The Australian Writers’ Centre’s Furious Fiction competition for April 2019 centred on three lines of dialogue.
- “It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.” from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
- “He’s never done anything like this before.” Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
- “What’s it going to be then, eh?” A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.
You can find out more about this fun competition at https://www.writerscentre.com.au/furious-fiction/
Here is my story.
The door of the pub flew open, and an old woman, lugging an oversized suitcase and a heavy backpack, struggled to fit through its frame .
She flung her suitcase bedside a table close to the fireside and strode up to the bar. The bag was big. She was small.
“Impressive!” the bartender thought, surprised by the old girl’s strength.
“What’s it going to be then, eh?” he asked.
She ignored him as she poked around in her backpack muttering to herself.
“It’s in here somewhere. I know I packed it.”
He presumed she was looking for her wallet, but when she slammed that down on the bar, he figured he was wrong.
“Madam?” he tried again, “What will it be?”
Judging from her skin, her hair and her sensible shoes, he figured she must be around 70. The backs of her hands had the tell-tale age spots that he’d seen on his own grandmother.
He figured she was deaf. “MADAM?” he said with more volume.
She shot him a soul-withering glance. The crimson glint of the fire was reflected, blood-like, in her dark, bright eyes. He took a step back. He figured he wouldn’t ask her again.
“Ahhh! Here it is!” she said holding a small crystal vial. It was filled with fluorescent liquid that sparkled with the same red he had seen in her eyes. His curiosity stirred.
“Toilet?” she asked abruptly.
He pointed to the corner of the room. The woman turned on her heel, leaving her stuff in a pile on the bar.
When the woman returned, her skin was smooth and lustrous, the age spots gone. Her dark hair no longer anchored by steely grey. Thirty years had vanished!
His mouth flapped wordlessly.
“It’s fantastic, isn’t’ it!” she said.
“What is it?”
“It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution,” she whispered as she held the vial up to the light, twitching it, so the ruby liquid sloshed about.
“Would you like to try it?” she asked, her voice laced in honey and silk.
“Yes,” his gasped, with fearful anticipation.
“It’s not cheap…come.” she beckoned.
He took all the cash from the till and followed her into the cold night.
In the pale morning light, the police officers stood over the bartender’s cold, grey body.
“It’s a bit queer that his lips are still so red, isn’t it Sarge?” the constable asked.
“I don’t understand.” the sergeant said quietly as he removed a vial from the bartender’s stiff fingers. “He’s never done anything like this before.”
The noise of tyres on gravel distracted them and they watched as a red convertible passed slowly by. Their eyes were drawn to two identically dressed women sitting up front. Mother and daughter perhaps? One around 40, the other maybe 70?
Their lips painted red.
Their eyes bright and hard.
Their licence plate – BLKWYDOS