Nobody Quits

Another new story in response to a writing prompt. A shorter text this time, though. Feel free to leave comments.


Saturday night. A slow paced ordeal in this sleepy backwater town. A lazy rain raps listlessly at my window and the cheap coffee in my cup is too weak to keep anyone awake. Apart from the rain the only sound is made by the Freddie Mercury clock sitting on the wall, overlooking all.

The news pieces in today’s paper are old, having already taken several beats around the net before at long last reaching the printing press. I read them anyway, savor them, even. I am able to read subtle truths in the short notices that I can never find in modern crime novels. However, being in the know is probably the only perk that comes with having led my kind of life – especially since I decided to leave it all behind.

I have almost reconciled with this existence. It’s the price I have had to pay for breaking free of all the things that once weighed me down. That, and the disgrace of soon standing in front of a jury, testifying against my old allies. I just wish living within the federal witness protection program was not so goddamn boring.

The rapping of the raindrops on my window is suddenly accompanied by a far more substantial rapping on the door. Freddie Mercury looks just as surprised as I when I turn to him for an explanation. It’s almost midnight, and I expect no visitors. I seldom do nowadays. Slowly I fold my paper and walk towards the door to look through the peephole. I’m not really afraid of strangers, I don’t think the people who want to hurt me can find me here. But even so, the sight of the man outside the door makes me freeze. I know him very well. He knocks again. I open the door.

”I see you weren’t expecting me”, he says as he lets himself in.

I close the door. ”No, but I don’t see how it is logically possible that I weren’t.”

He is wearing a hooded sweater with its sleeves rolled up. His arms are covered in large, dark tattoos and his face in metal. He also has a huge tribal across his entire back, and an ugly scar disfigures his left thigh. I know this only because I had that very tribal tattoo painfully removed five months ago, and that old knife wound still pains me after long walks. The rain composes a monotonous backdrop to our silence as I stare at him. As he stares at me. Then he walks into my living room.

”So this is what I’ll sell everything out for? I don’t believe it…”

I stand in the doorway, watching him as he pulls out my books and scrutinizes my sparse furniture. ”It became too much. You will see in time.”

He looks up at me. ”No, I won’t. This will never happen.”

I shake my head. This young man has much to learn. ”How old are you? Eighteen?”

”Nineteen, actually”, he says and I suddenly remember getting that snakebite piercing on my birthday that very year.

I nod knowingly. ”Many things can happen in seven years. Feelings change. People change.”

”I won’t change”, he says. ”I refuse to change. I refuse to become… this.” He makes a gesture that encompasses the entire room, and it’s not until now that I realize that he is holding a gun.

I take a step back, but he reacts faster. I stare at the cold piece of metal in front of my eyes just as intently as he stares at me. Fear. All I can feel is fear now, and my entire body is starting to shake.

”They told me that I am going to rat on them. That they can’t let me into the organization for real because seven years from now, I will sell them out. Don’t you see that you have ruined everything? I’ll never be anything, and it’s all because of you!” He puts the gun to my face and forces me to my knees.

I almost cannot breathe, let alone speak. But still I force myself to say something between the panicky sobs. ”But… I am you. For fuck sake, can’t you see that? My choices are your goddam choices. You can’t be serious about this. Please…”

”They have given me one option, though. If I find you and whack you before you go to that fucking trial and ruin everything, they’ll let me in. And that’s exactly what I’m doing. Nobody quits.”

I wonder who ”they” are. I wonder if this can really be happening. I wonder what will happen to me, to him, if he pulls the trigger. ”Fucking idiot”, I say as he readies the gun. ”Don’t you rea –”


The echo slowly dies. Only Freddie Mercury watches on in shocked silence as the impossible unfolds, but being a clock he will never be able to tell anyone. And the slow paced Saturday night wears on in that sleepy backwater town.

All Lost In the Mail

Another story in response to a writing prompt. This one turned out a little longer than the previous ones – I just couldn’t help it, sorry 😉 Feel free to leave comments!


Sometimes when I passed by the old Foursquare on my daily delivery round I allowed myself to fantasize about how it would look with a fresh layer of white paint and some refurbishment. It must have been beautiful once, with its huge garden and inviting dormer windows. I used to wonder who once lived there, if children had at one point run laughing down the slight slope in the lawn and what boring office positions those children held now. Of course I also wondered what had once caused the old building to be so thoughtlessly abandoned. There was no one to ask, however, since the house had stood empty for as long as anyone could remember.

Imagine my surprise, then, when one day I found in my delivery bag a bundle of envelopes, cards and parcels clearly to be delivered to this very address. I thought about returning it to the post office for redirection at once, but then I thought better of it. I reckoned I should at least try to make the delivery before dismissing it, as was the policy. To be honest I was also secretly excited about finally having an excuse for taking a closer look at the mysterious building.

It was autumn, and the leaves rustled under my feet as I made my way up the garden path towards the structure. The grass, trees and bushes had not seen proper care for a very long time, and  the season’s added effects didn’t do them any favors. I considered making a beat around the house to sate my curiosity, but decided against it. For some reason I felt as if the dark windows were silently watching me, and I felt the excitement from only minutes earlier drain from my body with every step I took. I wanted to be done here, I realized, and looked forward to returning the letters to the office and continuing on my round. To houses more inhabited, friendly and alive.

The porch creaked as I stepped on it. The sound sent shivers down my spine and I stopped and listened. Nothing. One of the dusty lite panels in the front door was broken and the wind made the worn linen door curtain ripple on the inside. I knocked, first cautiously but then decidedly. I would be accused of neither cowardice nor negligence.

”Come in”, a faint voice said, and my heart almost stopped. I considered running, but duty and curiosity got the better of me and instead I opened the door.

Inside, the house was silent and calm. Dust drifted through the air like particles of memory, and the homely but dated furnishing spoke of love and dedication long past. A grey layer covered everything, as if this place had been frozen in time decades ago.

”Anybody home?”

”Here.” That faint voice again, cracked and hollow as that of a phantom – or a very old person not accustomed to using it.

I wound my way through the house and found myself in a small bedroom. The pattern on the wallpapers matched the dried flowers on the windowsill, and everywhere I looked there were old photographs in ornate frames. On the bed lay a woman, her hair white as snow and the shape of her slight body barely showing from under the heavy covers.

I looked down at the bundle in my hand and read the faded address on the topmost envelope. ”Mrs. Lapwing?”, I chanced.

She looked tiredly at me and nodded. ”Yes”, she rasped. ”Are you from the police?”

I shook my head. ”I’m from the post office. I have some letters for you. Where can I put them?”

She smiled faintly, but it was a sad smile. And that’s when I realized she was not looking at me at all. ”Mr. Postman, I’m sorry but I will not be able to read your letters. I’m blind, you see.”

”Oh”, I said, not knowing what to do. ”I’m sorry, I didn’t know that.”

”How could you?” She reached out towards me. ”Maybe you could read the letters to me? That would be wonderful, dear.”

”There are many letters”, I said while quickly thumbing through them. ”Maybe Mr. Lapwing can read them to you? There are letters for him here as well.”

Her hand dropped, and the smile disappeared. ”My husband has been gone for many years, Mr. Postman. He ran away with another woman thirty years ago.”

The silence lasted for several seconds, but for me it felt like far longer than that. ”I’ll read them to you”, I said and sat down in the chair next to her bed. What else could I do?

”Thank you, dear”, she whispered and seemed to relax.

I opened the first envelope and reacted to the old letter stamp. This letter should have been delivered several decades ago. A quick investigation of the rest of the bundle revealed that this was the case with all of them. I cleared my throat.

”These letters are old”, I told her. ”I don’t know why they haven’t been delivered already. This first one was sent back in 1951, and it is from your sister, Ruth.”

”My sister died in the war”, she said blankly.

I skimmed through the letter, the handwriting was not all that easy to read but I managed. ”Well, no. She writes here that she is – was – well and that she’s living together with a kindly man, a fisherman, in Sweden. This is the first letter she has dared to write, and she would like to know if you are alive and well. She wants to come visit you.”

She shook her head slowly. ”Are you sure? Are you sure it is from Ruth?”

”It says so here. And she asks if you remember the kittens, says that she has gotten herself a new one just like the ones you had as children.”

Mrs. Lapwing’s unseeing eyes filled with tears. ”I didn’t know”, she whispered. ”All these years, and I didn’t know.”

”There are more letters from her here”, I said, not knowing what to do. ”She writes that her children are starting school, and that they are moving into a bigger house. She thinks about you often and would love to hear from you.”

The old woman said nothing, so I opened more letters. ”In this one her daughter is getting married. She wants you to be there, but she is afraid that she’s writing these letters to a person long gone. The last letter is not that old, actually… Five years. Well, I guess that’s pretty old as well under these circumstances.”

”Read it”, she mouthed between the tears.

”Here she… Oh.” I paused. ”She is in the hospital. Cancer. The doctors have given her a month, and she’s writing mainly to force herself to accept it. She thinks that you are dead, and she’s glad that she will soon be able to meet you again. This is the last letter from her. I’m sorry.”

Mrs. Lapwing was silent for a long time, her milky eyes staring blindly in front of her. ”What’s in the rest of the letters?”, she said finally.

I didn’t want to do this anymore, but I couldn’t leave her like this. ”There’s one from someone called Becca…”

”My daughter. I haven’t heard from her in twenty years or more.” There was wounded disappointment in her voice.

”It’s from fifteen years ago. To the day, actually. She writes that she has tried calling so many times now that she thinks it’s on you to contact her, if you want to speak. She wants you to know that she and Felicia are happy together, and that no matter what you think about that, she hopes that you will be happy to know that you will soon become a grandmother.”

”A… grandmother? She is having a baby? Together with that woman?”

”I would seem so. There is a phone number here too, if you want to call her.”

”She hasn’t called”, Mr. Lapwing muttered. ”That’s all a lie. I haven’t received any calls for several years.”

I bit my lip. ”That might be due to the… reminders of unpaid phone bills I have here…” I browsed through them. They were old as well, and the final one should have been delivered almost twenty years ago. I felt sick when I realized what this meant. ”The phone company cancelled your number in 1981, you had not payed your bills.”

”But I didn’t get any bills!”, she protested weakly. And she was right. She hadn’t gotten them.

”I’m sorry”, I said. ”There must have been a terrible mix up in the delivery. With all these letters. Of course you will be compensated for –”

”Just read the rest of them, will you Mr. Postman.” She looked defeated, and I guess that’s exactly what she was.

”This one is a letter for Mr. Lapwing. Sent in the early seventies.”

”Around the time when he ran away and left me, then.”

”Well… maybe. Yes, that seems right. The letter is from someone named Susan Green, and it’s very short. She writes that she can’t meet him at the station after all. That she has decided to stay with her family and that it’s over between them.”

”So he didn’t run away with her?”

”No, it doesn’t seem so. But he still sent you divorce papers, they’re here in the next letter.”

”I won’t sign them.”

”No, you don’t have to. Here’s a parcel from the police here as well. They got no answer at the door and couldn’t reach you on the phone. It’s from 1985. Mrs. Lapwing, I’m sorry to say it, but your husband is dead.”

”This whole time? Dead?”

”I’m afraid so.” I lowered my head, but then remember that she couldn’t see me.

”There’s only one letter left. Do you want me to open it? It’s from last year.” She nodded, and I tore open the envelope. ”It’s from Becca.” This instantly caught her attention. ”She writes that everything is great and that she’s starting a new job. There’s a photograph in here, too. It’s of two women and two children. The kids seem to be in their early teens. They are all smiling. One of the women has long, brown hair and –”

”That’s my Becca. Oh my God, that’s my little Becky…”

”There’s the same phone number at the bottom of the page. You could call her.”

She reached for the photograph and I gave it to her. She caressed the glossy surface with her pale fingertips and tears again started falling from her eyes. I knew she couldn’t see the picture at all. ”My little Becky…”

I had no letters left. I rose hesitantly. ”Mrs. Lapwing, I’m sorry but I have to go. I hate to leave you like this, but I have many other houses to visit. And I’m terribly sorry these letters haven’t reached you until now, I understand how horrible this must feel…”

She just continued stroking the picture, and I slowly backed away. ”I will make some calls”, I said. ”I will tell the phone company to come here and fix your phone. And maybe someone from the social services too. To, you know, come check that everything is okay with you. Help you out with things around here.”

I paused at the door, but got no response. ”Of course I will report this terrible misconduct to the post office, too. Things like this shouldn’t happen. Ever.”
I hated myself when I turned my back on her and left the house the same way as I had come, my delivery bag much lighter but my heart significantly heavier.

I borrowed a phone in the next house over and made the calls I had promised to make, and some more I came to think of as I did so. Mrs. Lapwing had suffered terribly at the hands of the system. It was almost as if the entire establishment had gone out of its way to conspire against her. But now, finally, everything would be put right. I had seen to that.

I completed my round in less than an hour, and decided to double back on my route back to the office. I wanted to make sure that someone had heeded my reports and gone to check on the poor Mrs. Lapwing. And quite correctly, when I approached the old house I could see several police cars on the driveway and by the street in front of it. There was also an ambulance, and I was instantly worried.

I ran up to one of the officers. He had just finished a phone call and put the phone back in his pocket. ”Excuse me”, I said. ”But I was the one who called earlier. About Mrs. Lapwing. How is she?”

The officer looked me up and down and frowned. ”So you’re the one who called? Good, I know some people who would like a serious word with you. We got the impression that the woman was alive.”

My worry and guilt peaked. ”Oh my god, isn’t she? I was only gone for a hour, and –”

”What are you talking about?”, the officer said. ”It’s good that she was found finally, but we don’t appreciate being lied to. This woman has been dead for several years. If you would please come with me here…”

I followed. And as I did so, I again let my eyes wander towards the old house. The dark windows watched unblinkingly and in silence as the covered stretcher was carried out into the autumn air, leaving the house again to its quiet calm, memories of laughter and sorrow and long forgotten secrets.

Securing the Family Business

Another short text in response to a writing prompt. The prompt kind of gives it all away, so I recommend reading the text before clicking the link. Feel free to leave comments!


”But you must surely understand that this is not the medieval anymore?” Mr. Caralhaw adjusted his glasses and shot his client a skeptic look.

”I know, I know”, his client sighed. He had expected this shit, nobody understood him anymore. ”But nobody understands me anymore”, he said. ”They don’t know what they’re getting when they buy into my brand. It’s almost like they think I’m into mindfulness or something these days.”

”Well, aren’t you?” Mr. Caralhaw sounded genuinely surprised.

His client fixed him with his coldest stare. He was quite proud of it, actually. Had taken him several hours in front of the mirror over the years. ”No, I’m not.” He decided to change the subject. ”Anyway, I’m fine with getting the crazies, I’ve always liked them. But recently, I only seem to attract the most narcissistic crazies, those who don’t do any worshiping and hardly even burn churches anymore. Can you imagine?” He was visibly upset now.

”Yes, unfortunately we seem to have had a steady decline in the worshiping and burning of churches since the eighties. Those inclined to adoration of the supernal seem to have moved their activities in more… celestial directions. Things are not what they used to be.”

”You’re not kidding”, his client exclaimed. ”I thought that I could take some time off to prepare for the new baby, but obviously that was asking for too much. After all this time and work…”

Mr. Caralhaw dared a faint smile. ”Well, yes, parenting often affects the career negatively, I’m afraid. But let’s focus on solutions now…” He looked through his papers again. ”I have created a suggestion for a PR-model that I think will appeal to the target group’s sense of self worth, while still leaving space for the acknowledgement of higher powers. Would you please have a look at –”

”No”, his client said sharply. ”I will not cater to those megalomanic good-for-nothings anymore. The customers of the rivaling firm at least remained loyal to the brand while the CEO was on infant care leave. Never mind that they slaughtered the brat later. My own clients wouldn’t even cut me that much slack. So much for that allegiance…”

”So… what will you do?” Mr. Caralhaw was frustrated to see two weeks’ worth of work being thus brushed aside without the slightest consideration, but of course he concealed his feelings carefully.

”I will leave them to their deluded practices for the time being. I’m needed elsewhere, I have to take care of my family. But when the baby has come and I’m back at the office, I will conduct an exhaustive revision of the organization. Ineffective people and programs will be weeded out and replaced. I will rain fire upon my so-called followers and slaughter them in their beds. I will tear down their puny altars to themselves. And then I will start from scratch.” He rose from his chair and collected his jacket and his briefcase.

”Are you sure you want to engage in such a thorough re-organization? It will require both time and funds, and –”

”Yes, I’m sure. This will soon turn into a family business, and I want to be able to pass on something solid to my son. Good day, Mr. Caralhaw. Thank you for your time.” And with that, Satan opened the door and left the office.

Mr. Caralhaw remained behind his desk, wearily looking down at all his futile work and wondering, not for the first time, why he even bothered.

The Silence of Her Voice

This short text was written in response to a writing prompt that said “Write a love story where one of the characters has some disability”.


I have never heard her voice. I will never be allowed to learn to distinguish between those small, subtle differences in tone that tells whether she is happy or sad or disappointed or a thousand other varieties of what we call emotion.

What I do know, though, is that every morning her hair is tangled in the most lovable way, like the branches of a new sapling in spring. That her face lights up every time I touch it, even when I can still see and feel the teardrops that traced there only moments before. I know the rhythm of her warm body when we dance to songs only she can hear, as she smilingly guides me through them. I know the blue of her eyes that can see all the way through all my walls, and I know the heat of her lips.

I tell myself that I don’t need music, and I almost believe it. Until I see her smile as she absentmindedly mimes along to the radio, and it hits me that I will never hear her sing. The thought saddens me more than I want to admit. I want to share everything with her, and yet I can’t.

There are parts of her life that I will never be able to understand, that I will never be able to share. Sometimes I feel jealous of other people, I cannot help it. They share worlds with her where I cannot go.

But then I lie in my silence and think about loss, and she comes up behind me. And she traces patterns on my skin. Soft, rhythmic patterns with fingers and lips and breath, and I realize that this is music, this is song. It is her song, and i can feel it. I let myself be swept away by the perfection of it, let myself sing along. And that’s when I understand that ”silence” is just another word, and I have never had any use for words.

So I have never heard her voice. I will never be allowed to learn to distinguish between those small, subtle differences in tone that tells whether she is happy or sad. But I don’t need those because with her, there’s music in everything. And that’s all the music I will ever need.

The City

This very short story was written in response to a writing prompt that said “Begin and end your story with this sentence: ‘And yet, the city remained.'” I wanted to make something else of it than the apocalyptic theme that immediately came to mind, and decided to write it more like a fairy tale. Feel free to tell me what you think!


And yet, the city remained.

I sighed, rolling my eyes as I did so. This was getting troublesome. I drew in a deep breath and let it out in a gust of wind so strong as to make birds fall out of the sky – and they did. The spires and towers, however, swayed back and forth but seemed to be constructed to hold through storms. And the city remained.

I resolved to try the trusted old rock throwing method. I scooped up some promising boulders and hauled them at the congregated buildings. Windows shattered, walls broke down, but by and large nothing much was affected. And the city remained.

Growing increasingly frustrated by the minute I lowered my hand into the ocean and sent a gigantic tidal wave crashing into this man built atrocity. Streets were flooded, people were carried away. But more remained, and these quickly repaired what had been broken. And the city remained.

There was only one thing left to be done. I set fire to it. Searing flames were sent dancing through the streets, eating away at the buildings and the people inhabiting them. Screams of terror and pain drifted through the air and I smiled contentedly. Finally there would be peace. I didn’t even mind the fact that I burned myself slightly in the process, this was for the greater good.

I was just about to roll over and bask in my success, when the screams changed into something else. Song; the people of the city were singing. I turned my eyes back to the burning inferno, just to realize that it was not burning anymore. The flames had been put out, and the songs were those of victory. I stared. Nothing I had thrown at it had made the city go away. I had ravaged it with storms. I had flooded it. I had crushed it and I had burned it. And still it stood.

Slowly did it dawn on me that nothing in my power would make it go away. The buildings and the people in them were just too stubborn. I was spent, tired and burnt. I had to rest, and was there really no way for me to get rid of the uncomfortable buildings that littered my side, then so be it. The ground rumbled and shook as I, the huge mountain, adjusted myself to enter the sleep of stones. And yet, the city remained.

2015-10-15

…Every Cat But Mine

This text was written in reply to a writing prompt that said “Cats around the world start to do strange things like doing their owners taxes, or getting part time jobs to earn them money. Your cat however is incredibly special in that it does absolutely nothing interesting. Ever”. Feel free to tell me what you think!


I was amazed, of course. Maya poured me some more tea and underlined what she had just said with a gesture towards the desk in the corner. I could see a pair of fuzzy ears protruding from behind the monitor, but otherwise I would never have guessed who was sitting there, hammering away at the keyboard like a pro.

”Oh, and the only reason I even bothered to make this tea myself is that Morris is monitoring the stock market right now”, she said apologetically. ”I’m not even interested in that shit, but hell I’m not complaining. I expect him to pull that off just as well as he did that phone call to talk me out of those parking tickets from last week. Those people really can’t handle arguing with a cat.”

I nodded and drank my tea. The brew Morris made was much better, but I didn’t mind. I hadn’t gotten entirely used to this thing with a cat making my tea yet anyhow, and Maya’s attempt wasn’t that bad. ”Yeah, I heard Anderson’s Tanis has taken to repairing the neighbourhood’s cars. I didn’t even know there’s cat sized tools for that yet.”

”Nah, there isn’t. I’ve checked. But Tanis makes them himself from stuff he orders from Ebay. He’s quite the Cat Gyver, that one. I wish Morris was more practical like that.” She cast a fond look towards the corner, where a furry paw just reached into a water bowl and retrieved a few drops before vanishing behind the monitor again. ”Don’t listen to me. Morris is the cat of my life and I wouldn’t trade him for anything.”

I finished my tea and excused myself. In contrast to everyone else nowadays, ever since the Thing happened and the cats suddenly started pulling their weight, I still had to do my own chores and make my own phonecalls. I even had to repark my own car, I noted sourly as I observed Maya’s neighbour cat, Holiday, getting out of the family’s red Kia after moving it a couple of yards down the lane. I got into my own bucket, which started on the third try. I wished, not for the first time, that Mr. Bruce as well would rise to the occasion and learn some mechanic skills, just like Tanis.

On my way home I took note of just how different everything was now, compared to before. There were cats everywhere, doing stuff not even people were expected to be doing on such a regular basis. I could see felines taking out garbage, watching small children, shopping for groceries, painting houses, walking dogs… I even thought I saw a tabby driving past in a police car, but that must have been my nerves playing tricks on me. Right? The headlines were full of amazing stories where furry kittens rescued families from poverty by building shelters and malkins directed blockbuster movies. Of course it was mind blowing, but it also made me irritated. Why could not I, too, be allowed to reap the fruits of this fantastic turn of events?

I arrived home, where I parked my sorry vehicle in the over grown driveway and made my way across the unkempt lawn to the door. The house was in dire need of a new layer of paint, and there were several bags of garbage sitting on the porch. I sighed. It was all good and well that Maya and everyone else got so much help with everything, but I still had to do it all by myself. I opened the door and immediately grew even more irritated. Couldn’t Mr. Bruce at least come tripping to the door and greet me like a normal cat, if he wouldn’t make himself useful in any other way? ”Hello?”, I called, but still no reaction. I sighed again, heavier this time, put the heavy bag of groceries on the kitchen table and began to unpack it.

”Good”, a low pitched voice called from the living room. ”Put the Whiskas in a bowl – the large one – and bring it here. Oh, and I want some coke too.”

I almost lost it, but clenched my teeth and tried to stay calm as I walked into the living room. I stopped in the doorway. ”Can’t you at least pretend to be useful around here when I’m away?”

Mr. Bruce looked away from the screen for only a couple of seconds, gave me one of those disgusted faces that was his specialty and then returned his full attention to the match of Team Fortress 2 he was currently playing. ”Bitch please”, he said. ”What d’you think I am, a dog?”

And I just shook my head and went back into the kitchen to continue doing what had to be done around here, all by myself. Just as usual.