The Short Story Exchange - Share, Read & Comment.

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The Short Story Exchange - Share, Read & Comment.
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Let's galvanise an energetic, experimental and enjoyable short story group.

I would love to read your work, give comments and get the ball rolling: so send them through!

The idea is for it to be open to anyone, writing in a general, literary style. But as long as you're proud of it and excited to share, genre is quite irrelevant. Get sharing, get sharing, get sharing!

Harvey

I love short stories! As a writer and as a reader. As a NaNoWriMo challenge I wrote short stories collection. In December I wrote another short story and now I'm adapting it into an animated short film script. I didn't share any of my stories yet. And this is one of my main goals for 2021: to overcome shyness and share! 

Hi I am an absolute beginner and have written a few short stories, is this forum suitable for my level?

If anyone is interested in looking at work by a complete newly please let me know.

Thanks


Hi Folks,

I am a happy creator of romantic smut (do we have to call it erotic fiction?), and I have a few short stories I'd love some constructive criticism on. Before I post, though, just wanted to check. Is this group smut-friendly? I totally understand if the answer is no, and in that case, didn't want to put forth some perfectly good smut and then have someone's reaction be EW! I AM MENTALLY SCARRED FOR LIFE! I am committed to being appropriate to my audience(s).

Just published a collection of seventeen of my stories as an eBook on Kindle. I‘ve called it The Late Shift Specialist. I hope you’ll like them. Do let me know what you think, either way, if you have time and inclination. Thanks, guys.

Hi Harvey and members,

I have a short story to offer to the group for feedback. It is currently offered to a couple of competitions, but regarding publication, I do have a somewhat pathetic strike rate-12 out of 76. Towards the end, I change the POV. Not sure how well that works. It's titled Leaving Without Looking Back-1500 words

Bryan

Hi everyone. I'm new to the group today, though I've been with JW for over a year. Just published my first novel ( a crime thriller set in Crete called The Unforgiving Stone) but I'm also interested in short stories and have written over twenty. I'm planning to publish a collection of these as an eBook in a few weeks' time. It'll be called The Late Shift Specialist. Here's one as a taster: The Garage Job. 

Schoolboy Kit lands a cushy weekend job with some lovable rogues, but, when events take a shocking turn, he has to question his ideas of right and wrong. 

Do let me know what you think.

https://www.alexdunlevy.com/newsletter-garage-job.pdf

Best regards,

Alex




Hi guys, hope you are all well. Haven't been on this site for too long (definitely not actively, though I've been on one or two of the JW courses etc). Anyway, thought I'd put this short story on the site to 'test the water'. It was written a few years ago in what seems a simpler and almost nostalgic time (pre-covid, pre-brexit, pre-a lot of things really. How times fly.

From what I recall it was a short story competition entry about creating a new fairy tale about London. There is a myth that if the Ravens leave the Tower of London, then The Crown will fall, and that, I guess is what this is all about - sort of... Anyway, if I remember rightly I'd been reading some Neil Gaiman and 'The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared' at the time which may or may not explain something. Enough excuses - This is called:

"The Unkindness of Ravens"

Once upon a short time ago, beneath a blanket of night four ravens met. Wind wails as they eyed each other suspiciously. Their names were George, Grog, Rhys and Mabel.

A street-lamp fizzes overhead.

Rhys finally speaks, "No-one saw you?"

"Next stop the taxidermist tray?" George squirms, "No chance!"

"Why here? Why now?" Grog grumbles.

Rhys glances at Mabel who utters a single, chilling word, "Insurrection."

The street-lamp flickers and dies.

George and Grog are silent.

“Revenge?” smirks George, “For real!”

"London looks after its own," Mabel sighs, "but she’s forgetful, needs reminding."

"This is the time!" Grog chuckles excitedly, hopping from foot to foot.

“We are London’s Guardians,” Mabel continues, "Our duty is to help her. You sure about these two?”

The street-lamp fizzes into life.

Mabel nods, "It is decided."

With that, she launches herself northwards.

Rhys bows to George and Grog then flies south. George and Grog then take flight: George going east and Grog west.

Insurrection had wings.

****

Outside The Tower of London, a glassy frost lay on the ground. Bells chimed seven times and in the raven enclosure, the largest, proudest of the brood opens its steel sharp beak, bellows, “Ready!”

A flurry of feathers and the ravens circle the grounds.

Below, each raven spied the blood-red tailcoats of the Yeomen and Raven Master before landing on the pedicured grounds.

Today would be unforgettable.

Every raven scanned the sky while pecking and prodding the frosty ground searching for food.

Naturally, the ravens were the first to see the tiny black specks in the distance and hear the low shrieking calls carried on the winter sky. 

Soon the humans spotted them too. Tiny spots gathered above them, growing larger, then raven-like. Two ravens became four multiplying until there were too many to count. The sky was a carpet of black as long as a football pitch, and loud as match day. And still it grew.

"Ravens United.. LOL! " one joker tweeted.

Soon the grounds were alive with a scratchy whooping chorus. Ravens churned like bubbling oil, and trapped in the slick, the topcoats of guards bobbing up and down as ankles were beaked and pecked mercilessly.

The media drank in the spectacle, viewers checked calendars to make sure it wasn’t an April Fool stunt. Others mumbled doom-laden omens.

Quick as the flood of ravens arrived, it’d gone.

Not a single feather remained.

Social media was alive with speculation about what this meant: Would The Crown really fall? Was some kind of abdication in the ether? But more importantly, “Where were the bloody ravens?”

Pretty quickly, ravens became all the rage.

The Queen called Downing Street, the PM convened cabinet, and they called for… an inquiry.

Interviewers snubbed Hollywood in favour of ornithologists and twitchers. Journalists plundered arcane sources of information and anyone who'd ever fed a bird was touted as an ‘expert’.

Everyone had suggestions, but nothing worked. No-one knew where the heck they were. Or how to get them back.

Day One: The ravens' favourite foods were food-parcelled to the grounds.

Day Two: Kestrel trainers swung lures over their heads 24/7 to entice the ravens home.

The Palace grew anxious and the Queen refused to watch Countryfile, in case her "blessed birds" were mentioned... Emmerdale and The Archers became hits with hastily improvised raven-storylines. Even Corronation Street swindled in a ‘retired Yeoman’ subplot into the mix. Eastenders tried to get in on the act but the writers couldn't quite figure how to merge Peggy Mitchell or Phil for that matter, a garage and a Raven's appearance into the mix - Hollywood CGI might've helped cut the mustard but the producers just didn't have the budget. So..

The world wobbled uncomfortably.

Then half way through day three something otherwise unremarkable happened: A twelve-year-old called in to Tony Kincade’s talk radio spot:

"Hi Tony," the kid stammered, "I'm calling about the ravens."

"Everyone is… What’s your idea?"

"Well,” the kid stuttered, "We should all say sorry to each other."

"You what?"

"My teacher says that many ravens is called an unkindness of ravens, right. And that doesn't seem fair. I mean, they're birds, they don't know what's kind and what's not, so, we're blaming them for just doing what they're meant to..."

"I hear what you're saying, but..."

But the kid seemed undaunted but quickened his words. In the background a bell could be heard, "So maybe we need to call it something else. I'd feel bad if I was always told that a group of us is not nice, and anyway, if you feel bad about being unkind to someone, you... say, sorry..."

"And that’s what we should do?" Kincade sniggered, "Just say sorry?"

"Maybe they'll see we mean it and return. If not, at least we’ll feel a bit better."

The kid abruptly ended the call - he was going to be late for his next lesson - leaving Kincade in silence.

Then Kincade smiled, "What do you think, people? Let’s ‘av’it. Should we I don't know, ah sod it folks, let's make HashtagJustSaySorry happen!"

The broadcast got reported, repeated, and facebooked and re-tweeted. Even before the end of the kid’s next lesson HashtagJustSaySorry had built up pace and shockingly started going viral.

Even the Queen played it twice on her IPad before personally phoning Number 10.

The PM listened and choked, "But we have an inquiry to..."

He was about to argue the point forcefully when his aide reminded him who he was speaking to. The PM meekly answered, "Right away, Ma'am."

Hotlines buzzed with many languages, some growled, "From a child," others shrugged and finally answered, “Why not."

Five raven-less days was too much. Three was bad enough.

 So, on Day Four, at 11 o'clock, HashtagJustSaySorry occurred.

 ****

10:30am (BST): Roads are cleared for cavalcades to reach the place of Mutually Agreed Apology.

10:49am: The first dignitary cautiously arrived, glad to be the first since this would show they were ‘up for it’ as the kids would no doubt call it, but also cursing his earliness.

10:55am: Long-mutual enemies edged towards each other. Religious leaders of all denominations pixie-stepped towards those that until that point were in acid opposition. 

10:56am: Feuding neighbours nodded at each other, began saying, “This has gone on too long.” Most, if the truth be told, had no idea why all the fighting and bad-word bantering had actually begun in the first place, and even if they could, maybe now wasn't the right time to bring it up.

10:57am: Hands quiver readying themselves to shake another while saying that word. Sorry does seem the hardest word.

10:58am: Cameras take sneaky-peak searches for anything remotely Corvid in the background. Nothing.

10:59am: The world waits.

Finally…

11:00am: Bells chime; a Mexican wave of handshakes and a single, sincerely spoken word echoes across the globe:

“Sorry!”

For a second, everyone forgets about ravens and enjoys the warm flood of joy coursing through them. Even the PM chokes back a tear. For a second the world felt fuzzy, warm, safe.

That kid was right; saying sorry really did feel good.

Then, everyone coughed… Everyone remembered: Ravens!

****

Had it worked?

Everyone waited.

Screens across the globe showed a continuous unending screensaver of empty sky above the Tower.

Then… 

“Over there!”

Cameras frantically spun, woozily focusing on a distant black dot. It grew gradually becoming a non-descript black bird, then…

“It looks like… I think it is…. It is. It definitely is a… Raven. Wherever you’re watching, I’m happy to report… The… Ravens… are… back!”

The ravens chuckled as they listened to the jubilant celebrations below.

Grog and George smile, “Home at last!” then chows down on his luxury rations.

Hi, I just wondered, how do you define “short?” Is there a word limit you would consider people should stick to? My first attempt at a “novel” fell several thousand words shorter than most people’s! 🙂

Hi. I wrote this a while ago. The aim, to some extent, was to experiment with writing as a female first person narrator. I enjoyed the process – but would value feedback from the reader’s perspective. Thanks. Peter.

 

Rock Chick (1193 ww)  

 It's a stiflingly warm afternoon, and I'm lazing beneath the patio table parasol at the rear of a rather tired-looking six-bedroom country house. I must remember to get the decorators in to repaint those flaking window frames. I did mention it to Dave, but he never got around to sorting it out. It's up to me now, I suppose. After all, the house is mine, and I can certainly afford it.

'Nanny?" It's my granddaughter.

"Yes Millie?" She's a lovely kid – just seven. Pretty – all tumbling blonde curls and an enchanting smile. A potential heart-breaker if ever there were one. She looks a lot like me when I was her age. Yes – more like me than her mother. They do say that looks can skip a generation.

"Mommy and Daddy must have lost this ball when they played tennis this morning."

"I'm sure you're right Poppet. Leave it here on the table then, and you can give it back to them when they come to pick you up later."

"Okay, Nanny." I watch Millie as she places her find carefully on the table top, before skipping down the garden towards the tennis court to resume her exploration. I envy her energy. I used to have lots of that too – but I’m almost a pensioner now, darn it! Ah well!

Nudged by a welcome, though all-too-brief, gust of marginally cooler air, the ball rolls across the table towards me. I pick it up. It's just a tennis ball. Yellow. Slightly scuffed. Like any other. Like ... yes ... like the ones we used when we had knockabouts at Deepfields Hall, back in the day.

We'd just returned from a big US tour – our second of three, and by far the most successful. The heavy rock band had come home to rural Shropshire in order to rest and recuperate and write songs for our next album. We’d rented that thumping great manor house – bigger even than this one – complete with its own recording studio, outdoor pool, games room, and a tennis court. The idea was that we'd work and also have some fun.

I have a few photos inside. I'll fetch them. I'm not sure that revisiting days past is necessarily all that wise though – especially given the circumstances. I'm no longer the same woman. Not by a long chalk.

Okay. What have we got in here? There are pictures of the band members – mugshots, I guess you’d call them. I’ll lay them out on the table. Chris Watkins, Steve Randall, Brian ‘Mick’ Michaels, Dave Taft, and me – Lucy Donoghue – before I became Lucy Taft. There are a few photos of the guys on stage here as well. Blimey. Look at us – all hair and hormones. Dave and Mick are at the front with Steve standing back bashing away at his bass, while Chris at the rear batters the drums in a frenzy of flying dreadlocks and a shower of perspiration. That was Phoenix, and it was quite a night, as I recall. Better than the first time we’d played there – when our original drummer, Neil Spender, keeled over after injecting some dodgy heroin. He never woke up again. God! Stupid bugger! What a tragic waste!

People used to believe, and still do, that touring with a band is a dream lifestyle. In truth, though, it can be an absolute nightmare. We’d spend several hours on a plane, before spending many more cooped up in a van or a bus. You can only tolerate being confined to a tin box for so long, before the mind begins to rebel. Sadly, the search for an alternative so often leads that mind into a bottle of booze or, worse still, pills, or even a syringe. Of course, it’s all too easy to be wise after the event!

Another photo of Dave. This was taken in calmer times at Deepfield. He used to wear those rather sexy shorts for tennis. I wonder what he did with them. I don’t remember seeing them again afterwards. We didn’t play all that much tennis, mind, and neither of us was any good really. It did bring us together though – albeit in a rather bizarre way. I can still feel the pain in my eye. Dave didn’t mean to hit me with it, but I was distracted by his gorgeous tanned legs and took my eye off the ball just long enough. Poor Dave. He was mortified. I dropped to my knees, howling, as I clutched my eye, fearing blindness at the very least. He helped me to the kitchen where he patiently – and very gently – dabbed it with a cloth dipped in cold water until the ache began to ease. There was no lasting damage to my eye – but our professional relationship was about to be completely blown apart. Dave was almost overwhelmed with sorrow and I had to shout at him.

“Dave! Stop apologising!”

“I’m so sorry Lucy.”

“Dave. I said stop it.” I pointed at my still sore eye. I couldn’t help myself. “Now kiss it better.” We were married about three months after that. The match was drawn. Love all! Ha!

We had over thirty years of marriage and some great times together – along with the occasional squabble. It’s so sad: even though Dave had a full and productive life, a fatal heart attack at 62 still seems so unfair. It’s been ten months now. Crikey – I do miss him. Still, I have my daughter, and her daughter, Millie – who I can now see trying to sneak up on Gint, my ginger tom. She’ll be lucky.

What about the remaining photos? There’s another of Brian Michaels – or ‘Mick’ as he was known. He was at Dave’s funeral. Of all the guys in the band, he’s the one who seemed best able to hold his life together. He didn’t marry, although he always had a pretty girl in tow. In truth, he was the best looking – even better than Dave. Nice guy, too. He was so supportive when Dave died. If ever I needed anything – even if it were just a shoulder to cry on …

Here’s a picture of me on stage, viewed sideways-on standing at the keyboard, and wearing the tiniest of denim hot pants. People used to say that I had a great ass. In fact, it was voted the best female backside in rock and roll two years running – according to Butts and Boobs magazine anyway. On reflection, it’s all a tad mind-boggling. I mean, did people really read that stuff?

My daughter, Cassie, came round to collect Millie a short while ago, and I’m now alone in my oversized pad. It holds so many wonderful memories, and I’m not yet ready to part with it.

It’s been a hot, sticky, day and I just enjoyed a cool shower. Looking in the mirror as I dry myself, it’s good to note that I still have a half-decent butt – despite my age. And now, as I peer through the window, I can see that Millie has forgotten that tennis ball after all.

Hmm! I wonder if ‘Mick’ Michaels might be up for a game. 

 

Hi all how do I join this group please if possible?

Alan Whittaker A Short Story

 

ESCAPE FROM DAESH

 

This piece is around 1400 words. The completed version is about 5800 words.

 I have written this story about a 13-year-old Syrian refugee, who has left his family behind in Syria. Much of this story will be fictionalised, and will go back to around 3 years, when the boy decided to leave the worn-torn trauma of his homeland.  His journey to the UK is based around him stowing away in the back of a truck, with the hope of arriving in England to a new life.

 They had smashed the walls where the framed pictures hung; generations of his family; their faces had bullet holes in them. Cousin Turko and her friend were taken to Deir ez-Zor and handed over to a Saudi man, a judge in the Sharia court. The first night, he summoned her to his bedroom. 

 

The sound of a woman’s moans and cries jerks Tariq out of his nightmare. The light from his phone only reaches a few feet. But he can just about see to the rear of the truck, which is loaded with some kind of contraband; he’s not sure what cargo it is. He’s never seen the inside of a truck before; but he can only see the wall of boxes and crates in front of him.

 Tarek had been on the road for a long time. He was weary and his nerves were frazzled. His eyes burned and his hands trembled. Shortly after he ran away, two bristly men with the look of the vulture in their eyes had approached him at the tea stall, promising him work in a rich person’s house in Europe far away.

 But he knew that he couldn’t trust them, or anybody for that matter; he had to be on his guard all the time, trusting nobody. He shivered. The 

 truck was getting colder and colder. It felt like the nights he spent on the hill, safe from the carnage, watching as his village burned.

 

     ‘Hey boy,’ a girl shouted from somewhere near by. ‘Boy, I’ve bought some candles with me that I stole from the Mosque.’          

         

     ‘You’ve stolen from the the house of God?’

         

      ‘Yes,’ cried the girl. ‘I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to see anybody in the truck.’

 

The wax from the burning candles dripped onto her soft fingers; causing her to moan. He could feel something hard on the floor next to his feet; he tried to shove it out of his way, then another voice, out of nowhere, screamed in his direction. Tarek peered around and made out a huge dark shape but all he could really see was a glint of gold teeth in the light of the candle.

 

     ‘Get off, that’s my bag you Syrian rat, move, fuck off you peasant’ Toothy snarled.

 

Tarek couldn’t move or find any free space so he had to squeeze so close to Amal that he could hear her heart beating. His mind wanders back to when he was about ten years old, he remembers the time when he and his sister Sofia used to play together after school; Momma would meet them at the old iron gates. She would always be smiling and very happy. 

  Momma would always take us to my cousin’s house on the hill, my aunt would cook us some Harisi. She would give us some to take home for Papa but Sayadieh was his favourite.

 

      ‘Hey you, girl, what’s your name?’ Tarek whispered through the dense light of her dim candle.

      ‘Why do you want to know my name?’

      ‘I don’t know, just thought that I would like to call you my new friend. I’m Tarek’

       ‘And I’m Amal’ she murmured shyly, ‘Can I call you Tarek?

       ‘Yes, sure.’ 

Feeling bolder, Tarek asked, ‘How old are you?’ 

       ‘Twelve but nearly thirteen, how about you?’

 

Amal could see Tarek’s big eyes looking at her; she was chewing her long fingernails. She tried to pull the black flea-bitten shawl over her face, to conceal her bashfulness.

 

      ‘Thirteen,’ he declared, ‘and I’m not a boy, I’m a man.’

     

Amal tried to hide her smile. ‘Why are you running away on your own? 

 

     ‘Where’s your family?’

 

     ‘Why are you asking? I don’t know you.’

 

 Tarek was abrupt but regretted it as he saw her face crumple and eyes fill with tears.

  

       ‘I have escaped Daesh, they have killed all most of my family, destroyed our town of Najaf’. Her voice was weak. She was upset: could feel the tears running down her dirty unwashed face; they were dripping down onto her hand and causing the remains of the candle to flicker.

 

It cast a pool of light that made them feel like they were alone, despite the hoarse breathing and rustling around them….. 

 

She stammered. 

 

    ‘I don’t have anybody left. I hid in an empty barrel that was in the back of a burned-out jeep. I was scared of somebody finding me. I must have been in the drum for a long time.  I was so scared of Daesh. I didn’t dare move from where I was. I had no food, just some water that was left in the remains of the jeep. It was dirty, but I was so weak and thirsty, I think that it made me sick.’

 

     ‘When did you decide that you had to get out of the barrel?’

 

     ‘When it was dark, and silent. I was freezing, but I knew that I had to make a move that night.’

 

‘I would have been scared’ said Tarek. 

 

        ‘Yes, probably so replied Amal,                       

        ‘I was scared that somebody might have caught me, and give me to Daesh; they would have sold me to the bad men, and they would do bad things to me.’ 

        ‘I was so frightened, so……’ Amal’s eyes filled with tears.

 

Tarek scowled.

 

       ‘I will never go back while Daesh are there but I worry about my family.  I feel sad and guilty but I couldn’t take any more punishment from them dirty pigs. The only reason I was able to run away is because I hated my papa, he didn’t like the fact that I stood up to him, even though I’m only thirteen years old, maybe its because I’m stronger than he thought I was.’

 The memories drew over him like black cloud drifting overhead, and he fell silent…

     

     ‘Tarek,’Tarek the girl shouted, ‘what’s wrong with you? I’ve been calling out to you. The truck is going slower; I have been throwing bits of burnt wax at you. I’m scared, why have we slowed down?’

 

There were shouts from within the truck; refugees were scrambling to hide behind the contraband. Some were crying and shouting out loud. I can’t go back; I can’t go back. They will kill me; don’t let them take me back. I’m begging you all, somebody please help my child and me.

                       

     ‘I don’t know,’ Tarek, whispered, ‘maybe we are at the port ready to cross to England but I’m terrified as well. The doors might open, and we could be found and sent back to that filthy camp in Calais.’

 

 

Tarek, was trembling, he tried to tell the girl to stop panicking, but she kept on shouting, she was hysterical. Now everybody else in the truck was shuffling around, trying to hide behind each other, Tarek could only see the whites of their eyes, staring towards the back of the lorry.

 

The truck suddenly lurched to the side of the road with bodies flung around. There was cursing and sobbing.

 

Then it all went quiet.

     ‘Tarek what’s happened?’

       ‘ How do I know?’

       ‘ We have stopped?’ I’m scared - could it be the police?’ cried Amal.’

 

Voices could be heard outside.

 

They were unfamiliar voices. Footsteps trampling on what sounded like crunching gravel, the shadows of people moving around the front of the truck. The driver slammed his cab door he was murmuring something, but then he got back in the truck and pulled away.

 

As the tension in the truck eased Tarek began to fall asleep, his mind along with the strange surroundings began to play tricks on his imagination. 

 

     ‘I’m not sure Momma where Sofia is; I last saw her playing at the back of her friend’s house; maybe she’s looking at the chocolate in the store, you know she likes chocolate, but Poppa won’t let her have any. 

    

    ‘Will you go and look for her Tarek?........’

     

    ‘No mum, the store keeper won’t let me near his shop because he caught me stealing some food, he said that I haven’t got to go in there again or he will beat me.’

 

His thoughts were drifting back to the time when a cockroach clambered onto his bed.  He was only 9 years old at the time; the last thing that he saw before mom put the lights off was its hunchback shiny shell before the last of the lights disappeared; it crawled around his pillow making crackling noises with its twig-like legs.  The crackling becomes louder and louder, then he leaps up and shouts.

 

     ‘Amal, Amal, Amal!’ 

     ‘What?’

 

©Alan Whittaker 2020