• Writing

    Short Story: ‘Mystery Flight B’

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    April’s Furious Fiction

    Guidelines for this month were that each story had to include three pieces of dialogue, taken from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Anthony Burgess, and Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty.

    Here’s my effort:

    Mystery Flight B

    “What’s it going to be then, eh?” The ticket seller tapped his foot, waiting for a response.

    Rod hesitated. “What’s today’s choice again?”

    “Mystery Flight A, return; or B, one way only.”

    Rod heard the tumour speaking to him through his stomach wall. Take B! You don’t need to come home…

    “OK… I’ll take B, thank you.”

    The man looked pleased. “Good choice! Not many taking that one nowadays, but still, you never know.”

    No, Rod thought, you never know.

    Three hours later, he was in a cramped seat, the belts clicked, ready to fly. As he waited for the pre-flight checks to be done, he thought about his sister’s reaction when he’d called her.

    “You’re WHAT?”

    He’d repeated it.

    Silence. Two beats, five. A rustling as she covered the phone’s mouthpiece, turned to someone, probably Phil.

    “He’s never done anything like this before,” she whispered.

    “Ros? I’m leaving in a couple of hours. I wanted to say…goodbye…Not sure when I’ll be back.”

    “How are you going to live, wherever it is you’re going?” Her panic zinged through the air between them. He was surprised: he hadn’t thought she’d care that much. Since both their parents had died, there wasn’t a lot holding them together. And Phil hated him. Rod shrugged. He didn’t have much time for his brother-in-law either, so that was fair.

    He said, “I’ll manage. I’ll find something to do.”

    “Well…will you at least let me know when you get there? Let me know how you get on?”

    “Of course I will,” he promised. He would if he could. “Better go now. Say hi to Phil. Look after yourself, OK?”

    The pilot’s voice came through the intercom. Professional, reassuring. “Good afternoon, folks. Welcome on board today’s Mystery Flight B. It’s a beautiful day for flying so be sure to take a peep out the window. Enjoy the flight.”

    Rod smiled at the elderly man who’d taken the seat beside him. The man smiled back. He had a mane of snowy white hair and a long, snarly beard. He looked very…dignified.

    Rod leaned back in his seat as the sounds and sensations of take-off started. He closed his eyes. When he opened them, the light had gone from outside. Had he fallen asleep? He pressed his face to the window. Gave an involuntary gasp as he took it all in. Glimmers from floating stars. Earth, a blue and white marble far below, floating on a sea of inky dark velvet. The paper-thin layer of atmosphere, once a cradle of protection, now a toxic soup that threatened all life beneath it.

    The man next to Rod leaned forward to look. “It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution,” he said.

    Rod only nodded and turned his face to the window again.

    Just for fun, let me know in the comments if you worked out which bit of dialogue comes from which novel.

     

  • Writing

    Short Story: ‘Zahra’

    ZAHRA                                                                                             by Denise Newton

    “Ma’am, would you please step to one side?” The official was polite but firm. There was no option: Zahra obeyed his directive. She adjusted her headscarf with her free hand. It trembled a little. She tried to hide the hand under a fold in her long jacket. Everything about her – her clothes and her spirit -had become a little creased on the flight from Kabul. She was very tired.

    The official led her behind the bustling immigration area to an interview room. It was quiet inside. Zahra saw four chairs and a desk. There was a large round clock above the desk. The other walls were all white: blank white walls. Another official, dressed in the same uniform as the first, sat on one of the chairs. She indicated that Zahra should sit on the chair facing her. Zahra did so, slipping her hands – both of them shaking now – inside her sleeves. She would not show these people her fear.

    The second official had Zahra’s passport. She leafed through the pages, glancing up once or twice. After several long moments she said, “What is the purpose of your visit to Australia?”
    Zahra replied, carefully as she’d rehearsed “To visit my son.  He is very sick.”
    “And where does he live?”
    “He lives in an apartment in Bankstown.”
    “How long do you plan to stay?”
    “Just one month.” Zahra’s mouth was dry. It was hard to pronounce the English words properly. She must say everything properly. For Hanif’s sake. For her son.

    “Is your son an Australian citizen?” It was the man this time. He’d come to sit near Zahra. He was too close to her.  His knee was touching her thigh. She tried to move back a little in her chair. She wanted to spring to her feet, to run outside and away from these people in the uniforms. But that would mean she would not see Hanif. She had to see Hanif. So she breathed out slowly and answered the man: “No, he is not citizen. He has temporary visa.”

    “How can we be sure that you will return to Afghanistan at the end of the month? That you won’t try to stay here?” The man was frowning at her now. He frightened her. Did he mean to be frightening? Zahra didn’t know.
    “I leave in one month. I see my son, then I leave. I want to nurse my son. He may die…he is sick. Very sick.”

    “I’m sorry, Mrs.Asadi.” The woman stood up .”We cannot verify your visa documentation. We cannot allow you to enter Australia until this is done. You will need to stay in a detention centre until we have checked your credentials.”

    The man took her arm to lead her from the room. Zahra turned her head to look at his face, searching for some understanding or compassion. The man had stopped frowning. His face was blank: it was empty.