigar from a top drawer.

CHAIRMAN: Tsk. Harsh words for someone who’s trying to get his soul back.

CHAIRMAN lights up cigar and puffs a billow of smoke. Josh stands up abruptly and leans over the desk.

JOSH: Don’t you dare play with me. I don’t care who you are. This is some joke, it must be. This isn’t real.

CHAIRMAN: Oh but it is. Why would you think this is a joke?

JOSH throws himself back into the chair in resignation.
He pulls at his face.

JOSH: Because I’m fucked. My soul is gone. Deal done. Finito. Sayonara.

CHAIRMAN: And you know this how, pray tell?

CHAIRMAN leans right back into his wing-backed chair. His casual demeanour exacerbates JOSH’s nerves further.

JOSH: You know full well. Why even ask?

CHAIRMAN: I want to hear you say it.

JOSH: Say what? That I sold my soul?

JOSH spits the words.

JOSH: That I knew from the age of frickin’ fifteen that I was damned for eternity? Is that what you want to hear?

JOSH is standing up now, in a state of agitation, hands clasped on top of his head.

CHAIRMAN: What happened when you were fifteen to make you so certain of this?

JOSH: You know. The dream. The one where you told me that I was the spawn of the Devil.

CHAIRMAN: I told you that?

JOSH: Yes, you did. You disowned me. From that day forward, you obviously wanted nothing more to do with me.

CHAIRMAN: How did that make you feel?

JOSH: Hey, let me finish. At first I was devastated. I felt empty. Like I do now. But then in time realised that I had been set free. And I owed nothing to nobody except myself.

CHAIRMAN: Then what?

JOSH: Well, you know. I sold my soul.

CHAIRMAN: You keep saying this. But did you really? Think back.

JOSH: Well, what else do you call it? I sold my soul when Father got sick and gave me control of the company. Lock, stock and barrel.

CHAIRMAN: Are you sure about that now?

JOSH: Yes, of course I’m sure. How could I forget something like that? The day my life changed for the better. The day I became somebody.

CHAIRMAN: Josh, there’s something I want to show you.

CHAIRMAN gets up.

CHAIRMAN: Follow me.

CHAIRMAN leads JOSH to an elevator. The 6th floor button is lit up.
CHAIRMAN presses 3rd floor button. The lift door opens and they enter.

Scene 4

CHAIRMAN and JOSH exit the elevator into another corridor. Further along the corridor is an ornate oak door. CHAIRMAN opens the door onto a beautiful vista, a field of blue and red poppies in a sea of green. As they move through the door, the panorama opens up. The sky is blue and an advertising balloon in the shape of a hand pointing a finger is flying overhead. It is emblazoned with the words DEVIL’S PAWN SHOP.

JOSH: What the …?

CHAIRMAN: Sshh. Just keep going.

In front of them is a path that appears to be going in the general direction of where the finger is pointed. JOSH and CHAIRMAN follow the path.

Scene 5

JOSH and CHAIRMAN enter what looks like a quaint small town store. The ceilings are high, the walls lined with brass-handled wooden drawers. The man behind the front desk is bent over as if he is looking for something. CHAIRMAN rings the bell, causing the ATTENDANT to jump up. He is wiry in appearance, and wearing a faded pair of denim dungarees, a striped tee-shirt and a baseball cap. He appears to be pregnant. Around his neck is a fine gold chain with an eyeglass
on the end of it. Sitting in the corner disembowelling a tennis ball is a surgically-enhanced chimp wearing a bridal corset.

ATTENDANT: Oh my, you gave me quite a stir. What can I do for you, sir?

ATTENDANT puts his monocle on. His face lights up when he sees CHAIRMAN.

ATTENDANT:  Oh, it’s yourself, sir. What a pleasure. It’s been such a while.

CHAIRMAN:  Yes, it has. Now, I’d like you to dig something out for me. My friend here would like to see his papers.

JOSH looks confused. As he casts his eyes all over the shop, his brow is furrowed. There is a glimmer of recognition in his face.

JOSH: I’ve been here before.

CHAIRMAN: Aye, that you have.

The ATTENDANT slides a ladder across the back wall, then climbs up until he reaches one of the drawers. He opens it and rifles through the contents. Finally, he pulls out a wallet, descends the ladder and brings the contents to the front desk.

ATTENDANT: There we are, sir, it’s all there. In black and white.

JOSH: What’s he talking about?

CHAIRMAN leafs through a beautifully handwritten document until he finds the page he is looking for. Marking the spot with his finger, he beckons JOSH.

CHAIRMAN: See for yourself.

JOSH grabs the document and starts to read it, flipping back and forth through the pages until he has seen all he needs to see.

CHAIRMAN: That’s the deal. You see, Josh, I have news for you. You cannot sell your soul. It’s a loan. You either repay the debt. Or you don’t. In your case, the term was thirty years.

JOSH: But I’ve always been a bad person. Since the day I was born.

CHAIRMAN: Who told you that?

JOSH: Everyone. My birth parents. The nuns. My kindergarten teacher.

Long silence. Then a jolt.

JOSH: The dream, that was thirty years ago today.

CHAIRMAN: Yes, it was. Time’s up, Josh.

JOSH is calmer now. He is letting the information sink in. He looks like is about to cry.

JOSH: You knew I was dyslexic.

CHAIRMAN: Yes, I did.

CHAIRMAN’s voice is tender. He puts his hand on JOSH’s shoulder.

JOSH: So what did you expect?

CHAIRMAN: Everything. And nothing.

Scene 6

JOSH and CHAIRMAN are back at the CHAIRMAN’s office. Both are enjoying a cigar, only JOSH is smoking like there’s no tomorrow. He is still in shock.

CHAIRMAN: So, Josh, what about the one you had when you were eight? Just before your adoptive father took you out of the children’s home.

JOSH: The one what?

CHAIRMAN: The dream. You know, the one you’ve forgotten. The most important one of all. When you remember it, you will know what your Mission was. And still is.

JOSH: Mission? I have no clue what you’re talking about.

CHAIRMAN: The reason you’re here. The reason you were born.

CHAIRMAN leans forward. His voice drops to a whisper.

CHAIRMAN: The reason I sent you.

Scene 7

JOSH and CHAIRMAN are back at the Pearly Gates.

JOSH: So if this is all part of the plan, why did you allow me to get the wrong end of the stick in the first place?

CHAIRMAN: Because you now have the power to change all of it. To reverse what you started.

JOSH: But I’m broke. I’ll be lucky if I have a roof over my head. I’m finished.

CHAIRMAN: Josh, you are known the world over. You have a voice. Now go. Your mission starts …

CHAIRMAN looks at his watch.

CHAIRMAN: … now.

Scene 8

MAN wakes up. He is in a hospital bed, surrounded by tubes and equipment. A middle-aged woman with a natural golden complexion and braided blue-grey hair sits by his bedside, holding his hand. She calls a nurse.


ACT IV

JOSH is in an office, stretched out on a chaise longue and clutching a cushion to his belly. His coat is draped over the back. Sitting across from him in a leather wing-backed armchair is a balding man wearing thick black spectacles, an open shirt and a pink tank top.

THERAPIST: You’re making good progress, Josh. Sadly for me, you don’t really need my services any more. Maybe we should be thinking of monthly sessions, then once every six months. But before you go, tell me about your dream again. The one you said you had during your coma. I know you told me six months ago, but I’d like to hear you tell it again.

JOSH sits up and starts to put on his coat.

JOSH: Well, as you know, it was quite the most beautiful, the most lucid dream I have ever had. It was like I was really there. I was climbing this mountain, then when I got to the top, I felt such a peace that I have never felt before. I closed my eyes, then when I opened them again, there was all these people everywhere, as far as the eye could see. They just came out of nowhere. They were all unwell or injured in some way. And they just stared at me. And just sat there all around me. And even though I tried, I couldn’t not look at them. And they wouldn’t go until they knew that I knew what I must do.

JOSH is ready to leave. He takes his mobile phone from his coat pocket.

THERAPIST: And what was that?

JOSH: Help them get the future back that I had taken from them.

THERAPIST: What time’s the press conference?

JOSH: Two o’ clock.

THERAPIST: Then be gone. Get the hell out of here.

 

THE END

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2016

Bait

salamander

(Mobile phone rings)

WOMAN: Hello.

VOICE: Hello, how are you?

WOMAN: Who is this?

VOICE: It’s Rich. How ya doing?

WOMAN: Oh, it’s you.

(WOMAN pulls face)

How did you get my mobile number?

VOICE: Steve gave it to me.

WOMAN: Oh, did he now? Well, he had no business doing that. What can I do for you?

VOICE: I was wondering if you could do me a favour?

WOMAN: What’s that?

VOICE: Well, you know how you’re presenting the miniature to the Duke of Blah on Friday?

(look of horror on WOMAN’s face)

WOMAN: What? How did you get that information?

VOICE: It’s common knowledge. I heard them talking about it in the pub.

WOMAN: Yeah, but the itinerary isn’t public knowledge. You do know, don’t you, I can’t discuss this with anybody, let alone you?

VOICE: I’m not asking you to divulge any information. I just want you to do something for me. As a friend.

WOMAN: Friend?

(WOMAN’s voice is high pitched).

You’re not my friend. We know some of the same people, that’s it.

VOICE: There’s no need to be like that. Please, can you at least hear me out?

WOMAN: Oh God, I don’t like the sound of this. Get this over with.

VOICE: Well, you know how the Duke is really a high ranking member of the Illuminati? And you know how behind their human façade, they’re really shape-shifting lizards?

WOMAN: Well, I don’t see it myself, but yes, I know what you’re referring to.

VOICE: Well, as you know, they love human blood. And they need to drink a lot of it in order to maintain their human form.

(WOMAN rolls eyes)

WOMAN: Whatever you say. So how exactly can I help?

VOICE: Well, I’d like you to do something for me during the presentation. I need you to entice him into exposing himself on camera.

WOMAN: What do you mean expose himself?

VOICE: Well, most of them are very picky. This guy particularly likes small Pictish women.

WOMAN: Ah now, that rules me out. I’m definitely not Pictish. They were quite dark, weren’t they? I’m as pasty as they come. Have you thought about ask-?

VOICE: Close enough, though. You’re small and dark-haired. Two out of three ain’t bad. Anyway, he just won’t be able to help himself and he’ll go into a feeding frenzy. He’ll break into a sweat and start foaming at the mouth.

(WOMAN scratches leg)

WOMAN: Really? And you’ll be there to catch it on camera.

VOICE: Exactly. You got it.

WOMAN: And what would I have to do to get his attention?

VOICE: You just have to stand directly in front of him.

WOMAN: But I’ll probably be doing that anyway. Why the phone call?

VOICE: I have to make sure you know the plan. And there’s one more thing. There’s a word you have to say to him, that’ll set him off. Guaranteed.

WOMAN: A word? What’s that then?

(WOMAN rolls eyes again)

VOICE: I can’t say it over the phone. It’s very powerful. I will have to write it down for you. It has to be said in a certain way.

WOMAN: So, let me get this straight. You want to sacrifice me to the bloodsucking king of the lizard people?

VOICE: Yes.

WOMAN: Do you not think I might have a problem with that?

VOICE: I don’t see why. I think it’s a great idea.

WOMAN: Even so, do you really expect me to feel flattered? Do you think so little of me that you would be prepared to have me eaten in front of a live audience? I find what you’re proposing quite offensive to be honest.

VOICE: But you would be performing a great service to humanity. Besides, there would be too many people there. You’ll be in no real danger.

WOMAN: And what if he follows me home? I won’t be able to rely on the security services then, that’s assuming that they aren’t lizards as well.

VOICE: He won’t.

WOMAN: How do you know?

VOICE: I just do. That’s not their M.O.

WOMAN: Listen, I’d love to help you, Rich, but if you want to take this any further, you’ll have to do a risk assessment first.

VOICE: Risk assessment?

WOMAN: Yes, risk assessment. You have twenty-four hours.

VOICE: What do you mean, risk assessment?

WOMAN: You know, you’ll need to go on site and scope the place out.

VOICE: What, I’ll never manage that. It’s crawling with sniffer dogs. You know I’m allergic.

WOMAN: Hey, that’s your problem. If you want me to do this, I have to know I’m part of a professional operation. I’ll need to know where all the exits are, where the extinguishers are, how many officers I can rely on, if there are any trained medical personnel on site, where the first aid kit is located, stuff like that.

VOICE: Hang on, I’ll need to write this down.

(sound of shuffling)

WOMAN: And I’ll need a bodyguard. My own bodyguard, fully trained in kung-fu and every martial art known to man. Must have all his certificates. I need somebody who’ll take HIM down not ME if things get out of hand.

VOICE: Bodyguard? Where the hell am I going to get a bodyguard?

(clicking sound)

WOMAN: You’re the professional, you work it out. Oh my God, did you just hear that click? They’re on to us. Hey, I can’t stay on the line. Listen, I want it on my desk first thing tomorrow morning. Then my peeps will talk to your peeps. Gotta go. Goodbye.

 

Copyright © M K MacInnes 2016
Image courtesy of cliparts.co
The above transcript is based on actual events.
The names have been, um, changed to protect the, erm, innocent.

The Reference

prayhard

A MAN applied for a job that required three telephone references. Being self-employed, identifying suitable up-to-date referees who were available for comment was not always a straightforward matter, so he asked his live-in girlfriend and former business partner Erica if she could do the honours. To this she agreed.

Three days later, Erica’s mobile phone rang. It was a man who said he was phoning in connection with Roger Duncan.

Old habits die hard. No sooner had she uttered the words “Hang on a minute” and passed the phone to her other half, Erica’s heart smacked the floor. She ran to the nearest wall and banged her head off it, before sloping out of the room and locking herself in the bathroom with every intention of shoving it down the toilet.

By the time she regained her composure and had the courage to show her face, the call had ended. The expression on Roger’s face said it all. For shame, she could not look him in the eye. Maybe if she just burst into tears, that would break the ice.

Just at that very moment, the day’s mail was pushed through the letterbox. Glad of the distraction, Erica rushed to the door to pick it up.

“Well?” barked Roger across the hallway.

No answer.

When Roger went into the hall to investigate, he found Erica bent double, clutching her stomach like she was in agony.

“What the f***?”

Even as Erica pulled herself up to look him in the face, she flapped her hands as though she was having a hot flush. Her face was raw with tears. Each time she tried to get words out of her mouth, she bubbled some more. Roger realised that his girlfriend was having a fit of hysterics.

“What’s so funny?” he bellowed, his face still dead and straight as a steel poker.

Struggling now for breath, Erica held up the brochure she had picked off the floor. Across the front in big bold letters were the words TRY PRAYING

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2016

High Altar

El_Greco_13

A LONG long time ago in a far off town, some friends and I were invited to a swanky party at an abandoned Victorian monastery that had been converted into a corporate events venue. Rumour had it that back in the day the monks used to run their own moonshine.

II

ON FINDING ourselves a table, we could queue up at any of the seven feeding stations, themed according to each of the Deadly Sins. The catering staff were fitted with horns and forked tails.

After the buffet and the band, the venue became an instant nightclub, the dance floor in front of the High Altar, the music leaning towards anything with a deep base and a strong beat. Lasers and soft psychedelics blended into stained glass, dry ice oozed from the seams.

Doof. Doof.  Doof. Doof.
Doof. Doof.  Doof. Doof.

I itched to join in the revelry but couldn’t bring myself. Haunted by an image from Sunday School of a psychotic-looking Jesus wrecking the Temple because it had been put to wordly use, I declined all attempts to drag me onto the floor.

Until I raised my eyes, I hadn’t paid much attention to the dying Christ suspended from the rafters. The thorns, the twisted expression of pain and suffering, sinews taut, a cloth barely covering his dignity, the unimaginable sorrow of a man in his final moments.

And punching the air beneath the feet of the naked guy nailed to the cross was the tall man wearing a jumper and a dog collar, his sweaty face gleaming through the fog. The vicar.

Dear God, I’ve seen it all now.

A subtle movement above his head caught my eye. The painted wooden crucifix swung back and forth like a pendulum. Hardly blinking for several minutes, I could see the movements become more pronounced. One swing now for every four doofs.

I ran my eyes up and down, looking for the weakest point. The pendant hung from two long metal chains, hooked onto rings attached to a high wooden beam. Beyond that, it was hard to tell what was what.

But one thing was certain. That crucifix weighed a tonne and it had a life of its own. I could see it all now. The plummet, the loud crash, the gasps, the cloud of dust, the horror as it smashed into the minister and his immediate entourage.

Images of screaming choir boys in St Paul’s Cathedral, a mummified Richard Burton lying in a hospital bed. The bit of paper at the end of the movie scrawled with the words ‘Windscale’ … The Medusa Touch. How little it would take to bring that lot down. I should be careful not to think on it too hard. I might cause it.

And didn’t I know just how easy it was for those screws to come loose. Oh yes, I had watched episode upon episode of CSI. I had just seen the one where the house collapsed because the sonic boom of low-flying aircraft made the screws drop out of the walls …

I could see it now, JESUS SPLATS RAVING VICAR. Great headline … very messy …

Swing. Doof, doof, doof, doof. Swing …

III

I CAN only assume that everyone survived. My friends and I left before we had a chance to find out.

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes