Friday 30 October 2009

Fiction Friday #2

Here's my attempt for this week's Fiction Friday challenge on the Write Anything blog. Today's challenge is;

A couple of adults get dressed up for some Halloween fun but the night doesn’t go as planned…

"Are you ready, honey?"


William adjusted his tie and smoothed down his hair with one hand. He grimaced slightly at the oily feel of the gel Mary had insisted he use.

The top step creaked as his wife made her way down the stairs. A halo of tight black curls surrounded her pale face, and she'd balanced a pair of horn-rimmed glasses on her nose. A string of pearls drew his attention to her neck, that beautiful neck which first attracted him to her so many years before.

"Sweetheart, you look amazing!"

"Thank you, darling. You look rather handsome yourself. I love that look on you." Mary smiled at him as she twirled, giving him a better look at the pastel pink skirt suit she’d found in a thrift store.

"Then we're ready?"

"Almost. I just need my treat bag."

Mary darted into the kitchen, her heels clacking on the wooden floor. She came back carrying two plastic pumpkins with black handles, found in the bargain bin of the 24-hour supermarket over on Eighth Street. Mary handed one to William, and beamed.

Leaving the house, William thought of just how clever their costumes were. 1950s car salesman, and dutiful wife. Such a normal choice, so different from their normal selves. The Pattinsons would simply crack up.

"It's quiet, isn't it?" said Mary. He could hear her sniffing the cold night air as she peered into the gloom ahead.

"Yeah. I thought all the neighbourhood kids would have been out trick or treating, or something," replied William. He heard faint footsteps behind them.

"It is late, I suppose. Maybe they've all gone home."

A rustle made William look sharply at the dark bushes to their right. Four shapes melted out of the shadows, forming as gangly young men in front of them. The tallest, a buck-toothed youth with greasy blond hair and bad acne, stepped forward. He held a flick knife in his badly bandaged left hand.

"Money. Now."

William and Mary exchanged a glance. The initial surprise on Mary's face morphed into excitement. William suppressed a snigger.

"What's so funny, Pops? Gimme your money, or I'll cut ya." The youth's voice squeaked as he struggled to sound threatening.

"You're supposed to say, 'Trick or treat', you fool." Mary stepped towards him, suddenly seeming so much taller than her usual 5ft 3ins.

"What? Just give us your money." A second youth spoke. He stood behind the first, lank black hair curling over the collar of his biker jacket.

William heard Mary growl, a soft rumble rolling around her throat.

"Er, trick or treat?" The first youth took a tiny step backward. William noticed the knife trembling in his hand.

"Treat. For us!"

Mary pounced on the blond, knocking his knife to the ground. He cried out as he hit the tarmac, his cry turning into a wet gurgle as she sank her fangs into his neck. His three accomplices screamed as they fled down the street. William watched them leave.

Mary looked up from the corpse, blood smeared across her face. Her eyes faded from yellow to green as she smiled at William.

"Did you enjoy that?" he asked.

"Yes. I’ve had better, but he’ll do for now. Do you think they’ll tell anyone?"

"They’ll try, but who’ll believe them? Come on, let's get rid of this as quick as we can. We don't want to be late."

Mary stood up, straightening her jacket. William bent to grasp the ankles of the body, dragging it behind them. He would dump it in the Pattinsons' pond.

Thursday 29 October 2009

The Fugitive (Flash Fiction)

Charlie crouched under the porch, listening intently. The pounding of feet on the stairs subsided hours ago, but that didn't mean they weren't hiding, waiting for him. His ears buzzed with silence as he lay there with his head cocked on one side.

He poked his head out into the backyard. Abandoned toys littered the lawn, but their owners were nowhere in sight. Breathing a sigh of relief, he crawled out into the open. Almost immediately, a rough hand grabbed his collar and dragged him toward the house.

Yet again, he had failed to escape his monthly bath.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Literary Remixes

The tendency towards remakes and sequels has been present in cinema for decades now, but for a long time it seemed that literature stood apart. A book was an individual creation by an author/genius, and was therefore sacrosanct. They could be adapted for performance in the theatre, or on screen, but it was rare for other authors to continue the story, or to retell it altogether. However, this seems to have changed over recent years, with more authors 'retelling' classic fairytales, or taking inspiration from earlier works.

There have already been plenty of novels released that either continue the story after the final page of classics such as Mansfield Park, or that tell the story of an alternative character (see the series of 'Diary' novels for Jane Austen's heroes), but now a new literary 'remix' trend seems to have exploded out of leftfield. Horror is being injected into the works of Austen - we've already had Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters and Mr Darcy, Vampyre, with Vampire Darcy's Hunger: A Pride and Prejudice Adaptation due in December. Exactly what has prompted this trend? Personally, I can't help thinking that a great deal of it relates to the publishing world's grudging acceptance that women do read horror, and they enjoy it. They also enjoy romance and the classics, so...why not combine the two?

However, I cannot work out whether this trend either devalues the original classic, or devalues the horror genre as a whole. Horror is a particular genre, defined less by its iconography, themes or typical characters and more by the feeling it provokes in the reader or viewer. It has long been seen as the 'poor man' of both literature and cinema, looked down upon by loftier genres, a sort of 'trash' for a less discerning audience. Therefore on one hand, injecting this 'lowest common denominator' genre into classic novels brings the reputations of these novels into a sort of disrepute. The subtle social commentary or historical value of such works is obliterated by the introduction of zombies, vampires and sea monsters, rendering the (often poorly written) original text almost worthless. However on the other hand, horror is actually a complex means of conveying wider themes as it reflects social anxieties current at the time of its inception, and to ham-fistedly cram it into a classic novel tells the world that actually, horror is a bit of silliness, only good for amusing or entertaining the reader as a new spin is put on a well-known story.

Beyond this, I also can't work out why it seems to only be Jane Austen's work that is so far afflicted. She only wrote six full novels, two of which are in my opinion truly dire (Mansfield Park and Emma, in case you were wondering), and surely there are other authors with a larger oeuvre who would benefit from the introduction of a little silliness in their stories? Charles Dickens is a po-faced bore at the best of times, and I can't help thinking that a scene depicting Pip battling a werewolf Miss Havisham would truly improve the work as a whole.

Still, it's an interesting trend, and with any luck will prove that horror is a viable genre for female readers. I shall be watching with interest...

The image in this post is actually a drawing by me!

Monday 26 October 2009

The Music Man (Flash)

The peace doesn't last on a Tuesday morning. Footsteps ring out on the cobbles as streams of notes curl down the street like wisps of smoke. Children too young for school press their faces against windows, and adults stand smiling in doorways. Coins flash in the air, and for once, money buys happiness as the music man goes by.