Replaced Papers #FridayFictioneers

He was running late for his meeting, so he didn’t check his briefcase before leaving the house. All his paperwork was in there though as he had put it in yesterday afternoon, so why wouldn’t it still be?

He got to the meeting, flustered and feeling unprepared. He had to present the company’s finance report to the board, so today was not the time to be panicking.

Everyone was all ready seated, he apologised for being late and got on with things.

He pulled out the paperwork and looked for his notes but what he saw instead was brightly coloured children’s drawings.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/10/30/1-november-2019/ with thanks).

Punch (Part 2)

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Chester arrived home close to ten and parked on the small driveway. He turned off the engine and got out of the van. Stretching his aching limbs, he noticed how cold the autumn nights were now getting.

He walked to the bungalow’s front door and unlocked it. He turned the hall light on and put the numbers into the alarm’s panel to turn the security system off. He was half tempted to leave everything in the van but it had broken into a few times and it wasn’t worth the risk. He had been lucky every time that the thieves hadn’t taken the puppets or the show equipment, clearly they didn’t know the value of things.

Chester unpacked. He put things into the no longer used dinning room. By the time he had done a few trips and was on the last box, he was so tried he could feel it in his legs. Making sure everything was locked up, he went into the living room and sank onto the sofa.

Sprawling out, he told himself he should get up to bed but he found his body was too heavy to move.

Quietness and darkness pressed upon Chester. He could hear the wind picking up outside and rain tapping on the window. The pressure on his ears and head was too much, so he put the TV on. He channel flicked until he found the news. He also put on the lights before getting back on the sofa.

Deciding he would go to bed as soon as the news finished, he caught up on the reports he had missed. Then the weather forecast came on.

A knocking noise came over tomorrow’s weather report.

Cheater dragged himself up and staggered to the front door. Who’d be calling so late? he wondered.

He looked through the spy hole, saw no one but still cracked open the door. There was nothing there. A gust of wind dragged a few rain drops onto his face and Chester felt a chill across his skin.

‘Kids messing around again! You stay away! Leave an old man be!’ Chester shouted.

He slammed the door, locked things again and went back to the sofa. Wide awake now, he huffed at the TV and crossed his arms tightly over his chest.

Knock Knock.

Chester looked up then around. That sound hadn’t come from the front door but from the back one.

‘Blast those kids!’

Chester got up and stormed into the kitchen. He turned the light, unlocked the door and flung it open. He screamed into the night, long and loud. As his voice faded, he dragged in deep breaths and looked around. There was nothing on the step or in the garden, just the wind shaking the bare branches of the dead apple tree and the back gate.

He prowled around, looking for an access point and signs of someone being here. The gate was lock and like the fences too tall to climb over. No lights came from his neighbours’ houses and as he paused the only other sound was a cat meowing.

Chester went back inside. He rubbed his chest, feeling pain burning him. He turned everything off and got into bed. He was too tried to play games and the cold was clearly starting to effect him.

He got ready for bed but Chester heard the knocking once more. This time because he was closer, he realised it was coming from the dining room. He got up and went to investigate.

Glancing at the show stuff, he heard the knocking again. It was coming from one of the cases! How could that be? He opened each case till he came to the last one.

‘Hello, Punch,’ he whispered, ‘were you knocking?’

Chester picked the puppet up. There was the soft clicking of wood on wood and the rustle of clothes. Chester slipped the puppet onto his right hand like a well fitted glove. Then he clapped Punch’s hands together and said in that high pitched, nasal voice, ‘well done, you’ve found me!’

Punch laughed a long haha.

Sighing, Chester closed the case and went back to his bedroom with the puppet still on his hand.

‘I’m sorry things have come to this, Mr. Punch,’ Chester said, ‘I would be passing you on to my son now just like my father and grandfather did. But times have changed and there’s no longer a place for you and Judy in this technology world now.’

Chester slipped Punch off his hand and arranged the puppet on the bedside table. He finished getting ready and got into bed. Leaving the lamp on as he did every night, Chester began to doze off.

‘Such a shame, that,’ Punch’s voice whispered.

Chester open an eye and looked at the puppet who was strangely lit in the glow of the lamp. There was an eeriness to the painted features, a wicked twist to the red painted lips and an evil glint in those blue eyes.

‘Yes, it is,’ Chester replied.

‘What you going to do about it?’

‘I’m sorry?’

There was a clicking noise then a drumming wood on wood sound as Punch swung his legs against the bedside table. The puppet’s hands gripped the edge and the head turned fully towards Chester.

‘What,’ Punch hissed, ‘are you going to do?’

‘I…don’t know…’ Chester trailed.

‘So, I’m locked in a box forever?’ Punch snapped.

‘Well, no. I’d get you out sometimes. Maybe leave you around the house for company. We can still have our conversations….and on Halloween we can scare the children together! Just like we always do,’ Chester suggested.

Punch scoffed and began climbing down the bedside table.

Chester sat up but stayed huddled in the bedding. He watched as the puppet reached the floor then began clambering up the bed by using fist fulls of duvet to do so.

‘What is going on here?’ Chester muttered, ‘is this a dream? You can’t talk without me.’

Punch swung himself up onto the bed and sat in Chester’s lap like an elf on Santa’s knee.

‘This isn’t a dream,’ Punch squeaked, ‘I’ve always been able to talk and move without a hand up my back side! You just never choose to notice until now….And ain’t that always the way? The master needs help from his puppet. Bah!’

Chester felt lost for words, he struggled to deal with his whirl of thoughts. He shut his eyes and decided this was a bad dream. He was sad at the loss of his show and his mind was trying to get him to come up with ideas to save it.

‘I’m too tried and too old for this!’ Chester shouted.

He pulled the bedding up and waved it so that the little puppet went flying through the air. Chester buried himself under the duvet, muttering about nightmares and forcing himself into actual sleep.

Punch had let out a startled cry at being thrown about. Luckily, he had managed to grab some of a blanket and use it to slide down to the floor with. Now seated, he looked up at his ‘master’ and decided something had to be done.

‘I won’t be locked away forever!’

Wooden feet tapped on the floor and Chester listened as his door was opened and sounds like someone grunted. The footsteps carried on towards the dining room and there were noises of something moving about and a high pitched voice swearing.

‘Go to sleep, go to sleep,’ Chester uttered, ‘this is all a dream. Punch hasn’t come to life! What a crazy idea!’

The sounds carried on and Chester fell asleep. That was until something slapped Chester across the face.

‘What the-?’ Chester roared as he shot out of bed.

‘Haha!’ Punch laughed.

Chester looked and saw the puppet with his wood slap-stick in-between his hands.

‘What are you doing with that?’ Chester yelled.

Punched giggled and brought the slap-stick down onto Chester’s face again. Chester raised his arms and felt the stick hitting there instead.

‘Give me that!’ Chester snapped and tried to grip the stick.

Punch danced out of the way and began waving the slap-stick around trying to hit any part of Chester he could.

Cheater shouted and cried, he tossed around in the bed, trying to catch the puppet. Punch was laughing his head off but then his wooded foot slipped on the duvet and he tumbled to the floor.

‘Right!’ Chester said and made to jump off the bed after him.

The bedding had twisted around him and as Chester struggled to free himself, he tumbled from the bed and banged into the bedside table. The lamp went flying and the bulb smashed on the floor, sending the bedroom into darkness.

Chester, sprawled across the floor, felt a shocking, shooting pain in his chest and arms. He gasped desperately, unable to breath and felt dizzy.

‘Do you give up?’ Punch’s voice’s sounded from above him.

Chester tried to move his head but the pain was too much and he could only groan.

‘I can’t hear you!’ Punch yelled.

‘No,’ Chester croaked.

‘You sure?’

Chester mumbled something into the floor and then despite the pain coursing through him he reached out and fumbled for the puppet.

There was a clicking of wood, a muffled laugh then Chester felt the slap-stick on his back.

He roared in pain and tried to move but found the pain in his chest too much. Tears came to his eyes, ‘stop, stop stop!’ he cried.

Nothing but laughter came back to him and more of the slap-stick which hit him repeatedly.

Red then black filled Chester’s vision. The pain grew too intense for him to handle anymore and then a last thing came to him, a voice in his ear whispering, ‘that’s the way to do it!’

Punch (Part 1)

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It was Chester’s last fete. No one was interested in Punch and Judy shows anymore. They had grown scary and not politically correct. Soon, he imagined, that everything would be offensive and no one would be able to speak for fear of saying the wrong thing and being put in jail.

Packing the puppets away, Chester knew he would keep them all. He would sell everything else- the red tent, the Italian style back drops and the small van he transported around in. He was in constant need of money and the puppets would have sold for a fair bit but he couldn’t part with them.

He put the doctor, clown and constable in one case. In the second went the crocodile, the dog with his string of sausages and the skeleton. The third was for the baby, Judy and Punch and his whacking stick. The four case, bigger then the others, which he hadn’t opened for this show contained the lesser used puppets of; the hangman, the devil, the ghost, the lawyer and the beadle.

Chester placed Judy then the baby inside. Finally, he picked up Punch. Feeling the weigh in his hands and studying the puppet, Chester felt the deep connection he had always had to this character.

Punch was wooden like the rest of the puppets and dressed traditional in a jester suit of red and yellow trimmed with a matching cone hat complete with pompom at the end. He had yellow painted stockings, red and shoes. His face was hand painted with a long hooked nose which was bright red end, wide teeth flashing grin, red lipstick lips, red circle cheeks, staring blue eyes and just the hint of flock grey hair coming out from under the hat.

Chester slide his hand inside the puppet and brought him to life with simple movements. Whispering words in Punch’s squeaky, high pitched voice, Chester felt like he was saying a final farewell to what had been his life since he could first remember.

The shows had been his grandfather then his father’s trade and naturally Chester had followed them. The puppets, who had been repaired and repainted over the years had belong to his grandfather. It was hard to get good looking traditional puppets like this now, collectors went crazy over them.

Sliding Punch off his hand, Chester placed the puppet in the case. He closed the lid and wondered if he would ever get the puppets out to perform again.

He took the cases to his grey van then drove back to pack up the rest of his show. As he did so, he noticed some of other stalls packing away too. It had been a good crowed for the autumn harvest festival in this farmer’s field and the weather had held too.

The smell of pies, cakes, cheeses and burgers had filled the air all afternoon. Children had ran about laughing, holding balloons, candy floss and over sized stuffed toys won from the game stands. The music and noises of the fairground rides in the field next door had become background to everything else.

Chester drove his van back to the car park, made sure it was locked tight and walked back to the field. He brought a few last minute things – a pie, some cheese and a fancy bottle of fruity wine. He walked passed the craft and snack stalls into the tea tent.

They were still just about serving. He got a cup of tea and a slice of lemon cake. Sitting at one of the empty tables – of which there were many- he people watched and listened to the chatting.

The creeping feeling of being alone came across him. He was an old man now in his mid-sixties. His wife was dead, his only son moved to Sweden for work then stayed due to marriage and two children. Chester had meet his grandchildren once or twice. He didn’t have a good relationship with son or his wife, there was too much bitterness there. Nor was Chester a fan of being called ‘farfar’ the Swedish for grandpa.

He kept his distance, just like he had done with other family members. They had frowned at his career choices, said he was too close to his puppets, thought he was odd and the black sheep of the family. He was best written out and forgotten about.

Chester sighed and finished eating and drinking. He sat until the tea tent closed and an old woman shooed him out.

The fete was slowly closing but Chester walked through the prize flowers, veg and fruit and autumn themed displays as they were packed away. It was always nice to look at the hard work of other people and celebrate their achievements which were so unlike his own.

After, he crossed fields and wandered around the fairground. There were many rides all being lit up as the evening darkness arrived showing that though the fete might have ended the night was still young here.

The air smelt of greasy burgers, hot dogs, chips, melted cheese and burning donuts. There was also a smokiness from all the grills and the sweet smell of sugary treats.

Adults, teenagers and children crowded the muddy pathways. Their voices raised above the booming music to point out a ride they wanted to go on or a food stall they wanted to visit. Ticket booths had queues outside and there was an atmosphere of a party.

Chester walked passed the rides, noticing ones he recognised from his youth; whirling waltz, bumper cars, carousel, helter skelter, haunted house and the ferries wheel. 

He looked at the game stalls. Grab a duck win a goldfish! Throw three darts pop a balloon for a prize. How many hoops can you score? Tin can alley knock down them all. Ladder climb, ring the bell at the top to win! Bingo. Horse Derby Racing. Whac-A-Mole and finally, the one he wanted; Shoot ‘Em Out

He paid for three rounds, heaved the air rifle to his shoulder and aimed at as many targets he could. The rife give a kick back he recalled from the real thing. In a flash, Chester saw himself in the woods with his grandfather and father shooting deer, rabbits and pheasants.  

Chester focused on the moving targets like they were real animals. His score came close the first tine. The second and third rounds, he shot down enough to win two medium or a large prize.

‘What do you want?’ the grumpy looking vendor man asked Chester and began pointing out the stuffed toys as he named them, ‘a tiger, a unicorn, a panda, a dog or one of these kids movie characters?’

Chester looked across to the other prizes and the vendor continued, ‘the medium ones are a fish, a turtle, a teddy bear, a rabbit….whatever.’

The vendor shrugged his shoulders then crossed his arms over his stained waist coat. 

‘Two teddy bears, please. One white and one brown,’ Chester replied. 

Begrudgingly the the game’s owner handed them over. Chester thanked him and walked away. He would keep the teddies to send to the grandchildren for Christmas. He started to head back to his van but his stomach growled at the scent of food. 

Why not? It’s a two hour drive home now, Chester thought.   

He brought a burger then some chips which tasted much better. For the trip home, he got some bottled water, sweet rock pieces, sticky toffee and hard humbugs.

Back in his van, he sucked on a black and white, minty humbug and tried not to feel tried. Starting the engine, Chester looked in the rear view mirror into the back of the open van.

‘Right, Punch,’ Chester spoke, ‘I hope you’ve had a good last show because it’s time to go home for the last time now.’

To Be Continued…

Broken Tree

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The storm had brought a few trees down but as Ken stood before an oak that most have been over a hundred years old, he felt sad. He hadn’t seen the tree in it’s summer or autumn glory but he could imagine the heavy burden of colourful leaves. Moss and climbing plants covered the trunk of the tree which now lay on it’s side.

Ken took his axe and other tools and began chopping branches and the trunk down. He never felt happy about such work and not because it was hard going but because he was finalising the life of a piece of nature.

At least, the tree would have a second life and carry on being enjoyed in a new way.

In his workshop next to his cabin on the edge of the woods, Ken turned the fallen trees in to tables, chair and other handmade furniture. He sold his pieces to shops across the country and to people who ventured out to visit him.

Seeing his work being loved and knowing he had in someways saved a tree, made Ken feel satisfied that all his hard work had been for good.

 

Taxi! #TwitteringTales

Everyone thought the job was easy; drive people from A to B but Dec knew there was more to it. With twelve years under his belt, he found the waiting boring, nervous still collecting customers and traffic stressful.

That’s why he’d decided to give up and move to the coast to work on a boat.

 

(Inspired by; https://katmyrman.com/2019/08/13/twittering-tales-149-13-august-2019/ with thanks).

Purple Fields #FFftPP

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Hannah’s family could trace it’s business back to the French monks who had lived in the 12th century monastery in the valley. Today, that holy place was in ruins and made a fine tourist attraction.

The family relayed on that draw for customers to their gardening shop, specialist laid out gardens, wild meadows and small woodlands.

Hannah’s favourite place was the lavender field. There were over twenty kinds of the purple, heady smelling flowers. It had been great-grandma’s job to tend the field and now it was Hannah’s. She knew each plant like an old friend, it was just a shame she could no longer smell.

 

(Inspired by; https://flashfictionforthepracticalpractitioner.wordpress.com/2019/08/07/flash-fiction-for-the-purposeful-practitioner-36/ with thanks).

Mystery Mail #CCC

The postman knew the house was empty because he had never delivered any letters there. So, it was a shock on Monday morning when he saw a letter with that address.

Frowning, he went up to the house and saw a metal box with mail written on the lid. He posted the letter through then looked around. There was no signs of anybody.

Weeks and months passed, the postman kept delivering letters but he never saw anybody. Perhaps, no one had moved in and someone was just using the address? Criminals? Lovers?

Whoever it was, was none of his business and he was just doing a job.

 

(Inspired by; https://crimsonprose.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/crimsons-creative-challenge-32/ thanks).

Denial #WWP

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Carmen had also found it hard to say no to anything. She was a pleaser and wanted to make everyone happy. This though made her drained.

Today, she had decided she’d had enough and she was going to deny all requests.

The word ‘No’ felt alien in her mouth and she struggled to battle with it.

At the end of the day, she had achieved lots more then normal but she didn’t feel any good about it.

 

(Inspired by; https://sammiscribbles.wordpress.com/2019/05/11/weekend-writing-prompt-105-denial/ with thanks).

Orenda #WritePhoto #AtoZChallenge

Orenda; a mystical force present in all people that empowers them to affect the world or to effect changes in their own lives. 

I drove through the countryside, looking out for signs to the Thistle Horse Riding School. I had a job interview there this afternoon. I was over-excited, having spent a year looking for this kind of job. Openings didn’t come up often and most of the time they were all family run.

The realisation I was lost kicked in. I glanced at the Sat Nav but the screen was blank. Slowly down, I looked around and saw a wooden signpost coming up on my right hand side.

Pulling the car over, close to the sign, I got out and left the engine running. My sensible, flat black shoes crunched over tall grass, that left dew drops on my dark tights and black skirt. The grass boarded a farmer’s field that was green with new wheat and had fresh tractor cuts lining the ground.

I looked up at the sign that only pointed in opposite directions, fully expecting it to point me in the right way but it was blank!

Puzzled, I stared harder, thinking that age had dulled the words but no, someone had actually painted across the place names with black paint. Totally not useful!

Why would someone do that? I turned around, half hoping someone would come along so I could question them, however the single track countryside lane was empty. The only things I could see were green fields and a few trees.

I got back in the car, leaving the door open to let in the gentle spring breeze. The Sat Nav sat dead on the dashboard. It had been playing up for awhile, not keeping any power and turning off randomly. I should have got a new one but I hadn’t got around to it. Now, I deeply regretted my laziness.

The only think left to do was try and get maps on my phone. The signal wasn’t great but at least I got the idea I was still heading in the right direction and if I took a left at the end of the road, I’d almost be there.

Feeling a bit more confident, I carried on driving. The lane weaved like a snake before splitting two ways. Thankfully, this time the sign post was clear marked. To the left was the riding school, to the right a village and back the way I had come another village which I had passed through.

I went left and followed a short road towards a large gate which had a sign announcing Thistle Horse Riding School. I glanced at the dashboard clock and saw I was late by five minutes.

Getting out, I opened the gate, drove in then had to get out again to go and close the gate behind me. I parked in the visitors’ parking then took a moment to calm myself and check my interview suit was clean. I felt over the top and out of place at the stables in my white blouse, black jacket and skirt, but first impressions always count.

I left my car and followed the signs to reception/office which was little more then a shed before a gate leading to a courtyard and the first stable block. There was a brown pony tied up and with a saddle on waiting for the rider to return.

I knocked on the shed’s door. Through the window, I could see an older woman at the desk going through some paperwork. She was wearing tight black riding pants, a green polo t-shirt and had short dark brown hair. The woman got up, answering my knocking and came to the door.

‘Hello?’ she said

‘Hi, I’m Penny Wright. I’m here for the horse riding instructor job interview,’ I stated.

‘Yes. I’m Heidi Thistle, owner. Please come in.’

Butterflies fluttered in my stomach but I stayed relaxed. We shook hands and I took the other chair in the office. It was too cramped inside, but I tried not to think about it. I had to get this job, it was going to change my life, so I called upon everything I could to make it happen.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/04/11/thursday-photo-prompt-decisions-writephoto/ with thanks).

 

Rift #WritePhoto

I called a coffee break and began sitting up a place to sit. Nat and Kiara helped me to set up the folding stools and table. We dumped everything else but the stuff we needed whilst Damex set and started up the instant campfire.

Ode hadn’t stopped with us but carried on walking through the rocky clearing we had just entered. She seemed lost in her own world, the amazement of being on Earth not worn off for her yet.

Around us the forest was loud with sounds we weren’t use to. There was the calling of different wild birds and animals which roamed around without the need for programming. The wind was real in the trees and not from fans, the sun also real and pleasantly mild on our sensitive skin and the air wasn’t recycled or filtered but fresh and earthy.

It had all taken some getting use to and we still hadn’t adjusted fully even after the four months we had now been here for. Earth had been abandoned a few hundred years ago, humans had found other planets to spawn on and it had been decreed Earth needed time to regenerate and was to be left alone.

That was until the reason we had come here. A small time-space rift had been detective somewhere in this location and we were the team that went around fixing those holes.

‘Fire’s up, Ash,’ Damex announced.

I popped the folding coffee pot out, but in some water formula and coffee grains then set it on the stand above the fake flames.

Kiara appeared at my side and put some cheese toast pockets next to the pot. They only took a few minutes to cook and made good hot snacks.

‘I’ll get Ode,’ Nat spoke and walked over to her.

I sat down in one of the chairs and looked around. It was impossible to grow bored of the Earth’s sites but I found being in the places with buildings much more interested then the wilds.

Damex sat down on a rock and began rubbing his hands along the surface. The moss catching in his fingers and the dirt getting under his nails. It was always hard to tell with the android but he seemed to be enjoying the sensation.

Kiara looked as bored as I was feeling. She took the chair next to me and began messing around with the hand held computer. No doubt, emailing her husband and children then she would play some games and let her frustrations out on those instead of us. Kiara wasn’t one for these long, complicated trips.

I turned my attention to Nat and Ode, ‘the Lil’ scientific genius’. They were stood on the other side of the clearing, a few feet or so away, next to a mass of rocks. They were looking at a large rock piece that appeared to have a huge, gaping split down it, like a giant had tried to cut the rock in half but had given up before the job was done.

Ode, her white hair tossed in the breeze seemed excited about something and was holding a scanner around over the rock.

Nat laughed, tried to calm her down and pointed back to us. Ode shook her head, determined to stay and it took a few minutes for Nat to convince her to leave whatever it was and come back to the group.

The coffee pot whistled, I took it off and poured it into the four mugs lined up on the table. I set the pot off to one side and grabbed the snacks which Kiara had forgotten about and opened one to let it cool slightly before I ate it.

‘Ash! Ash!’ Ode shout as she ran over.

‘Yeah, Ode, I’m not going to eat all the cheese toast,’ I answered.

‘No….I mean, it’s not that,’ she said coming to a skidding halt, ‘I think I’ve found the rift!’

‘That rock over there?’

Ode nodded, a huge smile on her flushed faced, ‘sensors indicate it could be! Can I please close it? You know it’s the first one I’ve ever found! Expect for the training and exam ones, but those don’t really count. Please, Ash can I do it?’

‘Calm down,’ I responded with a shake of my head but I couldn’t help smiling. Ode was infectious when she got like this, ‘have something to eat and drink first. You’ll need the energy.’

‘But-‘

‘No, buts,’ Nat said playfully, ‘Ash is right, you need to be at your top if you are going to close it. Sit down, here’s a mug.’

With a loud groan, Ode did as she was told and began sipping the coffee.

Nat took the other chair next to her and began nibbling on the cheese toast.

Damex looked up, coming back from wherever his android mind had been and announced, ‘I shall go and complete the scans and confirm it whilst you rest.’

‘But I want to do everything!’ Ode cried like a over-excited child on her birthday.

‘And you shall,’ I cut in, ‘but a second opinion and results is always needed.’ I turned to Damex, ‘please go and do that. We’ll join you soon.’

Damex nodded, collected what he needed and walked over to the huge rock piles. We watched him began the scanning and data collecting. Androids were so useful for those kinds of tasks.

Ode, impatient had downed her coffee, swallowed the cheese toast in a few bites and hurried back to the possible rift. Nat and I took our time, drinking and eating the snacks in silence.

After, as I thought about putting another coffee pot on, Kiara finally stopped being distracted and spoke to us in the first time in about two hours, ‘can I tell my family we might be on our way back then?’ she asked.

‘Better leave it till tomorrow,’ I said, ‘we need to see what Damex and Ode find, then confirm it’s the right rift and then that there are no more around.’

‘Right,’ Kiara snarled.

She shoved the computer into her bag then sat with her arms crossed looking super enraged.

‘I’m sorry. I know we all want to go home. Let’s try and speed things up. You and Nat pack up here. I’ll go and see what those two have found.’

I stood up, leaving them to sort things out and made my way over. I would be sad to leave Earth but this was just another job to be done.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/03/21/thursday-photo-prompt-rift-writephoto/ with thanks).