A game controller/joypad.

#300DaysofFlashWriting: Day 32 story on ‘Video game’

Wow, it’s been a while since I last posted! I’ve been swamped with work and study of late, but I’ve also finally finished the first draft of my novel, so I can now turn my attention to other forms of writing before I attack the second draft.

On that note, here’s another piece for the #300DaysofFlashWriting challenge, where participants write for ten minutes only on a prompt posted online by my friend Shekina on her blog and social channels. This was written from the Day 32 prompt, ‘Video game’.

What’s in a Game?

The video game was a birthday present. Ashok could tell from the size and shape of the parcel. 

Beaming from finally reaching double digits in age, Ashok carefully unwrapped it. He thought he would recognise it from the colours that gradually revealed themselves as he slid the paper away, but it was no game that he had ever heard of.

“I asked for the game you wanted, but they’d sold out,” his father said apologetically. “One of the staff recommended this game, though. He said it’s going to be big.”

Ashok shrugged. A game was a game. 

He started to play after returning from bowling and pizza. It was a strange, difficult game, but something compelled him to stick with it. His mother had to tear the controller from his fingers when she realised it was well past his bedtime.

The next day, Ashok tried to describe the game to his friends, but they shook their heads. They had never heard of the game’s title, and didn’t understand what sort of a game it was from Ashok’s vague descriptions. 

“It’s like a platformer, but there are puzzles too, and there’s a shooting bit, I think. But I can’t remember. And there’s something else. I can’t remember what… And the story is weird! But really cool. But I can’t remember now how it goes.”

Frustrated, he tried to find the right words to describe it precisely, but the words wouldn’t come. His friends looked bored and Ashok gave up. They didn’t even want to come over to play it themselves.

Day after day, Ashok tried his best to get to the end of the game, but new levels kept respawning. He bought every issue of his favourite video game magazine, but none mentioned the game.  

Desperate for someone to talk to about the game, he went into the shop where his father had bought the game, but no one had heard of it, and looked puzzled when Ashok tried to describe it. The right words felt just out of reach one more. Ashok took the cartridge into the shop, where one of the sales assistants turned it over and over in his hands with a look of confusion.

“This isn’t one of ours. Do you know who served your dad when he bought it?”

Ashok produced the crumpled receipt. The sales assistant frowned.

“Well, it’s one of our receipts alright. But this staff number definitely doesn’t exist.” He returned the game to Ashok and shrugged. “Maybe your dad bought it from another branch and there was a printing error?”

“No, it was this one! Can you try playing the game please? Just plug it in so you can see what it’s like. No one understands me when I try to describe it.” A pleading look entered Ashok’s eyes, and the assistant relented.

“Okay.” He disappeared through a door behind the till. Ashok waited.

And waited.

The shop was quiet. Ashok ducked under the counter and opened the door slowly.

The sales assistant sat cross-legged on the floor, a controller in his hands. He didn’t so much as stir as Ashok walked towards him.

“Hello?” 

The assistant still didn’t turn around or say anything. He continued to play the game, pushing the joystick this way and that while pressing buttons with his other thumb.

Ashok peered at the screen and gaped. 

There was nothing there.

© 2021 Dipika Mummery

Image by VanDulti from Pixabay

See all of my pieces for #300DaysofFlashWriting.

A fancy dress mask.

#300DaysofFlashWriting: Day 29 story on ‘Dancing’

Here’s another piece for the #300DaysofFlashWriting challenge, where participants write for ten minutes only on a prompt posted online by my friend Shekina on her blog and social channels. This was written from the Day 29 prompt, ‘Dancing’.

A Dance With Death

He was a lord, and she was an assassin.

The ball was a masque and so everyone in attendance wore the skin of someone else. Still, the assassin knew who the lord was. She had tracked his every move for the last four days, and now here she was, dancing with him, poison hidden in the fingertips of her right glove.

The lord leaned down to whisper in her ear. She suppressed a grimace and simply nodded in reply. Satisfied, the lord continued to go through the movements of the dance, a smile lurking at the ends of his mouth.

The dance finished. The lord disappeared into the crowd, but the assassin kept her eyes on him as she went a slightly different way, lingering at the punch table for a moment and then following the lord out of the room. 

He seized her around the waist. “I can’t wait to find out who you are,” he murmured into her neck. She stared straight ahead and let him run his hands down her body, as she had seen him do with three different women over the past four days, as he had done with all the women he had led a merry dance with and then abandoned after he was finished with them. After he had extracted what he most wanted from them, which not all the women had been willing to give.

The assassin turned around and ran one finger over his chest. He wore an emerald on a spiked chain over robes meant to resemble those of a priest of the dead. 

The gloved finger caught on a spike, and she smiled. 

“Careful,” the lord said, bringing her gloved hand up to his face. “You might hurt yourself.” He took the finger into his warm mouth. 

“I might,” she said seriously, then smiled again as the lord’s face started to turn purple.

© 2021 Dipika Mummery

Image by 5598375 from Pixabay

See all of my pieces for #300DaysofFlashWriting.

Cropped cover of Where We Find Ourselves.

Where We Find Ourselves blog tour: My experience of getting published

This week sees the publication of a new anthology from indie publisher Arachne Press called Where We Find Ourselves, edited by Sandra A Agard and Laila Sumpton. The anthology is a collection of prose and poetry from UK writers of colour – including myself!

Front cover of Where We Find Ourselves.

The publication of my short story, ‘A Walk in the Countryside’, is my first in print since I got back into writing nearly four years ago. The anthology launch is being promoted with a blog tour that’s stopping off here today. I thought I’d discuss the process of writing and submitting the story, and what happened after that.

There’s also a short excerpt from my story at the end, so scroll down if that’s what you’re here for! Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour too.

How I heard about the anthology

I’m always on the lookout for submission opportunities for my short fiction. Although I’m currently working on a novel, I know from industry talks on my MA that getting exposure through online and print publications can help convince literary agents and publishers of how serious I am about writing.

I gather information on submission opportunities in several ways. I follow lots of publishing and writing-related accounts on Twitter (my handle is @DipikaMummery if you’d like to connect!). I also hear about opportunities through word of mouth, mainly from fellow students on my creative writing MA, and in magazines and newsletters.

It was through Twitter that I saw Arachne Press’s call for submissions for an anthology of writing by UK writers of colour on the theme of maps and mapping. I dutifully added it and the deadline to my spreadsheet-based list of opportunities (top tip: spreadsheets are your friend when keeping track of both deadlines and where/when/what you’ve submitted!).

At that point, I already had one or two short stories that met the theme, but I had an itch to write something new.

Writing the story

I’m not a huge planner when it comes to short stories. Often, I’ll start writing with only a vague idea of what I want to say, seeing how things unfold as I go.

For ‘A Walk in the Countryside’, I returned to a theme that I’ve written on before – hiking through the English countryside as a woman of colour. My story follows Neetu, a British Asian woman, as she leaves her familiar urban surroundings for a spontaneous stroll through leafy Cheshire when lockdown rules are eased.

I started writing it during a Zoom writing session with friends from my course. I wrote about half of the first draft that morning, then finished the rest in the following few days. It was a surprisingly quick writing process; sometimes it can take me weeks to labour through a first draft. Yet with ‘A Walk in the Countryside’, the first draft tumbled out pretty speedily, perhaps helped by the fact that I knew the ending.

I shared the first draft with my writer friends, who kindly gave me some useful and encouraging feedback. The revisions were relatively minor, and it wasn’t long before I had a finished story ready for submission.

Submitting the story

Arachne Press uses Submittable to receive, manage and respond to submissions. It’s a platform that I’ve submitted through before, so I felt comfortable using it. Not all publications/publishers use Submittable – many simply ask for submissions to be emailed over.

The most important thing when submitting to any publication or publisher is to ensure you follow their rules for formatting and presenting your submission. Breaking these guidelines might mean that your submission doesn’t even get read!

I submitted the story in April and received an email in late May informing me that the story had been shortlisted for inclusion in the anthology, conditional on going through an editing process. As you might expect, I was rather happy with the news! It was particularly nice after a string of rejections for other pieces that had left me a bit demoralised. But as any writer will tell you, rejections are to be expected. Even authors published many times over regularly receive rejections. Don’t give up!

The editing process

Arachne asked me to respond to confirm that I wanted to go through the editing process with them, which I did straight away. They then sent over a form asking for the usual personal information to go into a contract, as well as a short bio and my social media handles for promotional activity.

Edits involved suggestions for mainly word/sentence-level edits for me to accept or respond to. The edits Arachne sent were really minor, so all I had to do was email them back to say that it all looked fine. Of course, other contributors may have had more changes, or more in-depth edits to make. It can be a slightly stressful but essential part of the publication process.

Once the edits were dealt with, Arachne sent a PDF proof of the final copy to all contributors so that the whole anthology could be checked before it went to the printers. We were also asked about any requirements for the recording of audiobook version of the anthology (such as having the piece read by an actor of a particular gender or with a specific accent).

Getting involved with promotion

Small presses have a very limited budget for marketing, so anything that authors can do to help is greatly appreciated. As well as writing this blog post, I’ve posted about the anthology a few times on Twitter and Instagram to increase publicity for the book.

There’s also a launch event in London scheduled for the end of this week. Sadly I can’t make it, but some of the other contributors will go and read from their pieces at the event. Excitingly, there’s a free online launch event coming up on 4 November, at which I’m doing a reading alongside some of the other authors from the anthology. More info on Eventbrite!

And finally…

It goes without saying that I’m extremely excited about getting my story published in Where We Find Ourselves! There’s something very special about seeing my story in print, on actual paper, in an actual book, alongside some incredible poetry and short fiction by a very talented group of writers. I’m looking forward to seeing what readers make of the anthology!

A Walk in the Countryside (excerpt)

She eventually reached the end of the lane and found herself at a familiar T-junction. She was pretty sure that she had gone left last time, so she went right instead. All she could see was hedges and blue sky. The heat shimmered from the baking tarmac, blurring her vision. Her tongue was painfully dry; she had drunk the last of her water ten minutes ago. The sun scorched the skin on her arms; the suncream she’d applied before she left the flat clearly hadn’t been strong enough. This was heatwave weather.

She should have been lapping up the sun that shone so rarely in Britain and that she sought on luxury package holidays to Spain, Portugal, Italy and Croatia, not wandering around in circles in the middle of nowhere.

Despite herself, Neetu’s mind leapt to a memory of a family holiday to India two decades earlier, when she had been eighteen. Her parents had always taken her to India in the school holidays to take advantage of the extended break from her studies, going for six weeks at a time. That last time, she had been gearing up to start university and study psychology. She had wanted to go to France with her friends, but her mother had insisted that she go to India instead. Visiting India in August meant a different kind of heat to the merciless heatwave sun here in Cheshire; humid, wet, energy-sapping. There would be the kind of heavy rain that thundered down for thirty seconds or thirty minutes at a time, hammering on the wonky roof of the buffaloes’ shed by her grandparents’ bungalow.

It was difficult not to think about arguing with her mother and standing under an alien tree, hoping that someone, anyone would come along and help her. She remembered all too acutely that terrifying feeling of being somewhere that she didn’t recognise, with no way of getting back to what she knew. Her memories of the trips before that one were little more than a series of images, sounds and flavours – the lowing of a buffalo, the sun setting over rice fields, the smell of smoke from the kitchen fire, the creamy feeling of pistachio kulfi sliding over her tongue. She tried to focus on those sensations instead of conjuring up an old panic.

‘I’d kill for an ice cream right now,’ she said out loud, then caught a glimpse of a sheep staring at her through a break in the hedge. Unnerved by its steely glare, Neetu hurried on and wondered if she was suffering from heat stroke. How much longer could she keep going round and round in circles before she collapsed? And what if no one found her? She lived alone. She had told a friend of her plans for today, but what if she had wandered so far off the path that no one would think to look where she was?

Read the rest of ‘A Walk in the Countryside’ and many other short stories and poems in Where We Find Ourselves (Arachne Press, £9.99).

Blog tour schedule (text version below the image).

Text version:

Where We Find Ourselves blog tour

 

Waves coming in from the sea.

#300DaysofFlashWriting: Day 24 story on ‘The sea’

Here’s another piece for the #300DaysofFlashWriting challenge, where participants write for ten minutes only on a prompt posted online by my friend Shekina on her blog and social channels. This was written from the Day 24 prompt, ‘The sea’.

If you’re wondering whether this was influenced by John Banville’s The Sea, perhaps it was, somewhat unconsciously!

The Other Us

When we were little and on holiday in Blackpool, Dad told us that every single person in the world had another version of themselves who lived beneath the sea.

“And just think,” he said, “there’s more sea than land. Think of how much room they’ve got down there.”

That wasn’t what got our attention, though. 

“So there’s another set of twins under the sea?” Laila asked. “Who look exactly like each other, and exactly like us?”

“Sure,” Dad said. “Like a set of quadruplets.”

“And do they like all the same things as us?” I asked, thinking of strawberry ice pops, kittens, seashells, sky blue.

“Not exactly. They’re just like you, but they’ve grown up in a different place, see? So they’ve come across different things to you and your sister.”

“Like crabs and fish?” Laila asked. Her expression mirrored my own feelings: bewilderment and an edge of disgust. We hated eating fish.

“Sure. They probably only eat fish.”

“But maybe they still like collecting shells. Will they come out of the sea to see us?” I asked.

“Maybe. Maybe not.” Then a man leading some donkeys came past us, and we forgot all about the twins under the sea.

Well, Laila did, anyway.

Later, when we were at university, we stopped being the same. Clothes, hair colour, music, lipstick, food – Laila became different in every way.

“Am I just a triplet now?” I said, half-jokingly.

“You don’t still believe that rubbish Dad used to tell us, do you?” 

“It’s a nice idea.”

“A ridiculous one. There aren’t any people under the sea. We’re all on our own. Don’t you see? Even we’re not exactly the same. We’re different people.”

I never knew what it was that she was looking for, but one day shortly after graduation, she announced she was moving to London.

“What’s in London?” I asked jealously.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’ll tell you when I get there.”

She didn’t. She left us behind, me and the other twins, our hearts breaking.

I looked for her in Blackpool once. It was a silly idea. But I thought maybe I’d see her standing on the sand, looking for us in the sea.

© 2021 Dipika Mummery

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

See all of my pieces for #300DaysofFlashWriting.

A space rocket launching from Earth.

#300DaysofFlashWriting: Day 23 story on ‘Adventure’

Here’s another piece for the #300DaysofFlashWriting challenge, where participants write for ten minutes only on a prompt posted online by my friend Shekina on her blog and social channels. This was written from the Day 23 prompt, ‘Adventure’.

One Small Step

She was the most brilliant coder in the entire corporation, if not the world. Of course it was her job to ensure every single system onboard the billionaire owner’s spacecraft did everything it was supposed to do. 

But she had noticed that there weren’t as many birds flocking to her garden in the warmest months. 

That the pond in the local park had started to dry up, leaving scum-covered detritus around the edges of the water. 

That sometimes it rained for weeks at a time, and the headlines were flooded with anguished faces and solemn promises by government ministers to do more. 

That refugees were fleeing droughts and rising sea levels to the countries that had caused all of this and were being turned away.

And here was her boss, about to go on the greatest adventure of his life. He would board the spacecraft that his company had spent billions developing, then escape from the dying Earth in search of somewhere else to ruin. This was a test run with just the billionaire boss onboard, but next time the ship would be followed by others holding cargo, people, seeds, food.

She couldn’t let it happen.

There were protocols and safeguards to swerve, but she had built them herself, so they were easy to dismantle without any alarms going off. It was also easy to put the tiniest bit of extra code in one particular system and write more code to hide its existence.

Launch day. The spacecraft sails off into the black void. Billions watch it on TV at home.

The distress signal comes two hours later, but none of the scientists on Earth can work out what’s wrong.

It was easy for her, you see.

So easy to ensure that the autopilot couldn’t be overridden.

So very easy to programme the ship to turn back as if it was returning to Earth, then to steer it towards the sun.

She was the most brilliant coder in the entire corporation, if not the world.

© 2021 Dipika Mummery

Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

See all of my pieces for #300DaysofFlashWriting.

A magic lamp on sand.

#300DaysofFlashWriting: Day 21 story on ‘Photograph’

Here’s another piece for the #300DaysofFlashWriting challenge, where participants write for ten minutes only on a prompt posted online by my friend Shekina on her blog and social channels. This was written from the Day 21 prompt, ‘Photograph’.

One Wish

Aisha hated having her photograph taken so much that she was at a loss when the genie told her what her one wish had to be.

The lamp had called to her from a dusty shelf in her parents’ house, where she was spending the Christmas holidays. She didn’t remember ever seeing it before. Despite the dust around it, the lamp itself looked brand new. She could see her face in its smooth surface, stretched wide by the curve of the lamp.

She rubbed it, of course. Why wouldn’t you?

The genie looked nothing like the cheeky blue one in Aladdin, which she had watched over and over as a child. The genie was a woman, for a start. Young and pretty with an hourglass figure and rubbed-pink lips, but still disappointingly like a normal person. Not a granter of wishes.

“Huh,” Aisha said.

“Huh? HUH?” the genie said, her voice rising, her accent unremarkable. “There was a time when my kind was revered by yours.”

“Well, you know.” Aisha shrugged. “I thought you would look different.”

The genie sighed. “Of course you did.”

“So, do I get three wishes?”

“It’s just one these days.” At Aisha’s disappointed look, the genie added: “What can I say? We’re overworked and understaffed.”

“One wish, then.” Aisha looked thoughtful.

“Before you get too excited, there’s only one type of wish you can have.”

“Oh?”

The genie gestured around the spare room. “There are photographs in this humble abode, yes?”

Aisha nodded, thinking of the faded photos of her parents’ wedding day in the living room. The formal black and white portraits of long-dead ancestors hanging on the wall. The numerous albums stuffed with photos of relatives she couldn’t even name from trips to India.

“You may pick one of those photos, return to that setting and the age you were in the photo, and proceed to live the rest of your life from that point on.”

“Huh.”

The genie rolled her eyes. “A woman of many words, aren’t you?”

“The problem is,” Aisha said, “I’m not really in any photos. Not after the age of twelve, anyway.”

“So?” the genie said, inspecting her red-tipped nails as if already bored. “Go back to being twelve. You’ll have plenty of time to get rich. Play the lottery, bet on the horses. You know what’s going to happen now.”

“Is that what other people do?”

The genie shrugged. “Yes, mostly, although you do get the odd one who just wants to go back to when their friend took their photo at a party the previous week so they can pout at the camera in a more becoming way.”

Aisha had found the albums while the genie talked. She opened one to a random page and squinted at it. There she was, aged twelve, eating kulfi in an ice cream parlour with a blissful look on her face. She thought about her life now: dull job, no boyfriend, a houseshare with people who refused to clean the bathroom.

She loved kulfi. Always had. 

“Ah, go on then,” Aisha said. “I might as well. It’s not as if I have anything better to do.”

© 2021 Dipika Mummery

Image by Karina Mannott from Pixabay

See all of my pieces for #300DaysofFlashWriting.

Train rails.

#300DaysofFlashWriting: Day 20 story on ‘Train journey’

Here’s another piece for the #300DaysofFlashWriting challenge, where participants write for ten minutes only on a prompt posted online by my friend Shekina on her blog and social channels. This was written from the Day 20 prompt, ‘Train journey’, partly inspired by certain events in the news this week.

This Saturday Night

She walks down the near-empty carriage towards the toilet, lights speeding past in the pitch black of this Saturday night. The train is going to Manchester and she has had three double vodka and cokes (which doesn’t matter). Sometimes she has to reach out to steady herself by grabbing the tops of the seats near her. She is travelling on her own (which doesn’t matter).

Her mind is elsewhere. She is still in Blackpool where she has just left her boyfriend to make his own tipsy journey back home in the opposite direction. This is what they do: she goes to Blackpool for the day, or he comes to Manchester for the day. They go to the cinema and a restaurant and around multiple pubs, intoxicated on each other. Then they part ways like the dirty tide ebbing away from Blackpool beach and spend the next six days working and sleeping and arguing with their families, before coming together again the following Saturday.

She is so occupied with these thoughts, with the memory of his lips and his hand in hers, that she jumps when she feels a hand running lightly down the back of her leg. She is wearing a minidress, a short jacket and thin tights with ballet pumps (which doesn’t matter). A recent nightmare of a giant spider crawling down her back shoves itself into her mind, and she shivers. She pulls her leg away and turns to look at the table of four twenty-something men, empty cans standing between them.

The man whose hand it is speaks to her. “Alright, love? Nice legs.” His friends laugh. 

She quickly glances at his friends – no help to be had there – and gives him a dirty look. “No, not really. What do you think you’re doing touching me?”

He smirks. He smells like the greasy men who prey on women in cheap pubs: too much aftershave, hair gel, a metallic note of arrogance. She should be scared, but she isn’t (which doesn’t matter). She thinks she’s got the measure of him. Of men like him.

She waits for his answer, but he keeps looking at her. His friends keep laughing. She snorts and carries on down the carriage, suffused with anger and something like shame.

He is waiting for her when she comes out of the toilet armed with a determination to complain to the train guard. She can see a light sheen of sweat on his forehead, and he wobbles with the train despite having one hand on the wall. It is obvious that he is drunk (which doesn’t matter). 

*

She tells her boyfriend that she is too ill to see him the following weekend.

*

When she finally gets up the courage to go to the police two weeks later, they ask her about all of the things that don’t matter, and refuse to listen to her about the things that do.

© 2021 Dipika Mummery

Image by Hands off my tags! Michael Gaida from Pixabay

See all of my pieces for #300DaysofFlashWriting.

Apples.

#300DaysofFlashWriting: Day 19 story on ‘Fruit’

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus of late, but here’s another piece for the #300DaysofFlashWriting challenge, where participants write for ten minutes only on a prompt posted online by my friend Shekina on her blog and social channels. This was written from the Day 19 prompt, ‘Fruit’.

Offering

Chhaya had associated fruit with the temple for as long as she could remember.

Her mother would buy three pieces of fruit before every visit. A banana, usually, the least blemished one in the shop. A tangy, crunchy green apple. An orange whose skin stayed firm beneath squeezing fingers. 

In the summer, when their heating bills were lower, Chhaya’s mother would occasionally splash out on a small punnet of grapes. Red ones, always. Chhaya didn’t know what was wrong with the green ones.

At the temple, Chhaya would trail behind her mother as they walked barefoot across the lurid red carpet towards the arrangement of statues at the front of the mandir. Both mother and daughter kept their eyes firmly forward, away from the looks and whispers of the other worshippers who sat cross-legged in untidy rows across the width of the room.

Chhaya would obediently copy her mother’s movements: tucking the heads of flowers that had been snipped from their bodies into the garlands around the statues’ necks, arranging the fruit among the other offerings, bringing both hands together in prayer with eyes closed, prostrating themselves, standing up with a peaceful, intense expression on their faces.

Chhaya didn’t exactly know why they had to do all of these things. Whenever she asked, her mother would say it was because they were Hindus, which wasn’t exactly helpful.

“But why do we offer fruit to the gods when we only eat it ourselves afterwards?” Chhaya had asked once.

It was true. At the end of every visit, each worshipper would go home with a little sandwich bag filled with dried fruit and nuts, and another with chopped fruit. Nowhere near the same amount of fruit that they brought, Chhaya noted.

“It keeps them happy with us,” her mother explained. “They accept the fruit, then we eat it because it’s holy.” She paused. “And to avoid waste.”

Chhaya took this to heart many years later, after she had gone to university and came back with a boyfriend, Alan, and a huge basket of fruit that she had put together from bargains at the market. 

“What’s all this for?” her mother had asked irritably, stealing glances at the bespectacled white man standing in her tiny living room, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot. 

“An offering,” Chhaya said. “Like to the gods.”

“Hai ram,” her mother responded in dismay, eyes rolling towards the ceiling. “Blasphemy, too. What did I ever do to deserve this? Is it not bad enough that your father left me to bring you up on my own?”

Still, her mother accepted the fruit basket and, two years later, she went to the wedding too.

© 2021 Dipika Mummery

Image by Marco Roosink from Pixabay

See all of my pieces for #300DaysofFlashWriting.

Eggs and a whisk.

#300DaysofFlashWriting: Day 14 story on ‘Stare’

Here’s another piece for the #300DaysofFlashWriting challenge, where participants write for ten minutes only on a prompt posted online by my friend Shekina on her blog and social channels. This was written from the Day 14 prompt, ‘Stare’.

The Figurine

Laila hated the figurine with a passion that almost outweighed her love for her husband.

He had found it at a car boot sale in Chorley. “A bargain!” he’d said triumphantly as he placed it on the mantelpiece next to a photo of them on their wedding day seven years ago.

“What even is it?” she’d asked, distaste on her tongue. “It’s kind of… ugly.”

He shook his head. “It’s fine art, that’s what it is. It’s probably worth thousands. The idiot I bought it from didn’t have a clue.” He paused and looked at Laila. “It’s a mother holding a baby, I think. An original. Not a replica. Says so on the bottom, see?” Laila squinted, but she couldn’t make out the words on the sticker.

She stared doubtfully at the figurine. It looked like a misshapen white lump with eyes. Eyes that stared back at her. 

Privately, she resolved to move it as soon as her husband went to work the next day.

She spent the next week moving it to a different room, one where she didn’t have to look at it, but her husband quietly moved it back to the mantelpiece in the front room each time.

Laila started to spend less time in the living room. She took up baking, spending hours and hours in the kitchen producing fluffy layer cakes, huge muffins, sticky brownies and crunchy cookies all through the week. Her husband complained that he was putting on weight. She took most of what she baked to her own part-time job in an office, and gave some away to the neighbours.

Still the figurine stared at her whenever she went through the living room.

One day, Laila decided that she couldn’t take it any more. She went out to buy the biggest cake tin she could find and some professional cake decorating tools. She then made an exact replica of the figurine out of cake. She looked at it critically. It didn’t stare back. The eyes were just indents in icing.

Up it went on the mantelpiece before her husband came home.

She strolled through the living room with the figurine in a box, her husband none the wiser.

“I’m just going to take this cake to the neighbours over the road,” she said cheerfully.

Her husband grunted, his eyes fixed on the television.

Laila went to the pond in the park and threw the figurine as far as she could. It made a satisfying splash as it entered the water and sunk to the bottom, never to stare at anyone ever again.

© 2021 Dipika Mummery

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

See all of my pieces for #300DaysofFlashWriting.

An illustration of the sun and the eight planets of the solar system.

#300DaysofFlashWriting: Day 11 story on ‘Fight’

Here’s another piece for the #300DaysofFlashWriting challenge, where participants write for ten minutes only on a prompt posted online by my friend Shekina on her blog and social channels. This was written from the Day 11 prompt, ‘Fight’.

It’s another silly one today…

The End of Everything

It was the end of the universe, and the planets were locked in an epic battle.

Earth and Mars squared up to each other. Earth threw the Moon and entire seas at the red planet, hoping that the water would freeze and knock its rival straight out of the solar system. It succeeded in pushing Mars into the path of Venus, which was itself flying across space after running into Uranus. The collision obliterated both Mars and Venus, smashing them into several pieces that then went flying across the solar system and into the path of the other planets.

Plucky little Mercury darted in and out of the tussles going on around it, trying to trip up some of the bigger planets and causing even more chaos. Neptune had its number, however, and soon tricked Mercury into gliding into the path of Earth as it swaggered around the solar system, looking for another planet to destroy. Mercury was toast.

Saturn and Jupiter, whose gassy forms meant trying to fight was useless, slunk off early on after running out of moons and rocks to fling, creeping out of the galaxy while the others fought, prompting insults and accusations of cowardice from the remaining planets.

And Pluto? Everyone had forgotten about Pluto. It drifted around the edges of the arena, immensely glad that it didn’t have to fight anyone.

© 2021 Dipika Mummery

Image by Comfreak from Pixabay

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