My Children.”

Category: Flash Fiction

Copyright Antony R James (This is not a copyright-free prompt, but you are welcome to use the ideas to kick-start a story of your own).

They call me Betty, but my mother called me Elizabeth. They said my birthday would be my hundred and second. I lose track of them now. I think they must be getting it wrong too!
    I am a bit forgetful now, but I remember the men and women in gas masks, it reminded me of the war. During the war, people would take off their gas masks so you could see their smiling faces, but the people here wore them all the time.
    I got scared when they took my friends away, and I could not see my children. I would look out of every window for them and call for them too, but they were not there any more. Nobody told me where my children went, and I was sad.
    One day I offered to help the men lifting a heavy black bag, but they shooed me away. They did not seem to have so much time for me. The television programs changed, the news was on all the time. The young women and men who help me gathered around the TV and folded their arms and they shook their heads. I got upset and asked them if the enemy had reached our shores. They held my hand and cried with me.
    My birthday came, and everybody made a fuss of me. I wish I could have seen there faces, I missed seeing smiles, and I was not sure who was who. I looked for my children out of every window. I thought they might be in the park opposite; it has swings and a roundabout a climbing frame and a slide. I looked hard on my birthday for my children, but they did not come out to play.

Things are different now. The people who help me are happy. They no longer wear their gas masks, so the war must be over. My children have come home, and they play in the park again. Sometimes, animals come into my home. I am not sure how they get in, but I like stroking the cats and dogs best. The television now works better; it does not show so much news. A lady comes into my home, and she says she is my daughter. I think she is confused, so I pretend she is, to keep her happy. She holds my hand and hugs me. I like that.
    I had a doctor man come and see me today, he took my temperature and put a band thing around my arm and blew it up like a balloon, I laughed, and he did too. He said he had to scratch me to make me better and I got cross. My young friends came over and gave me a biscuit and held my hands. They sang me to sleep.
    Everyone who lives with me got excited this afternoon. My children came in to see me. They sang and read stories, and we all painted pictures together. I had yellow hands. My children made me happy.
    This evening, the lady who works in the tiny room was talking with the boss man. They were hugging each other, and I saw they had tears on their cheeks. They said something about a large donation. I gave blood during the war, it was a regular thing, but you cannot give too much, you need it yourself. The boss man went away, and the lady typed on her electric typewriter and watched her TV.
    I am tired now. My young friends help me in my bedroom. It has been a lovely day, but I want to sleep. Oh, I forgot to say, I had new people move into my home, lots of ladies and gentlemen, I am looking forward to talking with them, It is nice to see new faces, I cannot remember the last time I had new people move in with me. I cannot wait to see my children tomorrow. I have so many; they make me happy.

I am floating. It feels good. There is a light; high up in the corner of the room, I want to go right up to it.
    It is daytime now, and I am looking down at my home. My children are there; their teachers have brought them. My other children, the young ones, are playing in the park. I know they are not my children now, but I still call them mine. It looks like my home is holding an outdoor tea party. My daughter is there, and I can see photos of me on the table. The boss man is hugging my daughter, and now he is holding her hand. She looks upset, I wish I could go down, but I cannot. My young friends, the ones that cared for me are there too. They are taking it in turns to hug my daughter. The boss man just put a sign up showing how much money my home has raised from events and donations. It says, "Our home - saved!". That must have been what he meant by the large "donation".
   My mind is not so fuzzy. It is good to see everyone so happy. It was not long ago that we stopped having visitors and, on the telly, they said people must not hug or go near each other. I like it better now. People are going about their business as they used to - before the virus.
Now they have got a vaccine for this COVID thingy. It took them a while to figure it out, but they did. As long as they get a jab in the arm every three months, then people will be alright. Well, I am so pleased, I have got my daughter to keep an eye on, plus my other children, I am looking out for them too, making sure they are OK.
    I am starting to feel a bit weary now, I do still get a bit tired, but I feel fitter every day. I meet lots of new people, and some friends and relatives I used to know before. I am so happy now, and glad that everything has gone back to normal for the people who are still below.

Category: Flash Fiction

Copyright Antony R James (This is not a copyright-free prompt).

"Historic Case: Foo Fighter Downed?"

Bill was sitting in a comfy armchair when his wife Dolly showed me into the living room. He was dozing next to a small table with an old photo of himself next to a Lancaster bomber. I wanted to interview him to learn about his time during World War II. He looked quite frail now, but back then he was a well-built mechanic/handyman; the photo showed him smiling with pride next to the Lancaster, his muscular arms folded.

    He woke suddenly with a start.

    "Sorry Bill, I’m Robert Lewis from The Highgrove Times," I held out my hand for him to shake.

    "Uh, oh yes, I remember."

    "Would you like a cup of tea before we start? Dolly’s making me one."

    "Yes, son, let me wake up a bit. Takes me a while to come to nowadays."

    "I’ve been looking at your photo. You looked like a body-builder back then."

    "We didn’t need to lift weights in those days, hard graft built muscles!"

    Dolly came in with my tea.

    "Oh, you’re awake now. I suppose you want a cup too?"

    "Can’t let a guest drink alone, can we?"

    "I wouldn’t mind sitting down myself. Robert, get yourself a dining chair to sit on, you’re making the place look untidy!"

    I grabbed a chair and took my notepad and pen from my bag. "Shall we make a start?"

    "OK, young man. What do you want to know?"

    "Can you tell me about the time your squadron encountered Foo Fighters?"

    "There’s actually more to this story than you think. We never told anybody about what really happened that day. As you know, I was a mechanic on the ground, but I knew that one of our Lancaster bombers heading back to base was being buzzed by three small Foo Fighters. Now, the ground crew were all out looking through binoculars watching the action as the bomber was approaching the airbase."

    "So the Foo Fighters followed the Lancaster back to the base?" I asked.

    "Yes, our lads were running towards the gun emplacement thinking the base was under attack. Anyway, a lucky shot from the gunner’s turret on board the Lancaster managed to knock one of the Foo Fighters out of the sky, and it tumbled onto the runway. The rest of them disappeared in a flash."

    Dolly came in from the kitchen and sat on the sofa with a cup of tea for herself. "Don’t mind me, I’ve heard it all before, a load of nonsense cooked up by those young pilots if you ask me."

   "How many times do I have to tell you, we all saw it, not just the pilots!"

    "So what happened next?" I asked.

    "Well, this is quite serious. One of the off-duty pilots went over to touch it and some sort of force field badly burnt his hand. So, that’s when I went to fetch a pickaxe from the tool shed. I swung it down onto that shiny ball thing; it was only about two foot across."

    "Did it have any windows?"

    "No, but I didn’t get a good look until after I brought the pickaxe down on it. Then it broke in two halves, and we could see what it was."

    "You actually broke into it?"

    "Yeah, it didn’t take too much doing. I was strong back then. Anyway, we all gathered around and looked at this thing. It had controls, a small seat and a tiny fella was sitting in it."

    "What a man?" I asked

    "Well, he sort of looked like a man. A bit shrivelled; like he was old. But the funny thing was, he was wearing a Nazi uniform!"

    "Was he alive?"

    "Well, we poked him with a stick for a good ten minutes. He didn’t move. One of the lads went and got a mirror to put to his lips to check if he was breathing. Our Medical Officer packed him in ice, but the smell was so bad that the base Sergeant demanded his remains be burnt that same day."

    "What happened to the craft?"

    "The bigwigs took it away when they spotted it in the hanger. They said they would try and learn as much from it as they could. Course, we got a good telling off for not letting them know about the little fella, they said they could have done an autopsy on him, find out what he was, sort of thing"

I finished writing up my notes and drank another cup of tea before bidding Bill and Dolly goodbye. When I got back to the office the editor took one look at my story and tossed it straight into the nearest bin.