Tag Archives: short story

Cool, Calm, and Collected: dark micro-fiction



Toast; sausages; freshly-brewed coffee. Those are the scents which greet me as I walk into the restaurant. I have already shaved, my bathroom mirror reflecting a can of hairspray, a bottle of perfume. Female toiletries in my suite … a culture shock, really. But I’m becoming familiar with them.

She is already here, sipping from her cup in that elegant way she has, although I wonder if she is as aloof as she tries to make out. There is a coolness about her, always, as though she considers herself too precious to be touched.

She catches my eye and a slight smile is sent my way. I mirror her expression, wondering what she is thinking. I imagine her thoughts to be already in motion: the day’s appointments, the contracts to be signed.

And yet … I know how her skin glows in moonlight; how her fiercely red lipstick tastes. I know what perfume she wears, what size shoes are cupping those graceful feet.

I know her.

I turn to the breakfast bar but I am aware of her still. She drains her cup. She replaces it onto the saucer. She wipes her hands on a pure white napkin and discards it on the table. As usual, she departs without a backward glance.

Her table vacated, I sidle to it with my grapefruit and my Earl Grey. A waiter swoops toward me to clear her debris. There is confusion as my breakfast things mingle with hers. An apology; an acceptance.

I eat my grapefruit slowly. There is no rush now. She will check out today, move to yet another hotel. Once I have dyed my hair, removed my moustache and my spectacles, I will follow. She will not recognise me.

The clatter and hum of breakfast chatter starts to fade as patrons return to their rooms. My meal finished, I am among them, the napkin tucked into my pocket.

Upstairs, I add the napkin to my tally: the lipstick, the hairspray, the perfume.

I wonder … has she missed them yet? Does she blame the maids?

I laugh softly, and begin to pack.

I know her.


© Words: Joanna Gawn, inspired by the image, by tiverylucky at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net


Cake and Gingerbread: Two Little Christmassy Tales

Hello! To celebrate the Christmas season – and more specifically its food and the imaginary worlds of children – we have penned some little tales, which we hope you’ll enjoy! Please let us know if you do!

Gingerbread (1)

Ron’s story: “Early One Morning…”

“Hey you with the red outfit, get yer mitts off my chimney.  The kids’ll be down soon and we do not want it spoiled.”

Eyes flicker under the white eyebrows. “Sorry mate, I did not realise it was for them. They usually leave out something for me but I cannot see much else around.”

“Tough times here. They have already eaten all my mates!  Heard one say ‘save the rest for later’  – that’s later, NOT Santa!”

Part eaten choc-nut is returned to the stack and beard twitches. Is that a smile? “You mean these miserables didn’t leave anything? Yet I suppose they still expect me to perform – even without a fuel top-up.

“Looking at you I am not sure you need one. Anyway you must get a winter fuel allowance, which is more than anyone here does.”

“Ho, ho bleedin’ ho! I suppose you think you’re  funny.  Though you do not look to be smiling much!”

“Would you smile if you were the last one – and stuck in this stupid hat. Oh, sorry you have one of them yourself!”

A white-gloved hand reaches out towards the gingerbread man. “Careful Ginge! Dessicated you might be, but the family have left out the port to wash you down with!”

“Um, err, well perhaps a few of the marshmallow  snowballs would not be missed. Just a few, mind. Will they go with a slug of port?”

“Ho ho ho, at this time of night anything goes with port!”

“Get on with it then, man…. I can hear laughing upstairs and you have got to clear up the soot yet.”

A herd of wildebeest is heard on the stairs, the door opens, and screams of joy escape from young faces.

“He did come, see! And left the gingerbread man!”


Joanna’s tale: “Cake Heaven”

“I’m tired of the walls smelling of gingerbread,” Bobble whined. “I want a change.”

“How can it change, you muppet?” Hazel answered. “It is what it is. No point resisting it.”

“Well I want it to be different!”

“We’re made of cake, Bobble. We don’t have instant manifestation powers, you know.”

“Why not? Why can’t we make a different outcome because we wish it?” he replied. “If Life is about experience and choices, then why can’t I have icing sugar walls, instead?”

Hazel tutted. “Because.”

“That’s no answer! Come on, why?”

Hazel pondered. “Maybe …. we could ask the Creator-in-the-Apron for icing sugar walls? See what happens?”

Bobble bounced up and down. “YAY!” Suddenly the light in his eyes dimmed. “I don’t know how to do that!”

“Oh. Um, perhaps we just make the intention, then have faith that it’ll happen, if and when the timing’s perfect for it?” Hazel wasn’t quite sure where that thought had come from, but it felt right when she said it.

Bobble’s expression told her he wasn’t convinced. “But I want it now! Why do we have to wait?”

Hazel stepped forward and gave him a hug. “We may have to be patient. These things can take time. And we have to remember that it may not happen at all. Wouldn’t it be easier if we chose to be okay about the walls, whether they change or not?” She held her breath. Sometimes Bobble became really frustrated when things didn’t go how he expected.

Bobble sighed. “Yeah, I guess. Icing would be nice, but if we have to keep the gingerbread, I guess that’s okay too.”                                           

………….  The next day ……………

“Oooh, wake up, Hazel! The walls are white, not brown! Much as I like gingerbread, I love that we have icing! I was getting really bored with the decor – and the taste!”

“The Creator must’ve somehow got the message,” Hazel grinned. “They rebuilt the house while we were sleeping! Totally cool!”

“So now we know,” Bobble beamed. “Wishes can come true if they’re made in the right way …  and if we don’t worry too much about them coming true.”

“Exactly. It’s like magic, isn’t it? Happy Christmas, Bobble. Shall we try some of the icing?”

“Mmm, break off a bit for me, please. What shall we wish for next?”

That’s all from us this year! We’ll be back in the New Year with more stories, poems, Recommended Reads, and Cordello Quest A-Z. We hope you’ll come along for the ride!

Before we head into 2016 we’d like to say a big THANK YOU to those of you who have supported and shared our work in any way, whether that’s commenting on our blog posts, sharing our tweets, recommending us, buying our books, and/or leaving reviews on Amazon. We really do value your support!

Wishing you ALL a wonderful festive season and a very happy, healthy, and harmonious New Year.

Joanna and Ron | The Lazuli Portals


Bitesize Tale: Empty Chairs, Empty Tables


Empty Chairs, Empty Tables

Empty chairs; empty tables. Once again the others are going somewhere without me. Once again my invitation was by happenstance, an accident, an “Oh, we didn’t think you’d want to come, but of course, as you’re here … well, if you’d like to …”

The saccharine smile, a mechanical lift of her mouth; I can see the reluctance and the distance in her eyes.

More rejection. It has always been the same. There is a hint of bitterness in the taste of it. She has her back to me now; her friends are leaving. I am already forgotten.

Enough. I am making a new choice. This time I will not be hurt. I will not feel excluded or betrayed or less than. I will not seek to follow or join or be a part of it. I’m not sure I really want to do what they have planned, anyway. Maybe it was all about the inclusion.

This time I am going to trust that I am not meant to be at this event, with these people. I have been following their path, wanting to be part of their ideas.

Perhaps, as the sky fills with cloud, and the breeze lifts a forgotten paper napkin into a solitary dance, I will start to choose my own path, to conjure up dreams and wander through unexpected doorways.

Empty chairs; empty tables. Not an absence, but a quiet space for dreaming, and bringing a new world into being.

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Story © Joanna Gawn – inspired by the image, which is used with permission via dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net.

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Our next post will be in mid-December – we will be hosted by Jera’s Jamboree and will have a Q&A to share with you all! We hope you’ll enjoy that. 🙂

Joanna and Ron | The Lazuli Portals

Knock, Knock – A Giveaway of ‘The House of the Stormwind’ at Jera’s Jamboree

Knock, knock … we’ve been invited to take part in Samhain Week over at Jera’s Jamboree. 🙂

The House of the Stormwind and other short stories


We share our Hallowe’en-themed  1111-word story, Knock, Knock

~ and ~

we are offering TWO lucky winners a copy of our ebook, The House of the Stormwind and other short stories.



The winners will receive a mobi (Kindle) or PDF version, whichever format is preferred.

To be in with a chance to win, hop over to Jera’s Jamboree and enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway! 🙂

JJ Samhain

We look forward to seeing you there, and hope you enjoy reading Knock, Knock!

Joanna & Ron | The Lazuli Portals

Pirates! Pirates! 400 Words for Penzance LitFest

I recently entered a story into the “Be A Write Pirate” Competition held by Penzance LitFest. When I checked their website the other day to see how my little story had fared, I was really pleased to see that my name was listed as a Runner Up!

Here’s the evidence! >> Are You a Winner? <<

The word limit was a fairly demanding 400 words. We’d love you to read and enjoy the story, so here it is! It was great fun to write, as you might imagine. 😉 We hope you have as much fun reading it . . .

* * *

Pirates in boat

“Batten down the hatches,” Cap’n Freer bellowed. “Storm’s upon us!”

The deck tilted alarmingly as we made fast sails, coiled ropes. My first day at sea – and a storm!


“Cap’n!” I answered.

“Up the mast wi’ you, lad. Need you in the crow’s nest!”

I glanced upwards; the platform had been swallowed by stormcloud. “Surely there’s nowt to see, Cap’n?” I argued.

Glowering, he took a giant pace towards me.

Shiver me timbers!

“You want to be shark bait, boy?” Cap’n Freer snarled. “You do as I say, or you’re walkin’ that there plank!”

“Yes, Cap’n!”

I climbed, not looking up nor down. The rain began, hard nails stinging my skin. I reached the crow’s nest, tumbled into it. The ship’s motion was worse here than on deck.

“Avast!” the cap’n called. My shipmates huddled closer to him. “We ride the storm out, men. When we reach Glass Eye Island, we sneak into the shallows, wait until dusk. Petey One-Arm, you’ll guard the ship. The rest of us’ll hunt down the King’s men and do for ‘em. Dead men tell no tales, savvy?”

I heard a muted chorus of “Aye, Cap’n!”

My shirt and breeches were sodden, and the halyards were singing mournfully in the turbulence. But the wildness thrilled me.

Then I noticed pale, bloated shapes surfacing in the churning waters around the ship, monstrous mouths surrounded by tendrils which sneaked atop the deck and looped around the railings. Teeth tore at the planks, snapping the wood into splinters.

A scream lodged in my throat.

The crew succumbed one by one as the sea’s creatures hunted their prey, until I was the only one left, my arms locked tight to the mast. I closed my eyes and prayed, waiting for the end.

How much time passed, I can’t say, but I became aware the rain had stopped, the wind had soothed – and I was still alive. The sea was deserted, the deck bloodied and mutilated . . . but somehow, the ship stayed afloat.

On deck, I fumbled with the tender’s rope, raced down the ladder into the little vessel. Reaching the island, thoroughly exhausted, I hid until the King’s men had left.

Dead men tell no tales, I smirked. It had only been the one murder, back in Kent. But I’d eluded capture, avoided the noose. Here, under the stars, I would live and die a free man.

* * *

Copyright  2014 Joanna Gawn

Image copyright AKARAKINGDOMS at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bitesize Tale: Wish Upon a Starfish

Hands with starfish

This short tale was originally published in our newsletter of 30 May 2013. The above picture was used as a prompt for the story.


Through the blur of my tears, I watched as Robin walked towards me, his feet scuffing the tide-washed sand. He’d been gone ages; I’d wondered if he’d come back. I’d said some pretty harsh words.

His palms were open; he’d probably been into town and bought me something.  That was Robin’s way: buy Jen a gift to make everything alright. But I held my heart rigidly closed. I couldn’t let him do this to us again.

His shadow fell over me; I kept my head turned away.

“Jen, I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ll get the money back. I promise.”

“You always promise, Rob. You never change.”

“This time’s different. I can’t lose you. I won’t. You mean too much to me.”

I’d heard it all before. Gamblers are addicted to risk, to possibility. To chance and opportunity. How could he ever change?

“Please, Jen. Look, I found this a few minutes ago. I think it’s a sign.”

“There’s no such thing as ‘signs’, Rob. You’re living in a fantasy world where the odds are always in your favour. Haven’t you learned by now that luck is just an illusion?” I bit my lip, forestalling another full-on rant.

He kneeled in front of me, forcing me to look into his face. His soft green eyes were earnest. My gaze dropped to his hands. “Rob! A starfish!” Against my will, a smile curved across my face.

He grinned. “I know. And didn’t we always say we’d wish upon a starfish? Back when we were happy? Before the occasional bet became a compulsion?”

“We did, Rob. And we said that if we ever found one, we’d know the day had come.”

“I remember,” he said. “So let’s do it.”

I rose, brushing the sand from my clothes, and we walked back to the car. Today we’d be signing up to volunteer in a third-world country. A place where values were different. A place where life was priceless.

Copyright Joanna Gawn 2013

Bitesize Tale: Alice’s Letter to Josh

Cycle with French bread

This short tale was originally published in our newsletter of 2 May 2013. The above picture was used as a prompt for the story.


Alice replaced the cap on the pen and laid it gently upon the desk. She felt wrung out, hollow. Every emotion, every hurt, had been poured into her letter to Josh.
“When you told me it was over, my heart broke,” she’d written. And even now, she believed she could feel the splinters in her chest, spearing her anew.

“You told me I was ugly; that you didn’t fancy me anymore. Do you have any idea how cruel that was? How much pain that caused me?” Age and illness had slackened her shape and drawn lines on her face. Lines of living. Josh was no oil painting himself. But even if he was, how dare he judge her?

“You said I was weak, because I cried when I needed to. Do you know how cold you seemed to me, because you refused to cry even when your Mum died?”
Writing the letter had been painful; she had imprinted her sadness upon this page, left herself raw and open, and so very vulnerable.

The last line read: “You even finished our relationship by email, Josh. You didn’t have the courage or the strength to tell me face-to-face.”

There was nothing else she needed to say.

Alice read the letter one last time, allowing herself to fully feel the pain, the emotion, the grief. She took the deepest breath she could, then decided that now she would let it all go, let it all flow. A startling rush of energy streamed through her body from crown to toe, and she sensed it washing the past from her.

She breathed again; this time her heart felt lighter, less burdened. She fed the letter through the shredding machine, opened the door to the garden, and stepped into the warming sunlight to face her future.

Copyright Joanna Gawn 2013