Shape-shifting for Beginners

From my Flash Fiction Collection

shape shifting for beginners lunasonlineIt’s not easy living with a serial shape-shifter. Most people on Spegorus could change their physical form to some degree, but Peter had really never got the knack of it. His sister, on the other hand, had always had a real flair for transformation and over the years had developed a huge repertoire. Joanna could take on one of these alternative forms at the drop of a hat, while Peter struggled to change the colour of his hair (as she would joke at his expense).

Even as a very young child Joanna would transform herself into creatures from her story books, often at quite inopportune times. Peter could recall numerous occasions when a normal family trip out had dissolved into chaos as Joanna had suddenly reinvented herself as a six foot ogre or a fluffy pink flying pig or some other insane creature from her imagination.

Of course it was tolerated in a child – to a degree – but there were rules, obviously, for adults. If nothing else it was simply a question of good manners not to go changing into a giant mollusc in the middle of lunch.

That afternoon, however, Joanna had gone too far. Way too far.  Peter had returned home with Gillian after a pleasant afternoon perusing the book shops and music stores in town. Peter and Gillian had a lot in common, including a love of reading and a dislike of creepy-crawlies. So when Peter opened the front door and invited Gillian in, the sight of a three foot wide hairy spider clinging upside down from the bannisters was an unwelcome, if not a downright alarming sight.

Gillian screamed. Peter cringed. Of course he knew it was Joanna, so apart from being vaguely repulsed he viewed the sight with relative composure. He put a reassuring arm around Gillian, but she pulled away from him and bolted through the front door and down the path.

‘What the hell d’you think you’re doing, Joanna? You know that’s an inacceptable form!’

Joanna’s spider antennae bent forward forming into two elegant question marks.

‘You are totally out of order. How can you be so mean?’

Joanna descended to the floor on a length of silk the diameter of a rope. She stood in front of Peter and opened her huge spider maw and yawned.

‘That’s it. I’m going to report you. But first I’m going to find Gillian.’

He turned towards the door.

‘I’m sorry, Peter, I was just bored hanging around the house…I’m sorry I upset your friend.’ Joanna wheedled in a little girl voice. ‘You won’t report me, will you?’

Peter looked over his shoulder to see a six year old Joanna in a pink party frock.

‘Don’t!  Just don’t, Joanna.’ Peter seethed.  He stormed out of the house slamming the door behind him.

Peter looked up and down the street. There was no sign of Gillian. He sighed and started walking away from the house, not really thinking, just walking. There was a small park at the bottom of the road.  Peter often escaped here. He headed towards the lake and stared at the swans which were calmly sailing over the sunlit water. Peter sighed again and sat down on the bank of the lake.

One of the swans headed over to where he was sitting and waddled up the bank. Peter sat very still. Swans could be quite dangerous, he thought. If it was actually swan? He looked more closely. The swan winked at him.


The swan nodded slowly and moved closer. Her beak nuzzled at his neck. Suddenly Peter felt a shiver go right through him. His hands and feet were tingling. He looked down. The ground seemed to be moving towards him. He stretched out his arms. White feathers were spouting where his fingers used to be. He looked down. His trainers transformed into webbed feet. Peter shook himself. Gillian’s swan neck was encircling his.

Together they walked down to the water’s edge and launched themselves into the lake. Paddling through the sparkling water seemed like the most natural thing in the world. He turned towards Gillian. She opened her beak and spoke to him. His swan’s brain understood and together they started to paddle harder. Gillian took off ahead of him. Now Peter was flying with gentle flaps of his great wings.

‘Let’s do this together for a while,’ he thought. The thought came back: ‘or maybe a life-time?’

©2018 Chris Hall

Accident on Earth

Accident on Earth lunasonline

From my Flash Fiction Collection

Great Being Five surveyed her handiwork.  She was responsible for four inhabited planets.  She was pleased with herself having recently won an award for the one in Alpha Centauri.  Although the planet was far from developed, life forms had just made the transition from sea to land and it didn’t even have a proper name yet.

But she was worried.  Planet Earth was in trouble again.  She sighed.  It used to be such a nice little planet.  She had enjoyed the dinosaurs and had been quite sad when they were wiped out by a huge meteorite.  She should have seen that one coming, done something about it, made a small adjustment to its trajectory.  But her eye was off the ball, busy nurturing a newly-forming planet on the other side of the universe.  Not that the Great Beings were really supposed to interfere.

She’d watched the new little humans emerge, delighted as they discovered fire, tools and the wheel.  Built great empires, made beautiful music, art and literature.  She loved all the sea creatures and the birds and the big and little furry animals.  Of course there had been terrible tragedies.  Wars mainly.  And awful natural disasters.  She had held back as the Great Beings were required to do, even when they had created those dreadful atomic bombs.  Very clever, but dropping them on those pretty little islands and causing all that sickness and death.  It was all she could do to do nothing.

She had sat patiently through the Cold War, amusing herself with the pleasure of new discoveries by scientists and botanists.  She particular enjoyed the TV broadcasts by David Attenborough.  But now, now there was a problem developing which truly threatened the planet’s future.

She focused her third eye and searched.  There he was, that idiot American with the funny hair.  Donald Trump, making threats against that dangerous madman in North Korea.  The people of the Earth sure did pick-em, she thought.  Tuning in to the escalating situation with nuclear weapons poised on either side, Great Being Five was certain that her lovely blue planet was only weeks away from destruction.  Something had to be done.

A natural disaster, one that was already foreseen.  Give a little nudge to the Earth’s settings.  Which though?  She had to be certain that it would kill off Trump.

She scanned the data banks.  That’s it!  Mount Teide on Tenerife.  One devastating volcanic eruption and half the island would fall into the sea causing a huge tidal wave to sweep across the Atlantic Ocean and take out the US Eastern Seaboard.  Just a small increase in pressure and there she blows!  And look, there are even reports of increased seismic activity.  I just have to wait until Trump’s back in New York and bam!  He’s swallowed up in a massive tidal wave.  Gotcha!

Great Being Five’s conscience monitor started to flash.  What about all the innocent people who will also be killed.  What about the animals?  The cats and dogs, and birds and fishes?  No, think again, Five.

All right then.  Just one little accident, just him.  Great Being Five trained her third eye on the target.  All she need was the opportunity to engineer an accident.

The following Earth day all the news and social media channels suddenly focused on one single event.  Over the airwaves came the BBC World News.  ‘In breaking news, President Donald Trump is reported to have fallen from the roof garden at Trump Towers.  The President had apparently been leaning on the guard rail, tweeting his latest tweet when in a freak accident…”  Five smiled quietly to herself.

©2018 Chris Hall

Incident at the Library

She looked innocent.  Of course she did.  My aunty often told me that once a woman is over 50 she becomes invisible.  So how much more invisible is a little bent over old lady pulling one of those tartan shopping bags on wheels.  Nobody ever thought anything of her.  Nobody ever imagined what she might do.

So there we were that Thursday afternoon after school, Billy and me, just hanging out like outside the library.  Not because we’re into reading or anything, just because it’s a nice shady spot in summer and there are steps and a wall to sit on, and nobody bothers you so long as you don’t make too much noise.  And sometimes you can chat to some girl from another school…well, you know how it is.

Anyway, as I said, we were just hanging out and this old lady, all bent and bundled up, even though it was summer, came around the corner of the library building pulling this thing behind her.  It looked kind of heavy and like something was pushing out the sides of the bag at the bottom.

She was struggling with the door while holding onto her bag, so Billy jumped up to help her.  She sort of grunted and nodded at him but he said he couldn’t see her face because her head was so far back in the hood she was wearing.  He said she had a funny smell too, but that’s not unusual with old people is it?

Anyway, a few minutes later there was like ‘boom’ and all the glass in the library windows shattered and the doors blew open.  Then there was a huge sound like wings flapping and page after page from the library books flew out of the windows and through the doors.  Strings of words slid off the pages and landed in the street where they shrivelled up.  Others landed in the library garden and burrowed into the ground like so many worms.  And then all the blank pages just took off like so many birds with white wings.  Up and up they went into the sky which was so bright with the sun that you could hardly look.

And then there was another sound: ‘whoosh’ and would you believe it?  The little old lady flew out of the doors on a something like a broomstick, although it looked more like one of those old-fashioned mops.  She threw back her head and her hood blew down, long wild wispy hair went crazy around her head.  ‘Free them, free the words!’ she screamed, cackling as she circled once around the library building then headed off over the cars and taxis down Victoria Street.

The library’s been closed for two months now.  We still hang out there, but now we’re watching for the word worms to come up.

©2018 Chris Hall


10:15. I’m late.  I grab my camera bag and run.  The whole world seems to be out, all converging on City Hall carrying flags and banners: some in support, most in dissent of our ‘glorious leader’.  I’m in the dissent camp. I’m also a correspondent.

I mustn’t blow it.  I clutch the camera bag to my hip and put on a burst of speed.

I’m opposite City Hall but I can’t get the shot.  There are too many people in the way.  The motorcade swings around the corner.  I have to hurry.

I jump onto the perimeter wall of the building behind me and scurry along, closing in on the action.  As I unpack my camera I see that the motorcade has come to a halt.  Military and security service personnel are much in evidence.  Assorted dignitaries line the red carpet which runs down the City Hall steps to the presidential limo.  The limo door opens and the man for whom the masses have gathered, steps out flanked by his guards.

I focus the camera, holding my breath.  If only those two security serviceman in their dark suits and darker glasses would get out of my line of sight.

Shots ring out.  One of the servicemen drops to the ground, bright blood staining his shirt.  The crowd surges.  I leap down from the wall, fighting my way through the confusion.  More gunfire comes from within the fleeing crowd.  But I’m already behind the car doing my own shooting.

A bullet whistles past my shoulder.  I spin round, eye to the viewfinder.  The assassin moves in, weapon in outstretched hands.  The barrel is pointing directly at me.

Another shot.  The assassin crumples.  Blood streams across his face from the single head wound.  Blood pools on the tarmac. My camera whirrs. Snick, snick, snick.

©2018 Chris Hall

Mind Mess

“I thought you said this was a good one.  Ordered mind packed with information, experiences and emotions?” Probe Agent Delta-Zero-Four turned to her colleague, the scales on her forehead raised. “We’re not going to learn much here.  Look!”

Probe Agent Beta –Two-Two peered over her shoulder at the screen, “When tested the subject scored exceptionally well,” he read.  His forked tongue flickered.  “Mmm, does look a bit of a mess.”  He jabbed a manicured claw at the bottom of the screen. “What are those?”

“Initialising visual brain-image enhancer,” she tweaked a knob on the side of the monitor.  “Thought-debris, mind-rubbish, emotional nonsense…I don’t see much else.”

“Very well, are we agreed Delta-Zero-Four?”

“Agreed, Beta-Two-Two.”  She said, pushing a red button in the centre of her console.

The screen went blank for a second, then a message flashed up: “Mind-wipe activated, click on the tab for next subject.”

Delta-Zero-Four clicked on the mouse.

©2018 Chris Hall


The Chosen One

The Chosen One lunasonline

From my Flash Fiction collection

Moonlight shimmers on Jenny’s dress. It is the winter solstice and the night is clear, the bright white moon surrounded by velvet blackness.  Jenny is the Chosen One. Her long golden hair crowned with a mistletoe and ivy garland cascades over her shoulders. Tall and slim, she holds the silver chalice aloft

She must be so cold, Cal thinks.

The villagers stand in a circle holding blazing torches, their faces reflected oddly in the flickering flames. The priest throws back his head and starts to chant. The gathering echoes his words of power. The spell reaches a climax and suddenly there is silence. Jenny puts the chalice to her lips and drinks. It falls to the floor and rolls away as the trance takes hold of her.

The chalice stops at the edge of the circle by Cal’s feet. He picks it up feeling the warmth where his sister had held it.

The priest lifts Jenny onto the stone table. A woman comes forward and takes the garland from her hair, replacing it with a delicate silver circlet. The priest starts to chant again and the woman returns to the circle. The transformation is about to begin.

As the villagers depart, Cal slips away and hides behind the old oak tree. He watches as the priest raises his arms and performs a final incantation before following the line of villagers back down to the valley.

Jenny is alone on the hilltop now. Cal shivers although he is dressed in his warmest clothes.  How can Jenny stand this?

Something rustles in the undergrowth beside him. Cal looks down. A small furry creature looks up at him with bright black eyes. More rustling: a rabbit, now a fox and a fawn.  Forest animals gather around the stone table. The smallest ones climb up and nuzzle up to Jenny. Soon she is covered by a living blanket of fur.

Out of nowhere, thunder; sounding like galloping horses. The noise reverberates around the hilltop. Clouds cover the moon. Cal cowers.

Then a column of the brightest light that Cal has ever seen strikes the hilltop. The creatures scatter leaving Jenny exposed on the stone table. The beam glows and throbs, alive with energy. Cal watches open-mouthed as Jenny’s body is lifted up.

The transformation, Cal thinks. No one has ever witnessed this.

*          *           *

The following morning the priest walks up the hill to bring back the Chosen One. As he looks around to check he is alone he notices something at the foot of the old oak tree. He hurries over. It is the boy, Cal, who picked up the chalice last night. The chalice is still clutched in his hand, but the body is lifeless. The priest shakes his head.

He walks over to the table. The girl is sleeping peacefully, covered in a shiny silver blanket. As he removes the strange material, she stirs and opens her eyes. Bright turquoise: the transformation is complete.  She is truly the Chosen One.

©2018 Chris Hall

Close the Window


Close the Window lunasonline

From my Flash Fiction Collection

Charles stared at the message on the screen. The web page you are viewing is trying to close the window. Do you want to close this window? He moved the cursor between the two options in the dialogue box: ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Charles wasn’t sure. He had a number of windows open. There was one he didn’t want to close just now. He was in the middle of something.

The message repeated. Do you want to close this window? Charles rubbed the grey stubble on his chin. ‘Okay, okay,’ he muttered.

Janet peered over the partition at him. ‘You all right there, Charles?’ He looked back at the bright young woman who sat opposite him. ‘Er, think so.

She nodded and continued tapping away on her keyboard. The younger generation, he thought, it’s all so easy for them. He turned his attention back to the screen and frowned. It seemed to have been busy all on its own and now there were a string of dialogue boxes all overlapping each other, all asking the same question. The question buzzed in his head: Do you want to close this window?

Another message popped up: The program you are using needs to shut down. He glared at the screen. The American spelling irritated him.

He moved the mouse slowly, checking each of the boxes.  Which one? His fingers rubbed his temples. Charles felt the panic rising. He stared out of the window across the college lawns, breathing deeply.

Oh, to hell with it, he thought. He clicked.

Are you sure you want toClick.

Are you sure you want to delete this student?Click.

Warning! Please do not press this button. Charles lost it…Click.

A small plume of smoke rose up in a distant part of the campus.

Task completed successfully.


©2018 Chris Hall

Brief Encounter

Steenbok ©2015 Nigel Whitehead On-Safari Wildlife Photography

The sun is low in the sky, but the baked-on heat of the day throbs out of the concrete stoep.  The bush sings with insects.  I sip my sundowner slowly, the sharp, grassy taste lingering on my tongue, the liquid cool in my throat.  Condensation beads on the glass and drips drops of fine rain on my bare knees.  Wood-smoke from someone’s early evening braai wrinkles my nose.

The thicket rustles and a tiny antelope appears in the small clearing beyond the stoep.  He sees me and freezes.  I keep still-still not wanting to frighten him.  We stare at each other.  I hardly dare breathe.  He is so close, so wild and timid.  Motionless, our eyes locked together, a minute passes, two…

‘Top up?’ a large hand holding a green bottle accompanies the question.  The little animal starts and skips off into the bush.  The spell is broken.

©2018 Chris Hall