Characters in Five Quotes – Philo

1) He appeared as ever, perpetually on the verge of apologising.

2) He spent every night in aching loneliness waiting for the sun to rise so he could go to work. It was not how he had imagined freedom

3) She was building up to a romantic conclusion, readying herself to step on her toes and kiss him, when Philo ruined the moment by commenting. “It’s not over yet. We haven’t had the leopards.”

4) What motivated Philo was not money (which he didn’t understand), or glory (which his quiet modesty did not attract), but rather the satisfaction of a job well done

5) If Philo disliked being addressed as slave, he was even more sensitive about being described as Eastern. Now that he was free Philo was a full Roman citizen with two new Roman names and all the advantages and prestige that citizenship bestowed on him. He felt fully Roman and he was hurt by Sabinus’ habit of addressing him as if he had the chalked feet of a foreign import.

Flash Fiction – The Prompt is Broken Mirror

Okay I’m not sure I quite pulled this one off. I think I was just a tad over ambitious for 1000 words.

The Case of the Broken Mirror.

“And so here we all are in the very room where Mrs Fortescue was found,” announced Inspector Johns with a dramatic flourish. “Right here.”
A wide sweep of his arm indicating the dressing table.

Lydia gave a shudder, “Why must we gather here Inspector?”
Her twin Lyle, as blonde as she put his arm around him. “I agree with Lyds. It’s so unnecessary when we could all talk downstairs in the parlour.”
“I assure you Mr Fortescue, Miss Fortescue that it is very, very necessary.”
Mr Blake Myers one elbow on the mantelpiece snorted.

“It was here Mr Fortesce that you found the body of your stepmother Mrs Loretta Fortescue sat slumped at her dressing table four mornings ago.”
“Please don’t call her my stepmother, its too ridiculous when she was five years my junior.”
“It was a surprise because you’d thought she’s stormed out and not returned.”

“No I knew she’d not returned home,” corrected Lyle, “Because I personally bolted the front door and I unbolted it first thing in the morning.”

“The only conclusion therefore is that Mrs Fortescue did not leave this house at all but rather she went upstairs to her room and it was here that she was murdered!”

“Murdered!” butted in Blake Myers. “That’s a bit of a leap isn’t it old chap. From what Lydia’s told me there wasn’t a mark on her.”
Johns fixed Blake with a hard glare. “Twenty three year old women do not just drop dead Mr Myers. Which is why I had some blood taken from Mrs Fortescue’s body. I got the toxicology report back this morning. Mrs Fortescue had a high level of a particularly deadly poison in her bloodstream.”
Lydia’s hand went to her mouth.

“By your own admittance Mr Fortescue, your stepmother met her death in a locked house. Which would rather suggest that one of you was the one who murdered her.”
Blake Myers, leant against the wall examined his nails, “Not me, old chap. I wasn’t here. I was at home waiting for the luscious Loretta to visit me as she promised.”
Lyle clenched his fists. “Well I ought to _.”
“Ought to what Lyle? Punch me?” he smiled. “For what? For taking an interest in a young widow? Where’s the harm in that?”
“But it’s only two months since papa died,” said Lydia.
“Which is what you were arguing about in the parlour?”
“Yes, yes it was,” admitted Lyle. “I’m not saying Lyds and I expected her to play at full mourning, all those archaic traditions. We knew she’d likely marry again but so soon? Well it’s not the done thing, is it?”

Inspector Johns agreed it was not. “This row got heated and Mrs Fortescue determined she was going to meet Mr Myles whatever you two thought.”
Lyle hung his head down, “Yes.”
“So Mr Fortescue, Miss Fortescue you were where?”
“In the parlour,” supplied Lydia. “We tried to play cards but neither of us could concentrate. I went up to bed at nine o clock. I had such a headache.”
“And you Mr Fortescue?”
“I smoked a cigar and went up about half past ten.”
The Inspector’s gaze fell on Blake. He gave a laugh. “It hardly matters what time I went to bed, I wasn’t here.”

“And so here we have the mystery. Two people who went up to bed alone, two people who had the opportunity to poison Mrs Fortescue.”
“I say!” a heated Lyle burst out, his cheeks red with indignation.
“Lady, Gentlemen. Please indulge me for but a moment. Take a look at this dressing table and tell me what is missing.”
“Nothing,” said Blake with a yawn. “Typical number of jars and potions. I’ve never discovered what they are all for.”
“Mr Fortescue?”
Lyle shrugged.
“Inspector!” said Lydia suddenly pointing at the dressing table. “There’s no mirror.”
The Inspector smiled. “Quite, well spotted Miss Fortescue. There is no mirror, what sort of lady has a dressing table without a mirror? No kind of lady is my answer.”

The door creaked open, “Ahh Sergeant Cuff you have it I see.”
“Yes, sir.”
Sergeant Cuff shuffled in, a mirror clasped between his hands.
“Hold it up here Sergeant . Now ladies and gentlemen do you see right here in the corner.”
Lyle was the first to see it, “A crack.”
“Now what might that have caused that crack? And why was it so important to dispose of this broken mirror?” I had the sergeant swab around it and indeed the toxicologist found traces of the exact same poison that killed Mrs Fortescue.”
A collective gasp.
“But how, what I don’t understand?” blustered Lydia. “The mirror was poisoned?”
The Inspector turned to Blake. “I understand you have travelled in the amazon basin?”
Blake shrugged, “so what?”
“The tribesmen there have an intriguing method of killing. They use a hollowed out pipe and load it with a dart dipped in poison. Then they put it to their lips and blow.” He mimicked the action. “Poof. The benefits of such a method is that you can kill your quarry from a distance, unseen. You don’t even have to be in the same building do you Mr Myers?”
He turned his eye on Blake.

“Because that’s how you did it isn’t it? From that balcony there, through that open window. Your first shot missed, hitting the mirror instead and causing that crack but your second hit her alright, didn’t it Mr Myers?”

“Rubbish, what possible reason would I have to kill Loretta? She was a fun girl.”

“Oh she was more than that to you Mr Myers. You loved her. But she didn’t love you did she?”

“Shut up,” said Blake between clenched teeth. “Shut up.”

“You were just a bit of fun, a bit of cheer after the loss of her husband. She didn’t love you at all and you couldn’t bear that. And that is why you killed Loretta Fortescue!”

Another Favourite Passage From Palatine

Which was the catalyst for an astounding sight. Namely that of the empress, lifting up her skirts and running full pelt for her rival.

There was much discussion later as to who won that particular bout. Statilia certainly got a good slap on Sporus before being pulled away by a combination of Phaon, her mother, an aged senator and two Praetorian guards. She sank her nails into Sporus’ arms as they dragged her off the squealing eunuch. Looking down at his blooded arm he was outraged. That bitch had attacked him in public! He complained loudly to Nero.

The emperor appeared to vacillate, caught between Statilia who was struggling with her holders and screaming every obscenity she could think of at Sporus, and the eunuch who was giving as good as he got, and being a slave had a far more colourful vocabulary than she. The emperor shot Epaphroditus a pleading look.

The secretary gestured for the soldiers to release Statilia.
Standing in front of her he told her quietly. “Empress, if you could remember you are in public.”
Statilia looked daggers at him, “Oh, I am aware of that. Remove the creature or I shall kill it.”

Epaphroditus did not doubt her sincerity. Sporus was escorted out protesting vigorously. The more outraged he became the higher his voice until only the dogs of the Palatine Hill were privy to his thoughts.

Characters Summed up in five quotes: Sporus

Characters summed up by five quotes.
Sporus, who seemingly cannot be summed up in one line quotes.


1) Sporus curled on the floor beside the couch, holding onto the emperor’s limp hand, playing the role of the concerned wife, wiping a damp cloth across his beloved’s brow and sighing with worry.

2) It was useless to try to argue with Sporus when he was in this mood. It was a sign of his condition, a compulsive need to have the last word and a flashy exit. So Alex and Mina let him flounce out and didn’t say a word, even when he trailed his fine purple dressing gown through the pool of urine

3) Centuries later some wise man would comment that “Hell is other people.” Sporus had discovered that hell was hundreds of mirror images of himself. Among the exotic and the alien Sporus did not shine, he did not radiate, there was no one to wonder in his light. He was horrifyingly ordinary.

4) Sporus spent an enjoyable morning enrapturing the Viminal locals with his daring escape from the Temple of the Great Mother; relating how the Galli pursued him down the garden wielding their sacrificial knives determined to prevent his escape and how he, a humble eunuch had outrun them; bravely scaling a forty foot high wall!
“It’s not just bulls they slaughter in that temple,” he told them, voice lowered for an increased level of confidence. “That’s why they sing so loud, it is to blot out their victim’s screams.”

5) Besides he was very fond of his penis and had been intending to hang onto it until his death when they could pickle it, put it in a jar, and display it on a plinth in the temple of Mars Ultor for all he cared.

Characters summed up in five quotes: Nymphidius Sabinus

1) The Prefect could deflate the cheerful atmosphere of a room merely by entering it

2) Then he marched out, for Sabinus never merely strolled or ambled, he moved as if permanently under the watch of a cudgel-happy centurion

3) Nymphidius Sabinus was a man possessed of the normal male desires. Where Sabinus parted company with normality was in his superior sensibility that he could overcome such urges.

4) The delicate boy, who had been such a worry to his mother and such a disappointment to his grandfather, returned from the legions altogether different and about as sensitive as a wall.

5) He would not succumb: never lose his judgement, his reason to the machinations of women.

A Favourite Passage of mine from Palatine

Erotica got in there first, “Is it true that you and Straton are having sex?”
“Me and Straton?” asked Mina, swallowing her shock and catching Alex’s apologetic shrug.

She gazed round at the small party. There was such interest, such hope, such gleeful anticipation that she felt she couldn’t disappoint. Throwing back her head she cried, “Oh I cannot deny it any longer. It is true. Straton and myself are indeed enjoying a rare and blissful union.”
Erotica swore under her breath, Daphne squealed, Lysander inhaled near all the oxygen in the room and Alex crossed his arms giving Mina a disapproving glare.

Erotica was the first in with the question. “Bona Dea Mina what’s he like in bed?”
Mina suddenly struck with a horrifying image of Straton in the buff, repressed a shudder and replied wistfully. “It is like the tale of King Minos’ wife.”
To a room full of uncomprehending faces.
“You know the story.”
“Don’t think we do,” said Lysander.

“King Minos on claiming his throne promised Neptune that he would sacrifice a white bull in his honour. But it was such a fine bull that he decided to keep it instead. Neptune mad at such defiance to the gods got his revenge by inducing Minos’ wife Pasiphae to fall in love with the bull. Unable to control her lecherous feelings she had a craftsman construct a wooden crate fashioned in the shape of a cow so that she could consummate her vile passions. One day she had the crate taken into the fields and she lay within, waiting and waiting. The bull noting the strange creature examined its form and as bulls will, it mated with it copiously. And from this union the Minotaur was born!
Well it’s like that but without the crate.”

Even Erotica didn’t want to delve any deeper into that one.

Flash Fiction – prompt is Night Stalker

Have to say I thoroughly depressed myself in under a 1000 words writing this one. Think I was channelling a lot of very bleak sci fi films from the 70s and 80s.

The Night Stalkers

It was Bert who first called them Night Stalkers. Before then they’d had no name. We avoided talking of them altogether as if this omission would aid our plight.

Night Stalker seemed fitting, almost too fitting for it matched them so well that to speak it brought back all the horror of their being.
Why they came only at night we never knew. We’d thought in those early days when Philip and Petra were still living, that they were some type of bat. We became convinced for it explained what that strange clapping noise was that always preceded their arrival. It was their wings beating, Philip had said and it explained too how they departed so swiftly with their prey.

It’s easy to convince yourself of anything when you’re frightened. They have no wings. That we know for sure now. So the clapping must be something else altogether.

Philip believed they must have some kind of infra-red vision, it was the only way to explain why they were so successful in hunting us down.
Course Bert said that was rubbish, like he said everything was rubbish. Like when he’d told Mika that his trap would never work. He’d been proved wrong that time for the flash bulb went off and the image the camera took was how we know they have no wings.

I think I miss Bert the most of all of them. That relentless scorn he heaped upon our every theory, our every plan for escape. At least he gave us someone to rally against, to fire up our tempers, to feel something in our veins.

When Bert was gone and it was just and me and Mika, that was when we gave up. If that grizzled old veteran all leathery skin and hard eyes could be plucked so easily there really was no point in fighting them any more.

When daylight came Mika and I moved our stuff from the mansion house into the bunker. We’d found the bunker after the first couple of nights, Philip so sure that the Stalkers must have a nest, a warren, a something where they rested during the day where we would find them and destroy them all. Philip had watched too many vampire films Bert had said and I tended to agree with him.

We never found any sign of them, not anywhere. What we did find was this bunker. It dated back to the cold war, those days when the worst thing you could imagine was being vaporised off the earth. We knew better now.

We had tins of food, jerry cans of water, torches, a generator powered light supply. We bolted the door, an act of surrender.

Inside our concrete cell we couldn’t hear that dreadful clapping and the squeal the stalkers cried whenever they caught one of us. We couldn’t even tell if it were day or night. We’d thought that would be a relief, that it would lessen the abominable dread that grew as the sun lowered in the sky.
Except it didn’t, it merely prolonged that agony for we were now alert to every sound, any scratch or hiss or knock. We were always on our guard, taking turns to sleep. Except Mika didn’t sleep.

I don’t blame him for what he did. I really don’t. But it’s left me in a situation because Mika is starting to stink now, his skin is green, bloated. I don’t know how much longer I can stand it. Soon it will ooze and in our sealed cell there is nowhere for that ooze to go.
So I will have to open that door and kick his body out. But I have no idea if its day or if its night.

I can bear it today I decide. But tomorrow, whenever tomorrow is, I shall open the door.