This Face

3 Sep

When she was born, she arrived in an unblemished envelope. Her skin, unpuckered and unmarked by life, was smooth and comfortable. It covered all of her that needed to be covered with enough give for growth and movement. It was, as far as anything ever is, perfect.

With each day, each passing week, each time she moved and grew, she acquired a new trophy for her pains. While some faded, their memories remained. Other blemishes barely faded at all and left a permanent pattern on her body. A postcard from the past.  

She looks in the mirror and reads the postcards, examining each mark and remembering what it tells her about her life.

The vertical line set equidistant between her eyebrows is new.  A recent injury, invisible to the onlooker but drawn on her forehead, underlines the discomfort of restricted movement and a soreness that extended far beyond the specific spot where her skin has chosen to wear the memory. 

In her right eyebrow, a sparse area of hair reveals a scar she gained in childhood like a clearing in a forest shows the remains of a camp fire. The memory of the injury is one that has been planted in her mind but feels as real as anything else she can remember. When she was no more than 18 months old, a boy in her playgroup threw a wooden building block across the room. Its sharp corner connected with the thin skin covering her orbit and left a gash that bled and bled and bled. Faces do that when damaged. They bleed. The family mythology tells of a doctor for whom English was not a first language, whose panicked response upon hearing of the missile that caused the wound led to a battery of unnecessary tests to check for bleeding behind the eyes as well as the bleeding above it. Without context, a child hit with a building block is a much more serious prospect than one dented with a stray toy. Oh how they laughed.

She pulls her lips taut over her teeth to see a white line of scar tissue protrude from the lower one like an exclamation mark. She remembers this one, first hand rather than by proxy. Summer holidays. Caravan park. Jumping from the top of a set of steps used to access tourist pleasure cruise boats from the shore and landing in the sand. Laughter, freefall through the air, landing on her bottom. Her friend, calling her clumsy, said she should land on her feet and bend her knees. On her first attempt she forcefully introduced her canine tooth to her knee via her lip. Blood. Thick red drops of blood that fell from her mouth and landed in the sand, congealing into red-brown counters dotted up the beach as she ran back to her parents for comfort and first aid. By the following day, the blood counters were gone, washed away by the unrelenting tide. More than twenty years later, her lip still exclaimed her injury. 

Below her face, her neck supports  her head as it has from the day she was able to control its muscles and not rely on another’s hand to steady its weight. Creases encircle its pillar at intervals between her chin and her chest. There is no story to those individually, more the tale that a tree tells with its own rings. The tale of time passing, of lives lived and experiences earned.

A triangle of freckles extend from her clavicles, its point towards her sternum, painting a picture in pixels of summers upon summers that kissed the skin and coaxed the pigment to the surface. One day, that patch of flesh will crease and wrinkle more than any other part of her torso for its exposure to the elements. One day. Today, it it simply splotched with random dots like uncharted constellations.

She knows that when people look at her, they see something different. They see a woman, maybe pronounce her to be attractive or not, consider all her features and make a judgement about the person that resides behind the face. If they notice the crease between her brows, they won’t give a thought to the pain that put it there. They don’t see the building block or hear the laughter from a dozen re-tellings of a story she seems somehow to remember with all her senses but cannot not actually recall. Her freefall onto sand and the part of herself she left to be washed out to sea don’t make an impression. A stranger won’t count the rings on her neck or the freckles on her chest and imagine the summer suns that have blessed and burnt and blistered thin, pale skin into something tougher and more resilient. 

This face, like every other,  is a record of a life lived.


23 Jan

Another Friday Flashfic Challenge from Chuck Wendig: the who, the where the uh-oh

I chose “detective,” “the Underworld,” and “Left for dead, out for revenge!” (With a side order of “trapped!” and “a conspiracy revealed!”)

Continue reading

Angel Chaos

10 Jan Painting: Synaxis of the Holy Archangels

So I’ve been waving my D20 around at Chuck Wendig’s behest. Here’s the 1,000 words that resulted:

“Not there, not there. Oh for The Boss’ sake what kind of training do you guys get in purgatory anyway?”

The columns of names on Gabriel’s clipboard swam before his eyes.  There was no way they’d make quota this month. He conjured himself another coffee from the raw firmament. A ridiculous use of Angelic Might but, by The Boss’ Son, he needed it.

The problem, as he saw it, was mass literacy. If he could consign anyone to the fiery furnace it would be Gutenberg. Followed by the entire publishing industry. But there would be a special circle of hell for the people who wrote books about Angels.

Time, he thought, to make an example.


Steve Anderson was pressing F5 repeatedly. That in itself isn’t a sin. It’s certainly forgivable for an author on Amazon on the day that one of his books comes out. He’d often worried that too much ranking would make him go blind, but even Steve didn’t deserve what happened next.

At first he thought the deafening celestial fanfare was coming from a pop up advert. As he frantically hit ctrl-tab he noticed the seven-foot being of pure light standing at his elbow.

“Gurgle.” thought Steve, then realised that the seven-foot being of pure light was probably waiting for him to speak.

“Gurgle?” he said.

The being of pure light consulted a clipboard, Not a clipboard of pure light, Steve couldn’t help but notice. A normal, stationery-cupboard-at-work clipboard of the kind he’d stolen so many times when he still worked at the bank. Was it time to say “Gurgle” again?

The fanfare ceased.

“Steve Anderson,” said the being of pure light. If the heavenly fanfare had been an effulgent chord that seemed to harness the very music of the spheres, the voice sounded…

Well it sounded pissed off. In fact it sounded like the voice of his manager, Mr Galbraith, when firing him from the bank for writing books on company time. Well, that and the stationery thing.

“Are you Steven James Anderson?” said the voice – and this time there was no mistaking the frustration.

Steve nodded and added another gurgle for emphasis.

“Author of ‘How to Tame Your Angel – a Guide to Celestial Ordering’?  Top of the Times bestseller list for seven consecutive weeks? Featured on Richard and Judy’s book club?”

Steve felt a swell of pride: recognition at last! It might not be clear exactly who was doing the recognising but word had clearly got about that he was a hot property in the speculative non-fiction world. His words came out in a rush.

“This, oh my God,” the Being flinched, “this is the most incredible… I mean what can I… Are you here to impart wisdom because I’m going to need to get my voice recorder. I’m rubbish at shorthand. Oh, can you give me the gift of shorthand? Or maybe perfect recall? No shorthand is better, it looks so impressive. Teeline, not Pitman – I don’t want to look like a…”

“Silence! Good Boss can you hear yourself? Have you any idea of the damage you’ve done?”

Steve’s head swam as he tried to frame a suitable reply. He felt he’d pushed “gurgle” as far as it could go. “I’m a professional writer for God’s sake,” he thought. “I can come up with something insightful.” He drew a breath.


“The Cherubim and Seraphim are pulling double shifts. We’re having to take on some fairly tarnished souls to bulk up the numbers – you do not want to know the lax entry standards we have for guardian angels these days. Surely you’ve noticed the sheer amount of senseless carnage in the world? That’s because we can’t keep up.”

The Being’s voice took on a singsong tone;  no-being can do sarcastic like an overworked and pissed off member of the heavenly host. “‘Oh blessed angels, please let me get my promotion.’ ‘Oh blessed angels, please let the hot guy in accounts fancy me.’ ‘Oh blessed angels, I really want a new Mercedes.’”

“But that, but it’s… I was only trying to help people.”

“No you weren’t; you were doing what every member of your benighted species does. You were helping yourself. You saw that books about angels were big business and you decided to leap on the bandwagon. You don’t even believe in Us. Can you honestly say, hand on heart, that you’re not sitting here thinking ‘this isn’t really happening’?”

“Well it does seem pretty unlikely, on the face of it.”

The Being breathed a very unangelic word indeed.

“I’ve had it. This is strictly against protocol but for you I’m making an exception.” The Being moved his hands in an intricate design. Steve had the feeling he’d just witnessed something pretty obscene happening to the nature of causality.

“Your book is gone,” said the Being. “So gone that, in fact, it now never was. Everything else remains the same but you have never written your stupid, irresponsible, ridiculous…” the Being composed itself. “Dont. Do it. Again.”

And with another fanfare it was gone.

“I was an author,” thought Steve, “I threw away my job at the bank. I spent months, years even, sending out proposals. I wore out so much shoe leather meeting agents and publishers and I never got anywhere until ‘How to Tame Your Angel.’ Without it I’d never have got the deal for book two which I suppose means…”

With a shaking finger he pressed F5 one more time. Relief coursed through his veins like the heat of a single malt on a cold evening. He was still an author. Book Two was still selling.

And rather well, actually. Perhaps the Being had been his guardian angel after all.

Over 8,000 orders in the first four hours.  Steve laughed and punched the air. It looked like “How to Train Your Yeti: A Guide to Cryptozoological Ordering.” was going to be an even bigger hit than “Angels.”

What could possibly go wrong?


4 May

Jade lived every day as if it were her last. That’s because… Well, any day, it could be…


Read the rest on Forbes.


19 Apr

“Meatball Marinara.”

“What bread would you like?”

“All of it.”

“I’m sorry?”

“All of it.”

The green-and-white clad employee looked confused.

“We have Italian, Herbs and Cheese, Wheat…”

“I said, I want all of it.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I don’t understand,” said the employee, shifting uncomfortably. “You need to choose which bread you want what size.”

The customer gave the employee a look that could wilt roses.

“I want the Meatball Marinara on all of the bread you have. To go.”


At home with his sandwiches, the customer looked disappointed.

“This doesn’t feel like much of a party,” he muttered.


(post inspired by this piece of spam, which arrived in my junk email today. I mean, who needs $100 worth of sandwiches?!)

Your $100 Subway Gift Card is Ready. Details Inside - - Gmail (2)


Is it safe?

12 Apr

In the future (they said) you won’t need to remember anything.

Locally accessible terminals would let you download the information you need, and forget the rest.

Except… the “future” is now. People are willingly uploading their ideas to a vague collective consciousness.

“Join the revolution,” the chorus of voices whisper in the dark. “Give your ideas to us.”

“But what if it’s not safe?” he asks ,squinting into the shadows. “If I lose my ideas, I lose everything.”

“Don’t worry,” the voices reply in unison. “Great storage keeps your thoughts safer than if they were locked in your own mind.”


See the original post over at Forbes NetAppVoice

A long hiatus…

12 Apr

Well, it’s been a long time since the Thinkers were active and posting new papers to the site. This is something we intend to change, but in the meantime, we have an announcement.

We are pleased to welcome a new Thinker to our faculty. Zoe Goodacre, or Ms Z as she’ll be known here, is a drabbler who has recently been picked up to write for Forbes and provide an interesting slant on tech news by publishing short fiction inspired by real-life actual tech stories on their NetApp pages.

In addition, Mrs G is planning to start a new series of short stories with a common theme. “Send to Spam” will be an ongoing, occasional series bringing inspiration from an unlikely source.

Thanks for still following us, even though we’ve been quiet. We’re looking forward to getting going with some more regular Thoughts in the coming weeks.