phone-booth-jhc

Dirty tile and cold walls surrounded her as she dialed the number, black phone pressed to her ear. She ignored the dirt and ash, just like she ignored the foul stench that hovered in every room like a vulture.

The phone clicked and her heart leapt.

“Who is this?”

“John,” she whispered. “I–”

“I told you not to call.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s too late for that.”

The line went dead. She stood there, cradling the phone, unable to step away.

Outside the tiny prison window, the world spread out, so close but so far beyond her reach.


Word Count: 97

This is for Friday Fictioneers. Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for running the challenge and J Hardy Carroll for the photo prompt!

photo-20170724154621263

Roger sighed. He had been promised gold, but all he’d seen were enough rocks to last him a lifetime and an expanse of cold, grey-green ocean.

After hours of searching the rugged shorelines of the islands, treasure still seemed to be in short supply.

He turned to Marie, who was scrutinizing the worn fragments of map with pursed lips and furrowed brow.

“Time to turn back, I think,” he said. “Storm’s coming in.”

Marie shook her head. “No. My great-grandfather’s treasure is out here somewhere.”

“He probably spent it all on rum,” Roger said. “I know I would. My point is–”

“There!” Marie pointed. “That’s it! Raven’s Point.”

The outcrop was just like the shape on the map: a rough outline of a raven’s beak extending over the waters.

And beneath, there was a cave.

Marie smiled.

“Full speed ahead.”


Word Count: 140

This is for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. Thanks to Priceless Joy for running the challenge and Louise for providing the photo prompt!

sherlock-season-4

Sherlock’s Series 4 has been, rightfully, criticized, both by Rotten Tomatoes certified critics and little wordpress group blogs. But there’s been a running theme of positivity amidst all the criticism: The second episode, “The Lying Detective,” was a strong episode bookended by poor ones. I’m here to tell you that “The Lying Detective” actually doomed Series 4, and quite possibly, Sherlock itself.

OK look, in a vacuum, “The Lying Detective” is the best episode of the series. It’s the most creatively shot of the bunch, with a great villain performance and some thrilling bits of dialogue by Steven Moffat. Take this episode removed from the surrounding series, and it’s a solid work of TV mystery. But I’m not here to tell you it’s the worst, I’m here to tell you it doomed the series. There’s a difference, and the devil is in the details.

So let’s talk about Mary. Mary, Mary, Mary. Her introduction in Series 3 went very quickly from her being a passable side character to a stain on the show. Her character’s reveal as a super special secret agent with a dark past that’s so dark and secretive she can’t tell anyone about it dragged down series 3, and took the show away from its genesis as a modern re-telling of classic stories and into something more along the lines of high budget fan-fiction where Sherlock and Watson wander into James Bond stories. Her character crossed a line into being straight up unbearable in the series 4 premiere, where her super special secret dark past is revealed, and is absolutely underwhelming. And unnecessary. And distracting from the heart of the show. It was bad, and we here at LAS gave it perhaps a too-favorable score. But the episode did do something to set up the rest of the series for success.

It killed Mary.

As if the Sherlock team was aware that her inclusion was hurting the show, they killed her off in the opening episode for series 4, which should have freed up the remaining 180-ish minutes of the series for a return to form. And what did we get?

Mary.

Unwilling to commit to the decision, Moffat instead has his cake and eats it too, bringing Mary back for hallucinatory witticisms that detract from the main story and, again, seem to indicate that her last name is Sue. Mary leaves a posthumous tape behind for John to watch, and it’s after watching her tape, and her warning to him, that John rushes to the hospital to save Sherlock just in the knick of time. Mary. Nevermind the issue of convenience of John watching that exact section of the tape at that exact time, it’s that the writers couldn’t commit to keeping her dead, and still rely on her as a superpowered crutch instead of cleverly writing John and Sherlock out of a problem in a way so as to have them earn it, rather than luck into it.

It’s not just Mary. Allow me to remind you of the scene near the beginning of the episode where Sherlock takes a walk with Faith, the daughter of the episode’s villain, Culverton Smith. On first watch, it’s a wonderful scene where Sherlock makes a rare connection with another person, slowly unravelling the mystery of her past and her father’s. The moment where Sherlock analyzes the note she had by having her imagine a window with sun shining through it? Best moment of the series. Except…

It means. Nothing.

Surprise! It wasn’t Faith! It Was Eurus, Sherlock’s EVEN MORE super special super smart superpowered sister, who’s like Mary turned up to eleven. It was all a fakeout. Sherlock never met the suicidal, memory-lapsed daughter of Culverton Smith. That personal connection was fake. His analysis of her note was actually wrong. The things he learns about her background and Culverton are false. It’s actually ten minutes of filler, a good scene sacrificed in the name of arbitrary plot twists.

That’s the main tragedy of the episode. Moments of drama are insincere, undercut later on with a revelation that takes away from scenes which should be stellar if left untouched.

Culverton isn’t a mystery. The episode wants you to question his motives, if Sherlock’s really gone crazy or if Culverton’s a killer. But it’s all false tension because it shows you the truth in the first scene.

It introduces the concept of a memory-altering pill, and then abandons it. It’s like it’s set up for some sort of resolution or solution involving the pill, but it’s never heard from again. Chekov’s gun is left on the desk unfired.

Sherlock’s drug addiction? Nah, just all part of an elaborate, convoluted, nonsensical plan. Devised by Mary.

None of the tension in the episode is genuine. Everything established in the episode, Culverton’s mystery, Sherlock’s drug addiction, the memory pill, Faith’s midnight trip to Sherlock’s door, none of it actually carries any weight. Culverton’s mystery never becomes compelling because the show tells you the answer before introducing the question. Sherlock’s addiction isn’t as serious as it seems since it’s his own plan. The memory pill never goes anywhere. Faith isn’t actually trying to recover her lost memory and never actually meets Sherlock. It all goes nowhere. It means nothing. It’s filler. The only things in the episode that actually wind up mattering are Mary and Eurus.

I think they tried to put make-up on a pig here. They tried to dazzle with technical pinache, intricate camera-work and trippy moments meant to look cool and obfuscate the increasingly thin story. But it’s different here than in past episodes. I’m starving so allow me a food analogy: In the past, Sherlock’s visual style was like garnish. Visually pretty but complementing an already great work. It helped to accentuate the modern take on Sherlock and his inner thoughts, but didn’t distract you from the main story. The camerawork here is more like drenching an overdone steak with BBQ sauce. It’s trying to hide mistakes.

OK quick lunch break…


“The Final Problem” was atrocious. But that trainwreck of an episode doesn’t happen if “The Lying Detective” stuck to its guns. This is what I mean by it “dooming” the series. Sure, the technical side of things was great, but the events this episode sets in motion culminate in the worst episode of Sherlock’s history, and the show’s future is now in doubt. I honestly can’t blame “The Final Problem” or “The Six Thatchers” for it. It was “The Lying Detective” that was supposed to right the boat, which was unsteady after the first episode, and already capsized by the time the finale came around.

This episode is the one that ends on the mind-boggling moronic cliffhanger revealing her character. This is the episode which is retroactively ruined by her existing in this show’s universe. It sets up the finale for failure and it seals the fate of the first episode by undermining the one useful thing it did. Every interesting thing introduced in the episode itself is undone after one viewing.

It doomed Sherlock.

206-07-july-23rd-2017

Laughter echoed through the dirigible. Wine corks popped, letting foam splash into thin glasses. The band played on and the party swayed with the music.

Anna pressed her nose up against the glass, looking at the ground far below, almost lost in the wreath of clouds. She remembered looking down before, when the cityscape had spread out in a mosaic. Bright lights had shimmered amongst mile-high skyscrapers. Other dirigibles had drifted in the wind, like floating lanterns burning bright. When the third moon had risen, everything had lit up in waves of blue.

There was no light below now, only a marbled darkness beneath the churning clouds. Lightning flashed and she could almost hear the crack of thunder through the soundproofed glass.

“A toast!” her father cried, her hair hanging in disarray, his tie undone.

He climbed onto a table, tapping his glass. The dancing stopped and the music slowed as every head turned to look at him.

“A toast to our home!” He raised his glass and the blue wine shifted like an ocean tide. “To Beovorn!”

“To Beovorn!” the others echoed.

Anna watched a cascading orange cloud, moving slowly towards them, reaching out with tendrils of fire.


Word Count: 199

This is for Sunday Photo Fiction. Photo credit to A Mixed Bag.

tltweek77

In the lands by the ocean’s edge, they tell that once the jellyfish was a maiden, beautiful as the light dancing on the waters, who had a lover, sworn to fight in the queen’s service.

One day, her lover didn’t return from the war, felled by the barbed arrows of the enemy, and the maiden was so moved to despair that she cast herself from a high cliff into the churning waves.

The fates took mercy upon her and her form was changing, becoming bright and beautiful, drifting in the waters, untroubled by darkness.


This is for Three Line Tales. Thanks to Sonya for running the challenge and Pan Da Chuan for providing the prompt photo!

vw-in-israel-wmq

Emergency services buzzed around the car like flies around carrion. Police officers with notebooks out shouted at road safety workers, arguing about the importance of preserving the scene versus reopening the motorway.

In the end, the police conceded and the car was hauled away. There was no evidence to be gathered, nothing but the testimony of the other drivers and the distant, poorly angled CCTV video.

They handed the footage off to experts. They even showed it to a magician. The conclusion was unanimous.

In the middle of the motorway, the driver of the car had vanished from his seat.


Word Count: 100

This is for Friday Fictioneers. Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for running the challenge and Kent Bonham for providing the prompt photo!

photo-20170717154624399

Forty days Muirdain had walked the path of All-Mother Macca through the wilderness. Her fair skin was burnt crimson and her hair was a fiery tangle of curls and thorns. Her scabbard hung empty by her side.

By the foot of a green hill, where stone steps carried on the ancient path, she met a woman, clothed in rags, her eyes milk-white and her teeth rot-brown. The woman called to her.

“Pilgrim, have you water for an old woman?”

Muirdain stepped past her.

“Spare a moment.”

Muirdain kept climbing.

“What brings you to this road?”

“Penance,” Muirdain replied. “The Queen asked that I walk the All-Mother’s path. Only then may I earn my sword again.”

“Then stop and spare me some water.”

Muirdain didn’t look back.

The All-Mother sighed. Three times she had tested the knight and three times Muirdain had failed.

She did not give fourth chances.


Word Count: 148

This is for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. Thanks to Priceless Joy for running the challenge and J.S. Brand for providing the prompt photo!