“Pyro” – Poised Pen – Frightening Flash Fiction Competition – Shortlist

The Poised Pen are a writing group from Liverpool. Two of the FlashDogs (A.J. Walker and Catherine Connolly) are also members of the group and they convinced the group to hold a prize winning flash fiction competition, with the chance to appear in an anthology afterwards.

There wee no prompts – just the theme of Halloween.

I have waited some time before posting this.

The book is still available and I recommend you buy it to read the other wonderful stories:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Frightening-Flash-Fiction-Competition-Anthology-ebook/dp/B00QFZDHCW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425816516&sr=8-1&keywords=frightening+flash

My story reached the short-list stage (top ten), but didn’t place in the prize winning spots.


In the pub, he sits unseen. He watches Nathan slug pint after pint. He knows Nathan’s kids are at home, not yet in double-digits, yet they play games on the Xbox that’d make hardened criminals question their ethics.

In the care-home, he watches Reggie. Reggie is a forgotten war veteran. They have reduced Reggie to this, to an animal soiling itself as an act of rebellion against the nursing staff who treat him like flea-ridden vermin.

In the shop he watches Tiffany with her plastic smile and false empathy, she buffs and polishes her customer service award.

In the industrial wastelands of Norfolk, he stalks the miasma of the poultry factory. He walks through the alleyways of death; the cages are filled to the brim with carcasses awaiting processing; gutting and fileting. He eyeballs Raphael, inches from his face, he watches this unassuming man gut the innards from the fattened birds, hour after torturous hour. He sees the ooze of blood that once pumped round the strutting flightless birds. He hears the slop of organs. Feels the yanking’n’tugging’n’twisting of the worm-like intestines. Raphael does not moan. He does not complain about the working conditions or minimum wage, he smiles, he smiles.

The pyro is old enough to remember the turn of the first millennium, when people believed in ghosts, spirits and gods. In this modern age, the congregations prey at the church of celebrity, offer their souls for shiny devices and their treasured harvests are social media stats. The pyro looks for contradiction. He has found his quarry. Raphael will suffer.

It is Halloween. He knows Raphael cannot afford treats for his children. He has seen him in the back of the van, packed with his fellow workmates ferried from agency doorsteps to the factory, their shared breath misted on the rumbling windowpanes. He has watched Raphael look bewildered as people pay for extravagant coffee then just discard it without a thought.

At the end of the shift Raphael is surprised to open his locker and find a large tub of Halloween sweets and a card simply saying ‘thank you’.

When Raphael enters the warm sanctuary of his home, he spills the contents on the wizened sofa. His family glean and groan in appreciation as they gorge on the sacred gifts. He too has his fill. And when they are finished, they can’t help but sleep…

The pyro stands over them now. He could torch this place. But he is not here for the children, he is just here for his fix of contradiction, to feel the flames. He places his hands on Raphael. Raphael slips into sleep he will not recover from. The pyro beckons Raphael’s soul and places it somewhere safe, a vessel, until it can be used.

Halloween is but the prelude to Bonfire Night.

Raphael awakens. He cannot move and he cannot see, but he can hear. He hears “Penny for the Guy…Penny for the Guy.” And, he hears the sounds of children laughing, of sparklers, of fireworks. He hears the sounds of twigs breaking and of logs being thrown, the clunk of dry wood on dry wood. Tinder.

He hears the sound of a voice, the voice is impossibly old and it wheezes and crackles like a bronchial infection, it rasps, “You are my sacrifice. You are my sacrifice.”

He smells the pyro, his scent alternates between blackened charcoal, acrid smoke, singed hair and flammable liquids.

Raphael hears the grind of the flint wheel. He hears the spark, then the gush of flame.

He tries to scream. He tries to move but his soul is contained in the fabric of the effigy.

Then he feels. He feels the heat. He feels the sense of power from this creature that has lived since man first struck stone against stone. He sees the great fire of London and this abomination laughing and dancing. He feels the flames, they come, they lick, they consume.


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