The Palmeira Murder

Out one cold November morning, something gruesome awaits Thomas Smith…

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It was a day like any other. Or so Thomas thought. He woke up in the morning at 10 O’clock, kissed his wife on the forehead and went to take a shower. He then got dressed into his suit and ate breakfast, which generally consisted of cornflakes, or his daughter, Priscilla’s, coco pops, if he felt in the mood. Before leaving the house Thomas gave Priscilla a bear hug and then jumped into the car with a goodbye peck from his wife.

It was a cold autumn day outside the car window. A sombre and yet aesthetic scene of trees lined the road to the clinic, some bare to their wooden bones, their foliage scattered around them in seas of red and gold, others somehow still hanging on to their charges, as if wary of the loneliness their departure would bring. Thomas slowed the car to a stop outside his usual parking space down Palmeira Square and pushed open the door. The November chill tentatively crept onto his seat, tickling his ankles and scratching at the exposed skin of his face and neck. He pulled his coat tighter against his body before getting out of the car. The autumnal frost hadn’t quite stained the grass yet, but Thomas could already feel the raw bite of the cold.

He pondered for a moment on the mournful scenery surrounding him; blight and rot dominated his vision. If Summer was the peak of nature’s powers, then Autumn was its deathbed; yet there was a quiet beauty to the decay to be found. A song edged with ice whistled in the wind, a lullaby to Summer’s end and a call to Winter’s cold embrace. It was a melancholy beauty he felt only a select few could fully appreciate.

Thomas briefly danced on the spot for warmth whilst rubbing his hands together. He glanced upwards at the sign placed precariously on the front of pearl white stone slab supported by the matching two columns, typical of the architecture of Hove, which read: Smith and Gauld, Psychology Experts and Therapy Ltd. Although, the E had long since fallen off Experts and the P looked like it would soon follow suit. He made a mental note to remember to order replacements. To be honest, he and his long time friend and colleague, Jason Gauld, were incredibly lucky to even have the sign and their business here. It was something of a stroke of luck that an old client had leased them the bottom floor flat after learning about his ambition to run his own therapy clinic.

He smiled to himself, but turned away and crossed into the main square. He had something to do first. The homeless man was sitting in his usual spot on the park bench directly opposite his parking space, his back facing Thomas and his head drooping into his chest. He rummaged through the contents of his bag, pulling out a canister which gave off faint steam when it came into contact with the air. As far as he could remember, the homeless man had sat on that same park bench in Palmeira Square, and Thomas had always brought him a canister of piping hot coffee at almost precisely 11 O’clock in the morning on the dot. They were both nothing if not creatures of habit.

Thomas offered a brisk “good morning!” and sat down beside the homeless man. The man’s chin did not raise from his chest, nor did his eyes flicker in response. Thomas frowned and checked around and under the bench for any loose paper bags or bottles. He came up empty. He scratched his head; he’d never found the man asleep. Upon consideration of how he could approach this anomaly, he decided to settle with a gentle shake of his shoulder. “You alright?” Thomas said. When this failed to rouse the homeless man from his torpor, he shook the man more firmly which resulted in his body slumping onto his lap. Thomas gasped when he caught sight of the man’s now exposed throat. He didn’t know how he’d completely failed to miss the sheer amount of dried blood in the first place which covered the top of his chest and the brim of his thermal underneath his coat. He sat there – for god knows how long – in stunned silence, before managing to find some sort of composure to fumble inside his jacket pocket for his mobile and dial with shaking hands 999.

Project 500 – The Ghost Ship

A ghost ship, tethered to a town’s harbor, haunts the residents of Moortown

They call me ‘the watcher’.

It’s not as sinister as it sounds, I promise. In truth, I’ve been more of a distant observer all my life. It all started when I was but a small child, very much wet behind the ears. My father was a sailor, a captain no less, and the Aurora was his ship. I could have told you every little detail about that boat down to the last splinter of wood. It may have been my father’s ship, but it belonged entirely to my memory.

Every few months, my father would gently grab my mother by the waist, kiss her tenderly, and then then ruffle my hair just before he left our home. I didn’t know what my father, or his crew, did when they ventured out to sea, in fact, as far I was aware, none of the children did. It was a closely guarded secret held by those deemed old enough to bear it. I was curious, but no more so than obedient as a son should be.

I never had any need to know otherwise, for my father would always return from his voyages, even if it took weeks, months, or even once a year. He would arrive, and I would be waiting. But one cold winter’s morning when I was standing in my usual spot atop the very peak of Moor’s Fist, one of the great jagged cliffs of Moortown, I felt a sudden terrible plunging in my gut as I stared out into the misty shores. At that moment, I felt then what I now know: my father was never coming back. No body was ever found, and not a word or whisper shared of what tragic fate had befallen him. He had simply disappeared, along with his crew, snared by the mist.

The strangest part though? The ship ventured back to our shores on its own eventually. Yes, you read that right. On. Its. Own. Unmanned by man, nor beast. It had been carried into the harbour by naught other than favourable winds and dumb luck. The Aurora was thoroughly inspected we were told, but all came to the same conclusion: there was nothing wrong with the ship, there was no plausible explanation as to the crew’s sudden disappearance. At least none they would share with the youth. The elders whispered among themselves, hushing whenever I walked by, peering at me quietly through weary eyes. But they knew something, they must have.

No one set foot near the Aurora ever again. Indeed, there it remains to this day, untouched, tethered to Moortown’s harbour, an eerie reminder of an impossible mystery. But I knew in my heart that If I could just get on that boat somehow, I would solve it. It belonged entirely to my memory, I knew it inside out.

 

-FK-

 

Email: farrell_keeling@hotmail.co.uk

Twitter: @farrellkeeling

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Bliss Beyond the Dust

What am I?

I lay caked in the dust of neglected parchment

Soothed by the stillness of the air, undisturbed

Who is this that would venture forth?

That would dare disrupt my slumber, oh I am perturbed!

 

A flutter of movement, beast begone!

Let me doze under a blanket of cobwebs

I have nothing to hide here, I promise

No really, this one is boring, nothing but bloodshed

 

The door creaks open, blinding me with light

Leave me be, I’ve harmed you not!

Through the haze of dust, I spy a curious eye

Please good sir, just let me rot

 

A weathered hand grips the leather hard and pulls it loose

With a soft blow and a gentle wipe of the hand, my bed disappears

Flee you fool, there is no bliss beyond the dust

Yet there he stands, ignorant of my jeers

 

He twists the spine before his uncertain eyes

I can feel my strength ebb with every turn, every curious murmur

If only I could have begged, as he pulled open the cover

But with the turn of the page and a flicker of his eyes, I was gone

 

-FK-

 

Email: farrell_keeling@hotmail.co.uk

Twitter: @farrellkeeling

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Drowning

Left to drown in the deep blue, a man comes face to face with one of the horrors of the ocean.

Time slowed. I was utterly relaxed, believe it or not. A death sentence didn’t bother me. I had come to terms with my end the moment my body crashed into the sea. I couldn’t have done anything but relax of course; my hands and feet had been bound together with lengths of thick, prickly rope.

The water at first was so cold I felt as if my insides had frozen solid before my skin began to register the sudden fall in temperature. There, my suffering became even more meaningless than it did above on the surface. There, only the fish could watch me shiver and struggle. How odd things become when one descends into the great, dark deep, and yet how peculiarly similar they remained. There I was, dying a slow and unpleasant death, and yet it was business as usual under the ocean. The occasional swarm of fish paused briefly in front of my eyes, curious, like the kind of people that would come and observe a hanging or a beheading, and becoming bored, would depart back into their daily routines.

Of course, this world of water is not impartial to its own brand of barbarity. Similarly to the wilds above, there are only two groups within this azure nation: prey and predator. This has been a long unchallenged fact, and one which will likely stand the test of time. It is a natural process of which one adheres to similarly above on the surface, whether ignorant. Are we really different to the creatures that make their homes far beneath rock and stone? Others would cite the greys of this world, but for me it is more clear cut. I cannot help but see the world as it is: black and white.

A lone fish encircles my head, occasionally darting in front of my eyes. The bright orange of its scales shimmer before me. Is this one aware of the cruel cycle of which it has been thrust into by a sadistic God? Is it naive, clinging onto the vague hope that it may somehow find the means to transcend this cycle? Maybe it is unaware, ignorant to the end? Or perhaps it just simply accepted its own fate as I had then.

I peered upwards for a moment at the mollusc covered hull of the ship I had been forcibly removed from, before returning back to the fish, only to find it had disappeared. But I was still not alone, the fish had not departed without good reason after all. I shared the fish’s plight, just as above, so below, the cycle wheeled on.

A large dark shape flitted before me, disappearing only to return again in the corner of my eye, lurking close by in the dusky depths. A sudden blur of silver and white flashed past, but it hadn’t been quick enough for me to miss the rather striking sharp arch of a fin. I reluctantly closed my eyes, fully embracing the darkness that was to come. I hoped that at least my end would be swift and relatively painless.

And yet it never arrived.

I had only opened my eyes because I had become aware that the prickly tickle of the ropes on my bare skin had suddenly vanished. I remember my heart crashing against my rib cage when the point of the Shark’s nose and the bottomless black holes of its eyes blurred into view. I do not know to this day how I held back the scream that grazed the brim of my pursed lips.

Why was I not dead?

I was surprised that my heart didn’t burst out of my mouth as it approached. But the shark only nudged my torso with its nose, withdrawing quickly afterwards. I’d dropped my head afterwards to find – with a similar level of expectation and surprise that my bonds had been cut. No missing body parts, not even a scratch was to be seen on my forearms and ankles. I wondered if I had been dreaming; at the time it seemed like the most logical explanation for surviving an encounter with a supposedly deadly and vicious shark.

The thought of the oxygen in my lungs quickly dwindling away had brought me back to my senses, and I began to swim up to the surface, only to come face to face with the shark again. I frowned and swam at an angle away from it, but the beast blocked my path again. Every time I tried to rise in the water the shark would circle in front of me, preventing me from reaching the surface. What manner of monster was this? It would spare me from its jaws only to force me to suffer the water instead?

I felt the frustration begin to bubble in my throat, fuelled by the departing air of my lungs. I lashed out at the shark, a stupid move I realised in retrospect, bearing in mind the circumstances. The shark easily avoided my sluggish punch, and it was in that instance that I was oddly reminded of my childhood and my encounters with the neighbour’s annoying pet dog.

What did it want from me?

The shark then darted in front of me, twisting so its side and fin were angled towards my chest. Did it want me to grab it? I snapped my head towards the boat. The hull remained motionless; they were waiting for blood, and I doubted they would take kindly to discovering that not only had my bonds been broken, but that I was also alive and breathing. My sight beginning to waver as clouds of darkness brushed their way into the corner of my eyes, I turned back to the shark’s fin and made the next most insane decision of my life after punching the creature. My hands snatched at its fin, clamping on tight just as the deep dark enveloped me.

 

-FK-

 

Twitter: @farrellkeeling

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Email: farrell_keeling@hotmail.co.uk

The Beast’s Maw

Something dangerous lurks among us

He kept fidgeting. Every couple of minutes the right side of his body would suddenly jolt, causing him to whimper and smack his left hand against his side to stabilise himself. His cloak was odd though, it covered his right arm and hand from view, but not his left. It could get pretty cold on the lower levels, this was no place for fashion choices. This wasn’t Earth. Who was this guy anyway? She’d never seen him before at any of the other meetings. Tia retracted her gaze from Fidge (she decided she may as well dub him that) and turned back to the head of the table.

Rogen, a man who completely defied the ‘survival of the fittest’ nature that epitomised the Lower Hives, stood reading from a tattered piece of parchment. He was a portly man with a hooked nose and an unflattering mouth that slurred downwards to his sagging chin, occasionally pausing from his speech to wipe the sweat trickling down the creases of his forehead from his soggy, unkempt mop of hair. It was always the same issues, food supplies being stolen by gangs, water purifiers needing parts to be fixed, potential spread of plague! We always made do, we could trade, bargain and survive as we had for the past few decades, in the exact same way our forefathers had before us. Nothing had changed.

“… and it is in light of this that-”

There was a sudden bang, and the ceiling shook briefly, dust whisping down upon them all like sand from the cracks above.

“What in the Emperor’s name was that?” demanded a woman close to Tia.

The lights began to flicker, sending the room into complete darkness, intermittently, every couple of seconds.

“Gangs again?” Tia shouted.

She looked around the table, everyone was crouched down beside their seats, everyone apart from Fidge. The man had actually stood up from his chair, seemingly unfazed by the tremors occurring above. Now that he was up, however, Tia couldn’t help but be fixated on the hunch of his back. For a man of his age, it… just didn’t look right.

She shook herself, “get down!”, she shouted at Fidge.

Another tremor, and yet there Fidge stubbornly stood.

“Emperor’s blood! Get down man!”, Rogen cried.

Fidge tilted his head towards the ceiling, and opened his mouth. The scream, or roar, or whatever it was that cascaded from the man’s maw transcended far beyond the limits of human vocal cords, forcing Tia to slam her hands across her ears. It was only when the lights suddenly, and without warning, blew out that Tia glimpsed Fidge ripping off the cloth at his side, revealing for only a brief moment a set of impossibly sharp, pitch black claws.

Tia threw herself back under the table, attempting to crawl around the side when something suddenly latched onto her leg and sent her flying into the back wall, collapsing to the ground with a groan.

A sort of ringing pain began to emanate from the back of her head, and when she reached behind her back she felt something wet on the nape of her neck. Blood. Undoubtedly.

Tia didn’t realise how bad she’d hit her head until the lights abruptly flashed back on briefly. It was like standing on a boat in turbulent water, the whole room just swayed from left to right. The contents of the room were but a haze to her, it was like having your eyes open underwater.

Then without warning, the lights went out again.

Just as Tia managed to shakily push herself onto her knees the lights had once again returned. She could just about make out Rogen’s figure not so far away from her, pressed tightly to the wall behind him, quivering madly. She followed his gaze to the table, to see the creature crouched upon it leering down at them all.

Another moment of darkness descended upon them as quickly as the last.

The wait for light was agonising, especially with the thought of that thing lurking around the room.

Tia’s sigh of relief as the light turned back on choked midway in her throat. The beast had left the table and was slowly skulking towards her.

Emperor’s stones… it was coming for her!

Just before the light’s went out yet again Tia’s vision was beginning to return to its full capacity, just in time for her to observe the beads of saliva glistening off the tips of the beast’s teeth.

She was too scared to breathe, let alone move a muscle.

Every second she sat there seemed to last an eternity, and by the time the light finally switched back on again she had come to terms with her fate.

Stretched to ridiculous proportions, to the point where all but the beast’s hind legs were visible from the edge of Tia’s vision, the beast’s open jaws laid in wait.

All the light in the world would have been drowned out, sucked in by that bottomless pit that lay beyond the beast’s maw.

 

-FK-

 

Twitter: @farrellkeeling

Instagram: farrell_keeling

Project 500 – The Chained One

After years undisturbed, the Chained One receives an unexpected visit

In a cell, time loses all meaning. The days blur into one another, whole weeks, even years, pass by unnoticed, and with each passing moment my name descends deeper into the depths of mythology. Once a name powerful enough to silence a city, I have become less than a bare whisper, a whistle in the wind. Time has gradually worn away my mark on this world. They say so much time alone is not good for the mind, it can make you forget who you are, madden you. Do you remember me? It matters not, I am eternal, and time shall not erase my name.

Footsteps. I twisted my neck as far as the chains would allow me. They sounded lighter than usual. Of course, no one had visited in ages; they had given up feeding me after repeated attempts. I may be in chains, but I refused to allow the last of my dignity to wash away in being spoon fed. Even Gods need their food they said. It was difficult at first, I will admit, I miss the euphoria of taste, but I am eternal. I heard the jangle of keys and the protest of the lock as it was opened. The door squealed in warning as it was slowly pushed ajar to reveal… a boy. I could not help my surprise; what was a mere child doing here? The boy leant outside the door for a moment, hesitantly drummed his fingers on the door and then pushed it close.

He was a small child, he could have barely seen through 8 years, if that. He was dressed in a white tunic and had a nest of silver leaves around his head balancing on top of his ears. The boy also had a faint glow about him, not quite to the same extent as that of his elders, but enough to signify what he was.

“Brought me food?” I asked.

The boy shook his head, opening his empty palms to him. His eyes flickered around the room, taking great interest in the chains that bound me, his fingers running through the symbols etched into the metal.

“Exquisite, aren’t they?” I said, “can’t say I’m exactly fond of them, but with time one can certainly appreciate how effective they are”.

The boy smiled, stepped away from the chains and took a seat in front of him. I was confused. He had not brought food, and they would certainly not send one of their precious children to inspect the chains. So, what was the boy here for?

“Do you know who I am, boy?” I inquired.

“Yes” the child replied.

“But do you really know who I am?”

“I have heard rumours, whispers in the wind”

I felt my lip curl. So, after all these years, still my name carried weight in this world.

“Say my name”

The boy frowned.

“Say it!”

“Abaddon” the boy whispered.

I closed my eyes and sighed. It felt good to hear it again. It had been so long.

“You know what I am?” I asked the boy.

“Yes” he replied.

“Why did they send you here?” I felt my brow arch. Was the boy not afraid?

“No one knows I am here”.

“Then why have you come here?”

“They say you’ve got stories”.

I was prepared to scold the insolent boy, but paused before I managed to utter a syllable. Unconsciously my lip began to curl towards the corner of my eye and a grand plan began to unravel in my mind. Oh, the innocence of a child.

“But of course,” I chuckled, bowing my head, “and what story would the young prince wish to hear?”

“All of them” the boy replied.

I smiled. The world would soon hear my name again.

 

-FK-

 

Twitter: @farrellkeeling

Instagram: farrell_keeling

Crawling Back to WordPress

Delving into the common fear associated with creative writing

Having been writing fairly regularly over the summer, I feel somewhat aggrieved at the fact that I’ve completely neglected a platform like WordPress, one which I had previously frequently used, to project my ideas.

Well… with my tail tucked tightly between my legs… I’m back guys, and, hopefully, better than ever. Looking back at my past blog posts, with a bizarre mixture of horror and fascination (like tantalizing ‘pimple popping’ videos), I’ve come to realise my blog for what it was: a chaotic foray into a diverse range of genres.

I’d like to think my time away has granted me now a deeper insight into my personal interests in such a way that I may be able to articulate them in a (relatively) consistent manner. I think the best way forward would be for me to acknowledge what I’m good at and to face the terrifying reality that I’m going to have to have to write more about it. I speak of course of the ultimate fear, the gargantuan fly in the ointment, the mother of all ball and chains… bloody hell, I’ll just come out and say it: Writer’s fear.

Specifically, fear about what other people think about what you write. I remember being petrified during creative writing lessons about the inevitable prospect of having to share work with the rest of the class. I let my imagination conjure up unlikely, yet somewhat realistic, scenarios of being shunned by my peers for producing such an abject display of creativity. But perhaps not all hope is lost…

Last week, something momentous happened. I shared a project I’m currently working on with a friend of mine, and you know what, I feel pretty good now having done it. I feel like I’m gradually beginning to come to terms with the fact that I do have something to offer. I’m prepared to face criticism, as much as I am hoping to amass praise. In fact, go for it. Do. Your. Worst. (Please be gentle).

But in all seriousness, I’m gonna try and learn from my past mistakes, of which there are, to my shame, many examples littered through this blog’s history, should you deign to subject yourself to them. Most importantly, I’m beginning to learn that I should no longer let my fear of judgement conquer my love of writing.

 

-FK-

 

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