Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Stone - Sample

Stephen Walker, Adventures By Moonlight
I've always wanted to do a story that involved Gorgons in the modern world and, at last, I got round to doing it - although itended up nothing like I'd always expected such a tale to be.

Stone can be found in my short story collection Adventures By Moonlight.

STONE
By Stephen Walker
(8,250 words)

Alicia Harker pressed a doorbell as though she were trying to drive her finger through it. She was in an insistent mood. But, then, she was an insistent woman.

After several more seconds of pressing, she withdrew her finger and did a three hundred and sixty degree turn, taking in her surroundings.

She was in the front garden of a house.

It was an ordinary house.

It was an ordinary garden.

It was an ordinary street.

At the end of that street, an ordinary sun was setting behind an ordinary set of rooftops.

The only thing extraordinary round here right now was her, and the fact that the front gate was on the ground, having fallen off - as luck would have it - just as she'd been approaching, meaning she'd been saved the effort of opening it.

Call her presumptuous but, somehow, she'd expected that the man, woman or thing she was here to see would live somewhere a bit grander, quirkier or stylisher. It seemed some people just didn't have “it” - whatever “it” was.

Behind her the front door swung open.

She quickly turned to face it.

The door had been answered by a man in his mid-twenties.

Well, when she said, “man,” he wasn't her idea of a man but he was definitely male.

He said, “Can I help you?”

“Too right you can,” she said. “For a start, you can tell me what've you done with all the luck I've been bringing you.”

*

“I'm sorry but you're who?”

“I'm Alicia Harker. Twelfth Daughter of Destiny. I bring luck into the lives of the undeserving.” Having invited herself in, she was in his kitchen, checking out the contents of his cupboards and drawers. Apparently, his name was Kenny.

Still rummaging, she said, “Long ago, when the universe was young and you were just a twinkle in your creator's eye, Alicia Harker, the Twelfth Daughter of Destiny, took the mettle of a dead god and forged it into a bronze hand. That hand would bestow good fortune on anyone who owned it. Did she keep it for herself? No. She was generous. She discarded it by a roadside where it might be found then passed from person to person, bringing good fortune to all who found it. Now - one silent dusk, every hundred years - she sets out to locate it, and see what its latest beneficiary's done with a luck so randomly granted. Well, pumpkin, tonight's that night and I'm that woman.”

“You're one of those nut-jobs, aren't you?”

She retrieved a spanner from a bag beneath his sink. “This spanner. Hit me with it.”

“I'm not hitting a woman with a spanner.”

“Sexist.”

“It’d kill you.”

“No, Kenneth. It wouldn’t. Know what I'm made of? Destiny. One hundred percent. And, no matter how hard you try, you can't brain Destiny.”

“I'm still not hitting you.”

She tossed a coin at him. “Toss it.”

It hit him, bounced off him and lay there on the floor. He showed no inclination to pick it up.

She said, “How can I prove I'm in charge of luck round here if you don't let me demonstrate my ability to always call the toss of a coin right?”

“You can't. Because you're not. And even if you were this, 'Daughter of Destiny,' what're you here for?”

“I've already said. A hand. You found it. I made it. It brings you luck.”

“Except I've not had any.”

“Of course you have. You just haven't appreciated it. But it's been there, Ken; a narrow escape here, bumping into an old flame there, all sorts of things you didn't notice at the time that’ll be flooding back now it's been pointed out to you.”

“I've not had any luck.”

“Don't be obtuse. You have to have had luck because-”

“I've not had any because I don't have the hand.”

“No?”

“No.”

“Then who does?”

*

Alicia watched in moonlight as the man called Kenny rattled the padlocked gates of a mansion. Somewhere in the distance, an owl screeched. It was clearly a fan of clich├ęs.

Kenny said, “Through these gates is the home of Gideon Storm, the biggest crook that ever lived.”

“Never heard of him.”

“Me neither - till three months ago when he walked into the chocolate shop I work in. He said he'd heard I'd had a spot of good fortune. I said I hadn't. He said I had. I said I hadn't. He said I'd found a hand. I said yes. He pulled out a pack of cards. He pulled out £50, in £10 notes. He said if I beat him in a single game of chance, he'd give me the money. If he beat me, I had to give him the hand.”

“You turned him down of course.”

“What? Fifty quid for that lump of junk. Of course I didn't.”

Fifty pounds? Kenny, the thing’s priceless.”

“Do you know how I got your precious hand?”

“Warm my cockles.”

“It fell on my head. I had a bruise the size of a golf ball, and double vision that lasted a week. When they let me out of hospital, you know what I did? I put it on eBay, for fifteen pounds. Could I get rid of it? No. So forgive me for not knowing it was meant to be lucky!”

She rolled her eyes.

“Well perhaps if someone'd put a label on it,” he said, “telling people it's meant to be lucky. As for Gideon Storm's wager, what I didn't know back then was he only ever plays with marked cards. When I found out, I came here and confronted him about it. He was putting the hand in its case.”

“What case?”

“Downstairs he's got like a private museum, of oddities; a mermaid's tail here, the log of the Marie Celeste there, all sorts of rubbish. Seems he uses it to impress people, let 'em know how big and clever he is. When I confronted him about my fifty quid, he just burst out laughing, told me to prove I'd ever met him and ordered me to leave.”

“Then what did you do?”

“I left. What else could I do?”

“Well, duh, a thing like that hand, you could've fought him for it.”

“You want to fight him for it? Fine. It's in there, behind padlocked gates, security fencing, guard dogs and burglar alarms.”

“If that's all that's in our way,” she said, “how about we go in?”

You can download the rest of Stone and Adventures By Moonlight from:

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