Short Story: The Great Bowling Alley Massacre

It started quietly enough – another Saturday night at the Airport Bowl.  Lanes six to ten were booked out for the monthly tournament between the baggage handlers’ union and the management.  Tasteless beer and cardboard nachos were purchased and passed around.  There was some ribbing and even a bit of politics but that wasn’t abnormal.

What was abnormal was Don’s ball.  “New ball?” asked Bill.

“Yeah, thought I’d give it a go.  It was a gift from Kelly.”

The ball was bright pink.  Really bright pink.  With flowers and teddy bears and very large finger holes.  The ball was clearly made for hands bigger than Don’s, but he wasn’t going to let that dissuade him.  Kelly bought it for him and Steve approved it (though Steve didn’t much like the patterns on it – his taste tended more to the geometric).

“You sure that’s not your wife’s ball,” shouted George, “she’s always had bigger fingers than you!”

“She’s probably hoping his fingers will grow to fit it – you know what they say – a man with small hands has a small…” the guffaws drowned out the end but it didn’t take much imagination to guess the rest.

“That ain’t no man’s ball,” taunted Milo. Milo’s ball was black with skulls on it.  He was very proud of it.

The assembled teams were a little surprised Don didn’t reply – he was normally very sensitive and quick to fly off the handle.  But Don quietly awaited his turn, checking his phone from time to time.

Don awkwardly hefted his ball, carefully inserted his fingers into the holes and balancing the weight with his other hand.  These were serious bowlers – the taunts ceased while Don awkwardly began his run up.

As the ball rolled down the alley, heading towards the gutter, the assembled men laughed.  They laughed until the flowers shifted revealing hitherto hidden muzzles.  As the ball rolled, the bullets and flames flew.

There were no survivors.

(by Kate Gowers)

Pausing A Moment

It’s been a busy week, a busy month, and nowhere is that more evident than when I look at the journaling app I’m using on my phone to log the short stories/pieces that I’ve been posting here. 

I haven’t put everything I’ve written online but not through any fear of quality or effort, because I’m largely slamming out first draft pieces or concepts. The whole point of the exercise is to rediscover the joy of writing for its own sake in a variety of styles and topics. As a consequence of that, overthinking the editorial process beyond simple spellchecks and the occasional grammar correction seems counterproductive.

The pieces I haven’t put up have tended to be more personal ones, or dabbling in erotica. Some of them may end up in the eBook I’m planning at the end of the year, but I haven’t fully decided whether to do a bulk collection of stories or a curated and slightly polished set of developments of the pieces here.

Comments, preferences and suggestions on that front are always welcome.

In any case, that’s thirty three pieces and counting. I can’t quite believe it.

Short Story: Literal Magic

Oh man, I just hate the grimdark universes. Don’t get me wrong, they’re usually extremely intricate and involved with layers of detail that can bewitch the senses and imagination; but they’re usually just a one-note sack of awfulness. Give me something a bit more nuanced, with some contrasts and possibilities. Don’t go the complete other way and get all utopian either, there’s very few of those universes that don’t stagnate just as quickly as the grimdarks.

So don’t read them, I hear you say. If only that was all it was. I’m a literamancer, so I really don’t get the option. Ah, I see you’re not familiar with the term. Don’t worry, not many are. It’s a portmanteau of two words. You’ll have encountered similar labels, trust me – necromancers and pyromancers should both be familiar to you, for example. They are magicians who work with the dead and fire respectively. Necro for dead, pyro for fire – you can see where this is going, I hope.

My particular speciality revolves around words, around literature. It’s a bit odd, but essentially I travel into fictional spaces and bring out elements to effect changes in this world. It means I have to be careful about what I read though because some of those worlds are barely fun to visit, let alone live in.

I can bring back horrific creatures to unleash for short periods, or go on dates with Jane Austen’s heroines. I can holiday on multikilometer long sentient starships or steal rings of power from subterranean cave dwellers but it’s never easy or without price of some description. Even worse, there are usually wrinkles in those fictional spaces that the authors never documented, and that can trip you up if you’re not careful.

Don’t mention Sherlock Holmes’ dental hygiene for example, or ask what they use for toilets in certain space opera franchises. Captain Nemo’s cooking is eyewatering, and so is Mrs Bennett’s handshake.

And don’t get me started on the pseudo chick-lit universes, or how many shades of grey my brain now refuses to process. Have some self-respect people! I suppose they’re fluffy enough hiding places on a rainy day, but there’s very little to work with in there.

Still, they are better than the grimdarks, but then that’s almost true of everything, practically by definition.