#1 Short-story by Issa Dioume

             A Game of Mouse and Cats

Victor Verdun is fifty years old. He sits at his desk. Thinking and looking despondent. The picture of a grizzled man with an ungroomed beard and tired eyes. Carrying a face which spoke of the pain and trauma he’d endured. A man in the grip of an obsession.
These last couple of months had done him no good. He’d let himself go. What was once clean, lean and muscular had become heavy, smudged and floppy. For as long as five years now he’d been the sole detective working at the local Indian police station. The past few months, they’d been tracking down a trio of serial killers who plagued their streets. Victor is no greenhorn. He knows this job to be one which requires backup. Years of languorous work and failed attempts had taught him at least this much. But this time, this time is different. This time is personal. Those three murderers had killed his wife in cold blood. And so, he gets up from his chair as he prepares to head out.
Around three months ago. On an unseasonably hot autumn night. Gloria’d been alone, Victor at work. That’s the type of man he is. Hooked to his job, trying to wring meaning out of life through self-exertion. She’d known. She’d never been mad at him for it. No. She understood him. She’d had a job too, and like Victor, was prone to late-nights of work at the office. We formed a perfect duo, thought Victor.

The day she died, she woke up at one in the morning. Jerked awake by the whistle of a breeze coming from their downstairs living-room. After which, she’d gotten out of bed and decided to check up on it. How strange, she’d thought. Never had she heard that noise in their house before. They’d weaselled their way in through one of the windows, smashing glass and ushering whistling breeze in. Already, they’d began stealing things when she’d came up to them with lamp in hand. She froze in her tracks then. Seeing the outline of their silhouettes in the dark. Strike first, think later! was what their instinct told them. It’d happened many times before, in many other houses. They’d been used to it. How this time could be any different than other times eluded them. They’d never suspected she might’ve been a detective’s wife.
Victor’s wife was left bleeding out in a neighbouring gutter. They’d not finished the job. No, that wasn’t their style. She was incapable of moving. They’d known time would take care of it. That was how she’d died. In the company of rats, hidden from sight, in silence and darkness and filth. It was their modus operandi. Time, their reliable accomplice, an accessory to their crimes, always took care of it. And, as days clocked by Victor began to suspect time was protecting them and made sure they weren’t caught.  Eventually though, Gloria’s body was found. After a long month of searches. Battered, bruised and unrecognizable – rats had begun eating away at it. Police concluded she’d died two weeks ago. Scientists in criminology went to work, Victor made sure of it, until they’d managed to find a trail. This crime was coupled to a few others which had occurred recently in the city. There was a pattern. Crimes with a similar modus operandi. These three men were recidivists. Serial killers.
A week ago, he’d confirmed the whereabouts of their lair. And now, Victor finally had them within his grasp. Vengeance was at a hand’s length away. Since then, he stayed in a small guest house nearby, biding his time and awaiting the perfect moment.

A street urchin had come to the police station looking for him one week ago. The urchin wore crummy clothes. He struck Victor as being very young, scrawny and sickly. He reported that only two nights ago, he’d seen the trio of criminals stroll into a small house. It was lodged between two tall buildings down in Sufren street, not far from his own. They’d likely been returning from another evening of wrongdoings. Those three were known for being wary and distrustful people. They’d have killed the child had they seen him. This one though, they missed.
Victor sits at his desk. Thinking. This is a blunder they’ll pay for dearly, he resolved, he got up from his chair and prepared to head out, grabbing his gun.
The day he decided to go rogue and take care of matters alone, Victor took off his badge and left without a word. For a whole week after this, he disappeared from the lives of all who knew him.

*

Steeling himself, he enters the premises of their den. Gun cocked and at the ready, eyes tensed with concentration. Muted steps carry him past the door. He creeps into their living-room, does a roll, hides behind a sofa below a window. He inhales. And, ready to make them pay for their dastardly deeds, jumps out, all guns blazing. Victor was sure he’d seen them enter through this way only fifteen minutes ago. He’d seen shadows move from behind the shutters. But, as he stood there pointing his gun at thin air, he understood, there was no one in. The house remained motionless under his gaze. Soothing his nerves, he began surveying the place.  Soon, a noise came from outside; the sound of hushed voices, orders and wheezing horses.
Victor partly parts the shutters and peers out the window. Outside, the air is thin and murky. Driftwood floats atop the cold river surface which runs through town. The sound of horses galloping down pebbled streets rents open the night in half. From afar, Victor sees the back of a lone rider astride his steed. The rider is heading straight for the outskirts of town. Their frame reminds Victor of Gloria’s own – short, delicate, with tapering limbs and a large waist. An overall stocky appearance. The mere comparison makes Victor sag into nostalgia. The rider wears long trousers, rife with pleats, and a pair of rawhide boots strapped into the stirrups of their saddle. In the span of but a few seconds, rider and horse disappear. The veil of night covering their tracks. All noise abates. Victor shuts the curtains, letting his shoulders slump along his sides. He turns from the window and back to the room. They’re gone now. He groans. A sunken look on his face, displays the depth of his anguish.  Escaped out ov’a hidden back door, he suspects. He’d checked, of course, made certain. There were supposed to be no escape routes. Yet now there they were, completely gone. And here he was feeling angry with himself. Attempting to calm down he begins familiarising himself with his surroundings.
Opposite him is a four-legged table. With one of its four sides pushed against a wall. Three chairs flanking each of the three free sides. Their lengthy legs draw shadows of crosses across the living room floor as they intertwine. When he touches their seats, he feels a certain warmth emanate from them. On the table are plates. Resting upon which are half-eaten slabs of bread. Slathered with melted ghee, cream and blood-red jam. They rest limply at their centre. Greasy strips of bacon sit in a separate plate, assailed by a family of flies. No one would eat them now. They left in such a hurry, seeing this amuses him. But his mind keeps wandering back to the horse rider and their eerie resemblance to his wife. The more he thinks about it, the more the two seem alike. A bright white light flickers overhead. Each flicker sending blinding spears flying into Victor’s eyes and into the room. Revealing a large array of articles and newspaper cut-outs that have been tacked across the walls. Victor plods away from the table. With his hat obliquely placed over his head and his long pelt coat drifting smoothly over the wooden floor. Wooden planks creak under his weight. Already broken glass breaks further below the soles of his boots. Wailing warnings which, resonate with Victor’s current pained and broken mental state. As he nears the entranceway, he detects a trace of cigarette smoke. They’d even had the time to smoke. They’d known he was coming, had prepared in advance, had laughed with contempt at his attempt, had rejoiced at his impending failure. They’re probably laughing right now, reckons Victor. The red mist descends upon him then. And he draws closer to the flight of stairs facing the doorway. He supposes he might as well have a look at what sordid objects lay upstairs before calling the police to apologise. He would have to find a good excuse. A stench of cabbage permeates the air at the staircase’s feet. Warding against cleanliness and justice. Victor grabs the railing and heavs himself forth. It’s hot, mucky and uncomfortable. As he moves forward, he feels sweat rise from the walls at his sides. Reaching the landing, the temperature seems to abruptly increase.

In the silence of the deserted dwelling, Victor pauses at the landing as he hears a sound. It travels down the stairs from the first-floor. With caution heavy in his heart, he trudges on and arrives in the upper-floor room. There is a kitchen. He’d found the source of cabbage fetor it seemed. Yet Victor perceives another odour mingling with the putrid cabbage smell. Something resembling a melange of sulphur and rotten eggs. He looks around and notics the oven open. Timid metallic clicks issue out its gapping mouth in a metronome-like rhythm. Inviting him to dance. A hob and a set of four dark burners brood above the stove. Gleaming with the grease covering them. One of the knobs of the hob points in a different direction from its twins. It’s rebellious. Invisible flames burn and dance, jutting from its sides, vying for oxygen and a spark. The oven keeps clicking, each click producing specks of light. Sweat drips down Victor’s forehead, falls from his jaw-line and plops to the ground. Now he knows. They hadn’t just escaped. They want to kill me! Again, the oven clicks, this time more resolutely. By now, he is already running but… too late. From behind he hears a bubbling explosion, feels the scorch of flames crawling through the air on his back. He has reached the top of the staircase and is about to hurtle himself down its steps when, suddenly, nothing. Nothing more.

As everything disappears, Victor finds his mind wandering back to the rider again. And he suddenly he thinks, No! That’s not possible. All this time, he’d been caught in a game of mouse and cats. Not a game of cat and mice.

#News.1: Accepted For Creative Writing Masters degree At Edinburgh University

Dear all,

I have received great news as I am sure you have understood by the title, I have been accepted for a Masters degree in Creative Writing. My hopes are that this will allow me to perfect my writing and become by tenfolds a better writer!

Furthermore, at the end of this degree, alumni are published in a literary magazine. This would be spectacular and could help get my name out there which would by extension enhance my chances of getting a literary agent and being published!

I will continue to post as regularly as possible and keep practicing my style which undoubtedly will improve dramatically throughout the year as I plan on working very hard on bettering my writing.

Kind regards,

Issa Dioume

Style Training With Ursula K. Le Guin[Project Explained]

I am currently reading ‘Steering the Craft, A 21st-Century guide to sailing the sea of Story’ by the incredible Ursula K. Leguin. This book contains a few writing exercises to do in order to better one’s writing style and narrative skills.
From now on, I will be posting the text I write using these specific exercises. I may do the same ones more than once due to the obvious fact that: practice makes perfect and doing something once does not guarantee it will stick with you.
I hope it will prove interesting for some. As style exercises are a great way to see a writer improve step by step. And, I highly hope it will be my case using this book. The book in itself is awesome, the author of it speaks for itself. Ursula K.Leguin is quite simply an amazing writer.

The House of Chronicle [Poem] by Issa Dioume

At the house of Chronicle

You’ll be met with quite the spectacle.

The standards you deem normal

Will come across a many great reversal

.

Lies and deceptions galore

Fake smiles and kindness they adore

So many faults to list and more –

– Much more in its rotten deepest core

Water leaking from ceilings, they ignore

.

Denial of blame, absence of shame.

Plain to see they are comparable to no company,

Only hungry crows perched atop a tree, Looking down, smugly,

To see,

Lame, tamed little mice calling their names,

In vain, abandoned to the pitter patter of rain.

.

.

.

– by Issa Dioume &

Inspired by true events

Click for Author’s website

The Healing, Part.1 [ Short-Story Series] by Issa Dioume

During the war, we fought on opposite sides – two factions divided by a common hate for one another – we killed one another’s’ friends, relatives and childhood. We were 12 and we had been told we were fighting a holy war. A war which would grant us revenge. A war which would eradicate the pain in our hearts from losing loved ones, the more enemies’ throat we slit the closer we got. We were told it could only end with one side obliterated. A war which would make us happy. Which was all we wanted.

No side came out victorious, only more blood and pain. Only more hatred layered with sadness. Only more of the same. Then, out of the blue, the war ended. And, it was over. We were told to pack and leave. Left alone, both in our twenties, clueless as to what to do next. The uselessness of what we had done struck us. We had not changed anything. The pain was there, only stronger. Looking back we saw solely the regret of a now long gone childhood. We were left stranded with no skills aside from how to expedite bullets from the barrels of guns to pierce flesh.

At a loss for what to do and where to go. I frantically searched for activities I could do. Dancing, singing and Dj-ing. The sound kept the noises in my ear quiet. One day, I saw a flier glued to a wall. The wall was slightly burnt, scars left from the battles.

It read:

Healing and discussion center for all children who participated as soldiers in the war. We are here to hear and help you. Please come share your story.

I snickered at the flier. At the time, realisation of ramifications of the war on myself had not yet come over my mind. I lingered in a state of absolute denial. However, I went. Out of sheer curiosity. Who would be there? Would anyone even come?

We met in a small hut outside town. The place had a beautiful garden and serving as entrance was a large arch covered in vines and flowers which twirled and intertwined over the archway. I arrived and saw the inner parts of the construct. There were no chairs. Only small red pillows sitting in a perfect ⭕️ circle. I was the first to arrive. So, I simply sat there and waited a while. A fresh smell of earth and grass abounds the air of this little hut, I noted.

Gradually, I heard footsteps making there way through the garden and into the hut. I was on my back, laying down sprawled on the ground, arms stretched. I turned my head to see who had come. And then, I saw him.

That man. The one I had searched for everyday on the battlefield. The reason I had gone through that hell. He gave a short bow with his head, acknowledging my presence then sat cross-legged across from me. I stood up and stared into his eyes. He stared back. We said nothing. A minute passed and then two and then five. Still, we said nothing. We stared. His eyes gleamed shortly as though he had just recalled something. Within myself I felt an overflowing fountain of lava nearing implosion. He was the man I had wanted to kill. His face had been splattered on many posters during the war. He had been the leader of the squad which had killed my family. I scrutinised him carefully and realised he was around my age. Perhaps a year or two more at best. Then suddenly:

I lunged towards him, going straight for his throat […]

—— ——– ——— —— ——- ——–

Jenny Ran Sur The Colline —- French & English !But, Same Themes & Ideas (By Issa Dioume in collaboration with Aimé Lesot)

Jenny courait sur la colline. Ses fossettes creusaient ses joues, témoignaient de sa joie manifeste. Ses pieds martelaient le chemin en terre, laissaient des empruntes et délogeaient les petits cailloux de leur cratère dorénavant appauvris. Devant: un horizon sans ligne – seulement de grands arbres, feutrant les rayons du soleil. Derrière: seulement le souvenir de ce qu’elle avait entraperçu dans sa course dépourvue de but premier. Elle était seule – heureuse – et jouissait de son isolation mouvante.

Solace, to her, was the fruit of exile and isolation. After moving from Maxmouth – a beautiful city in the countryside- to the big concrete urban jungle of San Peregio the stability of her family’s life, which had once been harmonious and a source of happiness for Jenny, came tumbling down. The earlier congeniality now found itself replaced by perpetual pandemonium. This was tantamount to swimming up a river and suddenly finding yourself falling off the edges of a waterfall.

Elle tombait souvent. Ses genoux et ses coudes étaient couverts de petites cicatrices – de croûtes quand elle venait à perdre l’équilibre. Jenny savait qu’il était impossible à l’Homme de remonter une chute d’eau, elle avait tenté, maintes fois, sans succès. Les courants nous poussent en un sens, un peu à la manière de la providence. De ce raisonnement métaphysique elle en avait déduit que rien ne pouvait se rembobiner, que tout était à assimiler, à comprendre, et que le rebond ne valait le plongeon que lorsqu’un soupçon de relief – de joie – pointait derrière un nuage. Et puis elle l’avait vu dans le ciel; et aujourd’hui elle avait décidé de nager à contre courant.
Elle courait, et derrière les arbres et le soleil feutré s’écrasait l’eau en bas d’une chute.

And she declared to the wind, thinking aloud, “Speak my name to the ventriloquist, beg him to stop cramming words into my mouth. Pain is the substance society thrives on. It thrives off of subjecting its subjects to pain” and she suddenly understood” I am the ventriloquist.” The camera panned out, zoomed through the air and framed a boy pedalling up a hill. As he pedalled away, the load became quite substantive and a bit rough on his calves. Nevertheless, the little boy went onwards to the top of the hill and there, stood admiring the sunshine.

By

Issa Dioume (English);poet/writer/lover of words

&

Aimé Lesot (French); poet/writer/ philosophy addict

English Writer’s website:

https://thebiligualwriter.com

French Writer’s website:

https://aimelesot.wordpress.com

A TUMULTUOUS VOYAGE, Part. 7 [Short-Story Series] by Issa Dioume

[…]  Bramin turned his head around. He found the way back now barred, by what appeared to be two gigantic similar-looking men. Probably twins, he thought.

He stepped forward, mentally steeling himself, slowly making his way to where the trio stood; waiting, with evil smirks across their faces.
He opted to head for the target which seemed simplest to quickly take out. The young boy. Strategically, it was the logical option. The boy appeared to possess ranged weapons, which could  be used to shoot at Bramin from a distance, and hamper him in his fight. A headache he did not want to face.

” Hello! What do you sweet gentlemen want, at this early hour? he said, closing in on them, I am in a hurry. I have somewhere to be. And, the journey to get here was not a cakewalk.”

The unconcerned sun began to point its nose in the horizon. Sending streaks of light splashing into the streets. Allowing Bramin to better assimilate his surroundings.
Suddenly, the stooge-looking fellow approached with an assured smile. However, Bramin could see the man was not confident. What betrayed him? His speed, he walked too slowly, too cautiously, clearly wary of the young man facing him. He took his time and made sure not to get in Bramin’s range, or, what he thought was his range.

“We are exhausted as well from our own journey. It would make it easier for everyone if you simply handed over your possessions without making us have to take your life.” He sized Bramin up with a quick glance then said ” You are fairly young, don’t waste the years your mother spent caring for you by being reckless.”

Here we go, thought Bramin. Now the words had been spoken, there was no going back. Either he would do as they told him and risk being gutted all the same, or, they would fight and, someone would die. What remained to be decided was: whom?. He was severely outnumbered, his only chance hanged on whether he could outclass them in terms of skills and outsmart them. Silence pervaded the air. Weighing on everyone’s mind.
“I prefer the two other options, Bramin filled his voice full of intimidation and power, I live and you let me pass through unobstructed. Or, you attempt to stop me, fail miserably, die in regret and I take possessions off some lifeless cadavers. Yours. All of yours.”

The stooge-looking fellow, grabbing the hilt of his sword, looked over his shoulder and said ” Well, we gave him the choice now, didn’t we? Whatever happens now, is destiny’s will.” The two others smiled stupidly back.
Bramin drew his sword. Pulling on its haft until it hung high up in the air. And, brought it down on him with one swift strike across the chest. The speed of the strike made it barely visible to the naked eye. The man hardly had the time to spin his head back to admire the scarlet result. His face showed incredulity as he starred down at the line on his thorax from which blood now spurted out, like an erupting volcano. *Clank* He sank to the ground and remained there. Forever.

The smiling duo ahead now looked quite grim. Their smiles had been wiped off their faces along with Bramin’s strike. What remained was O-gaping  mouths followed by ugly grimaces.
Bramin leapt forward. Rushing towards the young boy. The two giants behind finally reacted and started running after him, but, it was too late. Bramin reached the boy and, using the blunt edge of his sword, attempted to knock the boy out. On his right, the one that had looked like the leader rushed forth and parried the strike with great effort. Pushed back by the strike, he landed squarely his rump. I should have used the slicing edge, thought Bramin admonishing himself, then, there would be two of him right now.

Before he could get back to his feet, Bramin rushed towards him – sword raised high up. Abruptly, he felt a blade dig into his ribs. Damn! Forgot the kid! Bramin pulled a small star-shaped blade out of his sides and threw it towards the gigantic mammoths heading his way. Then, he ran. Past the boy, leaping over the man on his back; Dodging, as more flying-stars were sent his way.
He backed up in a tight sombre alley and waited. This time, they would have to come to him. As prey now became predator. Blood flowed down to his sides but he remained sharp as a sword. Ready. For, whatever would come next, he had already played out in his head […]

Written by Issa Dioume

Author’s website: thebiligualwriter.com

Previous part of the story:
A TUMULTUOUS VOYAGE (Part 6)

A TUMULTUOUS VOYAGE, Part. 6 [Short-Story Series] by Issa Dioume

[…] Bramin, walking up drawn-out alleyways, carried a flyssa sword on his back ; a green-white pearl bracelet gifted to him by his mother ; a satchel leather bag with a long-gilded strap, which allowed enough room for flexible movements. That was why he wore it, as he was fully aware of the dangers which accompanied the hazardous journey he was pledged to. He might, one day, find himself in a situation where a quick reaction would be primordial.
The pearl bracelet was a keepsake he wore to never forget what had set him on course to find the treasures of the wild jungles of Azerkah. The pearls – imbued with T’ien’ttai – held magical properties of slight healing and better-than-average fortune.

Ahead of him stood a bundle of huts topped by thatched roofs of straw, sedge and other types of vegetation – all huddled together. They resembled a band of bandits hiding behind bushes in a dark forest waiting for an unsuspecting prey to pass them before furtively pouncing at it. Bramin walked cautiously past the huts, ready to draw at the first sight of any movement. He began climbing his ascension up an inclined stairway leading to the centre of the city. However, trouble came quickly his way. An unfamiliar young man walking up unfamiliar streets armed with a sword – an easy target for conspiring bands of criminals –  is but a fruit ripe for the taking.

A party of three dubious looking individuals surfaced further along the road. But, Bramin instinctively guessed they were not alone. Animated shadows danced about behind the huts, eyes threw daggers his way from hidden cramped  side-alleyways. The three shady looking individuals moved up to block his path. One, who acted like the leader, was tall; wore grey rounded spectacles on his nose; and a black cloak. Another, who looked like an everyday stooge stepped forward, chest heaving up proudly, beckoning Bramin to come closer – an omen of misadventure. The last one, a young boy looking only fourteen or fifteen at best – seven years my youth thought Bramin gloomily. The young boy wore a red bandana and at his side rested a sharp curved dagger along with what seemed like star-shaped throwing darts. Bramin did not want to be forced to hurt an immature pup barely off his mother’s tit.

As he moved along, his hand gripped the rugged handle of his sword – ready to unsheathe if given no other choice. […]

Written by Issa Dioume

Click for part 5 of ‘A TUMULTUOUS VOYAGE’

Author’s website for other writing: https://thebiligualwriter.com/coffeebreak/

A TUMULTUOUS VOYAGE, Part. 5 [Short-Story Series] by Issa Dioume

They docked in at Gravenfall bay early that morning. The city was still sound asleep and not a soul could be seen creeping around its long-winded roads. At the docks, however, fishermen were getting busy as they prepared to head out with their trawling nets and fishing lines.
The fishermen eyed the Braided Maid quizzically as it reached the dock. They wondered why such a tiny ship had sailed at night in the Branock waves and how it had made it here. “They probably have a Windwhisperer, no one dares sail these waves by night without.”, proposed someone.
As they geared up, Bramin and the crew got off the ship and took what felt like their first steps on stable ground in years. Bramin then took the time to help the crew tie their ropes up and clean the deck. On this perilous journey the adventure he had lived with these men, had created a silent bound of trust and understanding between them. Each had had to rely on one another wholly and this had given way to a very strong form of trust. I am going to miss them, he thought quietly in the silence of his heart as he pulled a rope and tied it up on the dock.

A few hours later, the time for departure came. He bade them all a good farewell and thanked the captain endlessly. This one, as response simply gave him a “No problem lad” and a smile showing the gleam of his golden teeth. Then he proceeded to boasting about heroic he was and how he had challenged and conquered the Queen of the ocean. “This will make a riot in the taverns! A tale to tell for the ages!” He seemed to entirely have forgotten about the pangs of remorse he had felt before the wave.

Turning his back, Bramin walked away and did not look back. He knew that if he were to do so he would be tempted to stay with these men aboard the little BraidedMaid and spend his years sailing the seas and drinking beer. But, no. His destiny awaited him elsewhere – he would not let himself be cut short, not here. He would head for the wild jungles of Azerkah where he would find its long-lost treasure and sweep all the glory away from under the feet of other explorers. He walked on, bringing with him fresh happy memories and taking his first steps towards new adventures awaiting him.

[…To be continued]
– Written by Issa Dioume

Author’s website:
Writing, Improving, Coffee

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