All stories

The flood came up

by Lewis

The rain was cool on my head. Soothing the chaffed ragged edges of where they had sawn the hair. Recognition for my father, so his spirit can rest. It itched and I was soaked. We had stopped on the crest of a hill over looking a wide plain and our next target. The men lusted for more war and why not, the reward had been good so far. I ran my hand across my rough scalp and pictured the girl I had taken. Fire in her blood as she fought.

Her room was beautiful etchings and drawings had covered the walls. She was creative and had sprung at me from god knows where. I smiled at her fierceness, an artist becoming a fighter. But I was a fighter with my own artistry. And I showed her all of it. Her body was beautiful by the time I had finished. Flesh was my favourite canvas and her blood had flooded the rushes on the floor.

It was then her man arrived. He burst in through the door. I remember his face so well. Beautiful and covered in blood, he was drenched from the torrent lashing down outside. Anger split into pure devestation as he saw her, and then returning as burning rage. It was that look that made me pause a moment to long. He launched at me and I realised then, he was one of the ‘Children of god’, giants they were called, at least 10 feet tall. His arms wrapped around me and there was nothing i could do.

But in that instant my father had appeared and he did not hesitate. His axe clove into the giants back. His grip loosed enough for me to breathe and then an arm was free and I was plunging my fingers into his eyes. My father's axe struck again and he dropped to his knees. I fell backwards and my knee, which had been twisted in his grip buckled. I landed messily on the remains of his women. All blood drained from his face and at that moment my dad raised his axe to end it all and swung.

I had never thought that these Sons of God were anything other than freaks, as evil and human and god forsaken as the rest of us. But the speed with which he spun then, rising up and catching the axe as it fell, wrenching it from my father's hands and twisting it up and back down, all in a heartbeat or less, was unlike anything mortal. He buried it down to my father's waist. Water and blood arced in a myriad of colours. But then he was not a god as he desperately tried to pull it out, as my sword cut his throat. His body flopped and twitched like a fish on land. We tried to burn the village, but in the rain nothing would light.

This village was much larger, but their river had already burst its banks and water had pooled together across the plain. This god damn rain was causing problems and this plain was too close to the lakes for my liking. It pounded down as it has done for near two moons. The first light touch of dawn crept over the opposite brow of the plain. We moved down towards the village. I did not hear it at first, but slowly a rumble grew, shaking the earth slowly but with ever increasing power. The village was empty. We took what we could find but that sound unnerved us. I stood watching the men curse and bicker. Then something made we look to the horizon.

It seemed then, like we were in a bowl, with the horizon edge running all around us. I realised our mistake in a flash. Have you ever pushed a bowl into water? There is a moment when the water seems to hover impossibly high around the edge, before suddenly it drops. We were too late. Surrounded by an enemy we could not fight. No pyres for us to send our spirits high. Some ran in terror. Others climbed to the roofs. I simply lay down and pictured her laid out, her blood flowing, maybe my greatest work. Beautiful. I smiled. The flood came.

What Artists Are Like

by Dan

Tokkor the Dreamer had been so named because he was a distracted hunter. He’d always been too aware of the way light glistened on trees and never aware enough of a slight movement that signalled that the mammoth press was pulling in his direction.

In the end he’d been made to stay home with his younger sister.

As a young man of about 12 he had left his home tribe and hooked up with the painters who had come by to illuminate the walls of his cavern, The Veseegee. Here he had made his reputation.

He had great talent both as an artist and a storyteller and now, 5 years on, he was pretty much the go-to man in his generation for a song, story or cavewall sketch of a fully rounded bison.

The Veseegee were famous from the Hot Lands to the Northern Forest and were in constant demand by chieftains wishing to promote their wealth and largesse. Their skills were held to be almost magical and, with their fashion for long hair, musicianship and imbibement of hallucinogenic roots they were very popular with the girls of the tribes they visited.

They would arrive at a new cave to great ceremony, so that neighbouring communities could see and hear. Then the local Chief would issue the standard verbal contract.

“You will paint 12 great animals upon the walls of the cave and repaint the rain damaged ones outside the cave. You will only draw the great animals of the plains, nothing else. Your best storytellers will come to our caverns at night and tell agreed stories of the hunt.

You will camp out of earshot of our settlement, what you do there is your own business, we will allow some of our unimportant women to visit you. We will provide you with grain, meat, furs, wine, berries, tools and jewels.

You will not hunt or fish or work for other tribes, you will not enter our caverns apart from to undertake the agreed work. Freelance painting, trade and liaison with women other than those provided is strictly prohibited. We know what artists are like!”

The chief would then bring out some wine.

But this time, at the ceremony, Tokkor had been promised by the chief’s own daughter, Raknar The beautiful, that she would lay with him if he drew her a picture of herself upon a dried animal skin. She had heard of the girls of the coast being so depicted.

They met on the rock above the village at dawn before anyone else was awake. He mixed pigments, with white guana and green leaf to achieve a remarkable approximation of Raknar’s youthful luminosity. She wore her best bracelets. With deft hands he bought to life the curve of her neck and breasts whilst she smiled at him in the way women who wanted to lay with you did. Both were elated by the moment, their own fertility and the danger of the situation.

So elated that neither noticed the twitch in the bushes or, until it had happened, the perfectly aimed stone arrowhead that split through Tokkor’s knee before he was dragged back to the caves for further punishment.

“If only he’d learned to hunt” grieved his mother when she heard of his death several days later.

A Solitary Fish

by Russ

‘It’s really coming down out there,’ Jed announced to the bar as he closed the wooden door behind him. ‘Maybe that mad old fool will be right after all!’

His audience responded with the laughter he’d hoped for when he composed the line during his short wet walk from home. Rain bounced off his leather coat with each back slap administered on his way to the bar. There he was met with two of his favourite sights: a frothy pint and Esther, the landlord’s handsomely endowed daughter. Beer, breasts, beaming smile - he registered each in turn - his eyes settling on the second while his mouth drained the first. A thundering belch from his left interrupted the contentment.

‘It could rain for a year and you wouldn’t get me in that thing,’ Zeke declared. ‘I wouldn’t trust it to float in a bathtub.’

‘And it’ll bloody stink,’ Mariam interjected from the nearest table. ‘Have you seen that flea-ridden menagerie his boys have been assembling? There’ll be shit everywhere!’

A gust of wind blew open the snug door letting in a splat of water.

‘Steady on Mar, you’ve upset God there!’ Jed was quick to get his second round of guffaws. ‘Better get your prayers in!’

‘Let God cry,’ the woman defied. ‘I ain’t kneeling for no man!’

Zeke, who was mid-gulp, spat his pint all over the unfortunately positioned front of Esther, while half a dozen other men suddenly looked down at their own tankards, and half a dozen wives scowled over them. In a well-practised move, Esther wiped away suds with one hand while refilling three drinks with the other. Yelping in pain as pewter bounced off his knee, Zeke turned to see Mariam whistling over the empty table in front of her. Esther sniggered and grabbed another pot to fill.

A flash silenced the room before heads instinctively bowed against the rumble which followed.

‘Well, I think you should all leave the guy alone,’ piped up Rueben, the town’s resident creative, hands still stained with paint from his pre-opening sitting with Esther, a commission which everyone believed had taken quite long enough now. ‘He’s a stand-up guy in my book.’

‘Because he paid you twenty acres and a six-bed house to carve a figurehead?’ Jed scoffed.

‘Because he knows the worth of a true artist,’ Reuben would not be derided. Though he knew well the block of cedar he’d chipped away to look vaguely like a unicorn was barely worth the wood it was whittled on. A wave of guilt suddenly swept through the would-be sculptor. ‘Drinks all round, if you would Esther?’ he yelled, eliciting a cheer and creating the necessary distraction from his shame.

As the liquid apologies were distributed, a window shattered creating a mini-waterfall beside the piano. The patrons stopped and watched as a solitary fish slopped from the stream and onto the floor.

Jed turned to Esther, less jovial now.

‘You still got those sandbags out back?’

The path of the storm

by Jenny

You could cut the tension in the room with a knife. Alison slams her mug down on the work surface and switches on the kettle.

“Are you sure you -?”

“I’ve already told you I’m fine, haven’t I?”

I close my mouth and let the silence rise up around us again. Outside the rumble of thunder in the distance.

The kettle boils and Alison pours water onto her teabag and stirs it ferociously. She yanks open the fridge door for the milk, banging her knee, but she doesn’t flinch or even register the pain.

There is nothing left to do in the kitchen, but if she leaves she can’t demonstrate her anger. She moves around putting things away, checking on the fish, moving tea towels about.

The air is crackling now, with unspoken words waiting to spill. At the window lightning flashes. One, two, three, four, five seconds pass before the thunder.

“So how was the pub?” She asks, too casually.

“Yeah it was alright actually. Only stayed for a few in the end.”

“Hmm. Who was there altogether?”

“Just the guys from the office. Scotty and Chalmers and them.”

“No-one else? Just you guys?”

Another flash. One, two…

“Oh the girls from the art team were there, but they were on a different table. Didn’t really see a lot of them.”

“The art girls. Right. So Sophie was there then was she?”

The thunder rolls around outside. The windows rattle in their frames.

“She was there, but I -”

“Well of course she was there. She’d hardly miss a chance to be out with you.”

“Look we didn’t even speak -”

“As I remember it, you didn’t do a lot of speaking last time. It’s not the speaking I worry about.”

“Ally, that was a year ago. You said we’d moved on.”

“Well that was before I knew you were out drinking with her in the pub every night after work!”

The wind blows up outside. Another flash of lightning, the thunder close on its heels.

“Babe - we have to get past this. What do you want? Should I never go to the pub because there’s a chance that she might be there?”

“Might be there? Might? She’s always there isn’t she?”

“What? I don’t know - what does it matter?”

“It matters because you fucked her three days before we were supposed to get married. It matters because you begged me not to leave you and I agreed as long as you didn’t see her. And now I find out you’ve been seeing her every fucking night?”

The mug slams down Tea sloshes out over the sides.

“So she’s there? It’s not like we’re alone together - or, or -”

“Or what” Ally says, her voice rising to that pitch that makes the hair on my neck stand up.

Then the kitchen is empty. I can hear Alison moving about upstairs. She is throwing clothes into a suitcase, crying. This time, I think, she won’t be back.

And suddenly rain is streaming against the windows, the sky is alive with lightning and the tension in the air is floating away in the path of the storm.

Missed the boat

by James

Starry Eyes was lost in rapture, gazing as she was at her own reflection in the bowl of mountain spring water that Alice had fetched for her. Oh, those eyes! Those beautiful brown doe eyes, speckled with silver and fringed by thick dark lashes. She fluttered them prettily. Surely there never had been one so beautiful as she!

A rumbling sound rose from below as once more Golden Hooves thumped his golden hooves. Starry Eyes giggled to herself. Let him wait! He was always so eager. It was far more important that she gazed her fill upon the most beautiful, neigh, the most astounding visage in all of creation. That white horse from the next valley with red ribbons woven through her mane? Pah! Nothing, next to Starry Eyes.

Golden Hooves thumped his golden hooves once more. He neighed and called to her.

‘Hurry, my precious. For we shall be late.’

Excitement coursed through Starry Eyes. Of course. The trip! She giggled nervously – she had never been on a boat before. Would she see fish?. She let out a tiny botty burp and paused to breathe deep of the glorious aroma of rose petals and golden sunflowers. She tossed her mane, called to her mate, ‘Coming, my darling,’ and tossed back her head.


‘Darling,’ called Starry Eyes. ‘It’s happened again…’

Such had been the excitement of Starry Eyes that it took them a long time to free her head horn from the stupid beam her stupid humans had put in far too low over her reflection gazing station. Starry Eyes knew they would have done it quicker only Golden Hooves had kept on stopping to neigh and complain that they were sure to be late. The invitation had been quite clear about the date and time, and it had said – twice – in block letters – THE BOAT WILL NOT WAIT.

But Starry Eyes was unconcerned. Not wait for unicorns? Ridiculous.

Despite her achy knee, Golden Hooves made them gallop painfully fast down the hill to the bottom of the valley where the old man was creating his big ship. Starry Eyes paused to gawp at a pair of woolly mammoths that had managed to both get their silly tusks tangled in the dense forest vegetation. Golden Hooves nudged her with his own horn to spur her on, and it worked, for a moment, before Starry Eyes stopped to stare once more. A pair of sabre tooth tigers had attempted an easy kill, and now both of them were trapped as well, their stupid long teeth tangled in the mammoth’s disgustingly matted fur.

Starry eyes went suddenly wide with surprise as Golden Hooves nudged Starry Eyes with his horn once more. ‘THE BOAT WILL NOT WAIT!’

They galloped, and moments later they crested the brow of the hill and gazed down into the valley below. It was strange to see it so full of water. But where was the boat? Nothing remained except a deep brown scar leading to the water below. A few drops of rain dared to patter across her glorious coat. Starry Eyes let out another nervous botty burp and grew calm again at the aroma of rose petals. It was fine. The boat would return. Noah would not leave the unicorns behind.