The Blue-Haired Women

JOURNAL FRAGMENT
(Annotation by Brinkinfield)

Sunday July 4th, 2120 (Possible typo? How could it be ~100 years in the future?)
They’re everywhere now, the blue-coloured hair women, swamping city streets, filling up bars and restaurants, taking over businesses, banks, major conglomerates, media outlets and universities. I’ll be lucky if I’ll find work as an accountant in this county, ever again.

(Monday and Tuesday, entries torn out from journal)

Wednesday, July 7th, 2120
Three days in a row now, I’ve woken up to find a blue hair coloured woman posted outside my cottage (and all down the street, outside the neighbours, too). Earlier, I went out to ask of her business and she forcibly pushed me, with her hand flat against my chest, back through the front door without saying a word. I’ve got to say, I thought her pretty hot, but it’s no excuse for rudeness!

(Thursday page, blank)

Friday, July 9th, 2120
I tried to go out this morning, with my food shopping list, fridge is empty. The blue hair woman pushed me back again, growling and baring her teeth at me! When I turned to bolt back inside, she slapped my bottom cheeks hard, left and right! Both are still stinging, seated on a cushion as I write-up this entry. After I’d regained my composure and pride, I went back to the front door, got on my knees and shouted through the letterbox, telling her I’d already alerted the police. When I peered through to gauge a reaction, she turned around and gave me the finger.

Saturday, July 10th, 2120
Midday, the internet is switched off. Nothing but a 404 error message or a question mark symbol centered within a blue square, depending on which site I try. Blue woman is still there. Earlier, she tapped on the kitchen window and pointed towards the front door. She’s got really long, well manicured finger nails. Still think she’s really hot. I found a food box left outside the front door, lots of veg, granola, almond milk and dried soya mix : (

Sunday, July 11th, 2120
4am, I can’t sleep. I can’t stand this ‘no internet’ situation much longer. I might as well be living in a cave. One week isolated and I’ve got absolutely no idea what’s happening on the outside. I’ve decided I’m left with only one option: seduce the bluie, get her onto my side, then see if any other renegades are willing to join us. See if we can’t get the internet back on and life back to some semblance of order!

(Monday page blank)

Tuesday, July 13th, 2120
I’ve written out Bluie’s daily schedule, based upon notes taken yesterday, while observing her closely from the bathroom window. At least now I understand she is armed with the latest Walther pistol, concealed under her dress, the holster strapped to her left thigh. As I watched, she spun the weapon around on her fingers, practiced replacing the magazine and aiming. I have to say, she looks pretty handy with it. At around mid afternoon, she looks tired and bored, several hours still, before she is relieved by the night shift. This gives me plenty of time to enact my plan, venture outside, confront and reason with her to switch sides, locate like-minded folk and form a resistance. If she refuses, I’ll soon show her who’s boss, for sure!

(End of journal, no further entries)

©Brinkinfield 2020 All Rights Reserved
Part of the Ekphrasis Project (story inspired by a picture)

Be Happy

“Okay,” Gina said, “let’s get this straight right from the get-go. I am not your love, do you understand, Euan?” Gina fixed an icy stare onto the awkward young man.
“I’m just saying … ” Euan shuffled his feet and sank his hands deep into his pockets. “Look, why don’t we pop into the museum, grab a coffee in the downstair café?”

Continue reading “Be Happy”

The Smiling Ballerina (~900 words)

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?
Way back, in the early 2020s, I owned a café-bar in Söder, Stockholm, called Mellan Broarna, the meaning of which made sense, if you happened to be familiar with the island. Known locally for late hours, fine schnapps, a range of delicious smørrebrød and original entertainment, we welcomed local and international visitors alike. I ran the place with a light-touch managerial style, as you’d expect, encouraging bar, kitchen and waiting staff to coordinate harmoniously. They understood their responsibilities and kept the place operational, incident-free, right across all the eight years the project existed.
You’d have liked the place, unassuming from the outside, spacious on the inside. Large, arched windows looking out onto cobble streets outside. A wood interior, furniture, bar counter, finery found in all the fixtures and fittings. The brass lamps glowed orange, warm and reminiscent of a century ago.
Yes, you’d have loved the place, for sure.
My role, aside from styling, finance and administration, included sourcing performers for Friday and Saturday evenings, when we hosted a varied assortment of musicians, comics, and poets. Thursday evening served as audition night, a feeder for the weekend shows, with acts new to the venue granted the opportunity to perform in front of a smaller, but nonetheless encouraging, and appreciative clientele. Those shows steadily gained a reputation for uncovering talent, going on to appear at the weekend here, elsewhere in the city and beyond.

Genius is simple, performers arrived any time during the evening, writing their names on a piece of paper taped to the wall to one side of a modest-sized, raised stage. The acts went on in order, I compèred, read out short bios I’d scribbled onto scraps of paper; I crossed names off after each performance. Undetermined gaps of time existed between one act and another, allowing adequate time to refresh drinks, order food and discuss the pressing issue of the day. Informality ruled. Several novice creatives told me they actually preferred these feeder evenings, above the weekends, and showed up regularly.
One summer, on a Thursday evening, Bella, an African American and Gretchen, originating from Germany, arrived together; two overseas students previously acquainted by a chance meeting. Bella explained how the studio formed their usual rehearsal environment, however, they both happened to enjoy practise in the open air, with the Royal Djurgården city park as their choice location. Here, they’d stumbled onto each other and a bond of mutual appreciation quickly formed, with Bella admiring Gretchen’s cool trumpet playing and Gretchen equally impressed with Bella’s artistic ballet exercises. On the same day, according to Gretchen, they’d had a bonkers idea to become an act, as Bella Ballerina and Gretchen the Trumpeter. Prepare to be amazed! they’d told me. I chuckled, kindly, asking them, is that right?
Because, like you know, it takes a lot to amaze me, at least in a positive sense.

By ten that Thursday evening, we had comfortable numbers, not cramped; the staff each occupied with their tasks, all just how I liked it. Earlier, I had commandeered a small table and busied myself with administrative paperwork, refreshed by lager and encouraged by the promise to myself of a nightcap at the end of the evening. My attention had wandered back and forth to the stage, fulfilling my role for introductions. Several poets had appeared in the mix, along with a stand-up comedian, a folk singer performing original material with a nyckelharpa and a young woman playing several classical selections on guitar, starting with Bach, followed by a Clara Schumann piece and finishing with my personal favourite, Tarrega, with a flawless rendition of Adelita.
Then, it came to the turn of Bella and Gretchen. They emerged from the green room, located behind where I sat. First onto the stage, Gretchen with her trumpet, plainly dressed in a short-sleeved white blouse and blue jeans. Bella followed, wearing a low-back, mid-sleeve, black coloured leotard, with white tights, ballet shoes and silk ribbons. The crowd gradually hushed, as the two young women took up positions at opposite ends of the stage.
Gretchen began playing a slow tune, the notes singing, stretching out across the room, curling around everybody in the room. Bella matched the music with sensuous movement, arms unfurling down to her fingertips, ripples through her body, neck and head, and unfaltering balance en pointe. The audience were captivated, couples exchanged affectionate glances, lovers gently squeezed each other’s hands. When the pair finished, the applause echoed onto the street outside. As they turned to exit the stage, people cried out for an encore, which, smiling and clearly having fun, Gretchen and Bella obliged.
At the end, after taking their bows and the applause, they left the stage for the green room. Simultaneously, a man I recognised as a patron, the slightly eccentric Sir Charles, clearly deeply moved, left his table and advanced to meet the smiling ballerina and trumpeter. I heard him address them, saying it had been a wonderful experience, how he’d never heard such beautifully played music or seen such poise and elegance in dance, and on behalf of the universe, he wished to thank them both.
It had been an outstanding, atmospheric evening, one that holds on in the memory. You remember the times when that happened, don’t you?

©Brinkinfield 2020 All Rights Reserved
Part of the Ekphrasis Project (story inspired by a picture)

Double Reverse Mormon

“But…” Katie hesitated, what she’d just heard made no sense to her. “A double reverse Mormon thing situation.” Aware of the relative silence inside the public library, aside from the muffled sound of pages turned and throats cleared, she half whispered “What the fuck is that?”
“Well.” Maya glanced at Erik, seeking a signal he was happy for her to continue and explain. Erik returned a gentle smile, an eyebrow arched slightly.
“I hope it’s not what I’m thinking,” Katie said, noticing the non-verbal exchange, “because I can tell you straight off, I am not interested in, that.”
Disengaging himself from the conversation, Erik retrieved a large photo book from the low-level table they sat around, entitled ‘The Wonderful World of Volcanoes’ and began flicking through.
“Okay, let me explain.” Maya gauged the distance of library-users, measuring the volume of her voice to suit. “Erik you see, he grew up within a Mormon community near Gothenburg, Sweden.”
“I’m already not liking this.” Katie said.
“It’s not what you think,” Maya said patiently, “I’ve known Erik for a little over two years and I can tell you, he’s quite unique – at least in my experience of men.” Maya looked admiringly over to Erik again. “At age eighteen, upon rejecting his religion, he became initially persecuted – then completely ostracised by his family, friends – the whole community he’d grown up in; basically everyone he’d ever known.”
“No contact whatsoever?” Katie watched as Erik nonchalantly looked through the book held in his hands. Involuntary feelings of sympathy welled up inside her; he had a kind face, she thought.
“None.”
“Okay,” Katie had a question, “so, you and I have been getting on well since meeting at the book club three months ago. We share similar interests and there’s been more, too. After the last gig we went to, I felt sure we were heading somewhere. But, I didn’t know about Erik; you conveniently omitted to mention your involvement with him. Why was that?”
“Right okay, I’m sorry.” Maya inhaled deeply. “Look – you understand how relationships work within the Mormon faith, don’t you?”
“I know about the polygamy.”
“Yes, okay, well Erik’s take on this, now he’s outside of the faith – is he doesn’t mind if I have additional relationships, with women.” Maya paused, allowing time for the statement to be absorbed and understood.
“But not with other men?”
“Not with other men, correct.”
“And Erik has relationships with other women?”
“No, nor with anyone else. He is exclusive to me; this is his choice.”
“And,” Katie asked, “he has no ambition for involvement with you and I together?”
“None.”
“That is amazing.”
“Believe me, he is an amazing man.”
“Okay.” Katie’s gaze moved between Maya and Erik. “What if,” her voice adopting a speculative tone, “what if I was interested in Erik?”
“You can’t be.”
“I mean, as well as you – the three of us all together.”
“No, you can’t be.”
Erik slowly closed the book and returned it to the table.

Let’s Dance!

An ekphrastic short form fiction, inspired by a collage:

It was late and the dance floor was sweaty; lithesome bodies competed for space. Two new arrivals gravitated through the dimmed light towards the bar, drawn by the sound of a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice and fine liqueurs. The man pulled out a wooden stool from the service counter and registered the attention of a member of the bar staff.
“Come on Danny,” said his female companion, pulling at his hand, “let’s dance, I just love this music!”
“But you’ve barely danced a step in your life Olivia, this is a quite ridiculous suggestion!” Danny’s body mass remained as motionless as a sunken ocean liner’s anchor, lost to the sea bed.
“Fuck-you Danny!” Olivia gripped both her hands around his wrist, managing to tilt the stool forward. “You taught me a few tango steps last year and I said we’d try them out at the next opportunity.” She tugged harder still, gritting her teeth in determination as accordion, violin and snare drum sounded, filling into all corners of the bar.
“I just came in here for a nightcap, we’ve not long eaten – you’ve already drank too much. This is a bad idea Olivia!” Sturdy heels put a brake on further progress.
“Come on Danny, less of the excuses, it’s Argentinian tango – my favourite!”
“Argentine.” He sighed. “Olivia! You will make fools out of both of us, the people here – they know well what they are doing.”
“So? So do you – for fuck’s sake. You taught a tango class for years!” The sight of an assertive young woman engaged in a fierce tug-of-war, caused a rippled of amusement amongst people within the immediate vicinity. “Take control – like how you’re good at, and guide me Danny. I’ll be your marionette for the rest of the evening.”
He relented, his eyes glancing heavenwards seeking divine intervention. “It really, truly doesn’t work like that, but, okay.” For a moment, he observed his partner, her serious expression melting into one declaring a satisfying victory. As her grip on his hand loosened, his fingers interlaced between her own and together they navigated between the busy tables, out toward a space onto the dance floor.

What They Became

From a series of short form fictions taking inspiration from collage.

For a moment, Mr Andrews stood stock still – dismayed and shocked. Then, with the ice cold water seeping down through his clothes, he lifted the upturned plastic bucket free from his head. The muffled giggling he’d heard start only seconds ago, now became clear in tone.

“Oh Mr Andrews,” came a voice, “We’re so sorry, but we couldn’t resist a classroom prank – not on the day we have returned to visit you specially!” Wiping his eyes with a white handkerchief drawn from his pocket and replacing the spectacles which had become dislodged from the pronounced bridge of his nose, Mr Andrews stared at the two young women in astonishment.

Recognition synchronised with memory. “My God,” he said, dropping the bucket to the floor, “it’s the non-identical Faith twins – Nancy and Trixie!” As he approached the unexpected visitors, Mr Andrews lost his balance, slipping on the floor where a puddle of water now surrounded him – falling forward onto his hands and knees.

“Oops, Mr Andrews! No grip on those shoes!” said Nancy, the more talkative of the two. “Here, let us help you to your feet.” The young women hauled up their former schoolteacher and dragged him over to a chair, located behind a wooden desk at the front of the empty classroom.

“It’s such a surprise to see you both.” He said, pulling at the front of his woollen jumper, checking the level of drench he’d incurred. “It must be four years since I saw you last.”

“That’s about right.” Said Nancy.

“You must have gone through university, what are you both doing now – what have you become?” The twins exchanged a glance containing a glint of wickedness even Mr Andrews – despite his lack of worldly-wise experience, could not miss. “Go on girls, tell me, what have you become..?”

Story Of My Life

From a series of short form fictions taking inspiration from collage.

It was half way through the lunch break. Everyone else had gone outside to eat their sandwiches in the sunshine, leaving just these two colleagues sat together in the admin office, deep in conversation.

“Yeah, well that’s the story of my life, I guess.” Tom looked down at his new sandals, his toes poking through, nails beautifully pedicured – nails he spent much time on, trimming and shaping, occasionally painting. He sensed a hesitation in Barbara.

“It… it’s the story of most shy people, isn’t it? You live out life in your dreams; night-time escapes from the reality that is your life in real life… No?” She rested her hand onto his muscular lower thigh. Long fingers extended encircling his knee, followed by a sharp squeeze, forcing a reflexive leg kick from her quarry.

“Yes, you’re right.” The tall concrete wall guarding Tom’s feelings transformed to shrink-wrapped, stacked cardboard boxes held together by ever weakening package tape. “But don’t you understand? I meet women in my dreams who actually give me their attention – who talk to me and are attracted to me.” Tom paused, taking in a deep breath. “In my dreams, I find myself accompanied on local history museum tours, enjoying restaurant dinners, hand-in-hand walks through the streets of picturesque villages located across south-eastern France. And always finishing-up, late at night, inside an apartment…”

“But Tom!” Barbara interrupted abruptly. “It’s not, real!”

“How can you say for sure it’s not real, Babs? I’m there for between six to eight hours per twenty-four hour day, living a full and bountiful life that I love! Who’s to say it’s this life that’s not reality? Maybe you’re a figment of my non-reality?” Swiftly, Tom spun around in his office chair, which squeaked and groaned under its load. His stomach filled with a rising sense of regret, wishing he had not outburst quite so.

“Oh, I’m not real am I?” Barbara’s face went all serious. “Well Tom, I was going to say I’d be your girlfriend. I’ve fancied you from afar, not letting-on regarding my feelings of affection towards you. Up to now, you’ve featured in several of my fantasies. But, I guess you’re not interested.” She spun away in her own office chair, heading at speed towards the tea and coffee station. “You’re happy enough in a pretend world, I see that this much is clear!”

“Barbara!” Tom yelled, “It’s always you who’s the co-star of my dreams!”

“Oh Tom…” A teardrop rolled down Barbara’s cheek, falling into her mug, fractionally diluting the semi-skimmed milk more so. “You’re just saying that, now.”

No Use Sitting Here Moping

From a series of short form fictions taking inspiration from collage.

My parents’ bodies have been taken over by aliens. It’s come as no surprise to me, really. It’s been happening right across the country, since the beginning of the year. It was only a matter of time – I think even my parents realised this as being so.

Apparently, they’re only here to learn about our world and when they are done, everything will go back to normal. Except they have promised to make the world a better place before they leave, as thanks for us providing them with an unrivalled opportunity to acquire such valuable information. Knowledge they will take back to their world and spread across the universe, during the course of their travels.

The trouble is, there are a few wrinkles needing ironing out. The inhabitance of my parents’ bodies hasn’t been problem free. I mean, what’s with the red eyes? That’s just creepy. It’s not something they have control over, they said. It’s their own natural eye colour – and they need their own eyes to be able to see what’s around them.

In general, I’d say ‘Mother’, is the more curious of the two. Father has become somewhat detached, more so than usual. All he does is exchange small talk with me; it’s become extremely repetitive. He keeps saying how well my hair colour matches my school uniform tie. I mean, how am I supposed to reply to that?

Anyway, I understand these pair will be gone by the end of the month. There’s some sort of rotation thing going on. I may get new ones, or I may not – this hasn’t been explained to me. I can confirm there have been a few improvements. The recycling has certainly been sorted out. Previously, I’d often find a wrong item placed in the recycling box, such as a crisp packet, or teabag. Not anymore, partly because we now have a box for compostable items and also because they’ve simply stopped buying products that either can’t be – or are troublesome to be recycled.

Mother told me today, that when they are completely finished, they’ll take all the weapons and armoury from around the world and refashion the bits that can be used into actually useful objects. I said but people will just make them again and she said no, they won’t – they won’t remember how to. They’ll make us forget. Also, they’ll leave some secrets with us about how to improve the production methods for arable farming and maximise yields. Lastly, they’ll leave some written advice on population control. She said we can’t just keep going on with more people and at our present rate, there’ll be a 3 billion increase in humans populating Earth within the next ten years – and that that is completely unsustainable for a little planet like ours.

Rachel Had Made A Wish

From a series of short form fictions taking inspiration from collage.

“Rachel! What have you done to your stepfather, come out from your bedroom – this instant!” Her mother was upset and angry; Rachel could tell by the familiar tone adopted and the words used. “You’ve cast a spell upon him haven’t you?! What has he done to deserve such a curse, this time?”

Descending the staircase with an understated stomp, Rachel settled on the fourth step, sat down and peered through the banister railings.

“Wait,” she said, “Why? What’s he doing? What’s wrong with him?” She looked across the lounge-diner to where her stepfather Nathan was stood wearing only his pyjama bottoms and moccasin slippers. In answer to her question, he fell down onto one knee and opened both his arms out as wide as he could, palms shaking, his fingers splayed.

“Make ’em laugh! Make ’em laugh!
Don’t you know, everyone wants to laugh?”

Rachel suppressed a satisfied grin, as her mother gave her a look of exasperation.

“He’s been like this all morning; randomly singing several lines from one musical to another! Look!” On cue, Nathan jumped up and hopped around the coffee table in mimic of an adolescent joey marsupial.

“Don’t cry for me Argentina
The truth is, I ne-ver left you
All through my wil-d days
My ma-d existence
I kept my prom-ise
Don’t keep your distance”

Why Rachel, why?” Her mother asked, through gritted teeth.

“Well, he shouldn’t have been so critical about the ‘Cats’ movie. When I came home last night from seeing it, all he could do was criticise – when he’s not actually seen it.” Rachel rose, gripped hold of and swung around the bottom banister post. Acquiring a gruff voice, she continued. “Too much CGI. Famous actors making fools of themselves. An embarrassment for the Director.”

“I see.” Said her mother. “So, as punishment for your stepfather being… well, his normal-usual-self, you cast a spell on him so that he can only sing hit songs from famous musicals. Is that right, little miss madam?”

“Doe, a deer, a female deer.” Nathan piped in, having mounted the back of the velvet upholstered settee, as if it were a horse.
“Ray, a drop of golden sun
Me, a name I call myself
Far, a long, long way to run
Sew, a needle pulling thread
La, a note to follow so
Tea, a drink with jam and bread
That will bring us back to doe oh oh oh.”

“I made a wish Mummy, not a spell, a wish. He made me angry with his ignorance. I love the film, it’s non-stop entertainment, it’s fun and dreamy…. and it’s about cats. Why do adults have to spoil everything?” Rachel’s mother withdrew to the kitchen, rolled her sleeves and turned on the hot tap, in preparation to wash yesterday evening’s dinner plates, cutlery and wine glasses.

“Well, can you please un-wish him singing these songs? I can feel a migraine coming.”

“In a moment. There’s one more I want to hear.” At this statement, Rachel’s stepfather rolled off the settee and onto the carpet, finishing up clinging to the kitchen door frame. With an earnest, emotional expression fixed, Nathan looked upwards towards the red and white lamp-shaded light, suspended from the kitchen ceiling.

“Me-mory, all alone in the moonlight…”

Not Any More

From a series of short form fictions taking inspiration from collage.

I’d once loved Alec, but not now, not anymore. After six months together, I realised I felt nothing for him, no affection, no real attraction. I didn’t actively dislike him, but a feeling of complete emptiness had taken over. The situation had become undeniable.

Over the last few weeks I’ve drifted away and become less available to him. Soon, I realised I had more fun doing things without him – things I knew he had no interest in. A weekly contemporary dance class I discovered, soon became one such activity. I loved the idea of dancing, but hadn’t attended formal lessons ever before. On impulse, I signed up.

I’m not exactly an outgoing type of person; I prefer the environment of a library as opposed to a nightclub. And yet, since going to the dance class, I’ve felt inhibitions to fall away. One had to let this happen naturally, the teacher had told me. I was not to try to force it or be anything I wasn’t. Over time, he said, I would locate an open door, give myself permission to walk through, and dance.

Class exercises were designed to facilitate bonding. I can still recall the sense of trepidation when I fell backwards for the first time – and with my eyes closed, into the arms of my partner Mira. We were instructed to repeat; the predictability of simply falling backwards eventually gave way to a random, physical collapse. Each time Mira would catch me and from there, a dance routine evolved, set to music played on piano by the choreographer. We swapped roles back and forth. Our improvisation received encouragement, gained complexity, while remaining effortless.

You see, I’m not sure if I’ve described this adequately – but placed altogether, it was an incredible experience. To put it this way… that’s when I fell in love with Mira.