A true eye-opener

I don’t often blog about my work; I don’t feel it is appropriate to do so. But last week, we dressed in purple ‘sexual violence = silence’ shirts and taped our mouths shut as a symbol of solidarity with the Rhodents taking part in the sixth annual Rhodes University #RUsilent event. It’s something that opened my eyes (while my mouth was firmly shut) – I found myself listening more to the voice in my head, getting more irritated by sounds around me than usual, and surprised that the initial hunger pangs passed after a few hours. Today’s #flashfriday piece then, is not 100% fiction as it’s based on my experience:

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Silence

“The taste of glue in her mouth. Tummy rumbling and throat parched. A vague sense of pride. Recovering from a cold and thus relegated to ‘mouthbreather’ status, the silvery tape stuck over her lips initially felt cloying, almost claustrophobic. But it was all for a good – scratch that, great – cause. She knew eyes were on her as she walked around the office – not everyone understood, some laughed in derision from their safe little perches of uncaring, where the extent of their understanding was limited to Kony clicktivism. Yes she had the power to stand up for a cause. To steer away from hot drinks for a day, to keep quiet and let others ramble on incessantly, to not join on the mindless Twitter threads that take up so much of the day. And then she found it: a link to Project Unbreakable, filled with posters bravely posted by survivors, of what their attackers said to them in order to ‘keep them silent’. Page after page, horrific words and cruel images melding into one as the true accounts of abuse, often at the hands of those these men and women had loved – nay worse, ones they had TRUSTED, flowed endlessly down the screen. What right had she to complain about everyday annoyances and minor hurts if people were sucking up such cruelty and still managing to smile each day, to keep up a carefree attitude? Why were we bothering to jot down our first and third world issues if there were problems of such a deep, personal, soul-crushing nature … often swept under the table or shushed with a quick, meaningful glance? The tears flowed freely down her face – she looked up and noticed several colleagues going through the same thing. To see the raw emotion on their faces, in their eyes as their mouths were blurred and absurdly missing from the picture. It was absolute torture. It was absolutely necessary.

Silent yes, but eyes wide open.

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Fire of the gods: tears of flame

Another week has passed and I find myself yet again posting a short #fridayflash fiction piece, this time inspired by Chuck Wendig’s challenge issued last week – fire of the gods:

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The hands of the clock moved over to five to 12 and the flames slowly licked her face. She was starting to feel rather crispy and could smell the burning begin as she shifted on the rotating platform. Funny, it’s always the quiet ones that surprise you the most. The ones with the hidden powers. A sudden change of heart, a personality shift that leaves you wondering (quite fittingly, in this case) ‘what the flaming hell?’

But it was too late to go back, to plead forgiveness, and so, here she stood. Chained to the cold stone wall, pinned in place by their eyes as they cheered and jeered and grew more violent, throwing little blue flaming rocks that bounced off of her frock, leaving scorch marks in their wake.

“Burn her with the fire of the gods!” they taunted, laughing poisonously together as they seemed to spin in ever-increasing circles around her, blurring the world she once knew so well. She was fighting back tears, but knew it wouldn’t be long now.

Just a minute to go. The crusty girl in the corner shrugged and flipped the switch — not her problem — increasing the amount of flames now licking at her face.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you … any of you,” she said in her head, closing her eyes to the light and giving in to her fate. Maybe it would work. And yes, suddenly she could feel her tears burning tracks down her face, burning down to the bone below and suddenly like magic, or clockwork, or whatever you fancy, she disappeared. Where she had stood just a moment ago was now a glittering phoenix, the original flamebird. She spread her wings and flew away, leaving them all to stand with their mouths open and a sense of disbelief clinging to the fetid air.

“Oh well,” they said, and turned to the next one waiting in line. The clock turned back its hands to five to 12 and it all began again …

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There you have it. Comments? Leave them below.

Maybe tomorrow

It’s becoming a bit of a habit for me to encourage people to write something short about a certain topic (also known as #fridayflash). This week, my writer friend Craig WF Smith and I were both feeling a bit run down so I challenged him to write something short about a Donald Duck-type tantrum/colds/flu. You can read his piece here, and mine is below …

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“Ah … ah … AH … tishooo!” Donald shook his head sadly and blew his nose gently for the umpteenth time with a tissue said to be infused with soothing calendula. “Calendula shmalendula,” he muttered, settling slowly back against the pillows. He’d been tossing and turning all morning, so he actually felt quite uncomfortable. In fact, with his recent bout of emunction (that’s nose blowing, if you like things simply put), he had managed to untuck the fitted sheet AGAIN and was now resting on the bare mattress. Stuff it. He was sick.

Just as it seemed like he would manage to doze off, he suddenly sat up with a coughing/choking/problem-swallowing-his-own-spit fit. “Herp! Ghack!” He clicked his tongue in fury. Today of all days, he had to be mandown with the dreaded lurgy. He was missing out on birthday cake in the office – Margie always brought in one of those super delicious fresh ones dripping globs of Caramel Treat, as well as a pleasing amount of crumbly little sausage rolly things. Mmm. Great. He was now literally drooling at the thought. It had even brought tears to his eyes. No wait, that was just the constant fluey wateriness. Ugh. Gah. Annoying little scraps of tissue were stuck to his nose. He sighed and reached out a hand toward his bedside table … CRASH! He had knocked over his lamp, which now rolled horizontally, spilling water from the tall glass Carol had left for him before she had tiptoed out of the room that morning on her way to work. What a mess! Soggy tissues, a toppled glass, water dripping on the carpet. Fantastic. Just super. He put his head in his hands and cried, tears and snot mingling. He shouted words like “Gah!” and “Useless!” and thrashed about on the bed before calmly going to the bathroom to wash his face and dry his hands. Then back to bed for a nap.

When next he woke, Donald’s head felt a bit clearer. He wiped his tender nose yet again and decided to get up, fix the sheets and boil the kettle – a nice cup of tea or yet another Med Lemon was probably just what the doctor ordered. The inside of his throat felt raw and just as raspy as his rather stubbly chin. Just then, before he could make a move off the bed, his BlackBerry vibrated about in a happy dance and winked its red eye at him. He quickly flicked through to BBM where an image of a big red heart met his eyes – Ah bless, Carol said “thinking of you, don’t forget to try flush it out your system with many hot drinks, feel better my love xxx” It warmed the cockles of his heart, it really did.

With a light, soppy grin on his face, he eased his achey bones into a standing position, shuffled to the kitchen and waited for the kettle to boil, downed a scorchingly hot Med Lemon and shuffled back to bed. With yet another blow of his nose he settled his head against the pillows, closed his eyes and let out a little sigh. Maybe Carol would bring home a tub of that fancy hot chocolate he so loved and rub his back for him. Maybe Margie would save a piece of cake for him in the office fridge. Maybe he would feel better tomorrow. Maybe …