A.J. Walker


February 2023

A Dog Called Regret

Mid Week Flash Challenge: Week 280

A Dog Called Regret

Jennifer slumped in the sofa, her face speaking of thunder and depression. It was proving to be one of those weekends. The Black Dog, her dad called it. Winston Churchill suffered with it he said. Her seemed to think it would help knowing famous and even great people suffered with it, so it was alright for her to do so too. As help goes she thought it was shit. These people had money, fame, friends and colleagues; she had no one: just that Black Dog.
Scrolling up and down the TV schedule Jennifer found nothing that interested her. She didn’t have the concentration for a new film, she ended up settling for some series or other she’d watched countless times. It would wash over her anyway.
Her phone stubbornly failed to buzz with notifications; nobody cared about her today. Maybe nobody ever did. Every time the adverts came on the volume went up, then it quietened too much for the show. Whatever it was. If pressed she’d say it was something American; maybe it was an NCIS, CSI, or Law & Order. It didn’t matter. It was simply background noise to her mood.
While the loud adverts came on for life insurance, stair lifts, and denture cleaning products she found herself scrolling through her photo albums. Ian Botham was shouting to a woman about his feet whilst trying to look jolly and sincere while Jennifer had found herself in Malta. What a holiday that was: warm weather; great food; nice beaches; and even top sex. It had felt like the beginning of a new life at the time. It felt perfect. Duncan had seemed perfect for her and she to him. All her friends were happy for her. To find your soulmate is always to be celebrated as much as a lottery win. Claire had said it was as unlikely as winning the lottery, especially as you couldn’t even know when you were in the draw.
She wondered what had happened to Claire. So many of her friends from those days were long gone. What had happened to her life since then? She’d drifted from them without even noticing over the years. And then there was Duncan. Her biggest regret. She’d got worried about things. They were getting on like a house on fire. Like they’d known each other forever, despite only being together for less than a year when they went to Malta. They’d then had city breaks in Barcelona, Madrid, and Rome. Each was wonderful to her, and for Duncan too. He’d proposed in Rome in the piazza by her favourite building; the Parthenon. She’d cried tears of joy. She’d shouted ‘Yes’ repeatedly. There had been applause from customers at the restaurant. It was a night still etched in her memory. But now it felt like a memory of a movie, something that had happened to somebody else. Two years they’d been together when he’d proposed. Two years that could not have been better. In hindsight she’d call them the “Peak Jennifer” years. Hindsight. Damn hindsight. Why couldn’t hindsight do a deal with foresight from time to time?
They were getting married in a registry office to save on costs. But there was a big party planned in Gloucester afterwards. Two hundred friends and family to celebrate with them, before they were to head out to California for a fly drive to die for. Two years that couldn’t have been better, a wedding that was just what they wanted and a honeymoon she’d have died for. So lucky.
She didn’t deserve any of it. Her brain was broken. Friends didn’t have what she had; and was to have. But they were better than her, they deserved better. She decided she couldn’t accept it. It was bound to go wrong down the road. She was being set up. Life was having a laugh. Perfect Duncan. Perfect future. Perfect life. It was all a big fat joke on her. She’d no doubt about that.
She’d ended it with Duncan over four acrimonious months. Then she’d hidden away from the world. Lost him, lost her brilliant life. Eventually Jennifer lost all her friends too. Her life was now awful – like it should be. She’d sorted it. She had days when she’d wonder what would have happened if she’d married Duncan. She told herself that she couldn’t regret it. At least she had the Black Dog for company. Had she even been to Malta?

The Make-Up Artist

Microcosms No.178

The Make-Up Artist

‘It’s rare this whisky.’ Dale shouted from the sitting room.

‘Don’t know anything about them.’ Marnie called back. ‘I’m a white wine girl.’

Dale was jealous of her drinks cabinet, but right now he’d enjoy it.

He heard an oven door close and then Marnie came to the door holding a glass. He smiled.

‘The hostess with the mostess.’ He said.

’Nah. It’s a Shiraz. Come in the kitchen.’

He took his cue and sat next to her at the breakfast bar. It felt like a dream. The most in demand make-up artist in cinema and he was spending the evening with her: and the night, he hoped.

‘What’s your favourite horror?’ She asked.

He chuckled. ‘Not a fan really. Just keep getting cast in them. Pays the bills.’

’Oh dear. Not into them, but in them.’

Dale turned to her as she put her hand on his thigh. All night was feeling more likely. ‘How about yours?’

‘Always the next one.’

‘How do you do it? That film last year – the Oscar one – was so lurid and realistic and look at you; beautiful and demure. Butter wouldn’t melt.’

‘Heard about books and covers?’ She said. ‘How’s the whisky?’

‘Smooth, warm, stunning.’ Like you, he wanted to say.

A smile rose across her face. ‘Nice. For your last drink.’

‘Well maybe I’ll have another. Or a beer.’

’No. That’s your last drink.’ She plunged a blade deep into his chest. He stopped, like a stuck film, for seconds before choking and spluttering. Blood spewed from his mouth as the chest wound spread its redness across his white shirt.

She watched in rapt attention. Every kill gave her more experience. A better understanding of how to make her film work more realistic – and more gory. Her next film would be special.


Elements: Make-Up Artist / Kitchen / Horror
300 words

What Lies Beneath

What Lies Benath Lilies
Mid Week Flash Challenge: Week 279

What Lies Beneath

Daniel stood on the pebble beach looking out across the mirror water. There was not a breath of air moving the sea. He wasn’t sure if he should breathe lest he caused the water to move. He felt a euphoria at last making it to see The Lilies. Casey shook her head, Daniel’s insistent demands to come to the middle of nowhere on Cassia6 was insane. She couldn’t understand why he didn’t just look on the Cybernet for features on them.

‘Can we go now?’ Casey asked.

Daniel didn’t hear or chose to ignore her.

‘I said…’

‘Sometimes I wonder if you have a soul, Casey.’’ Daniel said.

‘Whoever they were they didn’t die for me. They probably died for salt or something. Anyway how come you don’t know, I thought you were obsessed with the Cassia6 Wars.’

‘Fuck’s sake, I know.’ He wondered why she’d not stayed at the resort relaxing, drinking fine wines and eating exquisite foods; instead of having two uncomfortable days to get across a desert with him.

Casey knew the numbers. He’d told her countless times.

‘There isn’t even a memorial here.’ She said. ‘If the people here are not interested why should I? When we going back?’ How was a bloody boundary drawn up anyway through a big fat nothing. Probably randomly sketched by some politician on a faulty map. A line through a desert. How did anyone ever know whose country they were in?

Daniel sat on the shore, toying with throwing a pebble into the water. But decided against it. If breathing could cause a ripple what would a stone landing in the water do? Especially when he knew what lay beneath.

The guide and driver brought over some lunch. It was going to be a long afternoon if this didn’t placate Casey. Cheese and wine though usually did the trick.

‘Come here, love. We have some of your favourites. We both deserve it after two days in that vehicle.’ It was incredible that it was the only way to get to there. He’d been told flying and sailing was outlawed so close to sea boundary. Afternoon came and went with a procession of food – and not a little wine - and Casey mellowed; even cuddling up as it cooled when the sun went down.

She looked at the twin lines of lilies. So perfect. It was a wonder of nature she thought.

As the sun fell over the far island the two of them stared out across the water. It was a spectacle so few had seen. A few politicians and defence ministers knew the reality: as did Daniel. This place was never to be a tourist destination. Daniel had paid so much geld for this.

‘Casey, I’m glad you’re here. But you must never speak of this. The consequences to us both could be dire.’

Casey looked at him like he was mad. ‘It was just a few morsels of meat and fish wasn’t it? Are you saying we broke the law with those nibbles?’

‘Not the food. This…’ He nodded towards the water and she saw things were markedly changing. As the darkness thickened the lilies were getting hard to see. But there was something else..

‘Keep looking either side of the lilies.’

She couldn’t fail to see it: multitudes of lights beneath the water that went on for hundreds of meters in both directions. The suddenness of nightfall meant the lights quickly took over the view. There was a black line between the lights corresponding to the line of the lilies. It was an incredible sight.

‘What is this?’

‘True history. The battles back in antiquity here were fought by two races of a species we’ll never see. This was no fight over salt or fresh water. These are sea creatures who live in a distinct belt around this world. Evidently there were two distinct sides who fell out and fought such a war. There are no memorials on the land to the dead because all the dead – and the living – are beneath the water. The lilies are both a memorial and a demarcation zone for the two sides. They are metal. Possibly made on old earth. Maybe one day there will be a peace and the lilies will go?’

They watched masses of movements in lights and shade on both sides. Towns or cities. Casey was gobsmacked. It was exciting and beautiful. She quickly kissed Daniel. It was going to be a hard secret to keep.