blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

The Last Piece – pt 2

rainbow landscape edit
k_r_craft (edited) via pixabay

part one here

“Bedtime stories are the best kind. Some of them are even true. What would you say if I told you that my life is a kind of story, a search for something most do not believe in and have never seen?”

I sat up. “I would say, tell me more.”

“I found the end of the rainbow.” He glanced at me and went on.

“It happened many years ago. I was a poor farmer’s son then. I thought I saw it touch down in the next field, brilliant and about a yard wide. I dropped my tools and ran, but to my horror there was another man running for the same thing. He was weighed down by saddlebags, but he got there first.’ Gavin’s tale had my complete attention and I nodded at him, fascinated.

“Oh. And what happened next?”

“I was prepared to fight him for the gold, but to my surprise he dumped the saddlebags as soon as he reached the rainbow. Gold spilled all over the grass. I thought he was crazy, and I ran faster than I ever had in my life. As I drew closer, I saw his hair turn white. He aged in front of me, becoming bent and wrinkled, but he continued to smile. The yellow band of the rainbow widened and grew bright like sunlight, and he stepped into it and vanished.

Continue reading “The Last Piece – pt 2”

blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

The Last Piece -pt 1

rainbow landscape edit
k_r_craft (edited) via pixabay

part one

The stranger looked the type who didn’t stay in one place too long. While I served the other customers, I watched him drink his pint of dark ale and brood silently. He wasn’t local and we don’t get much passing trade.

Dark hair escaped from his dark green knitted hat and curled over the collar of a very shabby leather jacket. The rest of his clothes were an odd assortment; ripped jeans, well-worn cowboy boots that he must have got from a charity shop somewhere, and a spotless open-necked cream shirt. He brought a couple of messenger bags with him and kept them at his feet.

I found him fascinating, and the symbols tattooed on his hands only added to the mystery. Obviously my inspection wasn’t as subtle as I hoped because Sam, the other barmaid, started to tease me about him.

“Watching the customers again. Or maybe just Mr Mysterious over there, eh?” She nudged me while handing change over the counter.

Continue reading “The Last Piece -pt 1”

blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Chasing the horizon pt 2

part 2

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PublicDomainPictures via pixabay

part one here

“It is done.” The demon vanished, leaving a faint acrid smell of smoke and scorch marks on the ceiling.

Xander rubbed his eyes. Did that really happen? Maybe it was a dream. But the sandwich was gone. He made some toast, and wondered.

In the middle of the night he sat bolt upright. He knew what to paint. He ran downstairs, set up a new canvas, and set to work.

A few days later there was a knock at the door. Xander was loath to stop, he was on a roll, but the knocking continued. He snatched the door open.

“I’m working, Fabian,” he yelled and went back inside.

Fabian strolled in. “That’s good, because otherwise I’d have to ask for the advance back. My little gallery can’t afford – what’s that?”

Xander continued to paint. “Just something from my imagination.”

“It’s very striking. How long till it’s finished?”

“I don’t know, but longer if you don’t leave me alone.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll pop back next week.”

Continue reading “Chasing the horizon pt 2”

blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Chasing the horizon

part 1

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PublicDomainPictures via pixabay

 

Xander watched the bacon bits sizzling in the pan and sighed. He had to cut off the mouldy parts, since there was little else in the fridge. If he didn’t sell a painting soon, he’d be on the street. It had all been so different years ago, when he was the toast of the art world. He specialised in disturbing dreamscapes that recalled Dali but were even more fantastical. Monstrous creatures roamed his canvases, and critics loved his ‘glimpse into the eerie world of the grotesque’ as The Times put it.

Lately he sold hardly anything. The world had moved on, and it was harder to surprise the modern generation.

The ketchup bottle was almost empty too. He squeezed the last few drops onto stale bread. He spread it out in a pleasing pattern with his finger, thinking it looked like an ancient sign of some kind.

“Hmm, what was it he said on Demon Hunter? Something like congregandum eos coram me? Not that you can believe a TV programme.

He turned to get the bacon and almost screamed at the apparition in the corner.

“No, you’re not going mad, yes, I am real, yes, you did summon me. By accident, apparently.” The creature spoke with a weary inflection to its deep, rumbling voice. It folded its huge, leathery wings with a dry, crackling sound.

Continue reading “Chasing the horizon”

blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Holding on for a hero

who will answer the call?

man_cocoparisienne
cocoparisienne via pixabay

listen: 

Mankind is facing annihilation – again.

People are calling my name – but for all the wrong reasons. I can’t believe you’d expect me to lay myself on the line for them. I am not the man I was. I am not as strong, as fast or as foolish as I was thirty years ago and the world has no right to ask any more of me. For God’s sake. I gave it all before, gave up my one and only love, my peace of mind. I risked everything.

Yes, people chanted my name, put my picture on magazines, even made movies about me. But you didn’t want the rest of the story, did you? Didn’t want to know how my spirit was broken. Didn’t want to hear about the nightmares that haunted me day and night. I see all those faces still. They told me it was a price worth paying.

Tell that to the ones I couldn’t save.

Yes, I got a medal from the president and a pension, but I was alone. I am alone.

So why should I come back now? I’ve had thirty years to figure out that people want you when they need you. And when they don’t need you any more, you’re dead to them. The fate of the planet lies in my hands, and my hands alone? Don’t be absurd. It’s never that simple.

Find another young idealist to sacrifice themselves. Not one of you would trade places with me, and that’s how we see the real truth. If I take on this fight now, and win, what is there in it for me? I already know what the world’s gratitude consists of. And if I try and fail, what is there in it for me? I already know the bitter taste of rejection. There are many less painful ways to die.

How dare you come here to weep and beg for my help. How dare you pretend to care about anything other than yourselves. Guilt and fear is written all over you. Save us, you cry. We are all human, all in it together. Well then.

If that is true, let us all burn together.

I deserve better than this. I have paid the price already.

audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

On Goodbye

Skitterphoto_cropped
Skitterphoto via pixabay

 

Listen to this story: 

I never said goodbye to my mother. By the time we realised she was leaving, we found that her body remained but her soul was already on the train. Her eyes were fixed on an unknowable, distant destination. We waved when the whistle blew, but she never looked back. Worrying away at that loose thread, I believed that goodbyes are important. So when I heard that he was going into the hospice that day, I went.

It was one of many such days. Endless activity, calls to action, demands to be met. But this call was my own, and not to be deferred. He smiled when I told him that I had to come before he left. In between pauses to catch his breath, he told me how much he valued our friendship.

In turn, I thanked him for his advice, freely given and always useful. We reminisced about past times, while afternoon sun bathed the room in a warm glow and a ticking clock provided a constant rhythm in the background.

He said he didn’t want to burden his wife any more, and shushed her murmured protests. This was the right thing for both of them, he said.

She was a strong woman, and she did not cry. She watched him with love and she smiled, because he needed to see it and she had to give him whatever he needed, now that all prayers were useless. Pain would be borne later, in private. She offered tea, but I could not delay my commitments further.

He coughed and wheezed. Joked that he sounded as if he had been on twenty a day, and I responded that life just wasn’t fair sometimes. It’s never been fair, and we shook hands.

We had spoken the truth, but we ended with a lie.

“See you again,” I said.

And he replied with a smile, “I hope so.”

We parted with a final, double-handed handshake, after which I held back my sudden impulse to hug him. It would have felt like surrendering to the inevitable. When all seems lost, the tiniest shred of hope is the only thing left to us, and we cling to it lest we drown.

He was tired of fighting, and he faced his future calmly. Intangible and yet absolutely present, the word we would not say hung in the air like smoke.

blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

An ending

rose petal red_malubeng
malubeng via pixabay

 

I sat at a window table in the coffee shop waiting for my perennially tardy friend Clare. I’d come to expect the text saying she was running late two minutes before we were due to meet. I didn’t mind though. I got the first round in; a large latte for her, apple and elderflower tea for me, and millionaire’s shortbread to share. She’d be along, and I could people watch while I waited. Usually it was a chance to daydream with the hum of early Saturday morning as a soundtrack.

The slam of a car door outside rang through the entrance as a patron came in. The dark haired woman stormed off, pulling her shoulder strap over her head. Her blue bag bounced on her hip and she dodged other shoppers with grace and speed. As she approached the coffee shop her frown was obvious, dark brows lowered and jaw set.

Her companion caught up in a few long strides, grabbed her wrist. She spun round, shook her hand free. I sipped my tea and watched the back and forth. She waved her hands, stabbed a finger at his chest in accusation. He shook his head, clenched his fists at his sides. One or two passers-by glanced at them but they paid no attention, fully absorbed in their moment of drama.

My phone buzzed again. Clare was running really late, so I finished the shortbread. We could always get another. Meantime this silent altercation had drawn me in.

He opened his palms, placatory. Her shoulders slumped, eyes downcast. There was a brief pause. In movies, that would be the pivotal moment. He’d beg forgiveness, she’d realise what she’s losing, and they would fall into each other’s arms. Roll credits.

She walked away. He watched her go, then called out. She hesitated and stopped. I held my breath. She turned back and I saw her face clearly. She bit her bottom lip, nodded fractionally and walked up to him. The wind tugged at his light hair as she cupped his face between her hands and brought him down for a soft kiss. The tension in his shoulders relaxed and he reached for her at the exact moment she stepped away. She gave him a small, sad smile before leaving without looking back.

The man still stood rooted to the spot, touching his lips as if to hold on to her. He returned to his car and sat for a while before driving off.

I was still wondering about them even after Clare rushed in, describing her own little drama of lost keys and a broken heel. At least that could easily be fixed.

Maybe truth is stranger than fiction but life is not a fairytale. Sometimes it ends with a kiss.