Gordon O’Dowd waited outside the management offices of Universal Consulting. He’d been with the company since he left school. As he sat in the ornate hallway with wooden panelled walls and golden lamps that barely lifted the gloom Gordon felt every inch the schoolboy. He remembered when he got sent to the Headteachers office for gluing a mirror to his shoes and using it to look up girls skirts.
Happy days, he thought.
Mr Murphy was running late. Gordon had been waiting a full thirty minutes, unless the large clock at the end of the hallway was wrong. The thing ticked so loudly that Gordon was pretty sure he would be able to hear it back at his desk even behind the soundproofing effect of the paperwork walls its was buried under. Gordon could have done without this today.
With a creek befitting the finest cheesy horror flick, the door to Gordon’s left yawned open. Ms Murphy the bosses daughter and secretary, (No-one, including her, was sure in which order that was) beckoned Gordon “Dad.. oh no.. Mr Murphy will see you now” she said. Grinning at her non-corporate slip she pulled the door back so that Gordon could walk through the door out of the gloomy hallway into the modern open plan style office that was home to Mr Murphy.
Murphy bounded over to see him like a happy puppy and shook Gordons hand.
“O’Dowd” he boomed. “Thanks for coming to see me, I know you are extremely busy”
“Well when the boss calls you gotta go right.” Replied Gordon trying to match the light-hearted bouncy dog.
“Right, right. Please take a seat” Murphy himself drew back a big old leather chair from behind his glass desk. Gordon selected a rather more modest affair and sat, not relaxed, although trying to appear so, across from his boss.
Ms Murphy meanwhile had been busying herself with making a fresh pot of coffee which she placed down on the glass desk along with two unbelievably small cups. In the brighter light of the office Gordon noticed she was wearing a bright green dress, almost too short for office wear, the evil part of Gordon’s mind longed for his mirrored shoes.
As Ms Murphy walked away Gordon’s brain was awoken from it’s sleazy state by the echoing tone of her Father. “I’ve called you here today to discuss project 82734.”
“Oh the Arrde project?” Gordon replied.
“Yes that’s the one.” Murphy said, pushing the plunger down on the coffee pot. “How do you think it’s going?”
“Arrde, well like all projects there have been issues we have had to overcome but I think it’s on track. The current stage of development has been prone to scope creep, but that is expected on a project of this size.”
Mr Murphy sighed and poured himself a very small cup of coffee. “Want some?” he offered.
Gordon shook his head.
“I’ve been in this line of work a long time.” Murphy continued, coffee cup dwarfed in his hand. “Spare me your models and ‘scope creep’. What in the hell is that anyway?”
“Well Sir, its where..”
“Don’t tell me son I just don’t care.” Murphy interrupted. “The result is the same I’ve seen the files. It’s a fucking mess.”
“Sir with respect, that is a little harsh.” replied Gordon on the defensive, “More people are alive than ever before, I have enabled the use of cutting edge technologies. Over 3% of clients absolutely love the project.”
“Gordon, we both know the clients don’t know shit about the project. The 3% are so rich they don’t know their arse from their elbow.”
“Ok, ok.” insisted Gordon. “I know there are problems but look at the healthcare people benefit form.”
“People wouldn’t need healthcare if they didn’t get sick from your mistakes. Babies die Gordon. Fucking babies.”
“People love me.”
“Thats the other thing O’Dowd. Other agents on projects have not used the projects to self promote them or their families. There are statues of your son everywhere.”
“Branding, easier to market if there is a clear brand. You told me that.”
“There is branding and what you have done. Your name is everywhere, on money on buildings. It’s just overkill.”
“My name is nowhere Sir, look at the file. It’s just initials.”
Murphy stood up from behind his desk.
“Gordon, I like you. But you have fucked up bad. Everywhere I look in this file there are diseases, wars, famine. Instead of sorting this out you have promoted yourself, not even the company. ‘In God we trust’ people have that everywhere. They trust you Gordon O’Dowd, they think you have the ability to help them. Yet time and again you have failed. The project is a disaster. I’m gonna have to let you go.”
The idea for this piece was taken from this Reddit post from the Writing Prompts subreddit and from u/LSDbag.
My target, just sat there, perusing the carriage, he wore a thick black coat well even though it must have been hot, being as it is mid-July. I don’t think he’s seen me yet as I am well shielded by the seats, tables and irritated commuters between us.
I enjoy my journeys but commuters annoy me. I audibly growled my annoyance at one woman earlier who was kicking up a fuss about the “Quiet Carriage” she seemed to think it meant she should be able to hear a pin drop and was making a fuss much louder than anyone else around, flapping her arms around at the train manager like a demented parrot. She very nearly blew my cover.
I want to move closer, but something stops me. Maybe it is too soon, a strike now in front of everyone on the carriage would perhaps be foolhardy, I’d certainly be in the doghouse that’s for sure. At least it would give the parrot lady something real to complain about. If I waded in now and hit my target I’d be extra loud just to stick in her craw.
But no distractions, that would give him the upper hand. If he won, as unthinkable as it is, it would be terrible. I’d have to leave the train, tail between my legs like some amateur. I’ve seen off bigger foes than him before. If I bide my time and strike only when the time is right, it will be him that is forced into retreat with only that smart black coat to hide his shame.
The train ambles into another station. Our air conditioned bubble is momentarily burst as people take one last look around for lost belonging before leaving to be replaced with strangely similar looking people. Faces different of course but they moved and even smelt the same. Anxious, hurried each and every one. I can only assume that no-one wants to be here.
The train began to trundle on it’s way. He is still there, he’s spotted me. I give him the signal.
Nothing, no response.
I signal again, just in case he missed it. I catch his gaze. He looks away. Good he can’t bare to look at me, he knows he is well out of his depth here.
Nothing stopping me hurtling down the train towards him, that bastard, sat on my train. I’ll show him. I grit my teeth and bound towards him with all the power my short legs can muster, there was no doubt that this was no longer a quiet carriage as I got as close to his face as I could, snarling, teeth snapping. This place was mine, how dare he be here, near my person.
Then I heard the words that always stopped me.
I hit the floor, and waited to find out if I was a good boy.
It was too hot to work, flies buzzed round Joe’s head as he tried to keep the sweat out of his eyes with little success.
The job needed to be done, unfortunately for Joe it turned out to be the hottest day of the year and the sun burned down on to the top of Joe’s balding head.
There was once a time when his wife Josephine would’ve rubbed aftersun on that,
she would’ve put lotion on his blistered hands too where the axe handle had slipped from his grip.
Joe looked at Josephine and let his axe fall again.
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“Ladies and Gentleman, all your thoughts on the matter are of course appreciated, but we still haven’t talked about the elephant in the room…”
The members of the gathered associated press laughed as flash blubs illuminated the stage.
“Two elephants surely.” One of them called out, to further guffaws.
“Why yes dear boy. Two of everything.” Noah replied, holding aloft two fat fingers, causing more flash bulbs to splash light in his direction “Any further questions?”
“Noah, Bill Malcolm New York Times, How do you plan on stopping the animals from eating each other?”
“I’ve spoken to them of course” Noah replied with a twinkle in his eye. “No in all seriousness the Ark is the most sophisticated thing the human race has ever built, the holding pens for all the animals are state of the art as you’ll see from the booklet we have provided.”
“Did you build the Ark yourself?” a voice called out.
“No it’s 2015 and I’m no boat builder. No, better to think of me as the project lead.”
“It is true you had issues with finance for the project?” said another.
“Every start up has difficulty keeping afloat.” Noah smiled through the groans from the crowd this comment caused, a man very much in his element. “But Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Addias all have been very happy to be involved with the project and they have given us the capital to quite literally save the world.”
“What do you say to all the people who say this is just a publicity stunt from you and those sponsors? An ego trip or an attempt to ‘Break the internet’ if you will”
“The reality is,” Noah replied gazing towards the window to his left and beyond to a clear blue sky “that without the internet and social media, the sponsors or indeed you, the members of the press wouldn’t be here and the Ark wouldn’t have been built. This is not about me, it’s about the boat and the animals.”
“What do you say to Greenpeace and the millions of animal charities throughout the world who doubt your claims and level charges of animal cruelty?”
“I would say it’s far crueller to let all the animals drown. Again they are welcome to look around the Ark to see the wonderful facilities we have, an improvement for many animals over their natural habitats.” Noah said with a steely look in his eye.
“You say a voice from the sky told you to build this ‘Ark’ despite it being the driest year since records began. Do you understand that people may doubt your claims?”
“Of course, I doubted myself. I am a man with an open mind, but even I worried I was going nuts. The voice spoke to me a number of times and was pretty convincing. I have attempted to warn the world best I can, there are always gonna be people who doubt you”
“What if you are wrong?”
And then the rain began to fall.
Gareth was an office worker, nothing fancy not the work of his dreams, but it paid the bills. Gareth’s office was slap bang in the centre of the city, in a unassuming office block most of which, if the sign out the front was to be believed, was available “To Let at reasonable rates” Ten years ago Gareth wondered what reasonable rates were, but the mists of time and the fact that he generally only had £3.03 in his bank account after his rent was paid, dulled his curiosity.
The office was usually quiet on a Thursday. With the homeworkers wangling Thursday and Friday as their “WAH” days. Gareth enjoyed the peace, it enabled him to get on uninhibited by office wit and tales of Justines boyfriend. Including Gareth there were five people on Floor 4.Thursday morning passed in the blink of an eye, even the teleconference, which usually was a nightmare, completed without a hitch.
Gareth went for lunch at Jean-Claudes not because he liked the food, it was overdressed and dry at the same time, go figure. But because he quite liked to look at Paula, pale, Polish and as curvy as a coke bottle. Maybe one day he would talk to her about something other than his BLT.
Full of regret, bacon, lettuce and tomato Gareth returned to his desk to find a pink neon Post-it note with “MOVE” written on it in block capitals resting precariously on his keyboard. Gareth sat down on his wheeled chair and examined the note further.
“Dave.” Gareth shouted in the general direction of a bespectacled man at the opposite end of the office. “Did you see anyone near my desk at lunch?”
“There was a man, no-one I recognise though. Didn’t stick around for long” Dave hollered back.
“Cheers mate, did you…”
Dave held up his phone in the air. Dave was on a call.
Gareth pondered for a few seconds before his phone sprang to life. He answered it expecting whoever was on the other end to give him answers to what the MOVE note was all about, just like in the movies. But no it was Michelle about the case notes he was preparing. She had amendments, lots of amendments so Gareth was to be sat at his desk all afternoon.
By 5pm Dave had waved farewell and the office was empty. Gareth had forgotten about the note. The case he was working on was high profile and complex, Gareth couldn’t remember how long it had been since he had work that really mattered. If he delivered this report, it would help Michelle put this guy away for a long time. Robbery, Battery, Bombings, GBH the list was long. All the prosecutors evidence was finally tied up. Gareth crossed the metaphorical t’s and dotted those hypothetical i’s on this one
By 7pm Gareth had completed his days work. He flipped the switch to turn off his computer, exhaling he swept his hand over his desk knocking his pen to the floor.
“Bugger.” he said aloud to no-one in particular.
He wearily rose from his chair and bent down towards to the floor to retrieve the escaping biro. It was then he noticed the second note.
“DON’T” it said.
It was then he heard the ticking of the bomb.
She was pleased she was no longer under the glare of the studio lights. It had been a long week to be a news anchor. Riots and civil unrest in her city, she grew weary of being the barer of bad news, there was only so much beautiful auburn hair and flawless smile could do to lighten the turmoil on the streets.
She was heading fast towards her dressing room, gliding across the floor with the grace of a dancer in a deep green dress suit. She opened her dressing room door and kicked off her heels with one seamless motion. She closed the door behind her and let out a deep sigh. Then she felt something hard press in the small of her back.
“Don’t you fucking move Jolene!” snarled a woman’s voice.
Jolene let out a small scream that was soon stifled by her assailant shoving the gun harder into her spine.
“One more sound and I swear to God. Sit down over there!” the woman hissed waving towards a nearby chair with her gunless hand.
Jolene stumbled toward the chair, head spinning. What the hell did this nut job want?
The woman produced some rope and tied Jolene to the chair, almost the second she had sat down, she tied knots with skill that most boy scouts would die for. With a struggling Jolene secured the woman began to pace back and forth like a caged Lion. She went first to the dressing room door and locked it, then went so the emmy award winning news anchor could see the whites of her eyes.
“You stay the fuck away from my man you hear me?” she growled. “You see I had to have a little talk with you. I can’t just sit there and let you take him away.”
Jolene shook her head. She had no idea what the woman was talking about, she was no angel and in the past had had many a fling, and she could indeed proudly say that no man, or woman for that matter had ever turned down her advances, but she was too busy for an affair.
“No” she said softly . “I have no idea what you are talking about”
“Liar!” the woman bellowed into Jolene’s face, “You don’t know what he means to me, how dare you sit there and deny it.”
“I’m not seeing anyone at the moment” still calm, measured, how she delivered bad news to the camera. “Now if you’d stop waving the gun about, maybe we could talk this over.”
“You’d like that wouldn’t you? Talking. I heard him say he loves the way you talk.”
“I’m pretty sure, I’ve never met your husband. Tell me his name.”
“Tony Rogers.” said the woman growing twitchy.
“I can honestly say I’ve never met a Tony. Please put the gun down, I think you have made a terrible mistake.”
“Mistake? You fucking bitch,” the woman shouted nearly hitting Jolene with the butt of her pistol, but for some reason thinking better of it, maybe liking the reaction on Jolene’s face. “Scared you there didn’t I. Tony tells me you are so so brave.”
“Listen, I’ve never met Tony.” Jolene pleaded.
“Tony tells me, you are so beautiful and so brave. He never stops talking about you”
“I don’t know what else to say. I have never met, seen, or spoken to anyone named Tony”
“You lie,” the woman says, almost smiling, pleased with herself, “He says he meets up with you twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday”
“Ah ha you whore, You admit it.”
Jolene laughed nervously “At 10pm Tuesday and Thursday I present my show.”
The woman looked at her blankly.
“Your husband,” Jolene continued “Watches my show. I said there was a stupid mistake.”
Then the shot was fired, that struck a helpless Jolene in the side of her head. Causing her to slump down in the chair.
“No-one calls me stupid.”
Jessica O’Malley moved to the city five years ago, she drove a delivery truck. She was originally from Boston and as close to an Irish rose as you could be without being born on the emerald isle. She had long red hair, which on this gusty day was swept back into a pony tail and topped with a green woollen hat that the salesperson said brought out her eyes. Jess didn’t care, it kept her head warm. She had a body which like any 28 year old she wasn’t happy with. The guys at the delivery depot from which she was driving didn’t seem to notice any imperfections, but what did they know. Guys eh, she thought.
Guys, or rather, one particular guy was the reason she sat in New York City traffic. She’d moved to the city to be with him. They split after he had a string of illicit liaisons the last of which had been with her sister.
Mike was a jerk and Jess was glad to be rid of him. But she grew to love his city, so she stayed. She found a job and the guys there were fun to be around, no-one date worthy however. She loved her job and people she would meet but sometimes it got all too much so the cab of her truck gave her space and time to herself. An oasis amongst the people, traffic and the elements, a peaceful haven whenever she needed it. Usually.
A huge crash shattered her peace.
“Holy shit!” she exclaimed, not another accident. Her boss was gonna be pissed, but something was different. The impact seemed to push her cab down rather than the usual forward motion of a fender bender.
“Arrh” she heard coming from the back her truck. The traffic wasn’t going anywhere and people were looking strangely at her and the truck, pointing. So she killed the engine and clambered out to investigate.
A small crowd had gathered. Jess was confused, what the hell was going on? She pushed through the crowd slid up the rear door of the truck and peered inside, along with at least ten strangers.
“Look,” she said. “Back the fuck off, it’s just an accident. Stop being so goddamn nosey” Jess clambered up into the truck and slid the door down behind her, no-one was stealing anything from her truck!
She looked up, there was a hole in the roof of the truck. beneath the hole, in amongst todays cargo, which happened to be mattresses was a balding fat guy, cradling his arm and moaning in pain.
“What the hell man!” Jess said. “How the fuck did you…”
“I fell.” the man stuttered.
“Where the hell from? There isn’t a overhanging branch in this city”
“That apartment block. My arm really hurts.”
“Fuck your arm, look at my truck. How do I know this wasn’t a dumass plan to rob me or something?”
“It wasn’t I promise you, I just slipped.”
“What the fuck are you doing up there anyway?” Jess said. “You ain’t Spiderman, you one of those meth heads tryna fly?”
The man looked at Jess. Took a deep breath and spoke slowly.
“You may not know it, but you just saved my life. My arm hurts like hell, but I don’t regret falling anymore. I have never loved anyone more..”
He passed out.
Apparently it was true, your life does flash before your eyes before you die. I perhaps should have done more, but no regrets eh. Except maybe slipping, that was a major regret. But clumsiness leading to a inevitable fatal fall not the most glamorous way to go out. I had perhaps underestimated the effects of the wind on the human body at 15 stories high, but I blame her entirely. Her smile, her eyes, her hair..
Why did she have to live on the top floor?
Why could she not have lived on the ground floor? Easy access and a easy route to enable a guy to make silly romantic gestures. A ground floor apartment would have eliminated the need for climbing and indeed falling entirely. A ground floor apartment would have made it much easier for a rotund gentleman such as myself. Mind you the surprise element on the ground floor would have been lost somewhat, hard to make a dramatic entrance through the front door! How mundane.
Why did I never pay attention in science class?
I would have been able to work out how fast I am falling. Even now I’m thinking this a strange thing to think about, with seconds left. Science and the absurdity of thought! Not my Mom and my Dad… well not my Dad, my “special” Uncle. My real Dad is an ass and living in Missouri with someone my Mum called a “brazen hussy” meaning the woman had bigger tits than her. Dad was always a “breast man” ironic really as last time I saw him his were bigger than any woman’s I’ve seen. Still he has the last laugh I guess cos he is safe with this moobs and his hussy and I am currently plummeting to my death.
Will I get into Heaven?
Maybe God will save me, or Spiderman. Who knows they are both figments of someones imagination but as the wind swooshes by I’d be happy if I dunno, Snap Crackle and/or Pop wanted to turn up and catch me. If heaven exists in my wildest dreams, the girl on the top floor should be there waiting for me on a four poster bed covered in maple syrup. Her not the bed cos that would be silly. I dunno religious types down here spend so long going on about how bad sex is, I guess all of it would be be banned in heaven. Hell then!
Will people understand?
I’m a very loving guy. I lived my life meaning no harm to anyone. The girl on the top floor is but the latest in a long line of my loves. Each one I have treated the same, I am very attentive whereas other guys they’d go off to ball games or to bars. Not me, always around. Always looking. Sometimes I’d get rewarded for my patience, a little flash here a little peak there. They knew all about me, they did. They looked longingly into my eyes. The girl on the top floor, she had the most beautiful eyes. I’m sure she’d miss me, or even feel a little guilty that her silly court order had made me climb to her apartment to catch what I am certain now would be my last glimpse.
For this weeks Friday Fiction I got a start from Captivating Kitten. Her words are in purple. I rather bleakly finished it.
The flicker of the lamp was starting to get irritating. Crumpling up yet another piece of paper he stood up from the desk and threw it into the pile by the window. It’s been ten days since he’d left the house, or at least that’s what the red crosses on the calendar said.
The crosses to him represented failure rather than passing of the time. A failure to escape and to write anything, to tell the world of his story. Not that the story of Malcolm Murphy would be of interest to anyone ordinarily but the world in which he now lived was anything but ordinary.
People said it was a blessing to be born just after the third war. No more bomb blasts and enough peace treaties to ensure peace for another one hundred years so the media said. What they never mentioned was fifty years of struggle, black outs and hunger, whilst the leaders of all four sides involved in the conflict lived in complete comfort.
A younger Malcolm had fought, against the power, but the “peace treaties” made it impossible for anyone to fight the system for too long and live. Aged 25 Malcolm grew tired of watching his friends die or disappear, so he decided to keep his head down and live best he could for himself. It was hard but at his lowest ebb Malcolm met Grace. Grace made Malcolm forget the struggle and he felt a sense of freedom whenever he was with her. Amongst the riots and the broken glass the two of them forged a love that was so strong that Malcolm looked forward to a day where all people could all experience the joy he felt there and then with Grace.
Grace would have helped him write.
With Grace still around there would be no need to write. But she was gone. It has only been a month. They took her away from him early before sun-rise, they had entered their apartment, without word of warning and stolen Grace, his wife of nearly 25 years. Malcolm had heard of this happening to other people, but not to him, no never. Not now. They couldn’t have taken Grace because of what he did all those years ago. Could they?
For the first few weeks Malcolm searched for Grace, but the curfew and misinformation made his search dangerous. People he had classed as friends even denied that Grace ever existed, so not as to get themselves “into trouble.” Malcolm cared not for the outside world and the struggle. He felt just as he had before he met Grace. Browbeaten and alone he reached for more paper. The world must know, he thought.
The wail of sirens broke through the nights stillness and Malcolm could see the flashing lights and the flames burning high in the streets below through his smeared window. Firecrackers went off as Police and the militant few hardy souls clashed. Malcolm began to write about the end of his life in the warzone. As the noose he’d prepared days before was illuminated by the fiery skies.