Getting My Bake Off

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When I was a child I used to spend the weekends at my grandparent’s house.

Those glorious, responsibility-free days would be filled with endless visits to car boot sales or village fetes. Too much time would be had in front of the television, eating fatty foods. And more often than not, we’d bake.

Scones and sponges, flans and flapjacks, crumbles and cupcakes; we would make them all. And it was always my job to lick the spoon and or the bowl.

Those delicate delicacies were delicious.

Something has changed since I was a kid though. Now it seems that everyone with a fucking kitchen is able to whip-up la grand patisserie-style masterpieces. A far cry from the humble baking of my youth.

The Great British Bake-Off has a lot to answer for.

Seriously though, what’s wrong with a simple sponge cake and icing topping? Sprinkles used to be fancy. Now they act as simple garnish for the rest of the design. What compels people to want to bake these giant monstrosities anyway? They’re only going to be devoured in a few seconds.

It’s not that I’m against beautiful, massive Cakey McCakeFace cakes – I have a sweet tooth as much as the next person – but the problem I have with them starts at the school gate. More specifically the school bake sale.

As a mum bringing cakes into school, which look as if they were produced from the seventies, I have more than once cursed myself for not sticking to plan A; to just buy them straight from the shop. I have found myself blaming my little helpers – i.e. the kids – for my baking disasters on more than one occasion.

It seems that baking skills are a prerequisite for being a mother these days but it’s clearly a qualification I missed out on.

Tips gratefully received, just don’t expect me to do anything with them. Seriously, how did cupcakes get so fucking complicated?


 

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Playing House

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Playing House

She unwrapped the new candle holders. One, Two,

Three.

He turned his eyes away from the mantelpiece, to gaze

at the TV.

Playing house had been such a popular game

they shared.

Now one had moved on from conforming

as much as he dared.

 

It no longer mattered if they had a house or a home,

Freshly made meals now replaced by the contents of the freezer.

She would continue to play wife

and hope one day to be mother.

While he would continue to wish the days away,

forgetting their promises to one another.


 

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My Second Round (ch3) Entry for NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2016 – Book of the Dead

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This is my round three entry for this year’s NYC Midnight (NYCM) Flash Fiction writing challenge.

The challenge, as always, is to write one 1,000 word story, within 48 hours, based on a selection of prompts. I was given group 10:

untitled

This was another exciting round for me because I have never written a historical fiction piece before. I struggled LOADS but this is the reason I love this competition; it allows me to write out of my comfort zone.

You can read the final result below. As always, honest feedback is welcomed. Also I apologise now for any typos – it’s always fun writing a story from scratch, with specific prompts, in just 48 hours!


 

Book of the Dead

by

Donna-Louise Bishop

 

*

Synopsis: When a once famous playwright decides to make a comeback in 407 BC in his home town of Athens, life may not pan out the way he hoped.

Can his former lover rectify the mistakes of their past or is there a fate far worse waiting for them?


As Kleio walked out of the entrance to the Parthenon, her white dress swayed like the Athenian olive blossoms growing in the trees on the outskirts of the city.

It was early as she made her way to the Altar of Athena. Except for the intoxicated few, who slouched over marble steps, the Acropolis was void of most men.

With a book clutched tightly to her chest, Kleio walked across the open courtyard. The penalty for a woman traipsing through this sacred ground unescorted would be a public flogging. None of that mattered to her now, though. It was time for her to be reunited with Euripides. It had been too long.

The playwright had planned on making his comeback by spending the day signing whatever objects people brought him to the altar. Being out of favour for so long too, he also wanted to appease the Goddess of Wisdom after relentlessly abusing his female counterparts within his plays.

For years he thought himself a scholar, brave in fact. Not only had he depicted the reality of his society in his writings, he dared to personify the Gods. Only Kleio knew how he feared the wrath of Hades.

 

*          *          *

 

“Let Aphrodite strike me down herself if it is wrong for me to be with you!” Euripides tore at his hair as he pleaded with her. “You are foolish to my needs Kleio.”

“Haven’t we done enough wrong without you cursing the Gods? I might as well row us up the Styx myself.”

“How can you speak to me with such little respect, such little regard?”

“You know why: Choerine. She’s provided you with three strong boys. She’s there by your side every year at the festival of Dionysus. She was there when you won the thing too! She’s the one you married. Choerine! What more do you want?”

Kleio dared to turn away from him, but he grabbed the back of her dark hair and pulled her towards his body. Holding her so her back pressed against his hips, she could feel his enraged lust spiralling.

“I could have you right now if I wanted to,” his warm breath tickled her neck with the gentleness of a feather. “Bring shame to you and your family name, my dear Kleio.”

“You already have,” she felt his hand pulling her robe aside. “I was yours years before you met her.”

“And I will make you mine again.”

Euripides let go of her with unexpected gentleness and turned her around to face him. Silently, she let him carry her towards the wooden table, allowing him to make her his once again.

“How cruel a curse it is to be born a woman,” she whispered.

*          *          *

 

For hours she watched him sign copy after copy of parchment and highly sought-after material cloths. Only the rich and royal blood brought books. Audaciously, Euripides would take breaks to bask under the shadow of Athena’s temple. Kleio wasn’t fooled by his actions, though. She knew he was scared.

Living as a recluse, in voluntary exile in a cave on Salamis, had aged him quickly. She wanted to run her nail down the inside of every line and furrow which had developed on his face. She wondered if he had enough strength left in his lips to make her blood pulse once again.

Today was a big occasion but even Euripides was unaware of the fate the Gods had in store for him. He returned to Athens, hoping to win back his popularity by presenting people with the rare opportunity to own a once-famous playwright’s signature. All day long people had turned out to catch a glimpse of him. Patiently, Kleio had waited at the back for her moment. Then, when the sun began to set, she knew it was time to make her presence known.

 

*          *          *

 

“I will go away,” she nuzzled her cold nose into the nape of his neck. “Just feel it though. Just once. Before we leave.”

Kleio took Euripides’ hand and placed it onto her stomach. He rubbed his finger over the area where her naval was beginning to protrude. He looked up suddenly and their eyes met. He had felt the first tiny kicks of their baby.

“Where will you go?”

“I will get word to you once we’ve settled somewhere.”

“Your belly; it feels hard, like unripe fruit.”

“When it’s born, it will be sweeter.”

He kissed her for the final time and as she walked away the aroma of olive oil lingered behind. When he knew she was no longer near, he kicked at a clay food container which cracked as it hit the floor, its contents spilling out like guts.

An edible, orange sphere, with part of a thick vine sticking out of its top, rolled towards his foot. For a long time, Euripides watched the vegetable as the fire reflected its flames against its skin, creating a raw glow. Eventually he knelt down and stroked its smooth, firm surface. Keeping them locked up, only a single tear managed to escape.

 

*          *          *

 

Kleio did not survive childbirth. As the pain raged on inside of her, their two heartbeats left the world as silently as they entered.

She had waited a long time to be reunited with Euripides, stuck between the living and the dead. Finally she had been granted a temporary pass from the underworld to bring Euripides back with her – in return for his signature in Hades’s book. It was a selfish wish on her part but it meant they could embark on their journey across the River Styx to face their punishment in the Underworld together.

The crowds had vanished now, along with the warmth of the sun. Kleio walked up the steps towards Euripides, welcoming the expression of realisation on his face as it turned white. She handed him the Book of the Dead.

Patiently, she waited for him to join her on the other side.

 

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Yeah Write Super Challenge #2 – Second Round Entry ‘Anniversary’

A fortnight ago I participated in round two of Yeah Write’s second Super Challenge.

My assignment was to write a story with a maximum of 1,000 words, using specific prompts – a character plus an event. We were given a photo of the character and I will attach this to the piece.

Yeah Write said: “Writers will receive a description of a character (this may be in words, images, or a combination of the two) and an event. The character does not need to be the main character, and as in round one the event does not need to form the plot arc of the story, but both must be included in such a way that the story would not function without their presence. There are no genre restrictions.”

I was placed in group 2 and given the prompt (event) ‘stumble over a body’ and this photo (character):

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I have included the judges’ feedback below and, as always, your feedback is very much welcomed.

 


 

Anniversary

by 

Donna-Louise Bishop

* * *

Synopsis: Lydia tries to escape her demons by immersing herself in London’s wild nightlife. Can she avoid the trauma that comes with an anniversary?

* * *

The beat pulsated through Lydia’s body, dull thuds radiating inside her like waves slamming against resilient sea walls. Bodies crammed themselves into the tiny London flat and a mixture of white powder and whiskey flowed freely through the veins of the midnight revellers.

She vaguely remembered how she got there. There was a club, one that smelt of vomit and damp shoes, followed by a visit to an underground basement with people she no longer recognised as friends. The last thing she saw before collapsing into a taxi with the strangers was two women fondling each other’s nipples through sheer tank tops. She touched her own breasts, wondering if they had experienced the same ordeal.

The concept of time became lost as she ignored playful screams from the others, instead falling asleep to the gentle hum of the car engine. The welcomed rest was soon interrupted though, and Lydia was woken by an angry driver threatening to shove her head up her arse if she was sick on his upholstery. With the back of her hand, she wiped drool from the side of her mouth and followed the group inside a tower block to ride the elevator to the house party upstairs.

Once inside the flat, Lydia made her way to the nearest window. It was stained by fingerprints and overlooked the rooftops. They were high. At least 18 floors up. She knew she must be in Canary Wharf because she recognised the financial district in the distance. The cocktail of substances mixing in her belly, combined with the view, made her stomach feel as if it was being wrung out like a face cloth. Taking a step away from the glass, her heel got caught on something hard and heavy behind her. She stumbled backwards over it, before losing her balance completely and knocking her head hard on a china ornament of Lord Nelson.

She lifted her hand to scratch at a tickle, caused by blood oozing from her forehead. Then, before the scene around her became enveloped in black, she saw the thing which had caused her to fall.

Still and ignored, alone in the corner of the flat, there was a body.

 

*           *           *

 

Norfolk’s coastal October breeze wraps itself tightly around Lydia’s body, swaddling her like a newborn baby in a blanket cocoon.

The beach is empty and the tide is out. The bottom of her jeans is drenched from walking near to the sea’s edge. She reaches down and grabs a fistful of dirty orange sand, allowing its coolness to soothe her aching palms.

The only thing missing from this scene was a puppy. From the age of four she had crazed her mother to buy a dog. As well as being a friend for Lydia, it would have benefited her mother too, by keeping her company instead of the strips of happy pills from the doctor.

A rhythmic blast of yellow from a lighthouse built on the distant horizon snaps Lydia out of her thoughts. This day starts to become familiar to her. It happened thirteen years ago but she could remember it all. The sun was setting and her five-year-old self stared out of her bedroom window for what felt like hours, gazing silently at the sea. Alone in the house she brushed her teeth, dressed herself into torn Care Bear pyjamas, and attempted to read Bedtime Stories for Girls. Her mother still wasn’t home.

She tried to shut her eyes and count sheep but when that didn’t work she listed the planets using a rhyme she had learnt at school. Finally, she sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star quietly to herself. She still couldn’t sleep though; she hadn’t heard the front door being pushed open, signalling the return of her mother.

Feeling brave, Lydia eventually made her way downstairs and put on her fluffy slippers and grubby pink robe, which was a size too small for her. By the time she had run down from their house to the beach, it was dark.

“Mamma,” she called, her voice lost to the wind. “Come home, Mamma! I’m sorry…”

She ran towards one of their favourite places; a Second World War pillbox, which had fallen from the cliff and now rested upside down on the shore. Sometimes, when her mother was in one of her better moods, the two of them would sit here and have a picnic.

As she felt her way around the crumbling walls she stumbled over something which had been hidden in the grasses growing around the base of the fallen structure. Legs. Frozen and rigid.

 

*           *           *

 

As she opened her eyes, Lydia was greeted with a smile from a grey-haired man wearing a well-ironed paramedic uniform. Probably ex-forces, she thought.

“Tough anniversary?” he touched her arm, reassuringly.

“I… I don’t know what you mean,” her hand instinctively wrapped itself around the gold vintage chain around her neck. It belonged to her mother and had ‘LOVE’ written across the pendant.

“Found this in your pocket. Had to look for ID. No one seemed to know who you were in there.” He handed over a tatty piece of paper. It was an obituary which had been ripped out of a newspaper years ago and included the photo of a young woman smiling at the camera. Even on recycled paper, her brown skin shone like melted chocolate and her eyes gazed at the unknown photographer with serenity. It was the only remaining picture Lydia had of her mother.

Then she remembered.

“The body. There was a body right there. Next to my feet!”

“Police have cleared the place out. No bodies in here. Listen, you’ve got one hell of a bump to your head so don’t be worrying about anything else right now.”

Lydia knew she was getting worse. Every year the anniversary haunted her.

She wondered if she would ever stop hearing the whispers of hurtful words once screamed on that fateful day.

 


 

Feedback from the Judges: 

What the judges liked:

  • The shifts in tense in the middle of the story are consistent with the narrative and for the most part smoothly handled. It’s important to the narrative that the reader, like the main character, slowly begin to doubt the presented “evidence” of the story – many writers would be tempted to resolve that for the reader and it’s not necessary.
  • Nice job incorporating the prompts seemlessly; your description of the first scene was effective.
  • Great use of scene setting with descriptive language and dialogue.

Where the judges found room for improvement:

  • Be careful using words like “chocolate” to describe Black skin. It seems useful but is both trite and disfavored by the professional community. The second half of the story has some shifting tense issues; try to stick with one tense per “section” for clarity and to avoid sounding as if you’d made a mistake.
  • Inconsistent tenses within each section of the story made the plot difficult to follow; conclusion was a bit clunky.
  • A little more show and a little less tell would really make this essay come to life even more.

 

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Six word story

Letter delivered, three decades too late.

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Round and round

Round and round I spin, with my arms stretched out at my sides, until I’m too dizzy to stand.

My body is like a magnet being drawn to the ground. I want to be sick but I am laughing too hard to muster the energy.

My children dance around me, their own laughter filled with the sounds of life and innocence.

I want to capture this moment and bask in it forever; to hold on to it for the rest of my days. 

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It’s Time

Give it a go, it said.

But I’m too scared, she said.

You’ll never know if you don’t try, it said.

I wish I had a crystal ball, she said.

Be brave, it said.

What if I fail, she said.

You never know – it might be the best thing to ever happen to you, they said.

 

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Too Tame – YW #289

I wish I had strength inside of me.

An ambition to fly away

into the sky above us.

To soar and to be free,

to wish and to dream

Until nothing

remains but

orange

sun.

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Yeah Write Super Challenge #2 – First Round Entry ‘Sticky Situation’

Around a fortnight ago I participated in Yeah Write’s second Super Challenge.

My assignment was to write a story with a maximum of 1,000 words, using specific prompts – an emotion plus an event.

Yeah Write said: “Writers will receive a combination of a mood or emotion and an event to include in their story. While neither needs to be the main focus of the story, both must be included in such a way as to be integral to the plot. There are no genre restrictions.”

I was placed in group 2 and given the prompts envy (emotion) and attend a funeral (event), and I wrote a short story entitled ‘Sticky Situation’.

I have included the judges’ feedback below and, as always, your feedback is very much welcomed.

 


 

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Sticky Situation

by 

Donna-Louise Bishop

* * *

Synopsis: When Martha visits her dear old friend Edith for afternoon tea she gets more than she expected. Can Martha finally get what she’s always wanted in order to become the person she’s always dreamed of being?

* * *

The last time Edith spoke, before she dropped down dead onto her kitchen floor, it was to tell her dear old friend Martha how shit her tea-making skills were.

While Martha used a spoon to anchor down the bag at the bottom of the mug, Edith always insisted on making a pot. She would cover it with a knitted cosy for at least ten minutes before pouring it into bone china cups sat on matching saucers.

“Philistine.” Edith spat the word at Martha, stuck her nose in the air, and ran a hand through her dark brown curls. Not a single strand was grey; impressive for an 82-year-old.

Martha was about to defend her brew-making ritual when Edith, without warning, fell face-down onto her cork tiles. Following a quick call to 999, she was scooped up by a couple of handsome paramedics and whisked away. Martha never did see her again. An aneurysm, they’d said.

“You poor thing! How are you holding up?” The strange voice brought Martha back into the room. She was at Edith’s funeral and her deceased friend’s son, Frank, had his hands clasped around one of her own.

“What’s that now?” She wasn’t sure what he was going on about.

“I said I’m so grateful to you for being there with mum when it happened. How are you coping?” He spoke slowly and loudly, assuming she was deaf like most people her age. She quickly hid a smile behind her tissue, fearful of a giggle-snort escaping her nose.

Although they’d been friends for a good couple of years, she’d never really liked Edith. In fact it was only because the two of them had become widows during the same week that the members of Little Snoring Women’s Institute insisted they became bosom buddies.

Martha knew from the get-go that she could never truly like Edith. It wasn’t just the way her brown-headed friend wore her pearl bracelet – always perfectly – but also how disgustingly rich she was. It wasn’t just the pearls either, she had lots of jewellery. Her late husband’s job meant he often travelled to exotic places and he would bring home lavish jewels and expensive perfumes. Martha’s dear Jim never had the money for fancy indulgences.

“Martha?” Frank was staring at her.

“What? Oh, sorry. Yes dear, yes it was such a shock. I still remember your mum’s exquisite Royal Doulton tea pot crashing to the floor when she fell. Beautiful china, old country rose pattern I think it was, splattered around her like blood. Awful mess it was. It took me ages to clean up.”

“Right. Well, thanks for that vivid description Martha – I think. Still, you’ll miss going over for your weekly get-togethers right? Mum talked so fondly of them.”

“Ah yes. Our get-togethers were the highlight of her week! She’d always get the posh biscuits out, the ones with the dark chocolate topping. My budget only ever stretched to plain digestives.”

“You had lovely conversations as well as biscuits though? Right?”

“I suppose.”

“Right,” Frank tried to hide his confusion. “Well I’d better get ready for my eulogy. Take care, Martha.” As he headed to the front of the room, someone tapped three times on the side of a champagne flute and everyone fell silent.

“Thank you all for coming. As many of you will remember mum loved her jam. There wasn’t a single summer when she didn’t go fruit picking. By winter, her pantry would be stuffed with every flavour imaginable. In fact, as I’m sure many of you will know, her jams were award-winning and she won many Little Snoring WI competitions with her culinary skills.”

Mumbling and tiny claps of agreement floated around the room. Everyone, expect Martha, joined in. She was too busy stuffing her face with scone.

“In fact her legend lives on today and if any of you have sampled either the Victoria Sponge cake or one of the scones then you have tasted her famous jam!”

Martha hurriedly reached for her tissue again and spat the contents of her mouth into it, frowning at one of Edith’s grandsons while he watched in disgust.

Even though Edith was dead, Martha struggled to admit to herself that her friend was the better jam producer. It didn’t matter that her body was barely stiff and cold in the ground, Martha wanted the secret recipe for the gorgeous gloopy goo. She knew Edith had stolen it from someone else anyway, so it wasn’t really hers in the first place. Martha was desperate to win the next Little Snoring WI Jam and Curd Competition. She’d waited for this day for far too long and now it was her turn to shine.

“So let’s raise a glass to mum, the best jam maker the world has ever known. To Edith!”

“To Edith!” the room chanted.

Martha knew Edith’s house was still empty. The family hadn’t had much luck selling it yet. If she was quick, she would have enough time to sneak out and back again before anyone noticed. Armed with her secret spare key, Martha turned to leave but was stopped by another of Edith’s relatives.

“She took it to the grave with her y’know,” it was the grandson – Danny or Dylan – something like that.

“Took what to the grave dear?”

“Her jam recipe.”

“Well yes. She’s dead, dear. She can’t tell you what’s in it now.”

“Duh! I know that. I meant the written copy.” Martha’s hands tingled and her arms went cold.

What do you mean?”

“I mean it was only written down in one place.” In unison, Martha and Danny-or-Dylan said: “In the back of the 1986 yellow pages.”

Martha already knew the answer before the question came out of her mouth, but she asked it anyway. “So where is it now?”

“Six-foot under,” Edith’s grandson pointed to the floor. “Buried with her.”

“Jammy cow…” Martha whispered, squeezing the tissue-covered, chewed-up scone in her hand.

 


 

Feedback from the Judges:

What the judges really liked about Sticky Situation:

  • Excellent opening hook that pulls the reader in and sets expectations for the story.
  • A delightful little story. The dialogue is charming. Especially creative use of envy.
Where the judges found room for improvement:
  • A few lingering punctuation issues make some phrases hitch instead of reading as smoothly as an understated dark comedy should.
  • The ending left a little to be desired. Given Martha’s character and her envy, it would have been more effective if Martha was successful in stealing the recipe.
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My Second Round Entry for NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2016 – The Floods

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This is my round two entry for this year’s NYC Midnight (NYCM) Flash Fiction writing challenge.

The challenge – as always – is to write one 1,000 word story, within 48 hours, based on a selection of prompts. I was given group 34:

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This was a really exciting round for me this time as I have never written a Sci-Fi before. My husband absolutely loves this genre though so he was a massive help over the weekend. I really enjoyed my prompts and thought they opened up a whole world of opportunities.

You can read the final result below. I don’t know if it’s an original idea or not; In my head I was in love with the film Waterworld. I basically wanted to capture a snapshot of a moment in time for these two characters. I’m not sure if the ending has the impact I was after or not but either way I hope you enjoy reading it.

As always, honest feedback is welcomed. Also I apologise now for any typos – it’s always fun writing a story from scratch, with specific prompts, in just 48 hours!


The Floods

by

Donna-Louise Bishop

 

 

Synopsis: They’ve survived the end of the world once before. But when the floods threaten to destroy their new home can this brother and sister make it with just a hot-air balloon to keep them alive?

* * *

As soon as I smelt the putrid sweat on Marthiana, I knew she had been fucked by Ridian. That night my sister couldn’t look me in the eye and later I heard her crying in the shower, washing her perfect scales until the water became tinged with blood. I wanted to punch him.

It was illegal for humans to sleep with our kind. The government had put a stop to it years ago after discovering deformities in the offspring. They had an unnatural sexual appetite for us though, so our bodies became useful objects to trade with – except Marthiana’s that is. It was the first time she’d done that.

*

“Hey Marthiana, how long have we been floating up here now?”

“Thirty days little brother.”

“Human days?”

“Yeah. I’ve made a mark on the side of the basket every morning since we took off.”

“Oh, that’s what that is.”

“Well I’ve got to keep myself entertained somehow while you’re writing.”

*

Up until the Government’s final announcement, living on Earth had been good. Before our home planet – known here as Delta Seven – had become uninhabitable, a small group of survivors had managed to make contact with Earth’s dwindling numbers.

Humans invited us to join them, to be part of their way of life and become a community. When we arrived we were welcomed like heroes returning from war. It’s crazy how quickly things change.

*

“Still writing little brother?”

“Is there anything better to do in a hot-air balloon?”

“You should get some sleep.”

“I will. You know, Harrison always said it was important to preserve our history.”

*

My writing book was a present from my assigned human, Harrison. He told me to write down my thoughts because it would help me settle here quicker, but I really hadn’t bothered with it much before the floods came and we were forced into the sky.

It’s the reason Marthiana slept with Ridian in the first place. She’d traded her body to persuade the old pervert to give us his hot-air balloon. The drunk didn’t give a shit about the balloon though, or the other junk he hoarded in his back yard, he just wanted Marthiana. I wanted to explain to her that it didn’t have to be like that with humans, but she didn’t know about me and Harrison then.

After, she told me that Ridian had pulled off some of her back scales to keep them to stroke. He told her he wanted that to be the last thing he felt before the floods came.

*

“Do you think there are other survivors?”

“Of course.”

“I don’t just mean humans Marthiana.”

“I know what you meant little brother. Keep positive.”

*

As predicted, the floods came in unprecedented amounts and as water levels began to rise, we launched our hot-air balloon.

It was so quiet and peaceful up above but it didn’t stop the roar of the waves following us or screams from humans vibrating in our ears. Then the wails from our own race came, drowning alongside the natives.

Marthiana and I spent two days watching the tides rise until they lapped around the tops of mountains, cities and memories now hidden forever under the sea, consumed in its big, greedy belly. So far we’ve managed to remain safe in this flying vessel, powered by the same Energy which destroyed the planet in the first place.

Harrison tried explaining it to me once but I was never good at science. It had something to do with Energy’s technology speeding up climate change and multiplying water molecules. Combined with massive errors during the moon’s drilling project, the Government had no choice but to announce the world’s end.

*

“You’re thinking about him again.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I do. You glow when you do.”

*

I’d always struggled to concentrate around Harrison during our mentoring sessions. It was his eyes. They grabbed me during the first moment I saw him. I wanted him. When he kissed me, it was like nothing I had ever experienced. On Delta Seven, sex wasn’t something that existed. It would have been considered an unnecessary luxury or fetish. On Earth, it was so much more than that. It was love.

Harrison had known they were coming for him. They called it Abuse of Power. He didn’t struggle when they arrested him but the guard pushed him to the ground anyway and smiled as he pressed his boot on his face, pinning him to the floor. I was held back by another, my muscles useless, and could do nothing but cry as they cuffed him and took him away. I didn’t see him again.

At the back of my book I keep a four leaf clover. It’s pressed and is the exact colour of my scales. Harrison slipped it inside the pages sometime during our final night together. With it he’d written ‘good luck’. Marthiana explained that it was an old human saying, meaning to give encouragement and hope.

*

“We’ve survived before so we can do it again.”

“Yeah. I know Marthiana.”

“It’s just figuring out how.”

“We’ll do it. We’ll get there.”

“Still got 51 days to work it out.”

“Sure sis, sure.”

*

I know Marthiana has been trying to think of a rescue plan since we took off in the balloon but the ideas are coming slower than usual to her.

I’ve done the math and it’s not looking great. Our bodies can survive for a total of 101 days without food and fluid. So far we’ve come across nothing and there has been no signs of life.

*

“I’m going to swim there.”

“How do you know if there’s anyone even there?”

“I don’t.”

“Let’s just lower the balloon onto the island.”

“Can’t risk it getting damaged. What if they shoot at us?”

“Will they?”

“I don’t know little brother, I don’t know.”

“Marthiana?”

“Yes.”

“Good luck.”

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