A Fallen Christmas

My wife was accosted a couple of weeks ago by a lady she didn’t know. The lady approached her and demanded to know when the sequel to Fallen Warriors would be released. My wife doesn’t know and right now neither do I. However I can share that a teaser for the sequel has been included in a Christmas themed anthology released last month by the Association of Christian Writers: Merry Christmas Everyone

Picture of ACW Christmas Anthology: Merry Christmas Everyone
ACW Christmas Anthology

My short story: A Fallen Christmas, introduces a new character who will have a major role in the sequel to Fallen Warriors. When I say short, we were limited to 1,000 words in our contributions to the anthology. However, the quality of the other stories, poems and essays included is excellent and I’m delighted to be included.

I bought a few copies to sell on at Christmas Fayres over the next few weeks.

I’ll be selling the anthology and my novels at the Abronhill Community Christmas Fayre today from 12 till 3pm.

Next Saturday, 24th November from 10am to 1pm, I’ll be at St Maurice’s Christmas Fayre. If you’re in Cumbernauld today or next Saturday, come and meet the author!

I’m nervous to share more about the Fallen Warriors sequel until after I’ve finished the first draft, but for everyone who is waiting, I’ll post more about where I’m at with it next week. Or you can ask me in person at a Christmas Fayre…

Friday Flash Fiction – A-llerrr-Gic!

Alan sneezed. An explosive sneeze that built up from nowhere far too quickly for him to do anything about. A tickling in his nose that became an irritation that became a tsunami of sensation that overwhelmed him until the sneeze blasted out.

“A-llerrr-Gic!” Came the cry from behind him. He didn’t turn, knew they were standing there at attention, saw a teacher shake his head and turn away.

Several times a day now, for weeks, they had mocked him every time he sneezed. Teachers had stopped them in some classes, but in others – as the Summer term grew to a close – had obviously stopped caring.

He moved closer to the starting line to get away from them.

“Going for gold, are you, Alan,” said Tony in a voice that only carried as far as his gang. Not that the teachers would have cared.

He hoped that High School would be diferent. It was terrifying to think that even though he might be the runt of Primary Seven, he’d no longer be one of the oldest in the school, but right back at square one. Though what difference would moving up make if he brought Tony and his gang up with him?

“Primary Seven boys, get ready!”

The teacher’s shout broke through his thoughts. Alan checked his pocket for his inhaler. Was reassured by the shape of the plastic.

“Go!”

Alan sprinted forwards, desperate to get away from Tony, ignoring his teacher’s earlier advice to pace themselves at the start of the 800 metres. He might as well run himself into the ground because Tony would make fun of him no matter what he did.

He rounded the first corner and was immediately passed by Gavin. He could feel himself struggling to breath and knew he’d only just started.

He kept going, trying to maintain his obviously slow pace even as James also passed him. Gavin was now a good three metres in front of him. Would the whole class end up passing him before he reached the finish line?

Should have started from the back, he thought. Then at least no-one would have passed me.

No, he told himself. Stop caring what they say. Just finish this race. I’m going to finish this race.

He focused on Gavin, now maybe five metres ahead. Tried to match his pace.

His lungs were bursting… He swallowed great gulps of air and felt his vision narrow down, but kept going. One foot in front of the other. Pushing himself forward.

He wondered if he should take out his inhaler as he didn’t seem to be taking anything in with each breath, but worried he would drop it unless he stopped and he was not going to stop!

Each corner rounded was a small victory. 100 metres round the top edges of the school football pitch and 200 metres to each side. 600 metres the full circumference and one extra length to give the full 800 metres. He couldn’t remember how many sides he’d run. Forced himself to keep going.

Then he heard someone say as he passed: “Is that Alan?”

Smallest and skinniest boy ever to reach Primary Seven, he thought. Who else could it be?

And then, there was the finish line! He stumbled over it, took a few more steps and collapsed to the ground.

At least he’d completed the race, he thought as he tried to get his breathing back under control.

“Alan, that was a good run.”

He looked up and saw his gym teacher.

“You came in third.”

He looked up uncomprehending, then looked over to the finish line and saw the rest of the boys in his class approaching. To his astonishment, the boys who had tormented him for so long were only now reaching the finish. He doubted any of them had been trying to run, but even so… James was even out of breath from his slow jog.

They also collapsed to the ground as they passed the line.

And that’s when it happened.

Out of breath from his run, kneeling on the grass, Tony sneezed.

Still struggling to control his own breathing, Alan pushed himself to his feet. Fixed his eyes on Tony and drew himself up straight.

He saw Tony give him a quick look before turning away.

Alan held himself at attention for a little longer and then relaxed. His breathing was still rapid and he felt a little light-headed, but for the first time ever, he’d ranked in a race!

Maybe High School would be different after all…

Copyright Mark Anderson Smith 2017 http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/ You may link to this post from http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/2017/06/friday-flash-fiction-a-llerrr-gic/ or share on a non-commercial website so long as the full copyright notice and this statement is included.

Let me know what you think of the story below…

Friday Flash Fiction: Left Behind

‘Switch to South… Okay, he’s up again. End Command.’ Walter quickly scanned the other 359 images he was responsible for to see if any had “lost” their target. The board was green and he turned back to the memo he’d been reading before he’d been distracted.

GCHQ was ramping up their monitoring of the population, with a 400% increase in random surveillance to be offset by server and software improvements, that meant they would only need an extra ten staff.

Old George would be spinning in his grave if he could see his “office”, Walter thought to himself. He leaned back and nudged his chair so it moved out from his cubicle and he gave a lazy scan left and right. Ten cubicles to his left, thirty nine to his right and four rows behind him, collectively monitoring up to 90,000 citizens at any one time. He scooted forwards again and closed the memo, pulling up the next email.

Walter had never been able to fathom the amount of storage or processing capacity required, but then he didn’t need to know that. His role was to direct the acquisition of signal when the computers couldn’t recognise the target and provide in depth analysis when required. Which was happening more frequently, he admitted to himself.

When he’d started at GCHQ, three long years ago, he hadn’t been surprised to find out the government had quietly stepped up their monitoring of suspected terrorists.

He had been surprised to find out what capabilities they now had.

George had only envisaged a camera in every home, we had given the government far broader access by willingly accepting a camera on every smartphone. Not just one camera either, and not just the two that most people thought their devices possessed. A secretive bill had been passed forcing all makers of mobile phones to install a full six in each device, one for every direction allowing the government to obtain a full 360 view of people’s lives and even continue spying when the main cameras were covered. Front, Back, North, South, East and West, wherever you went, the government would go with you, at least if you were a person of interest…

‘Walter.’

He started at the sound of his supervisor’s voice, turned to see Marsha standing observing his board. ‘Good afternoon,’ he said, his pulse quickening slightly.

‘You’re monitoring suspect 2897.’ A statement, not a question.

‘Let me check.’ William entered the identifier into the search form and saw one of the images on the board expand to fill half the available display, the others shrinking in size to make room. ‘A burner phone,’ he said, reading from his monitor. ‘Bought four months ago, activated last week. Facial recognition identifies suspect as Josef Karrakis of Algerian origin.’

‘Bring up all feeds from his phone.’

Walter selected the option and the large image split into six, three of which were obstructed, one which showed an empty wall. As well as the target though, one of the other images showed two people… He looked round at Marsha.

‘Excellent. We received intel that a meet was happening. Run facial recognition on those two and spin back the feeds to see if you can get audio or anything else of use.’

‘Will do.’ He noted that Marsha hurried away, her role demanding she divide her time between the urgent and top priority.

Before he did anything, he messaged a colleague to ask him to begin active observation of the still in progress meeting. It wouldn’t do to miss something important because he was reviewing the start of the meeting!

All feeds from a device were linked which allowed him to skip back, watching the images in step with each other. He identified the start of the meeting, logged the timestamp and set it to play at twice normal speed. The meeting had been going for just over an hour and he spent the next hour catching back up to real time.

Most of the discussion was un-actionable, but disturbing in its content. He wrote up commentary as he listened and then when the meeting broke up, summarised it and emailed everything to Marsha.

Stretching, he checked the time and decided it was time for a rest break. He logged off his system which automatically reassigned the feeds he was monitoring amongst his colleagues. He pulled his phone from his pocket and checked for messages, then left it on his desk while he went to use the toilet.

He stopped by the canteen on the way back, got a double shot coffee and was sipping it as he reached his cubicle.

Marsha was there, sitting in his chair, his phone in her hand.

‘Walter, you left this behind.’ She handed him his phone which he glanced at before putting it back in his pocket.

‘Thanks for sending me the summary of the meeting,’ she said, standing and allowing him room to sit down. ‘Place an audio alert on his device, log everything it records and keep an eye on the transcripts.’

‘Will do,’ he said.

She studied him for a moment, then turned abruptly and walked away.

He pulled his phone back out and unlocked it. The front camera caught his eye as he checked once more for messages. He locked his phone quickly and put it away in his pocket. Looked round at the tall dividers which cordoned off his row from the next bank of cubicles. Wondered, just for an instant, whether someone there had seen his face on their screen…

Copyright Mark Anderson Smith 2017 http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/ You may link to this post from http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/2017/06/friday-flash-fiction-left-behind/ or share on a non-commercial website so long as the full copyright notice and this statement is included.

Let me know what you think of the story below…

Flash Fiction: The world is ending

All my life savings, that’s all it took to save me from the end of the world. I still can’t believe my luck, that I managed to get away. The boat was the most expensive thing in the end, I had to buy it. No-one was willing to rent, everyone was too scared…

Fortunately I was able to buy supplies. Not food of course, food wouldn’t last. A harpoon, several knives, water filters, purification tablets, first aid kits… The real essentials.

I steer the boat carefully through the reef, conscious that this is my only means of transport if I ever want to leave this island again. White sand stretches in a bow ahead of me, gradually widening around me as I approach the shore.

Looking over the side, I see sand under the aqua green water, almost luminescent in the sunlight. A fish and then another and then a whole shoal of them swim underneath the hull.

Unless they succeed in poisoning the oceans I’ll be able to eat for a long time.

I run the boat up onto the shore, it’s flat bottomed so it doesn’t tip over. I pull up the engine and secure it, take a rope and tie the boat to a rock that serves as a useful anchor point.

My new home for the rest of my life.

The first few days I set myself busy building a shelter, getting used to the routine of fishing, trying to get used to the silence.

I’ve brought large plastic containers to store rain water. I cut down large leaves from the islands palm trees to put a roof over my shelter and try to arrange them so rain water will flow into the containers. I won’t know if it works until it finally rains.

One of my most precious supplies is a carefully sealed container of matches. Thousands of them. As long as I can keep them dry I’ll be able to boil water and cook the fish I catch.

Day 5

I sit on the white sand, looking out to the surf. It’s possible that others will come to this island, fleeing from the war and troubles that I’ve left behind. The world is ending and while I may have been one of the lucky ones, I hope there are more who got away.

Day 10

I’ve walked round the whole island now. Checking to see what resources are available. Mango trees and coconut will supplement my diet. I’m already starting to weary of my daily portion of fish.

Company is what I miss most. It’s been growing inside me each day.

I sit on the beach, the sand that hasn’t been trodden on for who knows how long.

The sand stretches out under the water for at least a hundred metres, maybe more, changing eventually to a dark blue, slightly darker than the sky in the distance. White clouds periodically block the sun, but here at the equator the temperature remains constant.

It is paradise and I have no-one to share it with.

All I can think about is what I’ve left behind, about what must be happening back home. So many have died and here I am living a dream vacation I might have killed for twenty years ago.

I never wanted to kill anyone.

But I knew if I stayed I would have to.

Day 14

I haven’t eaten all day.

I don’t even feel hunger, just lethargic. The motivation drained from me over the last few days. Yesterday all I did was sit on the beach waiting.

We were all to blame. Sure it would have been easy to blame the politcians, the leaders, but each of them represented us, each of them came from us. We got the governments we deserved and it seems we deserved to die.

At least no-one had pressed the button, at least before I left. Some semblance of rationality kept anyone from launching a pre-emptive strike, but who needs nuclear missiles when you can poison. When your conventional weapons are just as powerful as the smallest nuke, when you have a million men at your command all of whom seem to care nothing about their lives.

I left my family, I left my friends knowing that they would die.

Pleading with them to come with me, but none of them would.

It seemed like they were locked in to some strange feeling of destiny.

So I left. And every day I wonder what has happened to them. Is there anyone left?

Day 18

Today I forced myself to eat. Made myself sleep. I should be able to relax by now. I take long walks. I busy myself, building a stronger shelter, preparing for the long haul, but all I can think about is home.

I longed to come here, ever since I saw a poster of this view, heard about these islands, but I am not able to enjoy it.

Day 21

I don’t look back.

I doubt I will ever be able to return.

Maybe some lucky soul will find the shelter I left behind, the supplies buried under the floor, but for me, I realise that I was not destined to die alone.

The longer I was away, the greater my desire grew to do something, to try and stop the madness.

Maybe the world is ending, maybe all I can do is help it end faster, but I have to try.

I have to do something…

Copyright Mark Anderson Smith 2017 http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/ You may link to this post from http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/2017/06/flash-fiction-the-world-is-ending/ or share on a non-commercial website so long as the full copyright notice and this statement is included.

If you liked this story, or if you didn’t, let me know…

Flash Fiction: The Day After

Someone kicked him awake. Barely. He opened one bleary eye and saw the TV displaying static.
‘Who did you vote for? Yesterday. Who?’
He looked over at his wife who was peering out through the curtains, knocking over a beer bottle as he turned.
‘What’s wrong with the TV?’ He asked.
‘It’s dead. Radio, Internet, nothing’s working. Who did you vote for?’
‘What’s that gotta do… What are you doing?’
She didn’t answer, just kept staring out the window.
Finally, he got up and walked over, pulled at the curtain.
‘No!’ She grabbed the material out of his grip and pulled the curtain back.
‘What’s got into you?’ He was starting to get annoyed now. He took a firm hold of the curtain and pulled it wide open, glaring at his wife.
She stepped back, into the shadows.
He shook his head and turned to look out, then stumbled back, nausea threatening to overwhelm him. A buzzing filled his senses and from a distance he heard his wife ask one more time: ‘Yesterday, who did you vote for?’

Copyright Mark Anderson Smith 2017 http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/ You may link to this post from http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/2017/06/flash-fiction-the-day-after/ or share on a non-commercial website so long as the full copyright notice and this statement is included.

If you liked this story, or if you didn’t, let me know…

Flash Fiction Friday: The Lost Ring

“That’s it, Mum. Your room’s finally tidied.”
“Thank you, love.”
Janet folded her arms and gazed round at her Mum’s bedroom. “I don’t know how you and Dad put up with that mess for so long.”
Her Mum put down her dusting cloth and stood beside her. “You just get busy. You know, chasing after you lot…”
“Which room’s next, then?”
“Wait a minute… Did you tidy up my dresser table?”
“Of course.”
“Where did you put my engagement ring?”
“It’s on your finger, Mum.” Janet smiled.
“No, not that one, the first one your Dad gave me. It was right here…”
“I didn’t see any ring there.”
“Well, it wasn’t a proper ring. He didn’t have one when he proposed. Just a can of ginger. I must have told you the story, how he pulled off the ring-pull and put it on my finger…”
“Oh.” Her smile faded.
“Did you see it?”
“I just thought it was rubbish. I put it in with the recycling…”
“Today’s recycling day…”
“I know…”
They both looked at the window.
“I’ll go!” She ran downstairs, in the distance she could hear the sound of bins being uncerimoniously dumped down, of a lorry engine revving.
The blue bin was still where she’d left it on the pavement. She hurried over and opened the lid, looked down at a dangerous mess of sharp tin lids, crushed plastic bottles and paper.
She remembered the ring pull. Remembered throwing it in with empty drinks cans left over from the previous night and carrying them outside. Cans that had had their ring pulls removed almost as a habit.
She carefully lifted objects out, watching for sharp edges. Wondering if the ring pull might have fallen down the side to the bottom of the tall bin.
She saw the bin lorry turn into their street. She could always wheel the bin back to the house…
All for a ring pull…! Was her Mum really that sentimental? Actually, yes, she probably was. Part of the reason the house was so full of stuff, she never liked to throw anything away.
She lifted a box out and… There! She saw it. Or was it?
She lifted out the ring pull and examined it. Was it the same one from the dresser? They all looked the same.
The bin lorry drew closer. Making a snap decision, she pocketed the ring pull and shoved the box back in the bin along with the rest of the recycling she’d extracted.
Back upstairs she forced a smile. “Found it, Mum!”
“Oh, well done you! Time for a cuppa, I think.”
“Sounds like a plan.” She carefully laid the ring pull on the dresser.
Later that evening she managed to get her Dad alone while he washed the dishes. “I think I might have thrown Mum’s engagement ring out today, you know the ring pull you gave her,” she told him in a quiet voice.
He gave her a strange look. “Does she know?”
“Well, I…”
He hushed her. “Just take another ring pull from a can. She’ll never know the difference.”
“But, Dad…”
“I don’t know how many times I’ve had to replace that thing…”

Copyright Mark Anderson Smith 2017 http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/
You may link to this post from http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/2017/06/flash-fiction-friday-the-lost-ring/ or share on a non-commercial website so long as the full copyright notice and this statement is included.

Ginger: Scot’s slang for soda pop

If you liked this story, or if you didn’t, let me know…

Flash Fiction: Iron Brew


“But why did the cancer come back, Dad?”
“Diesel cars. That’s what they’re saying now.”
“Why would that give you cancer?”
“I don’t know, Son. Make me a brew would you?”
“Another one? How much tea do you drink all day?”
“At least it’s good for you, not like you with that ginger. Full of chemicals that is.”
Angus smiled as his Dad put on a posh accent…
“Tea has been scientifically proven to have health benefits.”
“Aye, right.” Angus looked away as the kettle boiled, not wanting his Dad to see he’d welled up. He blinked the tears away as he poured the steaming water in his Dad’s favourite mug and then stirred the tea bag, noticing the orange tinge to the brown.
“Three sugars remember, Son.”
“Three, Dad? That’s a lot of sugar.”
“Still not as much as in that ginger you drink. Anyway, sugar is good for you.”
“How d’you reckon that?”
“They always give me ice-cream after my chemo. They wouldn’t do that unless sugar was good for you.”
Angus thought back to the sugar cubes he’d been given to make his vaccinations more palatable.
“No, I guess not, Dad.”
Angus took a dry spoon out the drawer and heaped a spoon with the white grains. Hesitated before pouring it into the tea. It wasn’t like his Dad was obese. Skinny as a rake he was. He let the grains tumble off the spoon and repeated again and again…

Copyright Mark Anderson Smith 2017 http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/
You may link to this post from http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/2017/05/flash-fiction-iron-brew/ or share on a non-commercial website so long as the full copyright notice and this statement is included.

Ginger: Scot’s slang for soda pop