Tracing Contessa

This week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt proved to be another which gave me several ideas and, with the exception of  a riff on the old Crossroads myth, all fell neatly into the Future-Noir setting I love to inhabit.  So initially, it was which to choose.  The thing is, the ideas were there but the words were not.  Brain fade.  Ultimately, a new idea came to me and it brought some words along for the ride.  Today’s post is the result.  Here’s the photo prompt:

This week Madison has posted a guest photo, courtesy of Mary Shipman.  The post, along with Madison’s own story and links to all the other authors, is here:

Take a look and get involved, if you are so inclined.

On the subject of photos, I would like to briefly introduce and recommend my lovely wife’s new (and thoroughly excellent) photo blog.  She has a wonderful eye and an artistic flair I’m sure many will appreciate.  Please take a look and let her know what you think 🙂

And now, weighing in at a hefty 165 words, may I present to you…


Tracing Contessa

Sleep fell from her, dissipating along with vague echoes of dreaming. The Umbilicorder ceased its phallic probing of her cortex and retracted into the bulbous base unit. Dirty washes of light played across the dilapidated room as the biomechanoid console considered the products of her REM sleep.

Beneath her, plastic sheets covered a debauched mattress, thick with the history of Contessa Macabre’s most infamous flesh parlour. Domino lit a cigarette and hunted kanji in the smoke, waiting.

The door became a thousand tiny splinters under the force of their arrival; three looming giants with parchment skin where eyes should have been. Their tombstone voices were unified, a crushing cacophony.

“You have dreamed too close to the truth. We take you now.”

Domino blinked, her irises swirling to crimson.

“I’ve been waiting for you.”

Once the Correctors lay ruined and twitching, Domino introduced the Umbilicorder to what was left of the leader. The readout made her smile. Now she knew where the Contessa lived.



Sometimes, you have to walk in the bad guy’s shoes to get the story written.  This is a case in point.  The photo prompt for this week’s Friday Fictioneers from Madison Woods gave me a few good ideas and, happily, one of them stuck around.  Originally I had conceived the story from the POV of the protagonists.   It just wouldn’t work.  I had the scene all laid out but couldn’t find the right approach, the right words.

Then I got the idea to ditch two characters, switch to the POV of the villain and try it that way.  This week’s story is the product of that process.  Here’s the photo prompt:

Madison’s take on this, along with links to all the other writers’ stories can be found at:

I hope you enjoy what follows.  I certainly had fun writing it (in the end), in no small part due to it anonymously featuring one of my long running characters.  She gets everywhere these days 😉  Thanks for reading and please feel free to write a comment.  They are always greatly appreciated.


Veinripper’s breath is a hot and rancid thing as jaundiced eyes track the darting form of the Japanese girl stealing into his lair. She is pretty and softly curved, just like his other victims. The tight thing she wears sets his hair bristling. It shifts and blends, steals the light.

She is not like the others.

He dislocates his jaw, facilitating the guttural roar which sets his guardians on the trail of this interloper. Malignant coils of barbed wire, semi-sentient and wholly evil slither and skitter with impossible speed toward the girl. Unperturbed, she closes on him. Panic and fear escalate within as Veinripper realises she is too fast.

“Come, little one! Let me show you what Veinripper does to women.”

A faint, deadly smile parts her lips. “Your name gives me an idea.”

She settles on her haunches as his first scream bubbles up from ruined lungs. “Did you know your thorny little pets can be reprogrammed?”

Lowtown Hanami / Haikyo

Well this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt from Madison Woods inspired several ideas in me, two of which just wouldn’t go away.  This is the first one I ended up writing and it is a little longer than has been the norm, clocking in at 177 words.  I like the tone and imagery of this story, and to change it for the sake of a word count just didn’t feel right.  The second piece, ‘Haikyo’, is much shorter and darker.

Here’s the photo in question, as kindly provided by Madison Woods:

Madison’s story, along with links to all the other Friday Fictioneers stories, can be found at:

I hope you enjoy both stories this week.  Here is the first (please scroll down the post to read the second story, ‘Haikyo’):

‘Lowtown Hanami’

Troll sighed as he watched droplets of water fall from biomesh suspended above his microcosmic garden. Oblivious of Troll’s mood, a pixie sat within, reading a nanobook, gossamer wings fluttering contentedly in the lambent glow of a tinfoil lantern. Living in Lowtown wasn’t the problem; transhuman outcasts had formed a warm community, right beneath the feet of those who exiled them. It was the shortages that irritated. Even water was currency now.

“Still cultivating tiny Zen havens?”

Domino, the geisha assassin had ghosted her way into his home again. She always moved freely in the Tiered City. Most were too scared to suggest she act otherwise.

“A gift,” she said simply and placed something in his gnarled palm. Troll knew instantly what it was and placed it under the drips.

“You stole sakura so we can have hanami festival?”

Domino shrugged shyly. “It belongs here.”

The nanoformed cherry tree which time-lapsed into being was exquisite, its blossoms a perfect neon ephemera, radiant in the twilight. Troll smiled.

“I’ll go get the beer.”

And  here is the second story:


They flitted through the ghost city, Crow guiding Sparrow on his first haikyo adventure. He marvelled at what The Vanishing had left behind: tower husks reverberating with echoes of life, artefacts of the mundane, rendered strange by their permanence.

Sparrow felt his gaze compelled to the ceiling, musty loam trembling with moisture and energy. He asked Crow about it.

“Alternate energy experiment. Top government secret. Why this place empty.”

“It’s… dripping,” Sparrow said, feeling the onset of dread.


“What’s it made from? Looks weird.”

“It is -” Her blade slid neatly between vertebrae, severing life. “People like you.”